Kvartirka short-term rental service blog
The mysterious island: what to see on Sakhalin?
Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands is one of the few completely isolated areas of Russia. One tenth of its land is classified as a nature reserve, which largely determines the direction of tourism in the region.
To explore the sights of the island, you first need to get there. From cities located in Central Russia, where there are flights to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, you have to fly with at least one connection (usually half a day, in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk or Irkutsk). ) No matter which city is on your way, Kvartirka will tell you where to stay!
The price for a one way ticket from Moscow starts at 15,000RUR and the flight time starts at 8 hours. If you are traveling alone, you may notice that flights are canceled during winter because of unfavorable weather conditions. In this case, you can get to the island by ferry.
As you know, the length of the route does not scare an experienced tourist! So let’s take a peek at what mysteries Sakhalin is ready to reveal to travelers.
City of Korsakov. Panorama. Sakhalin region. Russia © Vladimir Makeev / Fotobank Laurie
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the region’s capital
You step out of the airport building in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, look back and see the slopes of the mountains. The tops of the ridge are covered in greenery and hidden in a misty haze. It is a picture that pleases the eye and at the same time reminds you of something. Add here bright red disk of rising sun, and stingy chains of hieroglyphs… You are right, you are ready to see the subject of Japanese engraving.
Indeed, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (as well as many other things on the island) is imbued with the influence of the East Asian culture. It is impossible to say that everything Japanese is treated here with great awe (after all the historical path of the local territories abounds with steep and ambiguous turns), but it would be difficult to deny the influence of the neighboring country’s traditions. Even the regional museum of local history occupies a building, built by the Japanese in 1937 as a repository of cultural values.
Once you have chosen a comfortable place to stay, you can begin your journey around Sakhalin.
Sakhalin Local History Museum
The museum has an impressive collection of paleontological finds, items relating to the history of indigenous peoples – the Nivkhs, Ainu, Oroks, Evenks, and others, and a large collection devoted to the transition period and the Soviet past of the islands.
Here you will learn why at the beginning of the century the town was called Toyohara, what it has in common with Chicago, why the island needed as many as nine paper mills, and why not one has survived to this day, and what the transition from 1067 to 1520 was.
Sakhalin Regional Museum of Local Lore. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk © Vladimir Makeev / Photobank Lori
Prefer nature to museums? Visit Chekhov Peak! It is located almost just outside the city limits. No, the great Russian writer has never been on this mountain, but in his time he made the first detailed description of the island and its inhabitants. By name. Before he wrote about Sakhalin in the Russian Empire knew little and mostly bad things. The book created a furor, and the author’s surname was eventually imprinted in many local toponyms.
From the top, dominating over the city, there is a beautiful view of the Sea of Okhotsk and the eastern lakes. You won’t need equipment or special skills to climb. You can walk a little along the trail through the forest, puff on the road between the stone remnants, wade through bamboo bushes – and you are there. In the past such a feat was equated to passing the GTO exams!
Besides the famous Peak in the vicinity of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk there is a rock with the cute name Lyagushka, which Sakhalin residents respect very much and consider to be a place of strength. There is an eco-trail that leads to the rock. It’s also worth checking out the Aikhore Waterfall. And if you go far from the city in the northwest direction (it’s better to do it by car, and off-road), you can visit the largest mud volcano. By the way, there are quite a few of them on the island.
Chekhov Peak, Sakhalin Island © Povolkovich Fedor / Photobank Lori
Lighthouse at Cape Aniva
Descending from Chekhov Peak in good weather, many tourists already imagine the next point of their journey. On the southeastern shore of Aniva Bay, among the rocks is an old lighthouse. Another specimen of Japanese heritage, reminiscent of a medieval castle.
The views here are beautiful, the place is romantic, and orcas splash in the ocean. Although the lighthouse is now abandoned, tours here, of course, also. A ticket costs about 7,000 rubles. For this money from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk will take, tell a lot of interesting things, and at the same time will show a few more locations on the way.
