The 20 main sights of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
Sakhalin is the true edge of the world, the place where the mighty Pacific Ocean dominates, crashing powerful waves against the coastal cliffs. Incredibly picturesque and remote island attracts adventurers who are not afraid of difficulties and lack of civilization, but appreciate the beauty of wildlife and solitude.
At first glance, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is a typical, unremarkable city with Soviet-era architecture and a lack of significant historical landmarks, but on the other hand, it is a real mix of cultures, traditions, and dialects. You will find a lot of people here: Japanese, Koreans, Americans, Russians. For exoticism is better to go to the local market, where you can buy seafood delicacies and experience the atmosphere of the lively port.
What to see and where to go in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk?
The most interesting and beautiful places to walk. Photos and a brief description.
Local History Museum
Looking at the building of the local history museum, the question arises – what is it: the palace of a Japanese nobleman or still a place where exhibitions are displayed? This is not surprising, since it was built in 1937 in the traditional teikan-zukuri style, typical of the Land of the Rising Sun at a time when Sakhalin was under the jurisdiction of the Japanese authorities. The museum’s exhibits are quite diverse, and during the tour you can learn about the nature, history of indigenous peoples, culture and development of the region.
A ski resort and sports complex that, according to one version, has existed since the time of Karafuto Prefecture (1905-45). Even then there were skiing and ski jumping competitions were held here. In Soviet times Mountain Air also hosted sports competitions, and tourists from the Soviet republics came here. After its decay in the 1990s and reconstruction in the 2000s the resort has become one of the most modern in Russia.
The central town square with its characteristic scenery: the monument to Lenin, administrative buildings, railway station, fountain and paving stones. During holidays, it becomes the main venue for festivities and all sorts of events. On weekends, it is visited by citizens and foreign tourists as part of sightseeing tours. In summer, the square is quite a pleasant and picturesque place.
The square is a memorial complex erected in honor of the liberation of Sakhalin from the Japanese invaders in 1945. It was built in the 1980s. The ensemble includes a monument to Marshal A. M. Vasilevsky, two sculptural groups depicting a soldier and sailors, a stele “Eternal Glory to the Heroes”, the Eternal Flame, the Walk of Fame with 14 busts of heroes and a memorial in honor of soldiers killed during the Afghan and Chechen wars. There are also examples of military equipment on the square.
Victory Memorial Complex
The complex opened in 2016 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Victory. It is a square and the building of the cultural and educational center, where on 3 floors there are historical exhibitions devoted to the Russian-Japanese and Great Patriotic Wars, a conference hall and a cinema. The square is situated next to the temple being under construction, which will also become a part of the memorial complex in the future.
Museum of railway equipment
The museum was opened in 2004 on the territory of the House of Culture of railway workers. Its exposition covers the period from the beginning of the XX century, when the construction of railways began on Sakhalin. Visitors can see models of railroad cars, cross-sections of rails, various instruments and equipment used to organize traffic, uniforms of machinists and station duty officers. Under the open sky is placed real railway equipment.
In the Sakhalin region the City Art Gallery is the only museum of this kind. In addition, it is quite young (it was founded in the 1980s). There are temporary vernissages on the first floor of the museum, and permanent ones on the second floor: “Russian Art of the XIX – beginning of the XX century”, “Applied and Decorative Art of Japan”, “Modern Art of Korea”.
Museum of A. P. Chekhov’s book “Sakhalin Island”.
The museum is dedicated to a specific event – the trip of Anton Chekhov to Sakhalin in 1890, which resulted in his writing an entire book. But contrary to expectations, its collection is quite diverse: paintings, graphics, documents, photographs, coins, articles of arts and crafts. There are even personal belongings of Chekhov’s family and various items that belonged to the exiles (Sakhalin was a penal island in the 19th century).
Chekhov Theatre Center
The main drama theater on the island, formed in the 1930s. It was named after the writer in 1954. In addition to plays, it organizes a storm of theatrical activities: festivals, creative laboratories, various cultural projects, competitions. The repertoire is dominated by plays by contemporary authors, although there are also classical productions. There is also an interesting program for children.
