Kamchatka is a name that doesn’t come up much in holiday planning, and with good reason as it’s incredibly remote! Kamchatka is a 900-mile long peninsula on the eastern tip of Russia that is much closer to Alaska than it is to Moscow. In fact, Kamchatka is a 12-hour flight from Moscow! But it’s this remoteness that makes Kamchatka such a special place to visit.
Kamchatka is short on roads, but big on rugged landscapes. The most striking part of the peninsula is the many volcanoes. There are more than 300 volcanoes on the peninsula, 29 of which are still active. This incredible density of volcanoes and the peninsula’s pristine habitat has led to Kamchatka being granted a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
More than just volcanoes though, Kamchatka also has breathtaking mountains, dense forests, hot springs, skiing, and abundant wildlife. During the summer a popular tourist activity is to arrange a bear watching expedition with a local tour operator. The trips traverse the peninsula and visit some of its most spectacular scenery in search of brown bears. Salmon fishing is another summertime activity—for bears and for tourists. Trips usually include a a few days on the river fishing, camping and rafting.
The adventure doesn’t stop in the winter, though, as the winter is the season for heli skiing and snowmobile tours. Helicopters transport adventurers deep into the wilderness where they can ski down the snow-covered slopes of volcanoes or ride snowmobiles across unexplored landscapes.
One of the reasons Kamchatka has such a well-preserved natural environment is because there are only 400,000 people living on the entire peninsula. The capital is the port city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, which is home to the peninsula’s airport and where most travelers first arrive. From here the road coverage of the peninsula is severely limited, with only one road venturing north to Esso (300 miles north).
To really get out and explore the peninsula it’s necessary to get off the paved roads and venture into the wilderness. This can be done either by arranging off-road vehicles via local tour operators or by traveling in Soviet-era helicopters, which are a popular way to travel to the volcanoes. For each hour’s flight time expect to pay around US$200 per person. This means that Kamchatka isn’t exactly the cheapest destination.
Hotels are also expensive, as the tourist infrastructure is severely limited. But perhaps that’s for the best, as Kamchatka is, after all, one of the earth’s last pieces of unspoiled wilderness.