The 1200 kilometer long peninsula of Kamchatka was first inhabited by Itelman and Koryak peoples. The former were decimated by Russian settlement, which began in the 1700s, spurred on by the region’s rich trove of furs and fishing.
The region is on the Pacific Rim of Fire and there are over 160 volcanoes, 28 of them active, on the peninsula. The Kronotsky preserve on the peninsula’s eastern coast is home to the Valley of the Geysers—Earth’s second largest geyser field, after Yellowstone. Remarkably, the field was not discovered until 1941.
The lush peninsula gets upwards of a meter of precipitation each year and its many rivers are home to some of the most prolific salmon spawning grounds in the world. The salmon, in turn, help make the region one of the most populous grizzly bear habitats in the world. Estimates range from 10,000 to 25,000 bears roaming Kamchatka’s rivers and forests.
Sparsely populated (411,100 persons lived in the administrative region in 1996), Kamchatka is an adventure traveler’s dream. Hiking, fishing, and of course, kayaking in one of the world’s least-touched wildernesses, are open to all with the wherewithal to travel to this remote outpost.
To get to Kamchatka, you will need to fly into Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky from Vladivostok, Magadan or another eastern Russian city. Air travel along the peninsula is spotty, there are no trains, and roads are fairly seasonal. For many types of adventure travel, chartered helicopter service is the only option. In short, if you want to visit Kamchatka, work through an experienced travel agent for the region. See the listings in this issue’s Summer Travel Planner for several reputable firms.
Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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