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Is this the most magical cave in the world?

By Kate Baklitskaya
07 April 2013

Keep this to yourself, but one of the last great undiscovered travel secrets on our planet is the Land of Fire and Ice.

This magical spot is located some 70km south of the regional capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. For now this giant is calm, but it has erupted 15 times in the past century, and the steaming and hissing fumaroles as you venture towards this ice cave tell us that it is not even pretending to be dormant. Picture: Denis Budkov

On the eastern edge of Russia's great Siberian land mass, this peninsula is a place where the earth literally does move for those adventurers who go the extra thousand (well, probably a few thousand)  miles to visit. 

The primeval landscapes of this region of Kamchatka are sculpted by 29 active volcanoes and 450 glaciers, creating breathtaking and unique scenery.

One of the real jewels here are the ice caves of Mutnovsky volcano captured in these sensational pictures by Denis Budkov, a local guide and photographer, and Natalia Balentsova, a photographer from Chelyabisnk. 

This is no Disneyesque play on lights. This is nature's very own show, the sun gleaming in vivid colours though the ice walls of a giant igloo carved in the glacial ice not by the hand of man but the work of an underground river sourced in a volcanic hot spring. 

'Mutnovsky volcano is the heart of Kamchatka', said Denis. 

'This heart is literally beating and you can feel it while the earth is slightly moving under your feet'.

Mutnovsky volcano caves


Mutnovsky volcano caves


Mutnovsky volcano caves

This is no Disneyesque play on lights. This is nature's very own show, the sun gleaming in vivid colours though the ice walls of a giant igloo carved in the glacial ice not by the hand of man but the work of an underground river sourced in a volcanic hot spring. Pictures: Denis Budkov

Kamchatka is like a living geology lesson. Nothing stays the same for long.

Elsewhere landscapes take tens of thousands of years to evolve, here if you stand and watch you can behold it with your own eye as you feel the awesome rumbling from below.

'We found the cave by chance in September 2012', he said. 'It was not far away from a volcanologists' hut. 

'I was taking some photographers for a tour and we saw a spring running from under the glacier. We came closer and saw that there was a hole so we went into this extraordinary cave.'

The photographers were mesmerised by the vision they encountered. Some have called it surreal but it is entirely real though it seems like a scene from a children's fantastical fairytale, more so when the visitors light flares to illuminate more this magical ice palace.

Natalia, for example, worked for several hours recording what she saw. 

One of her pictures 'Treasures of Dwarfs' won the competition 'Russian Wild Nature 2012', and you can see why.

Mutnovsky volcano caves

Natalia worked for several hours recording what she saw.  This picture won the competition 'Russian Wild Nature 2012' - and you can see why. Picture: Natalia Balentsova

'Outside, the glacier was very dirty and grey,' she said. 'But inside, everything was different. The snow was melting, and the light passed through the thin walls, reflecting a surprisingly bright colours'.

Even in summer, though, it does not melt completely. 

The walls and ceilings of this frozen Xanadu are made of four layers of compacted snow with the gurgling river running through the cave, the light glinting in through windows made of ice. 

'It's hard to find such places without a guide', said Denis. 'Even me, being an experienced guide, didn't know about this cave as it is off the usual routes I  normally take. Plus at the moment, it is impossible to get there as we have a metre and a half of snow covering everything. I'm not sure if it will even melt during the summer. So maybe the people who want to see the cave will have to wait until next year'.

Visitors here report the ice groaning above as the giant glacier melts and menacingly nudges its position.

Mutnovsky volcano caves


Mutnovsky volcano caves


Mutnovsky volcano caves

Inside, everything was different - the snow was melting, and the light passed through the thin walls, reflecting a surprisingly bright colours. Pictures: Denis Budkov

This magical spot is located some 70km south of the regional capital of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

For now this 'giant' is calm, but it has erupted 15 times in the past century, and the steaming and hissing fumaroles as you venture towards this ice cave tell us that it is not even pretending to be dormant. 

Those acquainted with this place say the land is literally breathing, belching dangerous gases out, reeking of sulphur. 

So if you're ready for such an adventure, book now with a reputable travel agent (but, remember, don't tell too many of your friends, keep Kamchatka, and especially Mutnovsky, a closely-guarded secret).

Comments (5)

What a wonderful creation that God has wrought! Just cannot express in words how beautiful this land is. Once again I have missed out on seeing this wonderful land in my earlier years of travel. And I thought Kyiv was Europe's best kept secret when I visited my paternal family!!!! Obviously the beauty of His Hand is slowly being revealed - what an awesome God we serve!!!

Visiting my maternal family in Dnepropetrovsk I was nicknamed "Сибірка" - now I know why. I have learned so much of this land through stories and especially the Siberian Times - thank you so much for igniting the passion and my envy!!!!

God bless you all.
Valentyna, Perth, Scotland
13/04/2013 12:18
7
Stunning!
Rita, Ohio, USA
11/04/2013 06:45
6
i could not believe the beauty and wonder in the pictures and enjoyed reading the article too. Nature such a fantastic thing , evolution in the making magical
Amanda Davies, Neath , South WALES
08/04/2013 14:49
0
WOW.......
Mao Oliver-Semenov, Krasnoyarsk
08/04/2013 08:33
9
WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Joan, Australia
07/04/2013 19:57
9
1

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