Arrive in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the administrative, cultural and industrial centre of Kamchatka and home to around 180,000 people. It is a remote city with little infrastructure, in a dramatic and beautiful setting, built on a series of high hills on the Pacific harbour of Avachinskaya Bay. The township is surrounded by a chain of five towering volcanoes, two of which are still active.
From the airport, you’ll be transferred to your hotel in town, where you will take your time to relax and acclimatise. You’ll be welcomed to Kamchatka this evening with a group dinner in a city restaurant.
Flight by MI-8 helicopter to Kurilskoye Lake, with a stopover at the Ksudach Volcano for a short walk and a relaxing dip in the hot springs.
We’ll take a walking excursion visiting the deep blue crater lake of Schtubelya, situated inside the volcano, and then on to a lovely waterfall cascading from the crater. Volcanic hot springs create a ‘hot beach’ on the lake’s shore, where it’s possible to take an invigorating swim. Following your dip, our chopper flight continues the short distance to Kamchatka’s famed Kuril Lake. Our home for the next three nights is in a basic but cosy wooden lodge. In the afternoon, you’ll have time to enjoy excursions along the lake’s pumice rock beach, where you’ll be briefed about the next day’s activities.
Kuril Lake is without a doubt one of the best places on earth to spot and photograph brown bears in their natural habitat, so the next two days are devoted to observing these mighty mammals as they hunt the salmon that gather here in their millions during the summer months.
We’ll use a mix of a motorboat and walking excursions with experienced local wardens in order to maximise our chances of seeing bears up-close and observing different behaviours. The bear viewing platform (250m from our lodge) is located at the mouth of the many rivers that drain into the lake, providing awesome opportunities to take Nat Geo worthy photos of the bears fishing for migrating salmon.
Our longer walking excursions will lead us to a lush summer meadow where the bears feed on wild berries and visit other spawning streams further from the lodge. Along these streams, you’ll be able to see the spawning salmon in shallow water and many signs of a large number of birds in the area. There’s a good chance of spotting bears fishing only metres away as you walk along the banks of the streams.
In the morning we’ll take a final stroll around Kurilskoye Lake and head up to the bear-viewing platform for a final opportunity to bag a prize-winning shot of the magnificent beasts in their element.
Our afternoon MI-8 helicopter flight will drop us off on the banks of the Khodutka River for a bath in the thermal hot water springs – the largest in Kamchatka. The water bubbles out on to a section of tundra located just under the Khodutka Volcano, forming a small stream. Further from the source, the water slowly cools, so bathers are able to find a location where the temperature is just right for a warm, soothing swim. We board the MI-8 once more for a flight over the crater of Mutnovsky volcano plateau, before heading back to the city.
Today the choice is yours to either enjoy a free day exploring Petropavlovsk at your leisure or join an optional* scenic helicopter flight to the World Heritage site of the Valley of the Geysers and the crater of the mighty Uzon volcano.
The Valley of Geysers is the only geyser field in Eurasia and the second largest concentration of geysers in the world. This cluster of around 90 geysers, fumaroles and hot springs in this valley were only discovered in 1941. They lie above the marginal fractures of the oldest Uzon caldera and periodically expel hot water in spectacular jet streams.
Today begins with a full day’s journey to a typical Russian village of Kozyrevsk. We’ll cover a total distance of appx 500km – the drive is on unsealed roads and takes roughly 8 to10 hours.
Along the way, we pass the old Cossack village of Milkovo where we stop for lunch and a stroll around the village to get a feel for typical Russian rural life. From here we head further to the wilderness along the banks of the Kamchatka River, Kamchatka's largest river, which runs northward through the central valley of the peninsula. On arrival to Kozyrevsk, we will stay for overnight in very basic wooden cabins.
Travelling further 75 km, from where we stayed overnight, we arrive at our first base camp located on a slope of Tolbachik volcano plateau.
Tolbachik volcano is located in the Klyuchevskoy Nature Park, which was registered into the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List in 1999. It covers an area of 376,000 ha with Eurasia’s most grand and active Klyuchevksaya group of volcanoes in its centre. It consists of 13 volcanoes, including 4 active ones (Klyuchevskoy, Plosky Tolbachik, Besymyanny, Ushkovsky) and 9 extinct ones (Kamen, Krestovsky, Ostry Tolbachik, Ovalnaya Zimina, Ostraya Zimina, Bolshaya Udina, Malaya Udina, Sredny, and Gorny Zoub).
