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Kamchatska Krai Set for Big Tourism Summer

View from volcano Gorely to volcano Vilyuchinsky, Kamchatka, Russia
View from volcano Gorely to volcano Vilyuchinsky, Kamchatka, Russia (Flickr user kuhnmi)

The region of Kamchatska Krai, one of the most majestic and pristine wildernesses on Earth, has just launched a new tourism initiative. According to the region's governor, Vladimir Ilyukhin, 8.8 million rubles has been earmarked for elevating the region's tourism infrastructure, including projects on the Commander Islands.

Kamchatskiy Krai occupies the entirety of the Kamchatka Peninsula, as well as the adjacent part of the mainland, plus the Island of Karaginsky, and the aforementioned Commander Islands. The territory is one of the richest in natural resources in all Russia, or the world for that matter. Noted for water resources, fishing, mineral wealth, and its astonishing virgin woodlands and wilderness, it is one of the most unique biosphere's on Earth as well. From thermal springs, volcanoes and glaciers, to the vast diversity of flora and fauna, the best word to describe Kamchatka is "unspoiled".

Avachinsky bay, Kamchatka
Avachinsky Bay, Kamchatka (courtesy kuhnmi via Flickr)

 

Kamchatka Primer

Developmentally, Kamchatka is of global importance as a key link in world transport routes from Europe to North and South America, to the South and East of Asia, and from South-East Asia to the North America as well. The economy of the region shows massive room for sustaintable growth in fishing, mining, tourism and sports, power engineering, transportation, and communications engineering. The region has been made a bit more internationally famous as the place avid outdoorsman and Russian President Vladimir Putin favors for fishing trips. Also recently, the news the Russian Government has allocated RUB 13.8 billion ($ 242.3 million) of subsidies to investors implementing projects in the Far East, foretells of more than 8,000 new jobs in the sparsely populated Far East region. As far as tourism is concerned, the Far East Development Fund (FEDF) promises to take advantage of the unique landscape, and to foster growth in that sector. 

With an area of 472,300 sq km Kamchatka resembles the Florida peninsula in North America, only the region is nearly three times larger. The land-mass is bordered by the Bering Sea to the North and East, by the Pacific Ocean;to the East, and by the Okhotsk Sea on the West. This finger of land jutting out into the sea is home to some 1,000 volcanoes, 30 of which are active. The largest of these at 15,584' (4,750 m) is Kliuchevskoi is the highest active volcano in all EurAsia. 

The Valley of Geysers as of September 2006, before the mudflow
The Valley of Geysers as of September 2006, before the mud flow (Creative Commons Robert Nunn)

 

The Valley of Geysers

Located in the Kronotskoye State Biosphere Reserve, this UNESCO World Heritage attractikon was at one time only a legend. Discovered only 72 years ago in 1941 by Russian geologist Tatyana Ustinova, the valley was almost totally inaccessible to humans for centuries, a mystical rumor only. Today bathing in the therapeudic hot springs of the valley has taken on a sort of mythical quality, something akin to being immersed in sacred rivers on other continents. The 95 degree (F) geyser water is mineral enriched, and on the "bucket list" of many an adventure traveller. This magical spot is also one of the so-called 7 wonders of Russia. 

Sadly a massive mudslide 2007 inundated two thirds of the valley producing what Russia's Natural Resources expert Oleg Mitvol termed an "irreversible catastrophe". The world's second largest concentration of geysers, the valley was always inaccessible except by helicopter. The good news is, the original damage assessments may have been wrong. According to naturalists now, a thermal lake has formed in the center of the mudslide, and the largest of the geyser including Velikan (Giant), are reportedly still active. 

Native Dancers Igor Kravchuk
Native dancers of Kamchatka (by the region's most noted photo journalist - Igor Kravchuk)

 

Ancestors of Native America

Archeologists have determined that Kam￾chatka was inhabited by about 15,000 years ago during the presence of the Sarotan Glacier during the Late Pleistocene age. Ancient hunters' artifacts found at the Ushkovskiy archeological site, reveal data about the people who eventually became the first settlers in North America. By crossing the ice bridge most American history students are taught about, these ancient people are the distant ancestors of the North American Indians. Of special import are their decedents' traditions and legends, which are in many ways parallel to those of the various tribes of North and South America. One paralell, the idea of a mythological "creator" of the Kamchatka land and of all nations, was preeminent among the now legendary Koryaks and Itelmen people's of the region.

Familiars and iconic symbols like the "Big Raven (or Kutkh in the Itelmen language and Kutkynnyaku in Koryak), stand as protagonists in a rich tapestry of local folklore. Not unlike the plains Indians of the American West, and their reverence for the buffolo for instance, the early Kamchatka tribes so iconized reindeer and other key positives of their society. 

гора верблюд
A view from 'camel hill' ( Гора "Верблюд") to Avachinsky Bay and of the Vilychinsky stratovolcano. In my mind's eye, a view of a kind of Eden. (courtesy kuhnmi via Flickr)

 

Kamchatka As An Experiential Event

Kamchataka is an outdoor adventurer's paradise where ecological, ethnographic and extreme tourism, rafting and mountaineering attractions are limitless. However typically thrill seeking travel here may seem though, it's event tourism that shows the most potential for modern day exploration by outsiders. The region is a fairly new (by most standards) touristic destination, but one with a plethora of national, local, and ritual holidays to take in. Like most regions, Kamchatka has its share of seasonal events and holidays. What's most interesting for outsiders though, is the added pleasure and honor of actually being able to become a part of such rituals. As experience becomes the buzz idea for travel enthusiasts worldwide, immersion into such events as; the "Beringia" dog sled races, Reindeer Herder's Day, The Day of the First Fish, the Avachinskiy Marathon ski race, and the Summer long International Days of Tourism, offer special memorable value. And there's more, so much more to see and do. 

Hiking on the Avachinsky Volcano - Kamchatka
Hiking on the Avachinsky Volcano - Kamchatka (Giorgio Galeotti)

For more information we recommend readers go to the Visit Kamchatka portal. This PDF entitled "The Colors of Kamchatka" also has invaluable information on this magical wilderness.

Photo credits: Our thanks to kuhnmiHarald Deischinger, Girogio Galeotti, and especially Igor Kravchuk, who died in a tragic car accident in Kamchatka in 2014.