Iturup Island. The Southern Kurils, Russia#
16 July 2021
with kind permission of AirPano
Having done a good job on Sakhalin, the AirPano team went to the Southern Kuriles. The flight from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Iturup takes only an hour and a half, and there is also a ferry going to this place: quite comfortable and all-weather means of transport, so getting there is not a problem.
Iturup is the largest island of the Great Kuril Ridge. It stretches from the northeast to the southwest for 200 kilometres, the maximum width is 27 kilometres, the length of the coastline is more than 580 kilometres, and the total area is 3,174.71 km².
The island is known for its volcanoes, fumaroles and other objects that nature has created. Its picturesque coastal landscape, represented by bays, rock formations, capes and cliffs of the most incredible shapes, is best viewed from the water. And therefore the Kuriles cannot do without the help of local travel agencies: you can't take a boat with you from Moscow! In addition, it is difficult to get to many interesting points on land as there are simply no roads!
When planning the expedition, we wanted to see and take pictures of one of the most famous sights and the landmark of Iturup, White Rocks on the Sea of Okhotsk coast, and we succeeded! Bizarre ridges cut by canyons consist of pumice and porous volcanic glass, and the strip near the water is covered with mixed sand: white quartz and black titanium-magnetite. This dark grey sand looks very unusual against the background of light rocks. The hills rising up to 185 meters stretch for 28 kilometres and their beauty can in many respects be compared favourably with the world's most famous natural attractions.
Nearby there is Tornaya Bay: it's where the seals have settled. Another beautiful bay is named Golden: its shores are covered with yellow clay, and it shines brightly in the sun. Wind, water and time have created sea stacks here — unusual volcanic sculptures of various shapes. Bear's paw, Comb, Camel — these are the names given by people to some of them for having familiar outlines. And the genuine landmark is a huge arch.
And another beautiful bay in this part of the island is Parusnaya, where you can see an amazing stone grotto, as well as a local "celebrity": a waterfall called Maiden's Tears. You can go behind its water stream and admire the ocean from there.
Iceland is famous for scenes like this, but it turns out that in Russia the similar places can be found: they are not well known, but this virtual tour by AirPano should fill the gap.
But Iturup is just interesting for being very diverse! One of the most incredible places is the Yankito lava plateau, where time seems to have stopped millennia ago. Piles of bizarre peaked rocks were formed from multi-coloured volcanic lava and solidified when touched by the sea.
Iturup also has active volcanoes: Baransky volcano, for example, being 1,125 meters high. The last eruption took place in 1951, but the thermal activity has not stopped, and at its foot, there is a river with the self-explanatory name Kipyaschaya (Russian for "boiling"). Its water is so hot that you can boil eggs in it! The river flows out of the small and boiling lake called Blue Eyes. Its water contains sulfuric acid in high concentrations, so this beauty is deceiving: swimming is dangerous.
No wonder that this unusual warmth has created its own microclimate and its own ecosystem. Strange and flattened pines grow around the volcano: the shape of the crown resembles one of the trees of the African savannah.
And of course, this natural activity can be used for the benefit of humans! In the area of Baransky volcano, hot thermal springs gush from fumarole fields, and the AirPano team was pleased to visit the thermal complex where you can take hot baths. But the fact is that you will not be offered a guaranteed temperature regime here: the water heats up and cools down depending on the "mood" of the volcano: it can be both +40 °C and +60 °C! There are also thermal complexes "Baths" and "Hot Waters" where visitors themselves can regulate the water temperature in the baths.
All landscapes of Iturup are beautiful at any time of the day, but especially at sunrise and sunset. We were lucky to capture them at the most advantageous time thanks to the Adrenaline Tour company and the photographer Victoria Rogotneva. And this journey with AirPano is intended to illustrate how beautiful the nature of this part of Russia is: you should definitely visit this place on your own!