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). Avachinskaya last erupted in 1991, but you can see it smoking daily.

A base-camp complex serves both volcanoes and sees a lot of action, including skiers and snowmobiles into early July; it gets quieter as you climb up. Just below Avachinskaya, the aptly named Camel Mountain is an easy one-hour climb, with lots of Siberian marmots on top and great views of Mt Koryakskaya.

Getting here is problematic. Snow blocks the final few kilometres of the rough access road through mid-July, which means you’ll have to walk (or better yet, cross-country ski) the last bit, or hire Kamchatintour’s snowcat. After mid-July you can get all the way to the base camp in a 4WD. The Visitor Centre in Yelizovo is the best place to find a driver. Freelance drivers charge R3000 to R4000 per car one way (R5000 to R6000 for round trip with wait time) to the base camp from Yelizovo; some can guide you up the mountain for an extra R2500 per group. Travel agencies might charge R6000 per car.

Kamchatintour has its own camp at the foot of Avachinskaya and offers a day trip out here for R5000 per person including lunch and snacks at the camp and a guide.

No permits are required to hike up Avachinskaya.

Nalychevo Nature Park

One of Kamchatka’s most accessible attractions for hearty independent travellers is this nature park encompassing lovely Nalychevo Valley and the 12 volcanoes (four active) that surround it. A trail extends about 40km north from Mt Avachinskaya to the park’s main base area, where there are many huts, camping spots, an information centre and, in summer, a handful of rangers who can point out hiking trails leading to hidden hot springs.

Camping is in designated areas or huts that vary wildly in quality. Before heading out, secure a park permit (R600), pick up a crude trail map and reserve a hut (per person R200 to R1000) at the park office in Yelizovo. GPS coordinates are also available. You might encounter foraging bears from June to September; the park office can brief you on proper precautions.

To get here, follow the instructions to Mt Avachinskaya, then walk. It’s about a two-day hike from the Avachinskaya base camp to the park’s main base area. You can exit the park via Pinachevo on the park’s western boundary, but arrange to be picked up beforehand.