Day 1: Vladivostok. Arrive early in the afternoon and transfer to Hotel Versailles. Stroll around the town with your experienced tour manager in the late afternoon. You'll have dinner at the beautiful hotel dining room. Hotel Versailles. Includes: (D).
Day 2: Vladivostok/ Petropavlovsk. Transfer from the hotel to the airport for a mid morning departure for Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka. The flight time is three hours and there is a plus two hour change in time. Upon arrival transfer to Explore Kamchatka's B & B. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Yelizovo. If the weather is cooperative and if there is place on the helicopter fly to the Valley of Geysers, located in the Kronotsky Reserve. (If a flight does not operate at all, you will receive a refund). The flight takes about one hour and fifteen minutes, three hours are spent in the Valley and then there is a lunch after which you return to Yelizovo. The whole excursion can take all day though because the weather usually does not clear until late morning. Kronotsky Preserve. Local people with the goal of conserving the sable population created this protected area 123 years ago. One of Russia's largest; an oldest preserve in Russia, Kronotsky is a multi-faceted jewel covering 1,007,134 hectares of land and a 3-mile zone of 152 miles of shoreline.
The preserve's mountains, glaciers, active and extinct volcanoes, rivers, lakes, islands, beaches, and rugged shoreline give the preserve a variety of ecosystems and remarkable biodiversity. The protected area abounds with wildlife, marine or terrestrial, to watch and photograph. The preserve plays a major role in preservation of Kamchatka's brown bears as it is home to about 750 of these wonderful creatures. Additionally over 2500 of Kamchatka's last wild reindeer live in the territory, along with Steller's sea eagles, and Aleutian terns.
Day 4: Mutnovsky Volcano. Drive by trucks to Mutnovsky Volcano. In July travelers will likely have to hike a long way to get to the area where they can ascend Mutnovsky due to either snow or the formation of snowmelt lakes preventing the trucks from getting through. The tarred road lies along the west side of the flat valley floor. Near the end of the farmed land, a dirt road begins; this provides access to the Mutnovsky area. From the road there are views east to the splendid but inactive cone of Viluchinsky volcano, and north along the glaciated trough of the Paratunka Valley. The road climbs gently in a lovely environment of open mountain tundra.
We stop at a viewpoint on the broad plateau east of Gorely; the shield volcano of Gorely lies to the west, beyond the rim of its modest caldera wall; the ice-clad ramparts of the Mutnovsky Volcano lie further away to the south; the Viluchinsky cone rises to the east. The trucks will go as far as they can get. Your campsite is in a beautiful and remote area, with the steep andesite slopes of Mutnovsky rising to the south and the gentler basaltic slopes of Gorely to the north. A short walk to the south reaches the rim of the canyon where we can observe some fine waterfalls cut into the volcanic rocks, but the floor of the crater is choked with snow many meters deep. Dinner is at camp, and then it probably will be an early night in your tents. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Ascent Mutnovsky. The walk to the crater is a single trail and back. No one should wander off alone, because the grounds are very unstable and potentially hazardous. The walk is nearly 7 km from the camp site with a rise of less than 600m into the main caldera. The trucks go as far as possible. On the way you pass the two hills of Skalisty and Dyugorby, which are actually very old volcanoes. Beyond the trail one can observe past old bore holes spouting steam. The track goes through the pass between Mutnovsky and Dyugorby from where Asacha, Opala and Gorely volcanoes can be seen to the left. This is an incredible sight. You then traverse through a mix of rough tundra, lava and banks of ash and pumice.
The walk up the gorge is largely on banks of hard snow and firm ice that has accumulated in winter avalanches off the gorge walls. Much of the surface is covered in wind-blown ash. The caldera's eastern glacier lies ahead where it melts out on a steep rocky slope, aided by a series of fumaroles. You climb the slopes of volcanic ash and glacial till and pass besides various geothermal vents; these include fumaroles and mud pools. A lake is sometimes dammed up behind the glacier; at other times it drains through the ice, leaving a flatbed of reworked ash pitted by boiling mud pools. Streams emerge from the snow and ice fields and flow back under the glacier toe. You have lunch on the rim of the caldera, take pictures and enjoy the view. In the afternoon you return to your campsite. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Gorely Volcano. Depart the camp after breakfast towards Gorely. From the lake flats, walk up the volcano, climbing steadily to gain 750 m in height. You trek over a mixture of rough grassy tundra with very low dwarf willow and bare stripes of basaltic lava. Some lava flow structures are recognizable and there are also patches of volcanic ash redistributed by the winds. Higher up, long gently graded snow-fields provide the easiest route up (and certainly the best way to come back down). The first large crater contains a cold lake about 100 m below; its surface has ice floes from a small glacier on its internal slope.
