Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Travel to Kamchatka is a way to create unforgettable memories. Few trips around Russia are distinguished by such a variety of landscapes, routes and activities. Watch bears and killer whales, explore the Pacific Ocean, surf or conquer volcanoes. In this article we tell you how to prepare for your first visit to Kamchatka and what places to visit to fall in love with this region forever.

How to prepare for a trip

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Vachkazhec mountain range. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Choose the time of year

Tourists come to the Kamchatka Peninsula in the winter and summer months. In the cold season, holidays are usually chosen by skiers, snowboarders and other fans of extreme sports. If you are planning to visit Kamchatka for the first time, it is best to organize a trip in the summer: despite the beauty of the snowy landscapes, not everyone can ski on the volcanic slopes, and other activities on the peninsula are limited in winter. The most comfortable period for trekking routes and multi-day hikes is very short – from July to the first half of September.

Independent trip or tour: pros and cons

At the word “excursion,” tourists who value solitude and freedom of action frown, but Kamchatka is not that case. Traveling around the peninsula on your own can ruin your trip for several reasons:

  • Not everywhere you can move on your own. The roads in Kamchatka are worse than Saltykov-Shchedrin once described: only a powerful SUV can handle the potholes.
  • The travel budget can be unpredictable. The Kamchatka Territory is one of the most expensive regions in terms of cost of living: don’t be surprised when you see vegetables, household goods or dairy products with price tags three times higher than in Moscow. The same goes for gasoline, cafes and restaurants, hotel rooms or apartment rentals and individual day excursions. Be prepared for the fact that the initially set budget for an independent trip will increase by 30% – all expenses cannot be predicted.
  • Traveling around Kamchatka alone is not safe. The peninsula is dominated by wild nature, and its laws dominate over humans – this is especially noticeable when you meet a bear calmly walking along some tourist routes. A trip with an experienced guide who has encountered wild animals and knows how to behave will keep you out of trouble.

If you often go on large-scale hikes or have already been to places with similar conditions (for example, Iceland), then these disadvantages will not scare you. Otherwise, it’s better to stop looking for a suitable tour: their cost for eight days starts from 50,000 rubles per person, excluding air tickets.

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Steller sea lion rookery in Russkaya Bay. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Buy tickets

Direct flights to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky are available from Moscow, as well as major cities in the Far East and Siberia. Travel time from the capital is about nine hours. The best way to save money is to keep an eye on seasonal promotions. As a rule, before the start of the tourist season, Aeroflot holds sales, and you can buy a round-trip ticket for 20,000 rubles*.

Packing a backpack

The right equipment is the key to comfortable trekking along the Kamchatka Peninsula. Not all tour organizers inform their clients in advance what things they should take with them. Purchasing locally is a bad idea for your budget: clothes and shoes for hiking in stores in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky will cost twice as much as in similar stores in Moscow.

Here is an approximate list of what will be useful to you if you are planning trekking in Kamchatka without tents:

  • Sneakers. With a stable sole and a high shaft.
  • Gamashi. These pants pads will keep sand and small stones out of your shoes.
  • Trekking poles. Without them, no guide will allow you to climb volcanoes.
  • Windbreaker and a warm fleece jacket. Even in summer, the weather in Kamchatka is unpredictable, especially in the mountains.
  • Panama hat, cap and sunscreen. Because at altitude the rays are especially strong.
  • Pills for motion sickness. Off-road driving in Kamchatka has not been canceled.
  • Lightweight hiking backpack. To fold spare T-shirts and a warm jacket.

Where we will stay: tent or one-day trips

Hiking in Kamchatka is a challenge even for experienced travelers. For your first visit to the peninsula, tours with a program of one-day trips from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky are best suited.

What to pay attention to

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Bird Island near Russkaya Bay. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Adaptation to time zone

You should not fly to Kamchatka on the day the excursion program begins – your body will not have enough time to get used to a different time zone. It’s better to take tickets with a reserve of one or two days – this way you will have time to get a good night’s sleep.

High cost of products

Food on the peninsula is really expensive: a basic food set for preparing meals for the day will cost 3,000 – 5,000 rubles. To truly get closer to Kamchatka, during your vacation you can give up your usual diet and try something new: red caviar or fish here can cost less than some vegetables and fruits.

What to see in 10 days

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Avachinskaya Bay. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Avachinskaya Bay

The main city of the peninsula is unremarkable at first glance: there are many industrial buildings, and due to volcanic activity, houses are built no higher than five floors. Start your acquaintance with Kamchatka with mini-climbing and climb Nikolskaya Sopka in the city center. You can combine the climb with a walk along the Avacha Bay embankment and a visit to the port. If you want to learn about the features of the peninsula first-hand, go to the Vulcanarium or the Oceanfish Fleet Museum. It is better to visit them by appointment by phone.

