is without exaggeration one of the most spectacular regions in Russia. It occupies the area of 470,000 sq. km, which equals the size of France, Belgium and Luxembourg combined, and separates the Sea of Okhotsk from the Pacific Ocean. One should not confuse Kamchatka with Siberia; this name is used for the peninsula itself and the closest part of the continent. The mountain ridges stretching from the north to the south give the peninsula the shape of a giant fish. There are more than 160 volcanoes on the peninsula (29 of them are active), due to the fact that it lies on the Great Pacific “ring of fire”.

Volcanoes and volcanic peaks, cyclones and underground heat created here a mixture of twenty climate zones and a great variety of flora and fauna. Here one can ski down snow covered mountain slopes to bathe in volcanic hot springs, go river rafting and rock climbing, see salmon spawning, watch geysers erupt and photograph sea lions in their natural environment. Fishing, hunting and photo safaris are also popular tourist activities. The weather is wet and cool, and although snow stays on the ground until May, the winters are not harsh. Kamchatka is also known for the amazing diversity and abundance of its wildlife. Sable, ermine, Siberian bighorn sheep, the Kamchatka brown bear, crab and, of course, salmon are all found in large quantities, although some species have become endangered due to over-fishing and hunting.

In the northern half of the peninsula, reindeer herds are kept by the Koryaks, one of the indigenous peoples of the area. They say that Kamchatka's industries can be divided into two categories: fishing and those that support fishing. Seafood is plentiful with crab, salmon and caviar being the main exports. During the spawning season, smoked salmon and red caviar can be found in every market and store. A land unique not only in its scenery and wildlife, Kamchatka differs from the rest of Russia in its people and attitudes. Perhaps due to its distance from Moscow (11,000 km) or to the effect of living under the shadow of active volcanoes (volcanoes have erupted here as recently as 1994), one finds in Kamchatka a sense of the frontier and an independent spirit, fierce even by Far Eastern standards.

Kamchatka was discovered by the Cossack, Vladimir Atlasov in 1697 who built two forts on the Kamchatka River, which became Russian trading camps. The native Koryak, Itelmen, Chukchi and Evens tribes were beaten down by these traders, and their population greatly diminished. Out of the few that remain, the Chukchi live in the northeast, Evens are in the central part of the peninsula and the Koryaks live on the west coast. They still live by traditional reindeer herding and sea fishing, which provide both food and clothing, and still preserve their culture and traditional lifestyles, which is the reason why one of the most remote regions is visited by so many people every year. Until the late 19th century, when the Imperial lands in Alaska were sold, Kamchatka was considered to be the least hospitable place in the Russian Empire. Nobody bothered visiting the region as it took six months to get there - only to face vast wilderness and a diminishing supply of fur. Around 1920, it nearly ended up in American hands.

Washington Baker wanted to buy the province and was offered a 60-year concession by Lenin, but they couldn't agree on a deal. Until 1990, no foreigners or nonresident Russians were allowed to visit. In 1991, the Russian Federation was established as an independent republic and Kamchatka was opened for visiting by foreign guests. The main settlement of the peninsula and the capital of Kamchatka Region is the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The city is located on the southeastern shore of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Petropavlovsk's streets wind around green volcanic hills where city residents still pick berries and mushrooms. Covered with white snow, the peaks of the volcanoes rise over them. And there are eternal moorage ribbons going along the Avacha Bay. With a population of about 240,000 people, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is an important port as well as a center of industry, science and adventure tourism.