The walls of all the craters expose profiles through thick sequences of lava flows. You will have a picnic lunch on the edge of the crater. Over 100 m down, a hot acidic lake has active fumaroles around its margin and beneath the surface. The recent eruptions of Gorely have been largely steam events produced when vents heat up and increase their output. Return back along the outward route to the trucks by the lake. The trucks head back out of the Gorely caldera and return to Explore Kamchatka's B & B. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Valley of the Geysers or Horseback riding/ Rafting option Avacha River. Reserve day for Valley of Geysers. If the helicopter excursion did not take off on the first day of arrival, we will try again today. This day will allow you to relax a bit after our activities of the past few days. Your small group (no more than six) will take a horseback ride along some of the most beautiful trails along the Avacha River. You drive about one hour twenty minutes north of Yelizovo across the farm fields to a horse farm. You will meet your horses and the guides who will give you a lesson about how to ride and the rules of the trail. You will ride for about 4 hours to a great picnic area along the Avacha River.
Your rafts will be waiting for you to put in and they will take you down the river to the Ketkin Bridge just 5 km from Yelizovo. The rafting will take about four hours. For those more inclined to have a cultural experience, an excursion can be made to an Itelmen village about half an hour away from Yelizovo. The Itelmen people have created a village both with summer and winter houses. The settlement is located in a beautiful wilderness area also open for hikes. There will be traditional dances, storytelling and souvenir making. You will have a barbeque dinner at the Dacha community. Explore Kamchatka's B and B. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Avacha Base Camp. After a leisurely breakfast this morning you proceed to the Avacha Volcano Base camp. You drive by truck on a muddy road leaving the birch forest tracing your way over a rough dry river bed and old lava flow. At the end of the track is a bunkhouse where you spend the night. At this point you can observe Avacha volcano up ahead to the right and Koryaksky ahead to the left. In the afternoon you take a gentle walk up the valley to Camel Mountain, a distinctively humped ridge amid a group of small hills on the saddle between Avacha and Koryaksky. The hills are mainly eroded remains of old cinder cones, with some shoulders and summits. Snow fields drape some of the slopes. Return to camp for dinner and an early night in the bunkhouse. Avacha Base Camp. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: Avacha Climb. The walk up to the volcano is on a single trail. While everyone can walk at their own pace, it is usually recommended that travelers walk together in case of difficulties. Avacha is considered a steep hike but not a technical one. You will aim for the shoulder of the old crater rim, which offers a lovely stretch of scenic walking. The steep part of the trail ends where it turns onto a gently rising shoulder, which provides a delightful walk on an easier gradient. The old summit has been nearly filled and obliterated by the growth of the new summit cone. The newer summit cone rises above, and its northern slope overlaps and buries the old caldera rim, so that the easy shoulder does not continue round.
There are views south to the cone of Viluchinsky and beyond to the complex peaks of Mutnovsky and the rounded shield volcano of Gorely; as well as to the north where the old degraded cones of the Zhupanovsky volcano are situated. The summit crater yawned hundreds of meters deep until 1991, when it was filled with andesite lava. The black lava now forms a gentle dome - it is the fresh top of a classic plug dome. Steam rises through its fissured surface, and there are even lots of fumeroles. When walking round the rim to the left; giant crescent flow ribs mark the lava's surface where it flowed over the lowest point on the old crater rim. The descent of the summit cone is on a straight steep down-trail alongside the zigzag up-trail; and requires careful attention. Return to Explore Kamchatka's B & B for a farewell dinner. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: Back to Vladivostok. The flight today for Vladivostok leaves early in the morning. We will drive you to transfer to Hotel Versailles. This afternoon there are two options; Option 1: You can make a stop at the beautiful Arboretum and then a hike in the Kedrovaya Preserve, the home of the Fareastern Snow Leopard. Regretfully there are only twenty species left, so it will be virtually impossible to spot them, however the Reserve has an ecological path that is quite interesting. Option 2: You can participate in a four hour long city tour, visiting the highlights of Vladivostok, including the Military Fortress. In the evening have a great dinner at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the beautiful port of Vladivostok. Hotel Versailles. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11: Departure. The morning is free for last minute shopping. Your incredible adventure in Russia came to its finish line. Your driver will take you to the airport.
- All though services have improved in the last couple of years, we will encounter problems with delays, bureaucratic conditions, bad road conditions, uneven surfaces and steps and unavailability of public bathrooms.
- Please also note that weather circumstances may change each day's activity as to take advantage of good weather.
- This program requires flexibility and good humor.
- Please be prepared by wearing layered clothing, take woolen or silk underwear and certainly raingear and excellent hiking boots or shoes.
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