The Incredible Sights of Kamchatka Cave, Russia

volcano tolbachik, kamchatka - kamchatka cave, russia

Location: Kamchatka Peninsula, Russian Far East
Best Time to Go: July to August

If you haven’t seen images of the Kamchatka ice caves before, you would be forgiven for assuming you were looking at a magical universe that you can only find if you really believe. Pause your reading for a second and google them. I'll wait.

You're welcome.

In fact, the caves have been carved by a stream that winds its way beneath a glacier from a hot spring heated by the Mutnovsky volcano. The incredible lights are the result of sunlight passing through an ice ceiling made thinner and translucent by global warming.

Entry to the ice caves is dependent not on belief, but on weather conditions. They can only be accessed in the summer months and even then, the entrances can be blocked with heavy snow. Even getting to Kamchatka to see this stunning cave is an epic journey in itself. The peninsula is located in Russia’s Far East and stretches over 1200 kilometres.

Many other attractions in the peninsula make it worth the effort, though, even if you don’t get to explore the caves. While heli-skiing and even surfing off the black sands at Khalaktyrsky Beach are becoming popular reasons to visit, most people come to Kamchatka for the wildlife watching and the trekking.

Mutnovsky is only one of over 300 volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Serious hikers can trek to the top of Mutnovsky and also hike up nearby Gorely. Each volcano takes a full day to summit. To see more of Kamchatka’s world-renowned volcanic features, visitors can head to Volcanoes of Kamchatka Nature Park, where you can get as close as you are comfortable getting to the region’s active volcanoes.

A visit to Klychevsakaya Sopka (the largest volcano in the northern hemisphere), the area’s lava fields, the dead forests and the Valley of the Geysers would nicely round out an extraordinary geological tour.

Esso is a beloved highlight of a trip to Kamchatka. This village is frequently compared to Switzerland with its charming homes and alpine backdrop. Here you can learn about indigenous ways of life, enjoy the plentiful local hot springs, do some gentler hikes and raft down one of the regions many rivers. Esso also functions as a base for a helicopter ride out to meet the region’s reindeer herders.

Those with a love of larger animals can head to Kuril Lake in the South Kamchatka Sanctuary, at the southern tip of the peninsula. The lake is a major spawning site for salmon, which draw crowds of brown bears between July and September. Kamchatka is home to many seldom-seen creatures like snow sheep, wolverines, sables, wolves and foxes. Steller’s sea eagles, the largest sea eagles in the world, also make their home here.

It’s possible to see some of this incredible place on your own but much of the peninsula can only be visited on an organized tour. Some sights require chartered helicopters to access and others require permits and lack any kind of tourist infrastructure. This is a truly remote and dangerous part of the world. Tourist groups are still likely to be small and nothing is likely to detract from your impression that you have travelled well off the beaten path.

featured image: kuhnmi

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