30 Best Sights of Sakhalin – description and photos


Sakhalin is Russia’s largest island, separated by the Tatar Strait from the eastern part of the Asian coast and washed by the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan. A treasure trove of natural resources that has been a bone of contention between the two powers for decades, a place that has sheltered thousands of political exiles and convicts, an island with unique flora and fauna – all this is beautiful and controversial Sakhalin.

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History of Sakhalin Island

Sakhalin has not always been separated from the mainland. At the dawn of civilization, the water level in the world’s oceans was steadily lowering, resulting in so-called “bridges” in the strait. Presumably, it is on them and moved the first people (about 300 thousand years ago). During the Middle Ages, the Nivkhs and Ainu, small peoples who permanently migrated between the island and the Asian part of the continent, were the main Sakhalin dwellers. Later they were joined by Tungus-speaking tribes. The name “Sakhalin” itself appeared due to a geographical mistake. Through an oversight, the Manchu name of the Amur River – Sahallian-Ullah – was correlated with the territory of the island. By the way, literal translation of the word is “Rocks of the Black River”.

Approximately until the 50s of the 19th century, Sakhalin Island was ruled by China. However, officially the territory did not belong to the Celestial Empire. In 1855 the governments of Japan and Russia concluded the Treaty of Shimoda, under which both countries declared Sakhalin to be a joint possession. However, 20 years later Russia annexed the island in exchange for the northern Kurils. But the joy of expanding ownership was short-lived. After losing the Russo-Japanese campaign, the southern part of the island went back to the Land of the Rising Sun. The final decision about Sakhalin’s destiny came only after WWII, when Russia fully regained the island, and with it the Kurils, which it had lost.

Kamchatka crab and red caviar Starfish caught near Moneron Island

Economy and population

Just under 500,000 people live on Sakhalin, of whom roughly 200,000 are from the regional capital, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The vast majority of the population is Russian, although there are also Koreans and people from former Soviet republics. On the other hand, there are very few representatives of indigenous peoples: only 1% of the total number.

The region’s economy is not evenly developed, which makes the standard of living different in different parts of Sakhalin. For example, the northern part of the island, including Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, subsists on oil production, while the remote and western areas, where production has stopped since the fall of the Soviet Union, have to literally struggle for survival. Ultimately, unemployment and a low standard of living led most residents of Sakhalin’s periphery to turn to poaching. Illegal hunting of wild animals and barbaric methods of caviar mining are slowly but surely causing irreparable damage to the nature of the great island…

Climate and Nature

When going on a trip to Sakhalin, it is better to be prepared for weather surprises beforehand. Because the island’s climate is temperate and monsoon, the weather here is not stable. The local snowy and frosty winters are actively “helped” by atmospheric whirlwinds that bring with them severe storms. Spring is long and cold, while summer is relatively warm, but short and often rainy. Another weather problem on Sakhalin is frequent and unpredictable cyclones that bring devastating typhoons and floods.

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Winter on Sakhalin Snowstorm Snow clearing The forest near Lake Tunaycha

Sakhalin is an island with a unique ecosystem that has formed in a certain isolation. The terrain is formed by small mountains, low mountains and, to a lesser extent, lowland plains, with two-thirds of the territory occupied by taiga. By the way, there is no shortage of fresh water on Sakhalin: 17 rivers and over 16 thousand lakes supply abundant life-giving water to flora and fauna of the island. In spite of the fact that flora and fauna of Sakhalin is a bit poorer in comparison with the mainland or the nearest Japanese island Hokkaido, it has something to surprise wildlife lovers. About 136 species of animals and almost 133 species of local plants are included in the Red Book. In addition, here you can find endemic (growing or living only in a particular place) representatives of fauna and flora.