Sakhalin Puppet Theater
The theater was founded in 1981 by a team of enthusiasts. At first performances were held in the rented premises of a sports club, until 2011 the stage shared space with a pension center, then it moved to a new building. The theater often plays host to groups from Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major Russian cities, as well as from abroad. On the basis of the Sakhalin Puppet Theater the festival “On the Islands of Miracles” is held.
Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ
The city’s new cathedral, erected in 2015 to replace the old one, which because of its small size could not accommodate all comers. The cathedral was created in the Novgorod style: five domes placed on the quad and facades ending in symmetrical arches. The building was built of Indian red marble and granite, as well as plain white marble. The exterior walls are decorated with mosaics created in Jerusalem.
Holy Resurrection Cathedral
The first cathedral in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, built in the 1990s. For a long time no Christian churches were built on Sakhalin, since the beginning of the 20th century the island belonged to Japan, and from 1945 it became part of the USSR, which zealously fought against religion. The rebirth of church construction on Sakhalin happened in the 1990s. Much of the money for the construction was donated by the townspeople.
Sakhalin Zoobotanical Park
One of the biggest zoos on the Far East. It was founded in 1993. It is home to more than 170 species of animals (500 specimens), of which dozens are included in the Red Books of Russia and the world. The rarest representatives of fauna: the Ussuri bear, African lion, vulture turtle, raccoon dog, Amur tiger, Far Eastern leopard and other rare and endangered species.
The city park grew out of a small garden that existed in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in 1906. Naturally, it was designed in the Japanese style with a characteristic harmonious combination of natural space, plenty of water, and landscape design elements. After Sakhalin’s incorporation into the Soviet Union, the area was modernized, adding rides, a dance floor, and areas for sports. In 1981, the park was nearly destroyed by Typhoon Willis; it was later rebuilt from the ruins.
Chekhov Peak is over 1000 meters high and is one of the highest on the island. During the Japanese domination, a temple house was built on top, which is still there today. A hiking trail leads up the mountain, in some places equipped with ropes and marked with signs. The slopes of the peak are home to rare animals, here and there are thickets of bamboo and dwarf birch.
Frog Island is a natural place of power of the island, where the representatives of the indigenous people of the Ainu made their mysterious rituals. It is located about 20 km from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk near the village of Vestochka. The frog is included in the list of the “Seven Wonders of Sakhalin,” it is considered to be the local “good gin. The river Ayichka flows nearby. People believe that its waters have medicinal properties.
Natural reservoir with pure clear water, the second largest on the island. This is a unique natural monument and a place of attraction for fishing enthusiasts (the lake is home to about 30 commercial fish species, including valuable salmon species). In the summertime lush greenery blooms around, in early autumn the shores of the lake ripen with a rich crop of berries. Tunaicha is connected to the Sea of Okhotsk through a narrow strait.
One of the most beautiful places on the coast, which is covered with green grass coastal cliffs. On the edge of the cape, the nature created fanciful stone arches, which are beloved by screeching gulls. Near the cliff is a narrow strip of sandy beach. If you manage to get here in July and August, you can witness an amazing natural phenomenon – the spawning of Pacific salmon.
Cape Krillion is the southernmost point of Sakhalin, named after a French general. It is rather difficult to get here off-road, but the magnificent nature is worth it. The cape rarely has good weather, as the cold currents of the Sea of Okhotsk and the warm currents of the Tatar Strait join here. Rare visitors are greeted by stormy winds and rain, which really makes this place feel like the real edge of the Earth.
Cape and Aniva Lighthouse
The narrow and rocky Cape Aniva is located in the southeastern part of Sakhalin. It resembles a huge stone ship, struggling to navigate the raging waters of the Pacific Ocean. In the 1930s, under the guidance of a Japanese architect, a lighthouse was built on the rocks to somehow reduce the number of shipwrecks. A little later, a settlement appeared nearby. The site and the settlement are now abandoned.
Complete the article, describe your impression of the city (country) or a particular landmark.