Once the camp is set up, we can relax and enjoy the surrounding wilderness and wildlife.
Stroll above Tolbachik's solid lava flows of 2012-2013 eruptions, where you can see lava formed into various shapes, many moon slag cones, and moon-like sceneries.
We also visit the "Dead Forest" - an area that was destroyed by ash clouds in 1975. The territory around turned into a burnt desert, lakes and rivers disappeared, and the animals that had survived left the area for the best. Devoid of life, the ancient larch trees here are now eerie skeletons of their former selves, surrounded by a burnt desert landscape and set against the backdrop of the magnificent Tolbachik.
Get ready to jump on board our truck as we are heading to Esso village, a remote settlement in Central Kamchatka. The drive will take up to seven hours. On arrival, we'll check into the hotel, finally take a hot shower and relax in the thermal pool.
Esso is a charming village of about 1,500 residents nestled in the Central Mt. Range and inside of the Bystrinsky Nature Park, the largest of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka’s Nature Parks. The village is known for spectacular setting and unique population of Russians and Kamchatka aboriginal people. You'll be welcomed by cosy accommodation, complete with a hot pool warmed by natural geothermal waters.
After some rest, we'll head into the village to enjoy a traditional folk performance and enjoy an evening of Koryak and Even culture and hospitality.
After breakfast at the hotel, explore Esso's surroundings or relax in the thermal pool. In the afternoon we will board a helicopter for a flight to the reindeer herders camp, where we will stay in tents for overnight.
At camp, we'll learn about the construction of their "chums", the cone-shaped, portable tents they call home. This is a rare opportunity to experience a way of life that is now in danger of completely dying out as modernisation reaches even the furthest parts of the world. In the morning of day 13, we fly back to the village of Esso, where we will stay overnight.
Having spent a week in the wilderness, it’s time for a brief return to civilization. We embark on a drive back to the city of Petropavlovsk. Along the way, we’ll make another pit stop at Milkovo village. Retire for a well-earned rest at our hotel.
An *optional boat trip (6 hours) out into the bay is a very relaxing way of gaining an alternative view of the splendid setting of Petropavlovsk and its dramatic volcanoes.
Departing from a pier near the centre of town, the expanse of the hilly city soon falls into perspective. Further toward the middle of the bay, both Koryaksky and Avacha volcanoes come into view behind the city. Near the mouth of the bay, the Three Brothers are tall finger-like sea stacks, whose rock faces rise vertically out of the water. The cliffs around the bay house many colonies of seabirds in their natural habitats, and puffins are commonly seen among many other types of seabird. Hot lunch is aboard.
Once we back to the seaport, we jump into the truck for a drive to Mutnovsky and Gorely Volcano plateau (150km). On the way, we stop at the Verkhne-Paratunskie thermal springs, where we can take a quick dip. We pass Viluchinsky Volcano and waterfall and finally reach the Mutnovsky volcano plateau, where we set up a base camp.
After breakfast at the camp, we set out for a full day trek up the Mutnovsky volcano (2,939m). Near Mutnovsky’s summit is a nest of merged craters, among the most beautiful volcanic phenomenon in Kamchatka.
We hike to the rim of the craters via a crack in the volcano’s side. With a bit of courage, you can climb to the crest of the craters. Standing at the top, at the edge of a deep cavity, gazing down upon glittering glaciers, the torches of sulphur spewing fumaroles far below and the columns of vapour rising from the active funnel crater.
After breakfast, we’ll embark on another adventure. Today’s destination is Mount Gorely (1,829m), one of the most active volcanoes in Kamchatka. The walk up the huge shield volcano, we’ll cross a mix of grassy tundra with dwarf willows and bare strips of basaltic lava and lava flow formations.
Our picnic lunch will be laid out on the shelf just below the top. The magnificent panoramic view in front of us looks out over a sudden, vertical descent into the active crater. Over 100m down, a hot acidic lake has active fumaroles around its margin and beneath the surface, thanks to Gorely’s recent steam eruptions.
Afterwards, we’ll return to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, where you can choose to attend a dinner with a local farmer, enjoying traditional Russian food and toasting with the local vodka to celebrate your final day in Kamchatka.
Our epic journey has come to a close and it's time to say goodbye to Kamchatka! Transfer to the airport for your departure back home.
All meals during the tour
All transportation on tour according to the itinerary (coach, 6WD truck-bus, helicopters, boats)
Local English-speaking guide, helper, chef, experienced drivers
*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.
Flights, travel insurance, visa, optional excursions, individual transfers, tips
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