Kamchatka Photography Expedition

© Denis Budkov
There’s simply no better place on Earth to photograph volcanic landscapes and wildlife than this remote World Heritage listed region.

This 2-week Kamchatka photography tour is designed especially for landscape, nature, and wildlife photography enthusiasts. Stay on the shores of the iconic Kurilskoye Lake and take part in some of the best brown bear photo opportunities as the bears gorge themselves during the annual salmon run. Hike to the summits of some of Kamchatka's active volcanoes for thrilling shots of steaming vents, acid lakes, and smoking craters. Your aim is to return to "Earth" with images of alien landscapes and wild nature worthy of the pages of National Geographic. Our Kamchatka photography tour suits all professional and amateur photographers, as well as active and adventurous travellers. No prior mountain climbing experience is required, but a decent level of fitness is strongly recommended.

Kamchatka Photography Expedition HIghlights:

  • Brace yourself for a bone-rattling journey on a Russian 6WD all-terrain vehicle on a road tracing the western coast of Kamchatka (complete with river crossing) to isolated Pauzhetka village. Pauzhhetka is a tiny settlement between the Sea of Okhost and Kuril Lake, surrounded on all sides by towering volcanoes
  • Fly to Kurilskoye Lake via helicopter for a two day shooting and photo workshopping season among the brown bears who gather at the lake in large numbers during the salmon season To get the best chance of heart-stopping close encounters and amazing photos ops, we’ll watch the bears on land and on boat, staying overnight in log cabins close to the lake shore
  • Russkaya Bay Cruise: Set sail from the capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and explore the wildlife-rich waters of Russkaya Bay and the Starichkov Island seabird capital. Try your hand shooting marine mammals including whales and seals and enjoy a lunch of freshly caught seafood
  • Embark on a full day trek to the summit of Mutnovsky, a hike containing some of the scenically beautiful landscapes in Kamchatka. Feel as if you’re witnessing the earth’s creation as you gaze down from the rim of the crater upon glaciers and mineral lakes and the torches of sulphur spewing fumaroles far below
  • Trek to the top of Mount Gorely (1,829m), one of the most active volcanoes in Russia. Enjoy a picnic lunch on a rock ledge just below the crater, with magnificent views of the vivid blue acidic lake below.

Venturing well off the beaten track to experience isolated habitats and unspoiled ecosystems offer travellers a unique and beautiful perspective of what travelling Russia's Far Eastern frontier is truly all about. As well as the legendary giant Kamchatkan brown bears, you may be lucky enough to encounter and photograph a range of other impressive animal subjects, including the striking black and white Steller’s sea eagles that often join the bears at Kuril during the salmon hunt. River otters are also often seen participating in the feeding frenzy.

Our Pacific Coast cruise on Russkaya Bay may produce orcas, humpback whales, sea otters, and sea lions. At the seabird rookeries on Starichkov island, up to 50,000 individual birds can be present, including gulls, puffins, red-faced cormorants, guillemots, and murres.

We’ll climb several volcanoes during the trip. All are easy to moderately strenuous hikes, and no special climbing gear is involved. This special interest Kamchatka photography tour involves a mix of hotel stays, camping, off-road driving, and trekking, with an average height of 1,200m above sea level.

Compare and discuss photos, tips, and travel tales with your fellow passionate photographers as you share this dream journey into some of the most mesmerising corners of the Kamchatka Peninsula – a nature photographer’s paradise like no other.


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Trip style

Petropavlovsk - Kamchatsky

Petropavlovsk - Kamchatsky

Mixed (hotels, cabins, tents)



Action rating

Group size

Type of tour

14 days / 13 nights


min 8-12

Guaranteed Departures

Itinerary View map

Day 1:Welcome to Kamchatka

Our Kamchatka Photo Expedition begins with a meet & greet at the airport close to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. This small city is nestled on scenic Avacha Bay, the people here live beneath the shadow of five majestic volcanoes.

From the airport, you'll be transferred to a cozy hotel in Paratunka village. Meet a team on the group dinner at the hotel, where you will be able to ask questions to prepare yourself and your equipment for the epic photographic journey ahead.

Day 2:6WD journey to Pauzhetka village

Today's expedition begins with a full day's off-road drive by a Russian Kamaz (6wd vehicle) to the tiny settlement of Pauzhetka, located between Okhotskoye Sea and Kurilskoye (Kuril) Lake. We'll cover a total distance of 450km, the drive is on unsealed roads and takes roughly 10 to 12 hours. The road runs along the western coast of Kamchatka and includes 2 river fordings.

In the evening, accommodation for the night in a basic guest house.

Day 3:Welcome to Kuril Lake

In the morning, the vehicle will take us to the ferry on the river Ozernaya. The main cargo will be delivered to Kuril Lake by a boat, the group (with photography equipment-backpacks only) will walk 12 km to the cordon on Kuril Lake.