Sakhalin Island, Cape Aniva, Aniva lighthouse © Vyacheslav Ivanov / Fotobank Lori
Cape Ptichy cliffs
If you didn’t take an excursion and decided to explore Sakhalin on your own, we recommend you to drop in at Cape Ptichy. Fans of hiking along the way from the lighthouse can go along the traverse of Tonino-Anivskiy Range, conquering peaks, until you get bored. The mountains here are not high and follow one another every kilometer or two. You can go back to Novikovo village along the roads, crossing the ridge at the passes, and there you can hire a car and a guide to the other side of the peninsula. However, you can also get there from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk by booking a jeep tour.
The part of the coast from Ptichy Cape to Velikan Cape is recognized as a natural monument. Rocky arches, grottos and separately standing basalt columns form a bizarre landscape. It seems as if the stone giants are frozen in the waves. From one side the boundless ocean rages, from the other – the wall of dark taiga, and between them – the sandy beach, which seals and gulls took a fancy to. It’s a sin not to stay here longer, armed with a camera!
The stone arches of Cape Ptichy (Giant) on Sakhalin Island © Povolkovich Fedor / Photobank Lori
It takes 3 hours to get to Tikhaya station along the railway line between Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Nogliki or along the A-393 Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk-Okha. The Sakhalin coast in this area is unique: the bay is sheltered from constant winds by a mountain massif and a cape. The waters here are mostly calm, and the environment disposes to meditative walks. The more so that the place, though popular, but not crowded. On a scale of unity with the nature – 10/10!
It is necessary to warn especially sensitive travelers against visiting the coast in the second half of August, in the height of salmon spawning. Not everyone will like the beach covered with fish and the frantic cries of reveling seagulls. And the weather at this time begins to deteriorate in anticipation of typhoon season.
Tikhaya Bay, Sakhalin Island © Povolkovich Fedor / Photobank Lori
Golovin Volcano and Kipyasche Lake
Although Sakhalin can be explored endlessly, we’ll conclude today’s review with the sights of Kunashir Island.
This island is the closest to Japan in the group of the Big Kuril Islands. Its northern and southern extremities are part of the Kurilsky Nature Reserve. The mountainous landscape of the territory hides many geothermal springs. There are four active volcanoes – Rurui, Tyatya, Mendeleev and Golovnin volcanoes. In the picturesque caldera of the latter are two lakes – Goryachoe and Boiling. Lake Boiling got its name because of numerous cracks at the bottom, through which the red-hot volcanic gases burst. Water here is so saturated with salts of heavy metals and sulfur, that the usual vacation on the shore, let alone swimming is out of the question. We look, enjoy unearthly scenery, take pictures.
But the neighboring lake, Goryachey, for water procedures is quite suitable, although it is connected with the boiling artificial channel, which was dug in immemorial times by the Japanese. The way to the lakes is usually from Yuzhno-Kurilsk or from Mendeleevo airport, where tourists are taken by helicopter.
Panorama of Kipyaschei lake in Golovnina volcano caldera, Kunashir island © Evgeny Gorodetsky / Fotobank Lori
Whenever you decide to visit Sakhalin, the island will welcome you, test you and reward you. Gradually revealing its soul to the murmur of the taiga, the murmur of mountain rivers and the roar of waves, Sakhalin falls in love with itself. A trip here is a small life, lived as if one is born anew. A bit cleaner, a bit kinder and much happier!
What to see on Sakhalin for the first time? Sakhalin Island Guide
Our regular contributor, athlete and traveler Laura talks about how to plan a trip to Sakhalin and what to see around.
What to look out for when planning?
Moscow – Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Flight time is 8 hours. Scheduled flights from Moscow are operated by Aeroflot and Rossiya. The ticket price is 24-26 thousand rubles round trip in September, in summer during the season the prices are two or three times higher.
