Kamchatka

Avachinsky Volcano

Kamchatka (Russian: Камча́тка, kahm-CHAHT-kuh) is a 1,250 km-long 270,000 km2 peninsula in the Russian Far East, protruding into the northern Pacific Ocean. Kamchatka Krai is a county which also includes parts of the Russian mainland, and some small islands. Though larger than California, the krai has only about 320 000 inhabitants; most of them in or near the capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Kamchatka is extremely geologically active and has numerous volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and even a lake of acid! It contains the southernmost expanse of Arctic tundra in the world and is notable for its wealth of Arctic wildlife, fish, game, and marine life. Furthermore, nineteen of Kamchatka's volcanoes constitute the "Volcanoes of Kamchatka" UNESCO World Heritage Site .

Cities

Other destinations

Valley of the Geysers.

Understand

Kamchatska is a unique land where fire meets ice. It contains the southernmost expanse of Arctic tundra as well as 160 volcanoes (29 of them currently active). Despite its great size the peninsula is home to just 400,000 people, half of which live in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and another 50-100,000 live in nearby communities (including Yelizovo). As such, the peninsula is vastly uninhabited wilderness where one can climb volcanoes, sport hunt for bears, visit geysers, spend hours in natural hot springs, or go fishing in wild rivers or off the coast. Politically, it is divided between Kamchatka Krai and Koryak Okrug (Koryakia).

History

Kamchatka, like much of Arctic Siberia and North America, was originally sparsely inhabited by native tribes. In the 16th century, spurred by tales of a land of fire that was rich in fish and furs, Kamchatka was claimed by Muscovite Russia. Two settlements were built by Cossacks in 1697 as fur trading posts.

The peninsula was mapped during Vitus Bering's expedition to explore the Russian Far East and reach North America. In 1740 Bering reached Avacha Bay and laid the cornerstone for the settlement of Petropavlovsk, named after his two ships St. Peter and St. Paul. One year later, Petropavlovsk would be the settlement survivors of another one of Bering's expeditions would reach with the news of his death and the discovery of Alaska. They would also bring artifacts, including sea otter pelts, considered the "finest fur in the world", from Alaska which would eventually motivate Russia's interest in North America. Petropavlovsk grew into a main stopping point for travelers on the way to the Russian Far East, the Kuril Islands, and North America.

In 1854 during the Crimean War, a joint Anglo-French naval fleet bombarded Petropavlovsk in what became known as the heroic defense of the city in which 988 men with just 68 guns defended it against 6 ships with 206 cannons and 2,540 French and British troops. Unfortunately, the Russians realized the city was a liability and when more invaders came a year later the city was abandoned and burnt to the ground. With the sale of the Kuril Islands to Japan and Alaska to the US, the peninsula waned in importance. Following World War II Kamchatka was deemed a military zone and was placed off limits to Russians (excluding residents) until 1989 and to foreigners until 1991.

The peninsula hosts the largest Russian nuclear submarine pen and submarine construction yard. A major event during the Cold War in the early 1980s was the intentional shooting down by the Soviet Union of an Korean Air (Flight 007) civilian airliner that inadvertently drifted off course when flying over an extremely sensitive military area in Kamchatka.

Climate

Kamchatka's climate is diverse and encompasses several climate zones divided along alpine, coastal and geothermal lines. The most popular time for tourists to visit is during the summer and autumn months, when max temperatures range from 15°C (59°F) to 30°C (86°F) (in the winter the average temperature is -25°C (-13°F)). The high season lasts from June to September. The weather is marine and therefore changeable. In the summer temperatures can fall significantly at night; rain and humidity brought by the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean are not uncommon, and rainfall can add up at 1000 mm per year. Mosquitoes are active until September and may cause some discomfort, but only appear in low altitudes. Swimming in the Avacha Bay is a popular activity in the summer months.

Get in

By car

There are no roads connecting Kamchatka with other parts of Russia. Indeed, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsk is the second-largest mainland city in the world which cannot be reached by road (the largest being Iquitos).

By plane

Arriving by plane is the only practical way of reaching Kamchatka. All commercial flights arrive at Yelizovo, only 16 km from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky/PKC (which airlines list as the destination). There are regular flights between Petropavovsk-Kamchatsky and Moscow (Aeroflot, Transaero), Saint Petersburg (Rossiya), Novosibirsk (S7, Rossiya), Irkutsk (S7), Khabarovsk (S7, SAT Airlines), and Vladivostok (S7, Aeroflot). Yakutia flies an Antonov 24 to Magadan and on to Yakutsk weekly or every two weeks (seasonal) on Wednesdays. Yakutia Air has seasonal service between Anchorage, Alaska, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Korean Airlines offers frequent charter flights from Incheon in the summer.

By boat

It may be possible to hitch a ride on boats from the Kuril Islands,

Get around

By car

Depending on your destination there are Russian and Japanese jeeps as well as 6WD URAL and KAMAZ trucks with a booth for passengers as 4WD tend to be incapable of handling the majority of dirt roads, especially in snow.

The bus stations that have routes around the region are located in both Yelizovo and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

By air

By dogsled

Dogsleds are used instead of taxis in Esso.

See

There are many places to sight see. The bravest tourists can trek for months. The best way to see things is to cooperate with local tour agencies, as it will save you time (but not money).

Excursions

There are two types of day sightseeing in Kamchatka. The first kind can be reached by car and on foot for 2,583 RUB (80 USD) at the most. The second type involves taking a helicopter, which can cost up to 29,065 RUB (900 USD). It is quite easy to find a tour agency, as there are plenty of them, or to join a group of tourists.

By automobile

By helicopter

Be aware that excursions by helicopter are dependent on both the weather and a sufficient number of passengers, both of which are unpredictable. Typically Mi-8 helicopters are used, which requiring about 20 passengers to be economically viable. The helicopters are about 25 years old and are basic and rugged inside but generally feel safe. If you really want to go, allow for several spare days in Kamchatka (one traveller spent 13 days in Kamchatka and only managed to travel to his second-choice destination on the 12th day).

As of July 2011,the cost of excursions to Kurilskoye lake/geysers was 24-27,000 Rubles ($743-$836 USD) payable in cash (but this should be an experience of a lifetime). This equates to about 3 hours of actual flying - about $5 USD per minute, and so it is comparable to helicopter rides elsewhere.

Do

With its vast pristine nature, Kamchatka is a great but challenging resort for outdoor life.

Buy

Some shops accept credit cards, but this acceptance is not widespread. Most Bankomats (ATMs) limit cash withdrawals to either 6,000 or 10,000 Rubles (note that some will charge a 2% fee in addition to whatever your own bank charges). As at July 2011 Rosbank, Gazprom Bank, and Bank of Moscow did not charge a fee.

Eat

Sleep

Stay safe

Go next

It may be possible to hitch a ride on a boat heading from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Severo-Kurilsk in the Kuril Islands.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, October 22, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.