Brown bears photo-shooting starts after lunch. We will stay on the shores of Lake Kuril for the next few days in a base camp, with daily boat trips to the different lake's locations in search of the perfect shots of the majestic Brown Bears. This evening we will spend strolling along the shores and get acquaintance with the area. We will visit the «bridge», where we take our first photos of these mighty animals, the Kamchatka Brown bears.

Day 4-5:Brown Bears Photoshooting

Kurilskoye Lake is without a doubt one of the best places on earth to spot and photograph brown bears in their natural habitat, so the next two days are devoted to observing these mighty mammals as they hunt the salmon that gather here in their millions during the summer months.

The Kamchatkan brown bear is one of the largest subspecies of brown bears, rivalling the famous Kodiak bears of Alaska in size. In summer, large numbers of brown bears make their way to Kurilskoye Lake, where the water teems with millions of spawning Pacific salmon. Watching these incredible animals in their natural environment is one of the world's great wildlife experiences.

The bears are totally preoccupied with fishing, allowing for tantalisingly up-close viewing and amazing photo ops, bear-watchers are accompanied by an experienced armed ranger for safety.

Day 6-7:Way back to the city

After 2 and a half days of photo shooting of these incredible creatures, we jump into the Kamaz for a long transfer back to the city, the same way we arrived at Kuril Lake.

On the evening of day 7, we arrive at the hotel in Paratunka village. Sort your pictures and rest in the thermal pool, get ready for your next days of adventure.

Day 8:Marine trip to the Russkaya Bay

Very early in the morning, we are heading out from Paratunka to the Petropavlovsk seaport (appx 1h en route). We'll board a boat and spend a full day exploring the wildlife-rich waters of Russkaya Bay, a remote and spectacular cove on the south-western side of the Avachinsky Gulf. Regarded as one of the most pristine natural areas in the region, Russkaya's crystal clear waters are ringed by forested hills and snow-dusted mountain peaks.

As well as taking in the scenery and serenity of the bay, we'll be on the lookout for Russkaya's wild inhabitants in the air and sea, including whales, seals, sea lions, otters, Steller's sea eagles and an abundance of marine and birdlife. During the cruise, a lunch of fresh-caught seafood will be served for you. In the evening we are heading back to our hotel in Paratunka.

Day 9:Mutnovsky volcano

Astonishingly, the population of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky live less than 30km from five volcanoes, but the locals consider these ominous figures to be friendly giants. One of them is Mutnovsky (2323m, 70 km away from the city).

After breakfast in the hotel, we jump into our Kamaz and heading towards this beautiful giant (appx 6h en route). The base camp here is our resting place for the next 2 nights.

As our tour leader says: «Mutnovsky volcano is the heart of Kamchatka. This heart is literally beating and you can feel it, while the earth is slightly moving under your feet». This giant is calm but showed its power 15 times in the century. The entire massif comprises four cones of the volcanoes. On the top of this mountain, you can see a big snow-white glacier, a little sulphur sandy river and the biggest femoral field in the world.

Day 10:Climb to the crater of Mutnovsky volcano

Today we hike from our base camp to the crater of Mutnovsky (2,322m). Near Mutnovsky's summit is a nest of merged craters, among the most beautiful volcanic phenomenon in Kamchatka. We hike to the rim of the craters via a crack in the volcano's side. With a bit of courage, you can climb to the crest of the craters. Standing at the top, at the edge of the deep cavity, you feel as though you're witnessing the earth's creation, gazing down upon glittering glaciers, the torches of sulphur spewing fumaroles far below and the columns of vapour rising from the active funnel crater.

Reaching the craters involves a moderate hike (appx10 km, 5-6h, with an elevation of 500m). At the foot of the mountain, sculpted by eruptions and shifting glaciers is one of Kamchatka's hidden jewels – the Mutnovsky ice caves. Our guide will lead you deep inside an extraordinarily beautiful and rarely seen ice cave, where dazzling, Disneyesque rainbow hues appear to light up the walls, created by reflections from an underground river.

Only discovered in 2012, this ethereal place is the scene of some of the most mesmerising images of volcanic landscapes ever captured. We'll also visit a waterfall in Opasny (Dangerous) Canyon. In the evening we head to the next base camp on the slope of nearby Gorely volcano.

Day 11-12:Gorely volcano

Today’s destination to explore is Gorely (1,829m), one of the most active volcanoes in Kamchatka.

From our campsite, the 6WD heads north around the edge of a large lake that lies in the unfilled eastern crescent of the Gorely caldera. From the lake flats, the walk up the huge shield volcano is about 5km, with a steady 750m height gain. We’ll cross a mix of grassy tundra with dwarf willows and bare strips of basaltic lava and lava flow formations. The magnificent panoramic view in front of us looks out over a sudden, vertical descent into the active crater. Over 100m down, a hot acidic lake has active fumaroles around its margin and beneath the surface, thanks to Gorely’s recent steam eruptions.