Khalaktyrsky beach

Look for the same beach with volcanic black sand 20 km from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. This place has been attracting fans of extreme surfing for several years now – the waves on Khalaktyrsky Beach are consistently high almost the entire summer season. It’s worth coming here in the first half of the day, either as part of an excursion group, or specifically for a surfing master class. Such classes are offered by Snowave Kamchatka, Quiksilver and Surf Camp.

Vachkazhets mountain range

The best way to start climbing in Kamchatka is this small mountain range, two hours’ drive from the region’s capital. Vachkazhets is attractive for many reasons: the climb will take you two hours, and along the way you will see different landscapes, from a mountain lake to a green thicket and a waterfall. The first hour of trekking is through lowlands, so be sure to take repellent with you.

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Halaktyrskiy beach. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Sea trip to Russkaya Bay

An obligatory part of the Kamchatka familiarization tour. In a six-hour boat ride you will see Avachinskaya Bay and the Three Brothers rocks that open it, a small island with seabirds, a sea lion rookery, the silhouette of the Vilyuchinsky volcano and, if you’re lucky, killer whales or even a whale. A visit to Russkaya Bay, as a rule, is included in every tourist program. If you are an independent traveler, it is best to rent a boat at the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. You will be offered different walking options on site. Choose the route that runs through the sea lion rookery, and don’t hesitate to ask about additional services: for example, will they give you a spinning rod to go fishing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Climbing Gorely volcano

The red crater of the Gorely volcano and the acidic lake in its valley are reminiscent of scenes from films about the conquest of Mars. This climb is accessible to people in good physical shape or those who have already tried their hand at the more accessible peaks of Kamchatka. Take trekking poles with you and get ready for a sharp change in temperature: at the top of Gorely, even in summer, it rarely gets warmer than +5 °C, and the northeast winds can knock you off your feet. Therefore, it is worth taking warm clothes with you.

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

The foot of the Gorely volcano. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Mutnovskaya hydroelectric power station and fumarole sources

Kamchatka tour guides advertise this place as a small valley of geysers. In fact, there is only one valley of geysers in Kamchatka, and you can only get there by helicopter for a lot of money. Another natural spectacle is available for hikers – fumarole evaporations at the Mutnovskaya geothermal station.

Fumaroles are jets of hot sulfur dioxide gas, which, unlike geysers, constantly emerge from the cracks of active volcanoes. The Mutnovskaya hydroelectric power station itself is visually unremarkable, but 300 m from it there is the same site with natural vapors. Don’t forget your swimsuit and combine your trip to the station with a visit to the thermal springs.

Climbing Mutnovsky volcano

A hike to the Mutnovsky volcano along with a transfer from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky will take you the whole day. On the way, cars often stop at an observation deck on a mountain pass – the observation deck offers views of seven peaks, including the Vilyuchinsky volcano. The ascent itself, depending on the pace, takes from three to five hours. It’s worth it – glaciers have formed in the crater of the Mutnovsky volcano, which, together with fumarole evaporations, give the landscape a cosmic appearance. Unfortunately, in 2021 the tourist trail to Mutnovsky volcano was closed due to a mudflow, but the situation may change by the summer season of 2023.

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Fumarole springs at the Mutnovskaya hydroelectric station. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Camel Massif

Climbing the Camel mountain range is accessible to people with any level of endurance and will take no more than an hour and a half. Along the way, tourists often encounter Eurasian gophers – mountain ground squirrels, which have not been afraid of humans here for a long time, but it’s still not worth feeding them.

Climbing Avachinsky volcano

This hike is a must for anyone who is ready to endure a long climb, because the Avachinsky volcano has become a tourist symbol of Kamchatka. We recommend going up here at the end of your stay on the peninsula: this way you will definitely have enough experience for a four-hour ascent and a two-hour descent.

What to bring from Kamchatka

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Orcas in Russkaya Bay. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Fish and caviar

For edible souvenirs, it is best to visit the fish market in the center of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. To be sure to buy fresh products, arrive in the morning. Don’t be shy about bargaining and don’t forget to ask for a thermal bag – it will definitely ensure that your food will survive the long flight.

Kamchatka merch

Local designers are trying to turn the symbols of Kamchatka into a tourist brand of the peninsula. Take a look at the stores “Take care of Kamchatka” and Kamcha Shop: there you can buy clothes and stationery with themed prints.

Ethnic souvenirs

Many people will like a pagan figurine or a “dream catcher” – you should look for them at the market in the city center.

Kamchatka: volcanoes, killer whales and glacial lakes

Crater of Gorely volcano. Photo: Alexandra Limareva

Budget options

If you want to save on souvenirs, stop by the post office and send your loved ones a postcard straight from Kamchatka. Another option is a piece of lava from the base of the volcano.

Contribution to nature

Kamchatka still remains a natural reserve, and preserving it is not only the task of local residents. You can do without souvenirs and make a gift for future travelers: for example, take part in the volunteer days of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve or help clean up the Pacific coast as part of the Clean Coast environmental campaign.

*Prices are current at the time of publication.

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