Sakhalin has become a true paradise for fans of fishing and hunting. Abundance of fish and game in the local forests and reservoirs is difficult to describe in words. The Sakhalin taiga is also rich in mushrooms and berries. To gather a tasty “tribute” one does not need to go deep into the impassable wilds. You can find cowberries, bilberries, cranberries and cranberries almost under every bush. However, it is not completely reasonable to travel to the other end of the country just for the gifts of the forest, especially since the natural riches of the island are not limited to berries and fish places. There are also thermal springs, bathing in which is able to get rid of chronic diseases, and fabulous, filled with stalactite crystals, caves, and places of standing of ancient man. True, it should be noted that most of the local entertainment will suit those who are easy on the rise and ready to show at least minimal physical activity. Rafting, windsurfing, mountain skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, alpinism and paragliding, descending into the mountain caves and unforgettable bike rides – this is not a complete list of activities that Sakhalin is ready to offer to fans of active lifestyle.

Fishing on Sakhalin

Sightseeing on Sakhalin

The main and most valuable attraction of Sakhalin is its amazing nature. People usually come here not for the high-quality European service and glamorous sights, but for the delightful atmosphere of absolute unity with nature, outdoor activities and an amazing sense of freedom.


The most convenient and correct way to explore Sakhalin’s wildlife is in the local nature reserves, the most interesting of which is the Vostochny State Nature Reserve. You can get here only with a special permit issued by the Department of Forests, but the red tape with a pass more than pays for itself with the experience of the visit. It is here that it is possible to see such a rare phenomenon for the island as dark coniferous taiga, watch pink salmon, chum salmon and coho salmon spawning and take pictures of clumsy sea lions resting on the coastal rocks. To get acquainted with the Sakhalin Siberian grouse and reindeer, it is better to go to the “Nogliksky” sanctuary. On autumn there are reindeer races, so if your visit to the island coincides with the autumn season, do not miss the opportunity to visit this unusual event. Well, the most interesting place to watch the bird “bazaars” is the Poronaysky Nature Reserve, which occupies the eastern part of Sakhalin and the Terpeniya Peninsula.

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Brown bear in the Vostochny State Nature Reserve The cliffs on the coast of the Vostochny reserve


Infernal vents filled with lava splashing in all directions – this is not about Sakhalin volcanoes. Here the craters spew out… earth mixed with water. Pugachevsky and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk mud volcanoes even have a nontrivial appearance. Correct circles, devoid of vegetation and dotted with miniature “pores” of craters, resemble cosmic landscapes from a sci-fi blockbuster. By the way, the last big outburst from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk volcano took place in 2011, and as a result, a new mud field was formed in its vicinity.

Thermal springs

Sakhalin nature not only pleases the eye, but also heals the body. If you find yourself on the island, be sure to swim in the Sinegorsk mineral springs, because the water with such a unique composition is found only on Sakhalin and in Adler. Today there are 4 mineral wells working in the Sinegorsk field, the water from which is used for drinking, as well as for treating diseases of the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.

On the northeast of Sakhalin Island, in the Nogliki District there is another unusual place – the Daginskie thermal springs, which are funnel-shaped depressions in the muddy soil. Healing water with high content of alkali and silicic acid and temperature up to +40. +At the same time, it is used for the treatment of infertility and joint diseases. Once there was a hydropathic spa on the surrounding territory, but then the place gradually fell into disrepair. Today only a modest house for changing clothes reminds of the former glory of the natural health resort. However, the springs have not become less healing since then, and the place is still popular among locals and tourists alike.


One of the largest lakes on Sakhalin Island is Tunaicha. Located near the village of Okhotskoye, this beautiful body of water is famous for the fact that it is home to about 29 species of fish. Besides, it is in Tunaycha where Sakhalin salmon comes to spawn. Commercial fishing is officially prohibited here, but from August to September amateurs are allowed to sit on the shores of the lake with a fishing rod.

Those who like a more secluded setting should book a tour of the South Ridge, where the fabulous Spamberg Mountains lakes are lost in a scenic plateau. The 18 purest bodies of water, born from rock falls, have their own partially isolated ecosystem. This part of the plateau is also famous for the fact that numerous springs and waterfalls of Sakhalin region come from here. Here you may also find the main waterfall of the island – Shuisky.