On the next day, we re-join our vehicle and hit the road, rambling south back to Paratunka. Check into the hotel and enjoy a relaxing evening and swim in a pool filled with thermal hot water.

Day 13:Optional helicopter tour to the Valley of Geysers

Today we left it as a free day ( for a buffer in case of bad weather during our tour), so the choice is yours to either enjoy free day exploring Petropavlovsk at your leisure, or join an optional* scenic helicopter tour to the World Heritage site of the Valley of the Geysers - the only geyser field in Eurasia and the second largest concentration of geysers in the world. This cluster of around 90 geysers, fumaroles and hot springs, which lie above the marginal fractures of the oldest Uzon caldera and periodically expel hot water in spectacular jet streams.

The MI-8 helicopter will take a group of 25 people on a flight (about 1h 15min) over Karymsky and Maly Semyachik volcanoes, before landing in the valley. The walking route (1h 30 min) goes along the wooden decking of the paths to the main observation points, from which you will see the eruption of the biggest geysers.

After that, the helicopter will take you to Uzon Caldera (5-10min flight). During the excursion (40- 50min) you will walk along the Eastern thermal field to observe moon landscapes and volcanic activity. From here, you will fly (40 min) to the beautiful Nalychevo Valley where you will have lunch and a relaxing soak in natural thermal pools. Another 20 min flight and you will back to the heliport. Approximate tour duration is 6-7 hours, you’ll be back to the hotel at about 5:30 pm.

Day 14:Departure hugs

Today marks our final day in Kamchatka. After breakfast in the hotel, transfer to the airport and head home to admire an award-worthy treasure trove of images that capture the strange, savage beauty of the land at the end of the earth – Kamchatka.

Please note, the hotel check-out is at 12 pm, so have it mind when planning your flights. Private transfer, as well as late check-out, can be organised, if needed, upon booking your tour.



  • 3* hotel accommodation in Paratunka village
  • Kurlskoye Lake base camp (tents)
  • Base camp at the foot of Mutnovsky and Gorely volcanoes (tents)


All meals during the tour


Group airport arrival and departure transfers, all transportation on tour according to the itinerary (coach, 6wd truck-bus, boats)


Local guide pro-photographer, helper, chef, experienced driver, ranger on Kuril Lake

Activities and sights

  • Kurilskoye Lake: brown bears photography
  • Mutnovsky and Gorely volcanoes: landscape photography
  • Russkaya Bay cruise: marine wildlife photography


  • Russian visa support documents
  • Kuril Lake photography fees
  • Kronotsky Reserve fees and permits

*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Not included

Flights, travel insurance, visa, optional excursions, individual transfers, tips

Dates & Prices

DatesAvailabilityPriceSingle sup. 
Private tour, any departures of your choice
Private Tour
Available US $5,245 US $780 Reserve


Mike SmithAustralia

56th Parallel ah shucks!

Thanks guys! We had an absolute blast! Feel free to share the YouTube link of this video on your socials or emails if you want to help promote your future tours.

Alyssa CarterAustralia

In short we absolutely loved it!

Kamchatka is incredible, we had experiences where you do not get anywhere else in the world! The staff were lovely and Anton's photography skills came in very handy for us. The camping was great, the hotels were good. Anichka's cooking was awesome! Driving in the kamaz was awesome! The two different experiences with the bears was epic! It was a really special experience and we feel so lucky to have gone somewhere so remote.

The only negative comments would be that a lot of single-use plastics were used in the kitchen. We ate from plastic plates a lot of small plastic drink bottles etc which could quite easily be reduced. Overall it was our favourite destination of the last 6 months.

Raffi MaghdessianSwitzerland

Kamchatka is a beautiful region!

Lake Kurile is a unique place in the world for brown bear watching. The 14-day trip is globally balanced between wildlife observations and landscape images.

However, I find that we spend a lot of time transferring. I understand that the weather conditions in the region are difficult and that the helicopter is sometimes a trap. Despite these few comments, I recommend this trip without problems, the staff is always very available, the guide does his job and the organization of 56th is very professional.

Yanai BonnehIsrael

"The atmosphere was wonderful along our whole trip in Kamchatka"

I came alone all the way from Israel, with a little bit worries but by the time I reach the camp I realized immediately how kind and good the people are, our guides and my partners to the trip which came from South Korea. From the beginning we become a good friends, we used to help each other, for example during hiking or while setting our camp etc. The atmosphere was wonderful along our whole trip and it doesn’t matter where each one came from or speaks different language or having a different culture.

We became a really good friends. I have to say and remind it again, the most important thing for me and one of the greatest memories that I’m taking with me from this trip is the amazing people, my partners to the expedition from Korea and our amazing guides: Dima, Pavel and Anna that led us and always explained and told us about Russia and especially about Kamchatka. We took some amazing photos, I actually won an Instagram Best Nature Photo Contenst in my country of Israel, with this image:

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 16.20.43

You can read more about Yanai's experience in Kamchatka in our blog here.

14 days
Petropavlovsk - Kamchatsky
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