September is a good month to visit the island. It is better not to rely on the Internet forecast. The weather can be changeable: it can be cloudy in the morning, then the sun comes out of the clouds, in one part of the island – gray with rain, in the other – sunny.
I was very lucky, I caught Indian summer on the island, the last days of my trip was warm as summer. Only one day it was promised a storm with wind increasing to 35-40 meters per second, but it turned out – it rained the whole day, a few trees fell.
Standard kit – sneakers, hiking boots, down jacket Uniqlo, windbreaker The North Face, and a swimsuit! I flew in a jeans jacket – it was warm.
Every trip to Sakhalin starts here. It was founded in 1882 as a convict settlement called Vladimirovka. From 1905 to 1945 was part of Japan under the name Toyohara. In 1946 it was renamed Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
What to do in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk?
Walk around the best ski resort in the Far East – “Mountain Air”. According to secret information, the second “Rosa Khutor” will be made here, and it is now being actively developed. The ski complex, by the way, is used as a training base for our athletes. “Mountain air” is practically in the center of the city, you have to go all the way down Victory Avenue and find yourself at the foot of the mountain. There are two turns of ropeways, and the length of the tracks is 25 kilometers. The out-of-season price of the elevator is 300 rubles, you can see the rates here.
Address: ul. Gorny Air, Lit. B, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Website: ski-gv.ru
Visit the museum of local history of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Located in a building made in the traditions of Japanese architecture. You can see the whole history of Sakhalin in one museum: from the real life of Sakhalin’s people at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries to historical documents and other artifacts. You may also be interested in the military collection where a Russian cannon from 1867 and a Japanese cannon from 1930s stand out.
Address: 29 Kommunistichesky Ave. Website: sakhalinmuseum.ru
Spend the whole day in SPAradise. The first Korean spa complex on Sakhalin. The area is divided into women’s, men’s and general area. You will be given a kimono when you come to the reception, and you can buy slippers and other bath accessories for an extra fee.
SPAradise is separate areas for men and women with five types of pools, dry and wet steam, and infrared baths. There is peeling and massage.
There is a common area too, there are oxygen, salt rooms and a room with charcoal. There is a restaurant.
Entrance fee: 1 000 rubles, payment by cash only. Address: TK “Panorama Alpha”, 14 Emelyanova St. Website: panorama65.ru
To see the sunset. This is best done from the ski jump (Bolshevik Mountain, Altaysky lane, the road to the hotel is on the right; the place is called the DSYUSH for ski jumping). We walked through the woods, climbed over the fence and ducked into the bushes under the cameras, climbed to the ski jump – and we had a view of the whole city in front of us. As we made our way down to the road, we found a couple more holes in the fence.
Cafes and Restaurants
Particular attention should be paid to the food – in addition to the obvious seafood, Korean and Japanese food is very popular here.
Breakfasts: Yummy – coffee, sandwiches and desserts. Mangosix – A cafe with excellent apple teas and fresh pastries.
Lunch and dinner: Japanese: the new Hokkaido, the traditional Furusato, or the Nihon Mitai Sushi Bar. Korean: “Pak Degam”, where you have to grill your own meat, just like in Korean eateries, and drink Korean rice vodka soju. “Bermuda Triangle” – go for a big portion of fish soup and homemade cheesecake with blueberries. It’s just like the capital on the weekend: you’ll have to make reservations in advance.
You can go to Harat’s Irish Pub to dance or listen to music.
What to bring from Sakhalin?
Caviar, local seaweed marmalade, seashells and stones instead of magnets. You can buy caviar at the market “Success” (Sakhalinskaya Street, 71), the prices are very different – 1,300-2,500 rubles per 500 grams, haggling is not liked here. It is better to buy through acquaintances from hand, about 2 500 rubles per kilogram. Do not put it off until the last day and take more. No matter how much you bring, it won’t be enough!
