Undiscovered Kamchatka: Where Reindeer Reign in Russia

Undiscovered Kamchatka: Where Reindeer Reign in Russia

The Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East is a place where reindeer reign – not only in daily life but in the cultures and legends of this region. Herds of domesticated reindeer flourish near a small town called Esso, tucked into a nature park that’s part of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

This was an area off-limits to Westerners until the early 1990s, and where today MIR brings travelers on its uncommon tour, Kamchatka: Reindeer Herders & the Ring of Fire.

Discovered in 1941, Kamchatka's remote Valley of the Geysers is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Discovered in 1941, Kamchatka’s remote Valley of the Geysers is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Travelers ride by helicopter to a reindeer camp near Esso for up-close views of these quintessential creatures <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta<br>

Travelers ride by helicopter to a reindeer camp near Esso for up-close views of these quintessential creatures
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Esso – “Reindeer Country”

Breathtaking and wild, this region of the Russian Far East is a rugged landscape of volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. Esso – located in the middle of the peninsula – is reindeer country, as well as home to indigenous people who trnslate the worlds of natural and animals into their songs and dances, such as in this video:

Breeding Reindeer

Here live the Evens and Koryaks, “people of the reindeer.” These indigenous peoples have long bred a type of reindeer common to the Kamchatka Peninsula, an animal that has provided them with meat and milk for food, fur and leather for clothing and tents, and bones for tools. Reindeer are also used for transporting goods by toboggans or sleighs.

Reindeer of Kamchatka follow the worn paths and grazing areas of generations before them Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Reindeer of Kamchatka follow the worn paths and grazing areas of generations before them
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Meet Reindeer Herders

On MIR’s tour, Kamchatka: Reindeer Herders & the Ring of Fire, adventurous travelers can explore a reindeer breeders’ camp, flying by helicopter from Esso into the summertime highlands where reindeer browse on lichen, brush and leaves. 


A reindeer herder at an Esso reindeer camp shares his way of life with visitors Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

A reindeer herder at an Esso reindeer camp shares his way of life with visitors
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Reindeer Trivia

While reindeer are the spotlight in songs and holiday stories, here are some little-known facts about these legendary creatures:

  • Antlers: Both male and female grow them.
  • Noses: Their nasal chambers are large, warming the frigid air before it enters the lungs.
  • Ultraviolet Vision: Reindeer don’t suffer from snow blindness. They have ultraviolet vision (UV), making it easier to find food that absorbs UV light, such as lichen.
  • War Stories: The Soviet army used reindeer in World War II not only to transport food and ammunition, but also to bring wounded soldiers and equipment back to their base in Murmansk. 
With a reindeer's UV vision, lighter colored objects – such as lichen – appear darker, making them easier to spot and eat

With a reindeer’s UV vision, lighter colored objects – such as lichen – appear darker, making them easier to spot and eat

Known as <i>reindeer moss, </i> this cold-hardy type of lichen is a staple in reindeer diets, with its branches resembling antlers<br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin</br>

Known as reindeer moss, this cold-hardy type of lichen is a staple in reindeer diets, with its branches resembling antlers
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Watch MIR’s Kamchatka Videos

To appreciate the raw beauty of Kamchatka, view these videos from MIR’s YouTube channel, including up-close views of geysers and hot springs, volcano hikes and river rafting.

 

Travel With MIR to Kamchatka’s Reindeer Country

You can experience this wild, rugged landscape – from reindeer and semi-nomads to geysers and volcanoes – on MIR’s tour, Kamchatka: Reindeer Herders & the Ring of Fire. MIR can also create a handcrafted, private journey that encompasses your specific interests, from reindeer photo ops to rafting rivers.

MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.

Contact us to chat about your travel options
to experience this part of the world.
Feel free to email or call us at 800-424-7289.

Top photo: Also knowns as caribou, reindeer are a common sight in Esso, on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

PUBLISHED: May 23, 2017

Related Posts

Share your thoughts