The totally independent travellers’ best destination in Kamchatka, Esso is set snug in a valley of green mountains, with a network of well-mapped hiking trails extending into surrounding Bystrinsky Nature Park, plus hot-spring pools in town and rafting and horse-riding options nearby.
With an efficient new visitor centre and some reasonable accommodation, this low-key town near the airport is positioning itself as an alternative to Petropavlovsk for independent travellers. The main attractions are hikes in the surrounding wilderness and the hot springs of nearby Paratunka.
Sprawled-out Paratunka (25km south of Yelizovo) is a leafy network of spa resorts set up around hot-spring-fed swimming pools. One of many, Lesnaya is surrounded by wood and has a sizable pool and a decent (but pricey restaurant). It's on the left before reaching Paratunka (inform the driver where you're going).
Mt Avachinskaya & Mt Koryakskaya
Two volcanoes near Petropavlovsk stand side by side 20km north of town (about 35km by road). The bigger and more forbidding one is Mt Koryakskaya (3456m), which takes experienced climbers two days to climb. The smaller one on the east is Mt Avachinskaya, generally included on tours and one of Kamchatka’s ‘easier’ volcanoes to summit (about four to six hours up).