Kamchatka travel guide

Russia’s far eastern peninsula might ring a bell for the fans of board game, Risk; in real life it is one of the world’s most remote and greatest natural sanctuaries. A well-kept secret. A wilderness of thermal springs, thousands of rivers bursting with fish, enormous natural parks and wild cliffs and coastline; fittingly Kamchatka is shaped like a salmon swimming its way southwards from Russia towards Japan. It’s nearly 500,000sqkm in size, but has the human population of Bristol - nature truly is King here.
If the Earth really was made in seven days, Kamchatka is how it must have looked on day two: boiling mud holes, roaring fumaroles and smoking sulphuric pillars – not to mention the volcanoes
An irresistible Pandora’s box of biodiversity, the peninsula is home to bears, walrus, reindeer and snow geese, as well as puffins, Emperor geese and spoon-billed sandpipers that dwell among the dunes. And then there’s the volcanoes steaming proudly at almost every turn: destinations have found fame on one volcano alone; Kamchatka has 300, of which 29 are active and, like the protective guardians at the gates of this otherworldly wonderland, erupt defiantly from time to time to remind us who’s boss.
KAMCHATKA IS/ISN'T

Kamchatka is…

one of the world’s last bastions of pure, undeveloped and remarkably beautiful nature

Kamchatka isn’t…

like anywhere else in Russia

What we rate & what we don't

UNDERRATED

Eastern Russia

You can navigate these waters for just a few months …

Cold War history

There is a palpable sense that Kamchatkans value their isolation …

Russian hospitality

One of the most extraordinary aspects of a trip to …

Kamchatkan birdlife

The black-throated diver, red-faced cormorant, and the rough-legged buzzard; all …
RATED

Wrangel Island

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Wrangel Island is home to …

Volcanoes

Kamchatka has a staggeringly beautiful geology. The land of fire …

Kamchatka wildlife

The wildlife in Kamchatka is almost indescribably spectacular. Wrangel Island, …

Cruising

Ditch any preconceptions you may have about “cruising”, an expedition …
OVERRATED

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Entirely at odds with its spellbinding natural setting, Petropavlovsk is …

Accommodation prices

A little bit like being in a holding cell, but …

Sakhalin

A playground for oil-struck business people, there’s a lot of …

Poaching ‘trophies’

Poaching has reared its ugly head and over-hunting now endangers …

Food, shopping & people

Eating & drinking
Borsch is everywhere in Kamchatka. A soup made with cabbage and beets at its base, there are over 40 varieties and it should be thick enough to stand your spoon in.
Freshly caught salmon caviar spread over thick butter on even thicker white bread = the stuff dreams are made of.
Local Kamchatkan beer, such as Seroglazka or Kamchatskoye, is very tasty thanks to the pure volcanic water that goes into making it.
People & language
Say hello – ‘privyet’
Although Kamchatka is one of the least populated regions in the world, there are over 100 nationalities and ethnic groups on the peninsula with the indigenous population represented in the main by Koryaks, Evens, Aleuts and Chukchi. The Itelmens, whose name translates as ‘those who live here’, are the oldest residents of Kamchatka and are thought to have settled there 7,000 years ago. The seeping influence of Russian spread into Kamchatka in the 1930s and now almost everyone speaks Russian.
Chukchi is considered a severely endangered language with only 10,000 native speakers remaining.
There is at least one brown bear for every 30 people in Kamchatka

Our top Kamchatka Vacation

Chukotka and Wrangel Island cruise, Russia

Chukotka and Wrangel Island cruise, Russia

Authentic Arctic Festival & wildlife including Polar Bears

From US $9500 15 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 8 Jul
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Kamchatka or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Gifts & shopping
The best Kamchatkan souvenirs – fresh crab and caviar – have to be bought and eaten while you’re there. Otherwise, spending money locally is a tricky one; Cassia Jackson, from our supplier, Heritage Expeditions, explains:

“It is possible to buy carvings made from walrus ivory from the Chukchi people who have hunting rights, but although they are very skillfully made, it isn’t something we would encourage visitors buying. A suitable alternative for tourists wanting to spend their money locally would be to donate to a conservation project; that’s where money is most needed.”
Kamchatka produces 8,000 tonnes of red caviar every year
How much?
Small local beer: 51p Bottle of local vodka: £4 Basic lunch: £1.80 150g of red caviar: £6 Helicopter ride over Valley of the Geysers: £350/person

A brief history of Kamchatka

The Kamchatka Peninsula projects down between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the few places on earth where nature can still be found in its pristine state. About 30 percent of the land area is protected in different national reserves.

Kamchatka was first inhabited about 15,000 years ago. These indigenous people’s culture and lifestyle was based on their wide use of the natural resources found there. The Itelmen were mainly fisherman; Koryaks and Evens were hunters and reindeer herders. The first ‘Cossack’ explorers came to Kamchatka in the early 17th century. At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century there was a period when interest in the Far East and Kamchatka grew rapidly, driven in part by the economic development of Russia by Peter the Great. Read more
Written by Polly Humphris
Photo credits: [Page banner: Harald Deischinger] [Zolotari beach: paukrus] [Tank: Einar Fredriksen] [Russian hospitality: U.S. Consulate Vladivostok] [Arctic Loon: Francesco Veronesi] [Snow geese - Wrangel Island: Bradley Davis] [Koryaksky volcano: kuhnmi] [Bear: Einar Fredriksen] [Cruise - snow: NOAA Photo Library] [Pertopavlovsk-Kamchatsky: Petr Meissner] [Katedral i Petropavlovsk: Einar Fredriksen] [Sakhalin - ship: khaled abdelmoumen] [Bear skins: Brian Jeffery Beggerly] [Borscht: liz west] [Brown bear: Einar Fredriksen] [Beringia Baydara Races: ATockston - Heritage Expeditions] [Crab and caviar: Tatters] [Helicopter - geysers: Einar Fredriksen]
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