Frog Mountain and Aikhore Waterfall
Frog Mountain got its name because its outline resembles a frog sitting on a hill. It is considered the energy center of Sakhalin.
The best way to get here is to take a bus to the Vestochka stop and then walk the Sakhalin Frog Nature Trail along the river.
The Far Eastern forest is very different from the suburbs of Moscow or the Caucasus: it has a special smell, it smells of freshness and mint tea with lemon.
This place is surrounded by mystical stories. It is believed that the Frog fulfills wishes. There is a belief that every rock, hill, stream, and place has its own spirits. There are information boards along the trail that tell about this place, and there are pyramids of stones along the trail.
On the rock you will see magnificent panoramas of Aniva Bay, Lake Tunaycha and Changeable. Here you have to make a wish. “Live each day as if you were climbing a mountain, and a fleeting glimpse of the top would serve as a reminder of your purpose!” – the phrase on the sign will help. It’s best to go on weekdays; there are a lot of people on weekends.
If you have time, you can continue the route and reach the eight-meter Aichor waterfall, which is located northeast of the Frog on a tributary of the Komissarovka River. One of the Vestochka eco-trails leads to the waterfall. The way to the waterfall is not complicated, all the crossings are equipped with suspended and wooden bridges. On the Komissarovka itself there are also several rapids, one of the most notable is called “Two Sisters”.
EAST. Quiet Cove, crabs and sunset on the sea
I saw this place on my Instagram feed and immediately fell in love with it. The first place we went was this very cove.
On the way to Tihuya we stopped in the village Vzmorye, there is a market along the road. Two huge Kamchatka crabs at the grannies will cost 3,000-3,500 rubles.
We drove up to Tihaya at sunset, walked along the sea and climbed Bold Peak. The entire ascent took 30 minutes, and we had a wonderful view of the Sea of Okhotsk on the one hand and the setting sun behind the hills on the other.
It takes about two hours to get to the bay from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk by car. You will need scissors to cut the crab.
On the same side further down the road is another place to visit – the Zhdanko Ridge, a picturesque mountain range of volcanic origin, north of Tomari and the village of Tikhaya.
The Zhdanko Ridge is a 13-kilometer long ridge in eastern Sakhalin Island. According to Instagram statistics, it is one of the most popular spots in the entire region.
There are two points of ascent to the peak: from the south side, from Tikhoi Bay, the most difficult, and from the north side, from the railway station Tsapko.
I advise the second option, it will take a little effort and will be able to enjoy the unusual scenery. To climb from the south side, you need to be a climber and have the equipment to climb to the top. From Tsapko in good weather you can walk the entire ridge and climb to Zhdanko Peak itself. The best view opens up not from the highest point, but on the way to the peak, if you go with Tsapko. When you reach the very top of the ridge, you will see precipices and endless sea from both sides.
You can get there by car, the distance from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is 150 kilometers, an asphalt road leads to the foot.
The road from Starodubsky to Vzmorye village offers a gorgeous view, the road runs along the sea; if there was a low tide, you can drive out onto the sand and drive along the shore. There are Japanese remains in Vzmorje itself – the tall concrete Torii Gate – another good place to take pictures.
I recommend that you take your trekking shoes, wind protection – a windbreaker, a pouch for picking lingonberries and berries, and a speaker for a brisk climb.
WEST. Sapsurfing in the Sea of Japan, shooting stars and hedgehogs for breakfast
For the weekend, we left with tents for the Sea of Japan. Picturesque views followed us all the way, in the village at the house with the inscription on the fence “Shrimp” stopped and bought from a colorful woman two kilograms for 2 000 rubles.
Volcanic sand, salty Japanese sea, riding on sapas at sunset, a campfire on the beach, an amazingly low and very starry sky, sleeping in a tent to the sound of the surf – priceless, definitely the best weekend of this September. This is where I first tasted the local delicacies – trumpeter and sea urchin.
