Kamchatka: Prepare Yourselves for Authentic Russia
January 1, 1970
by Daria Bolshakova
Welcome to the edge of the earth
Kamchatka is one of the places that are worth to be called the edge of the earth. And it’s one of the most authentic places in Russia. Wild virgin nature, a combination of different climate zones, active volcanos, geysers, hospitality of the locals – all this makes it one of the best attractions not only in Russia but in the world. Besides, it’s the unique place where you can face to the most famous stereotypes about Russia (vodka, caviar, bears)
The same time geographical remoteness and poor infrastructure putting off foreigners who would otherwise visit Kamchatka. So here some advices for those adventurers who venture to get there.
Ideas for adventurers
Let’s first grasp what kind of leisure Kamchatka offers. It’s for sure not the place for mass tourist or beach lovers. Kamchatka has lots of activities for explorers, romantics and adventurers, for those who want to test himself:
- Volcano climbs;
- winter activities: free ride and Heli Ski;
- and even observation of bears in wild nature
Lack of basic access to some places (e.g. Valley of Geysers) make these tours extremely expensive and affordable for Lux segment. However, there are plenty of opportunities for travelling on a budget:
- Kamchatka is an ideal place for back-country lovers where you can escape from city falsity and melt in the nature.
You can find here a variety of treks that differ by level of difficulty, isolation and length. The most popular ones cover territories around the Tolbachik volcano, the Gorely, Mutnovskiy, Avachinskiy volcanoes, Klyuchevskaya Sopka. Trekkers also see black volcanic beaches. Though I met some independent foreigners during my journey, it’s not so easy (I mean cheap) to get everywhere on your own due to poor infrastructure and wilderness. Nevertheless, it takes no trouble to find a local agency or a tourist club that organizes a trekking for you. Guides speak English, so there won’t be communication problems.
- If you prefer more comfort, peaceful, and still budget rest you can choose one of the guesthouses near volcanoes or hot springs (e.g. near Mutnovskiy thermal station). In this case you still enjoy beauty of colored volcanoes, but with less physical efforts.
- But the best and the most inventive way to explore this unique part of Russia is volunteering, since several national parks give this opportunity. For example, you can find the work in the Bystrinski national park. They are open for helpers during summer.
The best time to visit Kamchatka
The next question about travelling around Kamchatka is to choose the right time to see it in full beauty.
Romantic locals are certain it’s awesome any time of the year.
Skeptics say it’s hellish weather since November till May. Though it’s the very time to enjoy free ride and Heliski. How many places on the Earth do you know where you can slide from the volcano?
There is no spring as such here. It’s more continue of winter than spring. Snow still lays in some places during June but melts by July when the real summer comes. And that’s when the season of active leisure starts.
But the best time for trekking in Kamchatka is autumn (September). And here are the reasons why:
- First of all, strangely enough September is considered a summer month as the seasons slightly shifted due to monsoon. During our journey it was about 15-20 C by day and up to -5 C by night. So prepare warm sleeping bags and clothes if you’re planning to sleep in tents.
- The second argument in favor of autumn is variety of berries ripened in September. Fields are covered with blueberry, honeysuckle, crowberry that made trekking much slower but more delicious.
- Apart the berries we treated ourselves salmon that could be cached by hand! Yes, by doing this we might robbed bears, but this is about my next point.
- Less chances to meet bears on the way in autumn! Fully satisfied animals had already gone to the mountains by that time. Someone could be disappointed, but experienced people are sure it’s better to see bear in the Zoo than meet him face to face in the wild nature.
- And the last but not the least reason to arrive in autumn is an opportunity to see the rave of colours by your own eyes: multicolored volcanos, green hills covered with bushes of all tones of red and orange, black sand and yellow straw in the fields. It’s paradise for a photographer!
Having decided to visit Kamchatka you should be prepared to:
- temperature difference, unexpected snowfalls, and rains. So think properly about good outdoor equipment (warm sleeping bag, trekking shoes, waterproof clothes);
- fording cold rivers (sometimes during the whole day if you’re planning to go to Zhirovaya Bay);
- bears footprints and even bears themselves. For your safety, it’s recommended to take flares and whistles to scare the animals away;
- poor infrastructure: there are literally no roads there, small airport left from the Soviet times;
- vast variety of quality seafood and caviar. Seafood market on the way to the airport is one of the must see.
- hospitality of locals. That’s the place where you can try famous width of Russian soul. People are curiously kind and generous. Local fishermen treated us with salmon and vegetables.
Doesn’t matter what time you’ll finally choose Kamchatka is worth to be seen at least once a life! It seems inhale all landscapes of Russia: green hills near the Mutnovskiy geothermal station resemble the Crimea, severe and deserted volcano landscapes put a thought of Elbrus region. You’ll have to force your way through impassable clumps of relic birch, the way to the Pacific ocean goes through jungles or cold and rapid mountain river. You’ll be impressed by martian landscapes near Gorely volcano and multicoloured glaciers of Mutnovskiy volcano.
Kamchatka has enough miracles to make you fall in love with this place.