The edge of the world and heaven on earth: what to do on the Commander Islands

It's not easy to get here, but the experience is worth the effort and money

If you ask a random stranger where the Commander Islands are, he, most likely, will find it difficult to answer, and then he will be surprised to learn that this is Russia. Getting to the ends of the earth, as many people call these places, is not so easy, and a tour there will cost a lot. However, the untouched nature and picturesque views that await infrequent travelers who dare to go on such a long journey are worth it.

The end of the world and heaven on earth: what to do on the Commander Islands

The best time to come here is the middle of summer or the beginning of autumn. August and September are considered especially suitable months for traveling, when the Commanders meet rare guests with numerous berries and mushrooms, and the coasts are filled with fur seals “resting” there.

How to get there

You can get to the Commander Islands from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky by plane in about 3.5 hours or by ferry. In the latter case, the road will have to spend about 36 hours. In good weather, transport runs about once or twice a week, and in bad weather, flights are postponed. Therefore, when going to the Commander Islands, it is worth considering the inconstancy of the weather. You can come alone, or you can book a tour. The latter option will cost a lot, but it allows you not to think about finding places to stay and organizing excursions.

Land of fogs and rains

The Commander Islands are an archipelago of four islands located on the border between the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The local places with their changeable weather are called the country of rains and fogs. The veil can appear suddenly, hiding waterfalls, animals, landscapes from the eyes of travelers, and just as abruptly disappear.

The end of the world and heaven on earth: what to do on the Commander Islands

Some researchers and local residents jokingly distinguish only two seasons – white and green winter. The average temperature in February here is -4 °C, and the average temperature in August is +10 °C. And despite the fact that in the photographs of travelers you can see turquoise waves that beckon to swim, the water temperature even in the warmest time barely rises to +10 °C.

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Inhabitants of the Commanders

The only place on the Commanders with a constant human presence is Bering Island. The village of Nikolskoye is located here, in which about 700 people live. The rest belongs entirely to nature: cunning arctic foxes live here, who have learned to beg food from infrequent tourists, fur seals arrange noisy rookeries on the coasts, and a variety of birds hold their weddings in the sky and on the slopes.

The end of the world and heaven on earth: what to do on the Commander Islands

Most of the Commander Islands is occupied by the largest marine reserve in Russia. The fauna in it is represented by 1000 species of animals, including reindeer, who once escaped from the farm and settled down on the mink islands, as well as ten species of North Pacific pinnipeds. In the Commander Reserve, there are also sea lions, known as sea lions – a species that has long been on the verge of extinction. Among the marine life there are also a lot of whales. In total, 21 species can be found in these places, of which 14 are rare or endangered.

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Reserved places

The Commander Islands amaze with their beauty. There are quiet beaches and bays (the most famous are Podutesnaya and Poludennaya), waterfalls with crystal clear water, bizarre grottoes. Each of the islands of the archipelago is attractive in its own way. For example, on Medny you can find many amazing landscapes and a variety of bird species. The latter arrange noisy bird markets on the rocks.

In order to fully feel the spirit of untouched nature, many travelers prefer to stay in tents on the Commander Islands and live like this for more than one day, watching the inhabitants and walking along the local beaches.

Reserved beauty is one of the reasons why photographers come here, for example Kirill Umrikhin -a traveler and professional photographer. From his trip, he brought a lot of amazing shots, as well as a lot of impressions. As Cyril himself later admitted, from the thought that in these places no one had previously ridden or surfed or walked along the local wild beaches, an absolutely amazing feeling arises. After all, here, at the end of the world, you really can be a pioneer. And these thoughts are breathtaking.

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Edge or Paradise?

< p>There is almost no tourist infrastructure on the Commander Islands. In the only residential area there is only one hotel, designed for about 20 people, and food can be bought in only a few shops. At the same time, local prices can surprise even the most sophisticated travelers: for example, eggs, meat and chicken are much more expensive than on the mainland, and when searching for fermented milk products and fresh herbs, problems can arise at all. But fish and caviar are cheap, and mussels are completely free – they can be collected at low tide from the reefs.

The end of the world and heaven on earth: what to do on the Commander Islands

Of the interesting places to visit in Nikolsky is the Aleutian Museum of Local Lore, where you can look at the skeletons of many marine animals, including those that have disappeared. For example, the famous sea Steller's cow. The museum also features a collection of semi-precious stones that were found on the islands, excavations, various fossils and minerals.

The end of the world and heaven on earth: things to do on Commander Islands

The locals are friendly to the few tourists. And they love their island. So, when Cyril asked if they were on the edge of the earth, the inhabitants answered in surprise: “No, we are in paradise on earth.”

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What you need must see

Commander Islands & nbsp; – one continuous attraction. True, not in the usual sense for ordinary tourists. At first glance, it seems that there is not much to do here, but this is not so: travelers can endlessly admire the scenery, discovering each island, and when they get bored, they can go on a kind of “tourist routes”.

In the north and the north-west of Bering Island, as well as not the south-east of Medny, special sites are equipped for observing the largest rookeries of fur seals and sea lions. Most “resting” animals can be observed from mid to late summer.

The end of the world and heaven on earth: what to do on the Commander Islands

Besides the rookeries, in the northern part of Bering Island there is Steller's Arch. This impressive natural formation attracts the eye and amazes with its monumentality. And here you can also see ocean birds and enjoy relaxing at a picturesque waterfall. In the south-east of the island is Lake Saranoe , the largest salmon spawning ground in the reserve.

Another interesting place is Buyan Bay. Here you can feel like real treasure seekers, collecting placers of bright water-polished stones on the beaches. On the coast there are deposits of jasper and opal, as well as transparent and matte chalcedony and patterned agate. These stones are not uncommon, however, according to some experts, it is here, on the Commander Islands, that they have the best shape and quality.

The end of the world and heaven on earth: what to do on the Commander Islands

In addition to natural attractions, there are also historical and cultural sites on the Commander Islands. Among them, the campsite of the expedition led by Vitus Bering, and the grave of the famous navigator.

Photo: Kirill Umrikhin

The material was published in June 2019, in part updated August 2023


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