Revision as of 02:47, 12 March 2010
Volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula
Far Eastern Russia (Russian: Д́альный Вост́ок Росс́ий, DAHL'-nih vah-STOHK rah-SEE) is the easternmost part of Russia, comprising its Pacific Ocean islands, coastline and a swathe of eastern Siberia.
- Atlasov Island — a volcanic island renowned for the pure beauty of its perfect conical shape
- The National Parks of Kamchatka — some of the most stunning landscapes in the world, full of volcanoes, geysers, and lakes of acid.
- Kolyma — the terrifying Soviet gulag system of Siberia's coldest, remotest, and most hopeless mining region
- Oymyakon — the coldest place on earth outside Antarctica, in the heart of Yakutia
- The Sikhote-Alin mountain range — the region home to the famous Amur Tiger as well as an enormous meteorite crash site, and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its diverse ecosystems ranging from Siberian to subtropical.
- Wrangel Island — an arctic island and UNESCO World Heritage site at the end of the earth, of dramatic mountainous tundra landscapes, biodiversity, walruses, grey whales, and the world's highest concentration of polar bear dens.
The Russian Far East is extraordinarily far from Russia's major population centers in Europe and is usually visited separately, unless by the Trans-Siberian Railway. The largest city in the region, Vladivostok, is a full seven time zones away from Moscow, with 9,300 km of railroad between them. The Far East is very different from popular conceptions of Russia—it is very mountainous and has an often spectacular Pacific coastline.
If time and money are not constraints, the highlights of this massive region include the city of Vladivostok, the beautiful Kuril Islands, the otherworldly National Parks of Kamchatka, cruising along the coast of Chukotka, and big game hunting in the wildlife paradise of Yakutia.
There are a good number of Finnic and Chukutko-Kamchatkan languages spoken throughout the more northerly regions of the Far East. Korean is also widely spoken in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk by the Sakhalin Koreans. But, as in all of Russia, Russian is the principal language and is spoken by nearly everyone, regardless of their first language. Chinese and Japanese are common foreign languages in the nearby border regions of Russia, but European languages are far less widespread than in European Russian and travelers should not expect to rely on them.
The principal transit hubs, with good sized international airports, are Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, and to a lesser extent Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. In general, you will either arrive by plane or the Trans-Siberian Railway. But it is also possible to arrive by boat from Alaska and Japan to destinations on the Russian Pacific coast.
Distances between cities and towns in the Russian Far East are huge and infrastructure is lacking. A combination of using the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Baikal-Amur Mainline, and for destinations off the rail system, domestic flights, will get you around the majority, but not the entirety, of the region. In particular, Northeastern Russia is almost entirely without interregional transportation infrastructure and is off the Russian rail network—the one exception is the long, lonely, (and extremely dangerous) country roads connecting Yakutsk to Magadan. Heading north from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky by road will only take you as far as Palana; from Palana onwards, overland travel becomes wilderness adventure.
The Russian Far East borders Mongolia and China to the south, North Korea and Japan to the southeast, and Alaska to the northeast, and there is transport available to all of them from nearby regions in the Far East.