Kamchatka a Once Hidden Land in Russia

A spit of land diving the Pacific Ocean from the Sea of Okhotsk the Kamchatka Peninsula is a 1,250-kilometre (780 mi) long natural wonderland which boasts volcanoes, forests and wildlife aplenty. Due to its location on the far-east coast of Russia, it is a very remote place that until recent times was closed to most Russians, and was certainly out of reach of foreigners who, until 1990, were banned from even setting foot on the peninsula.

The peninsula is the northern part of the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, and it is riddled with active volcanoes with the land often rumbling through seismic events. The island’s volcanism has created the rich black soils, and black beaches, on which vegetation has thrived. The rich, clean, cold waters of the northern Pacific, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk ensure an abundant and varied range of marine life is able to thrive close to the shore.

Just offshore, along the Pacific coast, the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench dives to an incredible depth of 10,500-metre (34,400 ft). It’s this feature which creates the volcanic and seismic activity as the Pacific Plate slides beneath the Okhotsk Plate, edging Kamchatka closer to America. With over 160 volcanoes, Kamchatka contains the northern hemisphere’s highest and largest active volcano, Klyuchevskaya Sopka, which soars to 4,750m (15,584 ft) and Kronotsky, which has a perfect cone shape and is considered to be one of the world’s most attractive volcanoes.

Because of the scant human activity, wildlife has been able to live unhindered in a completely natural state. As a result, Kamchatka is a naturalist’s dream due to the abundance of brown bears, arctic foxes, wolves, lynx, wolverine and sables. He prey of these carnivores includes bighorn sheep, moose, reindeers, hares, marmots, lemmings and squirrels.

There are six species of salmon found in the water, and scientists believe that one fifth of all salmon originate in Kamchatka. Many species of whale, including the gigantic Blue Whale, porpoise, seals and sea otters are also numerous.

The largest town, and main entry point, is Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, a small, hilly city that is surrounded by volcanoes. This is where most of the Kamchatka tourist operators are based, and can only be reached by sea of air as there are no roads which connect Kamchatka with the Russian mainland.

Normally, you would need to fly to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky via another Russian port such as Moscow or Vladivostok. However, during the short summer tourist season there are limited flights from Tokyo, Beijing and Anchorage.

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