West Coast’s Sole Direct Flights to Russia’s Far East to Resume Summer 2022, by Rene Limeres

The development of robust business and cultural ties between the West Coast U.S. and Russia’s Far East has been an unrealized dream since the early days of Glasnost. Though officially open to exchange since the late 1980s, and lying but a mere few hours by air from Anchorage, Alaska, Russia’s Far East and all its many wonders remains as much an unknown and untrodden frontier to most folks as it was during the Cold War. For reasons mostly political, the flow of business, travelers and ideas between America’s most prosperous, upwardly mobile region and the eastern provinces of the world’s largest country has been stymied, most noticeable in the lack of reliable air travel linking the two regions.

Kamchatka-open-market

Open market in Kamchatka, Russia. Photo: Rene Limeres

Flights to The Russian Far East

Initially serviced by Aeroflot and then Alaska Airlines, the West Coast connection to Russia’s Far East fell through in the 1990s, with small regional carriers like Reeve Aleutian and Magadan Airlines scrambling but unable to sustain service. Yakutia Airlines entered the scene in 2012, offering direct weekly flights from Anchorage to the fabled Kamchatka Peninsula during the height of the tourist season, with onward service to Yakutsk, capital of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia’s largest region. The carrier’s planned schedule allows for convenient, same-day connections at Kamchatka via other carriers to destinations throughout Russia. With a smart fleet of new Boeing 737-700 jetliners and upgraded flight service, Yakutia received overwhelming positive response from adventure and business travelers and enjoyed a steady yearly rise in business from both Americans and Russians.

Kamchatka-Floating-Pymta-River

Float fishing the Pytma River in southerm Kamchatka. Photo Courtesy: Rene Limeres

Until the Covid-19 crisis put the skids on international travel. Especially hard hit by the pandemic, Russia had to shut down almost all non-essential travel to and from its major hubs, essentially shuttering Yakutia’s Alaska to Russia connection for two years. But now that Moscow has resumed the issuance of tourist visas to Americans, and with hopes that the US will follow suit for Russians citizens, Yakutia Airlines plans to renew its weekly non-stop flights from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka this summer. The Covid crisis and current icy U.S. – Russia relations not withstanding, the airline remains cautiously optimistic, with marketing director Mark Dudley hoping pent up demand for travel between the two countries will be strong enough to fill seats for the period they will be flying.

Esso Hot Springs. Photo Courtesy: Rene Limeres

Kamchatka: Outdoor Adventure Destination

Yakutia’s direct Alaska-Russia air service provides quick access to the fabulous Kamchatka Peninsula, one of the world’s last great places for undistilled outdoor adventure. With world class fly fishing for trophy rainbow trout and salmon, 29 active volcanoes, numerous hot springs and geysers and UNESCO World Heritage Nature Preserves, Kamchatka is at the top of the list for nature and outdoors enthusiasts seeking the ultimate experience far off the beaten path. And with Yakutia’s convenient flight schedule, you can leave Anchorage in early morning and be in Russia with a full day ahead to enjoy your chosen activities, be it fishing, volcano trekking, whitewater rafting, wildlife viewing, sea kayaking, mountain biking, horseback riding or what-have-you.

Photo of Mutnovsky Volcano, Courtesy of Rene Limeres

Khabarovsk and Primorye Regions: Tiger, Taimen and the Trans-Siberian Railroad

Travelers taking the Yakutia Airlines flight can readily connect at Petropavlovsk to the mainland Russian Far East cities of Yakutsk, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok. Khabarovsk (population 600,000), on the shores of the Amur River, is the gateway to the immense, biologically rich Primorye and Khabarovsk regions (land of the Amur tiger and mythical Siberian taimen, largest trout in the world) and an important hub on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway.

Siberian-Taimen

Photo: Siberian taimen, courtesy of Rene Limeres.

Republic of Sakha (Yakutia): Russia’s Untouched Wilderness

Those who seek the most remote and untrammeled travel adventures will want to continue on to the Siberian outpost of Yakutsk (population 300,000), capital of the Sakha Republic and sister city of Fairbanks, Alaska. Situated on the immense lower Lena River, this far-flung province has the most extreme climate in all the inhabited world, along with some of the greatest untouched wilderness on the planet. Mammoth museums, remote river tours, diamond mines, native festivals and underground permafrost laboratories await the adventurous there. The coastal city of Vladivostok (population 600,000) is a vibrant culture center hosting affiliates of the Hermitage Museum and the Mariinsky Theater, as well as museums commemorating the region’s rich history.

Lena Pillars Nature Park near Yakutsk is included in UNESCO World Heritage list. Photo Courtesy: Yakutia Airlines

For more information on Yakutia Airlines and the great locations they service, including recommended wildlife, cultural, fishing and scientific tours, check out www.AirRussia.US or call 206-443-1614.
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