The Kuril Islands (Russian: Кури́лы, koo-REE-lyh; Japanese: Chishima Islands, 千島列島, Chishima Rettō), are a chain of islands in the Russian Far East, located directly to the north of Japan and east of Sakhalin.
Though still claimed by their former owner, Japan, the Kuriles are now thoroughly Russian, sparsely populated and poor. Most locals make their living fishing in the island chain's abundant waters. The chain's most populated island is Kunashir, centered on Yuzhno-Kurilsk, but its smaller administrative capital Kurilsk is located on the biggest island, Iturup.
Be sure to eat seafood in the Kurils, as the fishing in this part of the North Pacific is considered some of the best in the world. You may well see this seafood available in expensive restaurants around the world offered at prices a hundred times what it will cost to enjoy it here.
Hokkaido — Japan's northernmost island paradise for skiing, hot springs, and delicious regional cuisine is a relatively short ferry ride away from Sakhalin, although there are no regular ferries between the Kurils and Hokkaido due to the political conflict.
Kamchatka — If you have the time to wait and find someone to ferry you from Severno-Kurilsk it's a beautiful destination for outdoors enthusiasts and a worthwhile addition to a Kurils trip.
Sakhalin — Russia's largest eastern island is the most convenient point of entry to the Kurils, and the most convenient point of exit.