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Lake Tunaicha Lakes of Spamberg Mountain Shuisky waterfall


Sakhalin is one of the most successful places for beginner speleologists. One should start the acquaintance with the local caves from Vaida Mountain. There are a lot of fantastic multilevel dungeons, decorated with bizarre sinter formations. A tangled network of wells, underground passages, and chambers of Vaida is of medium difficulty level, so you should hardly complain about mediocrity and monotony of the tour during speleotour. No less experience will bring a trip to the cave of the Bear Tragedies. This gloomy stone hall, which became a kind of cemetery of bear’s remains, sticks in your memory for a long time. Some time ago, during archaeological excavations, ancient cult objects and tools of the first people were found here.

Moneron Island

At 43 kilometers from Sakhalin, in the Tatar Strait, is Moneron Island. Today these lands are empty, although the first settlers appeared there in the first millennium B.C. For some time, the island belonged to the Japanese, who seriously deteriorated its ecology, destroying most of the coniferous forest. A reminder of this era is a lighthouse left here in memory of Japanese colonization. Today Moneron has the status of a nature park and is actively visited by travelers. About 37 species of plants, listed in the Red Book, grow on the island, but among tourists Moneron is better known as the place of bird “bazaars”, as well as rookeries of sea lions and seals.

Hunters and fishermen

Several camping sites are at the disposal of tourists who come to Sakhalin to sit with a fishing rod and shoot local game. As a rule these are hotel-type cabins situated in especially picturesque and at the same time hard-to-reach parts of the island. You often have to get to them by special vehicles, but it is not an obstacle for real adventurers. “Upper”, “Moguchi”, “Lower” – each of the bases offers a similar range of services, including fishing, hunting, Russian bath and other “brutal” pleasures. Hunting trophies you can get in special farms. For example, the hunting clan farm “Geyeva” in the settlement of Nogliki offers its guests to “go” to see a bear or an elk. Fifty kilometers from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk there is the Okhotskoye farm, where anyone can shoot hares and ducks and try to catch chum salmon, humpback salmon or taimen.

Alpine skiers

On the outskirts of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is located the main ski trail on the island – the tourist complex “Mountain Air. You can vacation here with the whole family and at any time of year, but the maximum number of guests the base gathers exactly in the winter months. Skiing, snowboarding, tubing – for each sport there is a kind of equipped slopes with a total length of 10 km. Sports equipment rent is available on the territory of the complex, besides, all camp slopes are equipped with special elevators. In summer it is common to come here to fly a paraglider or rent a bike for a walk around the area.

Mountain Air Tourist Complex.

Unusual places of Sakhalin

Mineral springs, volcanoes, ski slopes – all this is certainly interesting, but not quite original. If you are one of those who crave for unusual sights, welcome to Krasnogorsk yew forest. There is no other place in the world, where such a green massif, consisting of centenary yew trees, can be found. You can have a lot of positive emotions and take great pictures on the Tyulenii Island, where the biggest rookery of sea mammals is located. Fans of anomalous places, covered with mystical legends, should have a look at the Frog Island. And you can taste the delicious gifts of the Sakhalin nature on the Uspenovsky cranberryberry-growing grounds. This vast treeless space, covered with a carpet of berries, will appear in your dreams for a long time.

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Seal Island A little seal with his mother


Despite the fact that Sakhalin is commonly considered a land of nature tourism, some cultural attractions are also available here. Connoisseurs of painting will be interested in visiting the exposition of the art museum, which is located on Lenin Street in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Learn about history, as well as flora and fauna of the island at the local history museum, located in a colorful Japanese house on Kommunistichesky Avenue. If you come with children, be sure to set aside time to visit the zoobotanical park, where you can see the rare and endangered species of local animals. Museum of Sakhalin railroad’s history offers its guests an interesting and informative tour, where you may see rare examples of railway machinery.

How to get there

You can reach Sakhalin relatively quickly and comfortably by plane. The Russian company Aeroflot has several direct flights from Moscow to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. A standard flight usually takes 8 to 9 hours. An option for those who are not looking for easy ways is the Vanino-Kholmsk ferry. To get to the port of Vanino (Khabarovsk Territory), you must buy a train ticket in advance on the route: Moscow-Khabarovsk or Moscow-Vladivostok (trip takes 5 to 6 days). It is better to get from the Khabarovsk railway station to Vanino by cab. The last leg of the trip is getting on a ferry and a 14-hour voyage through Tatarsky Strait.

