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Lost world of volcanoes

A tourist cluster will appear in the South Kuriles

A trip to the southern Kuriles is a pass to another galaxy, so unusual and vivid are the impressions after visiting these small islands. Examining Kunashir and Shikotan, you come to the conclusion that many cult films, for example, "Jurassic Park" or "The Lord of the Rings" could be filmed here. Of course, if only the Kuril Islands were more visible on the world tourist map.

Lost world of volcanoes
Photo: shuterstock

In the meantime, the South Kurils are becoming an ever brighter region in the tourist atlas of Russia. The project for the development of the tourist infrastructure of two islands - Kunashir and Shikotan - reached the final of the All-Russian competition for the creation of tourist and recreational clusters and the development of ecotourism in Russia. The competition is held by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives. 

“Two of our applications made it to the final of the competition, now we need to get into the top ten projects in the country,” the Governor of the Sakhalin Region told reporters

Valery Limarenko. One of the applications is the formation of the South Kuriles shopping and entertainment complex. The project fully covers the territory of the southern Kuril Islands - Kunashir, Iturup and Shikotan, as well as the water area between them. It cannot be otherwise - once you are here, you understand that any local village, be it the largest Yuzhno-Kurilsk on Kunashir or Malokurilskoye on Shikotan, is just a visit center of a grandiose natural park. It remains only to build several hotels and open a couple of cafes, because now the islands are too crowded even for the available tourist flow. And it should grow, because in a relatively small area there are dozens of natural attractions that can be reached on foot!

“The tourist demand for these islands is colossal. Last year they were visited by about 6 thousand tourists. In the future, we estimate the possibility of increasing the tourist potential up to 30 thousand people. But so far the infrastructure cannot cope even with the existing flow. In this regard, we have developed a number of measures and proposals that will allow, in the short and long term, to develop tourism on these islands, ”said Valery Dubrovsky, head of the Sakhalin Region Ministry of Tourism.

Now in Shikotan and Kunashir, work is underway to select sites for the construction of facilities and identify areas of activity for potential investors. It is with their participation that the development of tourism and engineering infrastructure is planned on the islands. 

What are the islands rich in? In terms of the range of tourist opportunities, the South Kuriles can be compared with the world centers of ecological tourism in the zones of volcanic activity. There are two regions of active volcanism in Russia - Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands, and on the same Kunashir it is easier to get to volcanoes, and most importantly, cheaper than in Kamchatka. In the South Kuriles, objects are located compactly, within the reach of passenger cars and walking routes, so tourists do not spend extra hours on the road, do not overpay for helicopter excursions and do not depend so much on the weather. The most important thing is to fly to the local Mendeleevo airport. Fog over the airfield is quite frequent here, so the South Kuriles may not accept or let tourists go!

There are four volcanoes on Kunashir. From Yuzhno-Kurilsk, the main settlement of the island, the travel time by car to the starting points of the hiking routes ranges from fifteen to forty-five minutes. And there - climbing to the peaks of active volcanoes, studying lava fields and "dead" forests, volcanic landscapes, geysers and swimming in wild thermal springs. A tourist gets these activities when visiting only one volcano, and there are many other attractions here. 

A significant part of the cluster falls on the territory of the Kuril State Reserve. At the moment, the tourist infrastructure within its borders is not present everywhere. However, its creation is included in the plans for the development of the territory and will begin in the near future. There is a well-developed road network on which tourist routes to the sights of the islands will be based. Here are just a few of them. 

Tyatya Volcano is one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world, well recognized due to its “volcano within a volcano” shape. Tyatya is the highest point of Kunashir and one of the symbols of the Sakhalin region. Not everyone can conquer the route on it - to climb Tyatya, you need to be physically prepared. During the ascent, you can assess the scale of volcanic manifestations on the slopes, as well as look into two craters. A stunning panorama of the Kuril Islands opens from the top of the volcano. At the foot of Tyat, the possibility of creating a recreation area and arranging a base camp as a starting point for the ascent is being considered.

Tyatya is located in the north of Kunashir, and in the southern part of the island is the Golovnin volcano. Its caldera is a hollow at the site of an ancient volcano explosion. Inside there are two lakes, along the banks of which you can see and feel the active manifestations of volcanic activity: solfatars, mud pots, hot springs. A trip to the caldera of Golovnin volcano is a route to a real lost world! Caldera is an amazing valley surrounded by "walls" of volcanic origin with its own microclimate, flora and fauna. From the edge of the caldera, views of the entire southern part of the island and the caldera itself with its lakes open up. From here you can also see the Japanese coast - the outlines of the island of Hokkaido are clearly visible on the horizon, a little more than 30 kilometers to it.

The largest freshwater reservoir of the Kuril Islands is Lake Peschanoe. Part of this route passes through the territory of the reserve and is notable for the fact that Soviet IS-3 tanks have been preserved here in good condition. Approximately in the middle of the route there is a cordon of the Danilovsky reserve, on the territory of which there is an infrastructure for tourists. You can also set up a tent here.

Cape Stolbchaty is a unique geological object, which is "assembled" from huge stone prisms of regular shape. The road to the cape lies along the Stolbovskaya trail - an old Japanese road. The route is picturesque, comfortable and unique: along the way you can meet many rare and Red Book plants. The cape is one of the symbols of the Sakhalin region and the visiting card of Kunashir, while being within walking distance and accessible to every tourist. 

The most complex and mysterious Kunashir volcano is Mendeleev volcano. On the slopes, you can observe active fumaroles, sulfur deposits, thermal springs, including streams, waterfalls, natural baths, cascades. The route goes along the old Japanese road, through thickets of bamboo trees taller than human growth. Here tourists can see Japanese boilers for processing sulfur and the deposits of this mineral are bright yellow. Already from the middle of the way, the pungent smell of volcanic activity is clearly felt. The second part of the route goes along the bed of the Kisly stream, around which there are many thermal outlets.

Shikotan also has something to see. For example, Cape End of the World. The name itself attracts tourists to this piece of land, outstanding in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. At the foot of the steep cliffs, there are seal rookeries. No less remarkable are the neighboring objects: Cape Crab and Spanberg's lighthouse. 

In general, the geographical location of the South Kuriles cluster determines the high potential for the development of coastal water tourism, sea excursions, fishing, mini-cruises along the coast and to neighboring islands. Operating sea terminals, picturesque coastline, compact location of attractions - all this makes cruise routes very attractive ...

The South Kurils are a promising area for the development of other water tourism. The water area of ​​Kunashir and Shikotan is quite suitable for short sea excursions, walks on sap and kayaks, as well as for transporting small groups of tourists. The project can be implemented in several stages with a parallel expansion of the route network and an increase in the number of access points to the coastline. To develop this direction, the regional authorities intend to purchase several vessels and update the berthing infrastructure in Yuzhno-Kurilsk, Malokurilskiy and Krabozavodskiy.

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