Kurils/Kunashir: Hiking to Golovnin Volcano Caldera

There are four volcanoes on the Kunashir Island and all are active. Golovnin Volcano is the southernmost and has the largest caldera. It’s an 8km one-way hike through a stunning terrain where you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere! And that’s because you are! The trail goes up to the caldera ridge, rising about 600ft and then descends down into the caldera with a vertical loss of about 600ft – so it’s not an easy slog. But the scenery is stunning – you are hiking in Kurils Nature Preserve – a strictly protected biosphere with unique flora and fauna, over 850 species of vascular plants have been identified here. Fields of creeping bamboo (an endemic species) covers most of the ground, rare spruce and fur trees create isolated forest patches. And when you raise your eyes toward the horizon – there are three other towering volcanoes. And this is bear territory! We came across absolutely fresh tracks of several bears (supposedly they were just feet away in the bushes probably more scared of us then we were scared of them – with salmon run going on strong, the bears are focused on the fish and couldn’t care less for humans).