Sightseeing in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Sakhalin Island Zeleny Island Kunashir Island Iturup Island Tikhaya Bay Krenitsyn Volcano Airport Khomutovo Island Urup

This site contains Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk attractions – photos, descriptions and travel tips. The list is based on popular travel guides and presented by type, name and rating. Here you’ll find answers to questions: what to see in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, where to go and where are the popular and interesting places in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

Sakhalin Island

Sakhalin Island (photo)

Sakhalin Island is not only the largest island in Russia, but also one of the most beautiful natural attractions on earth. It is situated off the eastern coast of Asia and is washed by the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Spruce-fir and stone-birch forests grow on the island, where you can see light and dark conifers, Myra fir, tree yew, Mangolian oaks, evergreen Kuril bamboo and other strikingly beautiful plants. Among animals inhabiting the island there are bears, wolverines, reindeer, lynxes, flying squirrels, ermines, weasels, but the sea is especially rich here – during salmon spawning tourists from all over the world come to see this spectacle.

On the island you can also visit the museums of the region, where you can learn a lot of interesting things about the indigenous peoples of the island, about the history and organization of their life, as well as the unique Museum of Railway Equipment. Part of its collection is represented by working machinery and is located under the open sky.

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Coordinates: 51.12421300,142.94677600

Green Island

Zeleny island (photo)

Zeleny Island is a part of the Lesser Kuril Islands. It is a part of the Yuzhno-Kurilsk district of the Sakhalin region of Russia. Japan disputes its belonging to Russia, including the island in its Nemuro sub-prefecture.

Zeleny was discovered in 1739. It was found by a detachment of the Second Kamchatka Expedition led by M. Shpanberg, a captain of the third rank. The name of the island came from its appearance.

The area of the territory is 51 square kilometers, the maximum height – 24 meters. The surface is flat, covered with grassy vegetation and marshy.

Polonsky Strait separates Zeleny Island from Polonsky Island, which is 11 kilometers northeastward, Tanfiliev Strait – from Tanfiliev Island, which is 11.5 kilometers southwestward, and Voyekov Strait – from Yuri Island, which is 1.5 kilometers southwestward. The Demina Islands are located 5 kilometers to the south.

Zelenyi Island is uninhabited, with an uninhabited settlement of the same name. This territory is part of the state nature reserve “Malye Kuryly”.

Coordinates: 43.50037900,146.13334200

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Kunashir Island

Kunashir island (photo)

Kunashir is the southernmost island of the Big Kuril Island chain. It belongs to the Yuzhno-Kurilsky urban district of Russia’s Sakhalin region. Japan disputes its belonging to Russia, attributing the island to the district of Nemuro, Hokkaido.

The name “Kunashir” translates as “black island. The reason is that the island has four active volcanoes: Tyatya, Rurui, Golovnin and Mendeleeva.

The area of the territory is 1,490 square kilometers, length from north-east to south-west – 123 kilometers, the highest point – volcano Tyatya – 1,819 meters, population – 8,000 people (for 2007).

The island’s rivers are low-water and short, and the lakes are caldera and lagoonal. There are hot springs of volcanic origin. In 1984, the State Nature Reserve “Kurilsk” was created on the island, which is home to 84 species of animals, already included in the Red Book of Russia.

The island has a monsoon climate and is influenced by the surrounding waters – the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk. Winter and summer are much warmer here than on the Pacific coast.

Kunashir has rich fauna. It is home to such mammals as the brown bear, weasel, sable, Shikotan vole, Japanese mouse, sable and many others. A large number of birds nest on the island.

The area is filled with coniferous forests of Glen, Ayan spruce, and Sakhalin fir, and in the southern part there are broadleaf forests of maples, slender-billed oak, lobate elm, and woody lianas.

The island is provided with heat thanks to the Mendeleevskaya geothermal power plant. The main industry is the extraction of fish and its processing.

Coordinates : 44.08333300,145.98333300

You can see sights in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk by photo mode only.

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