Sakhalin island: what travelers can find on the edge of the world
by Irina Chesnokova
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Once I came out from the jet and felt the sea flavor: Sakhalin. A very first impression was, that Sakhalin looks like other islands: green and untouched like Bali, cold and changeable like Iceland, but now I know for sure – it’s not so simple.
What about the weather?
Sakhalin is located in the Russian Far East, 9 000 kilometers away from Moscow. The Pacific Ocean affects the climate of the island, therefore the weather is so unpredictable, with heavy rain and the constant strong wind. Mostly impossible to choose the right clothes for this place even in summer: you need to take with you a swimwear, a raincoat and sometimes strongly recommended a ski suit. (In winter the weather here is a real problem. Now I can imagine 2 meters of snow, appeared in one night!).
Where to go?
Before my journey started I was looking for information about Sakhalin nature and found out many wonderful, but hard-to-reach places. So far as I don’t have a helicopter or something like that, so I decided to visit mostly available for an ordinary car and made a list of it. Basically, it contained capes, mountains, one waterfall, and one picturesque lighthouse.
Velikan cape (Giant cape)
Cape Giant is located on the east coast of Sakhalin island, and as for me, this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The sand on the beach is light gray, that’s why the color of the water is very similar to a color of the Mediterranian Sea in Greece. The sea line is completed by ancient arches and columns.
This cape has just one significant flaw – the very bad road to it. Travelers can reach the Giant by car but should spend a heap of time. The average speed is 20 kilometers an hour, so the route there and back again takes about 5 hours.
Liagushka mountain (Frog mountain)
Tourists can arrive there even by public bus. The Frog is located near the Vestochka village. A good weather means fast and easy climbing to the mountain, while after rain the task will be a bit more fun and dirtier. The steep slope is overgrown by young trees, so travelers may grab them and this makes the way up much easier. An interesting thing about the Frog – is named due to the big stone on its top, looks like a frog, ready to jump.
The stone is quite wide and flat, and there is always a little queue for photos. I’ve heard a lot of mysterious legends about this area, and I actually know about the gravitational anomaly on the road alongside it: the car moves uphill even with the muffled engine or when the neutral gear is on. Five kilometers away from the Frog along the river, hides a waterfall. It’s heigh is eight meters, the water is glacial and cool enough after the long road.
Chekhov peak is named after famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov and this is one of the most popular tracks for climbing, for alpine training and for nature’s exploring of Sakhalin island.
First, it is quite close to the city, so a tourist can get there on foot. Second, the slope is not very difficult, so even a child could conquer it. Third, the trail to the peak is marked and easy to found. You can enjoy the wonderful panorama of the city, Okhotsk sea, Warm lakes and of the mountains from the top.
On a bright day if you are lucky you can even see the nearest Japan island – Hokkaido. Honestly, I didn’t see Hokkaido, twice tried so hard, though. Plants grow alongside the trail are uncommon for Russia and some of them are included in Red List, and generally, the forest looks like somewhere there lives a witch in her Gingerbread house. Despite the magic atmosphere and breathtaking views, I was happy, when it ended – the hiking was 22 kilometers long and took 8 hours.
ski resort “Gorny Vozdukh”
The name of the ski resort means “the clean and clear air of the mountains” and this is just a part of the truth: the whole truth is the resort located in the city center and the air contains a good portion of fresh smog. Anyway, a very popular ski resort in winter, in summer is used by cheerful and healthy old ladies, who is climbing there for fun in the evening. I think, the best things of this mountain in summer – a sunset view and a restaurant on the top.
It works all year long – the food is always a good idea after the trail. In summer, the ropeway to the top also works every day, except Mondays. As for me, I prefer this resort in winter, when the ski center is full of skiers and snowboarders, not only old ladies.
the lighthouse of Slepikovsky cape
This cape is second hard-to-reach point on my list. A long distance, a bad road, actually this kind of place tourists prefer to visit.
The lighthouse is lighting the way for ships since 1934 when it was built by the Japanese on the west side of the island. I guess, the caretaker of the lighthouse is a real introvert, who likes just loneliness and seagulls: the road to the lighthouse ends with the deep and very hot sand, so the last 3 kilometers of the way rare visitors should overcome afoot.
Sakhalin is very famous for its seafood. The best and the freshest king crab I’ve ever tried was bought in Vzmorye village, about 100 kilometers to the North from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. In the city tourists can eat the king krab in “Bamboo” restaurant, good sushi is served in “Hokkaido” restaurant.
As Sakhalin is an island, there are two possible ways to get here: by plane from Moscow, Seoul or Tokyo and by train and then by ferry from Vanino, Khabarovsk Krai. I can’t even imagine how long does the second way take, so I preferred a plane. It takes 8 hours to reach from Moscow to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk even by plane.
I won’t recommend (especially if you’re a foreign tourist) to rent a car, because roads are obviously awful and all these jokes about bears in Russia don’t just joke here, on Sakhalin. It is better to travel with a group, with a professional English-speaking guide. Anyway, this piece of advice is helpful for any region of Russia. Please, be careful!
There are a lot of places to stay for a few days in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, but I highly recommend international hotels like Pacific Plaza Sakhalin (price 101$ per night), Mega Palace Hotel (price 110$ per night) or Santa Resort Hotel (price 130$ per night). Hotels with cheaper price are available too, but no doubt there is no English-speaking stuff and problems with service (Do not forget: this is Russia).
By the way…
I am absolutely sure, this list less than 10% of what tourists can see on the island. Sakhalin is unexplored land, the most of its wonders haven’t been visited – they are unpopular and are waiting for travelers.