On the eastern side of Russia, the Kamchatka Peninsula stretches away from the continent of Asia, reaching between the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. Here, in this isolated spot, lies one of earth’s great geological treasures – the Valley of the Geysers, one of the country’s seven main natural wonders.
The valley is about 5 miles long, and over 1,000 feet deep in places. This twisting canyon was carved by the Geyser River. A beautiful canyon in its own right, what makes this unique is the numerous thermal features along the way. One stretch of the canyon has more than 40 active geysers and numerous hot springs.
Welcome to Paradise!
A visit to the valley is like a trip to another world. There are boiling springs and hot lakes, steaming cauldrons and mud volcanoes. Steam rises from spots here and there around the valley, and occasionally a geyser will let loose. Blow holes with individual tones create an eerie sort of music. When a geyser erupts, it shoots a superheated mix of air and water high into the air. Every geyser is different. Some erupt frequently, others rarely. Some shoot great streams into the air, others small blips. Colors can vary, with cones of grey or red. Each geyser has a name, and visitors marvel at the Bastion, Double, Fountain, and Stained Glass geysers. Life forms here are unique, with lichens and plants adapted to the high heat and unusual growing conditions. In addition to the splendid scenery and natural wonders, biologists from around the world come to study the unique ecosystem. The Pacific Ring of Fire reaches around the Pacific, with frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes from California to Japan and Indonesia. Kamchatka is part of this circle, and is rife with volcanic activity.
In the Kronotsky Reserve, which encompasses the Valley of the Geysers, a smoldering volcano called Savich still spews fumes from its cratered crest. Far below the surface, molten magma continues to press upward, awaiting the next eruption. This superheated ground is responsible for the geysers, pools, and mud pots in the Valley of the Geysers.
The Kronotsky Reserve is part of Russia’s national preserve system. Off limits to tourists for decades, this area has been preserved in truly pristine fashion, untainted by human construction. Wildlife roam freely and unmolested, with hundreds of enormous Kamchatka brown bears and snow sheep. There are no roads to get here. In 2011, the Russian government began allowing a limited number of tourists to visit the Kronotsky Reserve, so it’s now possible to view the treasures that have been off-limits for so long. There are still strict rules for how many people can visit and hike in this area, to prevent damage to the unique ecosystems. Since there are no roads, visitors must arrive by helicopter.
Most visitors spend a couple of hours in the reserve. A system of boardwalks allows viewing of the volcanic landscape and thermal geysers, protecting the guests’ feet from the searing temperatures of the surface. When the time is up, they depart by helicopter as they came. A few lucky people are permitted to stay overnight in Kronotsky as part of a longer hiking trip.
In June 2007, a natural catastrophe changed the face of the Valley of the Geysers forever. The side of a mountain collapsed, sending a massive landslide roaring through the valley. In one area, it blockaded the river and formed a lake. Seven geysers were buried, and others were flooded. At the same time, however, new geysers were formed, and the lovely turquoise Geyser Lake is now a part of the landscape.
A visit to Kronotsky and the Valley of the Geysers is a unique experience. It’s a geological wonderland, preserved in unspoiled splendor. Exploring the place is packed with perils, and that’s evidently cleared out at the entrance; each and every person looking to get to the valley should be ready to sense its hypnotic power, alluring appeal and potential dangers. The hydrothermal environment is rather puzzling for tourists who can’t understand the phenomenon. For them, the Valley of the Geysers is like a miracle travel spot that never stops to entice and amaze with its all natural beauty.
About the author: Edward Francis wrote this article. He is a travel writer and believes that the power of writing and transformative experience of travel is the catalyst for personal development. He also writes for http://www.baltictravelcompany.com/ for holidays in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Nordics.