SOUTH. Fishermen, surfers, and stone faces
Our next route is to Okhotsk. To get to the village is very easy, you have to take bus #174, which leaves at 08:30 and 10:30 from the bus station, the price is 64 rubles, in less than an hour you will be at the sea. There are fishermen, and if you’re lucky and svelte, surfers. Have a picnic on the beach, sit on the sand and take a break from the hustle and bustle – the perfect place to meditate. It smells like the real sea here!
The biggest lake on Sakhalin – Tunaicha, with a sandy beach and tourist base in the forest – is 20 minutes on foot from the sea. We followed the road on foot and it turned out that bears are very common there. Good thing I found out about it after our walk. The locals said that if you encounter a bear (healthy and without cubs), you should just stand there and do nothing, nothing. Gladly, the “see a bear and die” item was not on my list.
Surfing on the island
Surfing on Sakhalin island is a young phenomenon and we are just starting to get acquainted with this culture. With very little experience behind us we have formed a definite picture of surfing. We live on an island and we are surrounded by water, it gives us a lot of opportunities to choose a spot and find the best waves. We have discovered many different spots (reef, beach break, point break), and six of them are already marked on MSW.
On the east side of the Sea of Okhotsk (Pacific side) spots (Bus Station, Lesnoye, Trudniy, Tikhaya Bay) work very well in the spring and fall – you can say that these are the seasons for the east coast, you can feel the ocean energy here, sometimes come big waves of two or three meters with a good period – 10-12 seconds.
In the west (the strait on the mainland side), a cyclone forms in the Sea of Japan, passes through Vladivostok and meets our coast. The most popular spots are Yablochnoe (Kholmsk town) and Alibi (Nevelsk town). This coast works all year round, there is no ice on this side in winter, and in summer the water gets warm, so you can surf in shorts for a couple of hours – it’s very rare.
The water in the seas is cool, and we mostly use 5-4-3 millimeter wetsuits all season.
All the spots are reached by their own transportation. The nearest spot is Bus Station in Okhotsk, 30 minutes drive from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, there is a regular bus. To get to the other spots it will take at least an hour and a half or two hours by car.
Having experience in teaching adults and children snowboarding and skateboarding we have started a new project – Islanders Surf School – and now we are glad to help people to get acquainted with the sea, the ocean, to catch their first wave and to help them to buy their own equipment. We see feedback and a great desire to learn to surf here – it’s very rewarding.
We organize different lectures and parties on surfing, and in October we organized surfing competitions in two disciplines: longboard and shortboard. Read more about the competitions at Sakhalin.info.
We went surfing at Lesnoe surf spot after the storm. What makes Sakhalin unique is that the nature here is completely wild. Miles of sandy beach and endless sea and not a single soul in sight. The guys were surfing, catching fish with their hands, and I was collecting shells. After the storm, tons of scallops came ashore, which the local fishermen collected at night. But we were lucky too, we found two huge tentacles of octopus and scallops on the shore and made a great dinner in the evening.
After sea meditation in Okhotsk we went to Cape Velikan. How to get there: from Okhotsk drive another 22 kilometers along the seashore, chasing seagulls, to the former outpost “Svobodnaya”, turn to the forest to the south – the road is country road, and only a jeep will pass. Approximately in 16 kilometers there is a sign – a stone with an inscription “The Giant”, the road is one, it is impossible to get lost, and it will lead out to the sea.
We reached the shore: around rocks, birds and rocks with bizarre faces. Right on the shore you can see a crawling giant. I counted 13 faces, one fish and a sheep.
There are stone arches in the water, seagulls around, a beach with fine pebbles and shells. After a walk along the shore you can climb up one of the rocks and walk along the trail – an unreal view opens up. The main thing is to remember about the bears and not to go through the forest to the car, it is better to walk back down the rocks. In the evening there can be a tide, and you will have to go by water in some places. This is a special place with its own energy, it impressed me a lot.