SAKHALIN IS THE ONLY REGION OF RUSSIA THAT CONSISTS ENTIRELY OF ISLANDS. ITS RIVERS, WATERFALLS, BAMBOO GROVES, THERMAL SPRINGS, VARIED FAUNA, EXTRAORDINARY LANDSCAPES, AND MAJESTIC VOLCANOES ATTRACT TRAVELLERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD.
TEXT: ARTYOM SVETLOV
This sparsely populated eastern region, with only 490 000 inhabitants, is near the top of the list for production of oil and gas, and for its yield of fish and seafood. Several major international corporations have operations here, and the total volume of foreign investment has already reached over $55 billion. One of the priorities for the regional economy now is the development of tourism.
Travel to Sakhalin is becoming easier and more affordable, and the number of Russian and foreign tourists to the region grows year on year. Anyone who enjoys ethnographic, gastronomic, extreme, or health tourism will be able to find something of interest here. Awaiting you is pristine natural wilderness— around 2 000 species of plants grow on the island, which is also home to bears, reindeer, wolverines, sables, Siberian musk deer, otters, and minks. More than 200 species of bird nest on Sakhalin, and the island’s rivers are richly stocked with the highly prized humpback salmon.
The mild Sakhalin winters draw tourists to the slopes of the modern Gorny Vozdukh (“Mountain Air”) ski resort. Today, Gorny Vozdukh is widely acknowledged as the best downhill ski resort in Russia. On the slopes of Mount Bolshevik, there are 16 pistes covering all levels of difficulty, with snow cover maintained to very high standards. The favourable climatic conditions make it possible to ski and snowboard from the beginning of December until the middle of April, and allow the resort to host international-level competitions such as the FAR EAST CUP.
The Kuril Islands spread like a string of pearls from the southern tip of the Kamchatka peninsula to the Japanese island of Hokkaido, and are home to 36 active volcanoes. The view of Tyatya volcano is one of the most stunning in the Kuril chain, while visitors head to Kunashir Island to see the Mendeleev volcano and the extraordinary cliff formations. Among the weeds on the seabed around the islands a number of wrecked ships can be found that have long served as dwellings for a variety of underwater creatures. On the island of Iturup one of Russia’s tallest waterfalls, Ilya Muromets, can be found, with water falling from heights of up to 141m. The fishermen on Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands catch salmon, flounder, halibut, cod, and taimen, the Siberian giant trout. As for seafood, there are rich stocks of crab, prawns, and sea urchins.
How to get there
There are regular flights between Khomutovo (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk) Airport and Moscow, Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Blagoveshchensk, Novosibirsk, and other Russian cities. There are also regular direct fl ights to cities in Japan, China, and South Korea. By sea, the main route to Sakhalin is the year-round Vanino-Kholmsk ferry connection. In summer, there are also ferries between Korsakov on Sakhalin and Wakkanai on Hokkaido (Japan).
Where to stay
Your tour of Sakhalin will begin in the regional capital, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. This is a city of 199 000 people, with 42 comfortable hotels, and more than 350 cafés, restaurants, and bars.
Where to eat
The geographical position of Sakhalin and its rich maritime resources make the island a culinary mecca for lovers of sushi, sashimi, spicy rolls, and hundreds of other Japanese dishes. Hoe, pyanse, kimchi, haemultang, japchae, and many other Korean dishes are regular features on the menus of local cafés and restaurants.
What to buy
Fish and seafood at local fish markets—whelks, scallops, prawns, halibut, crab, octopus, squid, sea cucumber, and fresh, smoked, and cured red fish.