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Kamchatka: Bears and the Ring of Fire

If you’re planning for spring, Kamchatka is most well-known for its large brown bears and whale watching.

Kamchatka is the ultimate adventure destination for nature lovers. Here, travelers can traverse the eastern edges of Siberia via helicopter to visit with bears and fly over active volcanoes in Russia’s wildest landscape. If you’re planning for spring, Kamchatka is most well-known for its large brown bears and whale watching.

First, though, travelers should understand just how off-the-grid they will be. The remote Kamchatsky peninsula is a wilderness roughly the size of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland put together, and is today one of the world’s last and largest nature sanctuaries. After the 10-hour flight from Moscow, the reward is otherworldly scenery in the form of huge snow-capped volcanoes, bubbling hot springs, and dense, untouched wildlife. 

There is one bear for every 30 humans on Kamchatka. Standing almost 10 feet on their back legs, visitors can observe these powerful creatures in the late summers when Kamchatka’s rivers run abundant with salmon racing upstream. An estimated 20,000 brown bears gather to enjoy the river’s salmon smorgasbord. The salmon themselves are something of a natural wonder, returning to the waters whence they were born to spawn, drawing all manner of life to the bountiful feast. 

It’s not just what the bears are, it’s where they are — volcano valleys filled with geysers, foraging in yellow seasonal grasses, splashing in springs. The bears here are healthy and active, snatching spawning fish from streams. 

Boasting around 300 volcanoes, 100,000 lakes and rivers, and abundant reindeer, moose, and wolves, the best way — and in many cases the only way — to get to the best spots of Kamchatka is by helicopter. More adventurous travelers might want to take to the untouched trails for some middle-of-nowhere volcano hiking. 

For wildlife on land spring and summer are a must in what becomes a frozen, impassable land in winter. However, off the coast, travelers might still catch glimpses of fur seals, walruses, and sea otters, and the ocean is home to many whale species including grey, minke, beluga, bowhead, and humpback.

For the ultimate adventure, however, combine the chopper travel with your skis for heli-skiing. Those dropped on the Mutnovsky Volcano will pass a glacier and several geysers on their way into the crater. The Bakening Volcano run leads directly to thermal springs.

Volcano lovers will enjoy the signature Remote Lands Kamchatka: Russia’s Ring of Fire, where you’ll go down, down, down, into some of Russia’s most amazing volcano calderas. It’s a 13-day adventure into Russia’s wildest, most dynamic (and volcanic) places.   
Read about more amazing wildlife destinations in our wildlife issue.