Ice and fire, glaciers and volcanoes, merging in a territory the size of California. A beauty yet to be explored, with countless occasions to take astonishing pictures of an ever-changing landscape. The Kamchatka Peninsula was discovered by audacious Cossacks from Mother Russia three centuries ago, but has remained a mysterious and unknowable place for most of this time.
Enough words. Let's check out the images, all courtesy of Eugene Kaspersky, the same guy providing my current antivirus, who turned out to also be a talented photographer and travel storyteller. You can read all his adventures through the far far east in his blog, Nota Bene.
Ring of Fire. Kamchatka is an essential part of the arc around the Pacific ocean where every year a high number of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes take place.
The valley of the giants. The Klyuchevsky group of volcanoes, in the north of the peninsula, includes the tallest active volcano in Eurasia (4,750 m or 15,584 ft).
Another world. The look of these black volcanic deserts of Tolbachik seems to come from of the camera of the latest NASA rover on Mars. Apparently, the Soviet Union used to test its lunar remote control artifacts here.
A closed region. Due to its strategical position during the Cold War, up until 1990 foreigners were not allowed to step onto Kamchatka, and Russians only with special permission.
Dead forest. This sparsely populated land and its isolation contributed to the preservation of an exuberant wildlife. It has only been threatened by natural disasters, like an eruption in 1976, which killed all the living creatures around the Tolbachik Volcano instantly.
A constantly changing world. Compare the satellite image on the left from 2009, with the one to the right from September 2011. They show the extent of the changes in Kizimen volcano, after the eruptions in late 2010, which created a new lake. Images by NASA Visible Earth
Newborn. Aerial shot of the brand new lake and the one that already existed.
Wuthering Heights. The Kizimen volcano itself.
Bubbling pots. The Uzon caldera is a kaleidoscopic geothermal field of pools and hot water streams.
The Valley of Geysers. It hosts the second largest concentration of them in the world, after Yellowstone National Park.
Hot showers. One of the geysers has been measured as able to expel a waterjet of up to 40 meters.
Volcanic ephemeral beauty. A landslide in 2007 buried part of the valley, although it seems that the damage was less than expected and many of the highlights of the park have survived.
Lost Highway. If you are one of the lucky ones to explore Kamchatka Peninsula, it's likely that you will land near the capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. No roads connect this land to the rest of the continent.
Into the Wild. The Three brothers are welcome the boats arriving to this port city via the Avachinsky bay.
Backpacker unfriendly zone. Expensive helicopter rides are sometimes the only way to get to many landmarks at the peninsula in a reasonable lapse of time. Backpacking Kamchatka is an unwise (but very tempting) option.
Heavy trekking. Without a helicopter Mi-8 some areas are only reachable after several days on foot, generally all the excursions require you to be prepared for long walks.
Heaven's Gate. The Mutnovsky volcano is an amazing and monumental thermal field, where you go to experience all these rare phenomena like geysers, hot springs and incredible pools.
Masterful mise en scène. A river runs down from the crater of Mutnovsky, setting a waterfall 80 meters high, followed by a scenic deep canyon.
Multiple crater cones and lakes. Going further to the south, the Ksudach Volcano complex is another must.
World Heritage. The UNESCO included the Volcanoes of Kamchatka in its exclusive list in 1996.
Colorful Mountains of Russia. An upcoming article?
Encounters at the end of the world. Kamchatka is a land of bears, huge and wild ones. It’s not hard to spot them fishing around the rivers of Kuril Lake, near the southern tip.
Giant vertical boats. Kutkhiny Baty is an unique and weird valley made of light and whitish pumice stone.
Spread out the world. Only 322,000 souls living in the region, half of them in Petropavlovsk, giving you plenty of room to meet the hottest Russian marvels on your own.
Happy ending. Why not finish the trip relaxing in the natural thermal springs of Khodutka?
Far away. Unfortunately.
View Kamchatka in a larger map