Anavgay, located halfway up the Kamchatka Peninsula, is a small village of the indigenous Even people who migrated here from Yakutia, arriving at the spot where they founded Anavgay only 150 years ago. They chose the spot because of its hot springs, which to this day heat the entire village. The only way to get cold water in Anavgay is from snow, rain or ice. Its 600 inhabitants live mostly by hunting, fishing and herding reindeer and horses in the surrounding mountains, forested valleys and tundra.

Mountain pass scenery near indigenous Even village of Anavgay, Kamchatka, Russia

Mountain pass scenery near Anavgay

A bus leaves Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky every day at 7 or 8am for Esso, the end of the permanent road north and about 30 minutes further than Anavgay. A bus leaves Esso every day at the same time for Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It costs around 1000 roubles one way. Despite the fact that it is only 500km it takes 10 hours due to the poor condition of the road, which is mostly dirt track. About an hour before Anavgay (when coming from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) the road forks, the left fork leading to Anavgay and the right fork to Klyuchi, site of Eurasia’s largest active volcano.

From Anavgay zimniki (temporary winter roads made of compacted snow or frozen river surfaces) lead to Ust-Khayryuzovo on Kamchatka‘s west coast and north 36 hours to the otherwise isolated town of Palana. From Palana yet more zimniki lead further north to the very last settlements of the peninsula, from which there are VERY irregular snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle connections with Magadan Oblast and Chukotka.

Esso is larger than Anavgay with a population of 5,000. A lot of Russians live there too though, while Anavgay is mostly Even. Both have hot springs. Esso has a few guest houses and they can even organise snowmobile / dog sled / horseback trips out to the village’s reindeer herders, whose herds are much bigger than those of Anavgay.

Anavgay has less infrastructure, although there is one guest house which can organise similar trips to those described above in Esso.

Both settlements have dance troupes of traditional Even song and dance. Near Anavgay local people have also set up a reindeer herders encampment especially to display their culture to tourists. In short, both places are “off the beaten track”, not “off the unbeaten track”.

You could however use these places as bases to get SERIOUSLY off the unbeaten track. One way would be to hitch hike with vehicles heading to isolated settlements along the zimniki that begin at Anavgay. You could also hitch a lift with an all-terrain vehicle in summer or, as I did, with indigenous hunters and fisherman going out into the mountains and tundra on snowmobiles. You will see snowmobiles and the enormous, tank-like all-terrain vehicles sitting on Anavgay’s streets.

Click here for my blog about Anavgay and my time with its hunters, fishermen and reindeer herders. It’s 5566 words and 24 photos.

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