The Icy Mirror-World
10 reasons to explore Kamchatka
Fancy turning a plain winter into an unforgettable adventure? The Pacific coast, mesmerizing volcanoes, hot springs, ice hotels, glittering ski slopes – all these are the landmarks of the Kamchatka peninsula. The reasons for going there are too numerous to mention; a popular Far East blogger Dmitry @Oktagon Kulikov shared with us but a few.
Arguably, one of the main winter attractions of Kamchatka are the region's hot springs. Anyone who has ever experienced coming out of hot water and rubbing themselves with powder snow will never forget those sensations! Several dozens of kilometers away from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, in the valley of the Paratunka river, one can find several large springs and quiet pools, and several recreation facilities are open in the vicinity. Local thermal waters vary greatly in their chemical composition and temperature. Many derelict spa resorts are being restored, for example, a large health complex in the village of Nachiki.
2. See the volcanoes
Volcanoes are a landmark of Kamchatka. You can see some volcanoes straight from the city, no need to drive anywhere. If you want to take a closer look or even scale them – go for it! The easiest way to reach the tops in winter is to take a snowmobile ride. Many tour operators offer such recreational services. Anyone unwilling to drive a snowmobile themselves can take the passenger seat behind the driver or mount a sledge.
3. Conquer the summit
Downhill skiers and snowboarders from every corner of the world dream of conquering the slopes of the Kamchatka volcanoes. You can reach the summit using a snowmobile or a helicopter, so-called heliskiing, a pricey but breathtaking pastime, which is just as popular today.
Today, the most extreme and physically demanding way is alpine climbing followed by downhill skiing or snowboarding. There are some ski centers in Kamchatka, too, the biggest of them being Moroznaya on the outskirts of Yelizovo. In addition to drag lifts, the base boasts a chairlift. The second-largest center – Krasnaya Sopka – is on the outskirts of the Kamchatka capital, equipped with a drag lift.
4. Harness the wave
Few of us know that Kamchatka is a classy place for surfing. Some say that even foreigners have taken to so-called Siberian surfing and frequently come here to challenge themselves. Sure, the water here is cold, but the waves are always yours for the asking!
5. Sleep amid the snows
A new Kamchatka trend is staying overnight in an igloo hotel. For two years in a row, enthusiasts and famous mountain climbers have been developing a small settlement of igloos. The traditional blanket makes way for genuine pelts and modern sleeping bags. An ice bar provides a finishing touch to the Snow Realm's ambiance. And, above all else, nothing calls civilization to mind.
6. Take a dog sled ride
It is simply a must! You can be both a passenger and kayur – a dog-team driver. At special centers you can not only take a ride, but communicate with wonderful huskies and Eskimo dogs as well. Especially spectacular are cute puppies that bark shrilly at the sight of guests. On the ride over, you'll be shown some shaman rites or ethnic dances.
7. Watch the sea lions
Sea lions are large fur seals who inhabit the northern seas. A bunch of these animals, numbering several dozens of species, has picked a seaport in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky for their wintering spot, a rather rare example of such closeness. Each winter tourists can watch these large marine mammals bask in the sun literally in the city center.
8. Take part in ice angling
Even if you are not an angling fan, you'll probably get carried away by the process. You'll start asking the typical newbie FAQs: how to choose a place for your ice hole? how long should I sit beside the hole? why should I pitch a tent? And once they begin biting so fiercely that you will not have enough time to pile your catch, you will promise yourself forthwith to return here often.
9. Partake of the red salmon
If you want to learn how to distinguish a chinook roe from a coho roe, a sockeye from a chum, be sure to go to a local fish market. You will not find such a diversity of salmonids anywhere else. During dinner in a cafe, don't forget to order a halibut steak; wintertime is the season, and this fish is extra fresh and smells of onion.
10. Breathe like never before
Once you find your lodgings at a country resort, you will breathe crystal clear air. It is beyond words. You cannot get enough of it. Snow-white drifts around you are a dream come true. You can start with a snowball fight and top it off with building snow fortresses or jumping on a snow patch.