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Introducing Kamchatka

Dangling across from Alaska between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, the 1000km-long Kamchatka Peninsula (also known as Kamchatskaya oblast) is without doubt one of Russia's - and possibly the world's - most beautiful regions. A 'mini-Alaska, ' Kamchatka is more often called, accurately, the 'land of fire and ice'. It boasts more than 200 volcanoes that bubble, spurt and spew in a manner that suggests that Creation hasn't quite finished yet. Hikes up them take you through lush (mosquito-filled) forest, over clear streams filled with salmon, and past herds of reindeer to fields of hardened lava so unworldly that the Soviet space program tested 'moonwalker' vehicles here.

Still awakening from its closed-off days under the USSR, Kamchatka is simply an adventure traveller's dream - well, adventure travellers with money and time. The best attractions are well away from the hub Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Many places require a 6WD, a helicopter or a couple of days' hike. The help of a local travel agency and guide is crucial.

August is the peak travel season, though winter trips are equally enticing. Be prepared for varying conditions - and potential delays. We've sunk in groin-deep snow on volcano tops in July; fog is common in Petropavlovsk, often grounding helicopter rides and even boat trips.