What to see on Sakhalin for the first time? Island Guide
Our regular contributor, athlete and traveler Laura tells you how to plan a trip to Sakhalin and what to see around it.
What to look out for when planning?
Moscow – Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The flight time is 8 hours. The regular flights from Moscow are operated by Aeroflot and Rossiya. The ticket price in September is 24-26 thousand rubles there and back, in summer during the season the prices are two or three times higher.
September is a good month to visit the island. It is better not to rely on the Internet forecast. The weather can be changeable: it can be cloudy in the morning, then the sun comes out of the clouds, in one part of the island – gray with rain, in the other – sunny.
I was very lucky, I caught Indian summer on the island, the last days of my trip was warm as summer. Only one day it was promised a storm with wind increasing to 35-40 meters per second, but it turned out – it rained the whole day, a few trees fell.
Standard kit – sneakers, hiking boots, down jacket Uniqlo, windbreaker The North Face, and a swimsuit! I flew in a jeans jacket – it was warm.
Every trip to Sakhalin starts here. It was founded in 1882 as a convict settlement called Vladimirovka. From 1905 to 1945 was part of Japan under the name Toyohara. In 1946 it was renamed Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
What to do in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk?
Walk around the best ski resort in the Far East – “Mountain Air”. According to secret information, the second “Rosa Khutor” will be made here, and it is now being actively developed. The ski complex, by the way, is used as a training base for our athletes. “Mountain air” is practically in the center of the city, you have to go all the way down Victory Avenue and find yourself at the foot of the mountain. There are two turns of ropeways, and the length of the tracks is 25 kilometers. The price for the elevator is 300 rubles out of season, the rates can be found here.
Address: Gorny Air St., Lit. B, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Website: ski-gv.ru
Visit the Museum of Local Lore of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Located in a building made in the traditions of Japanese architecture. You can see the whole history of Sakhalin in one museum: from the real life of Sakhalin’s people at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries to historical documents and other artifacts. You may also be interested in the military collection where a Russian cannon from 1867 and a Japanese cannon from 1930s stand out.
Address: 29 Kommunistichesky Ave. Website: sakhalinmuseum.ru
Spend the whole day in SPAradise. The first Korean spa complex on Sakhalin. The area is divided into women’s, men’s and general area. You will be given a kimono when you come to the reception, and you can buy slippers and other bath accessories for an extra fee.
SPAradise is separate areas for men and women with five types of pools, dry and wet steam, and infrared baths. There is peeling and massage.
There is a common area too, there are oxygen, salt rooms and a room with charcoal. There is a restaurant.
Entrance fee: 1 000 rubles, payment by cash only. Address: TK “Panorama Alpha”, 14 Emelyanova St. Website: panorama65.ru
To see the sunset. This is best done from the ski jump (Bolshevik Mountain, Altaysky lane, the road to the hotel is on the right; the place is called the DSYUSH for ski jumping). We walked through the woods, climbed over the fence and ducked into the bushes under the cameras, climbed to the ski jump – and we had a view of the whole city in front of us. As we made our way down to the road, we found a couple more holes in the fence.
Cafes and Restaurants
Special attention should be paid to the food – in addition to the obvious seafood, Korean and Japanese food is very popular here.
Breakfasts: Yummy – coffee, sandwiches and desserts. Mangosix – a cafe with excellent apple tea and fresh pastries.
Lunch and dinner: Japanese: the new Hokkaido, the traditional Furusato, or the Nihon Mitai sushi bar. Korean: Pak Degam, where you have to fry your own meat, just like in Korean eateries, and drink Korean rice vodka, soju. “Bermuda Triangle” – go for a big portion of fish soup and homemade cheesecake with blueberries. It’s just like the capital on the weekend: you’ll have to make reservations in advance.
You can go to Harat’s Irish Pub to dance or listen to music.
What to bring from Sakhalin?
Caviar, local seaweed marmalade, seashells and stones instead of magnets. You can buy caviar at the market “Success” (Sakhalinskaya Street, 71), the prices are very different – 1,300-2,500 rubles per 500 grams, haggling is not liked here. It is better to buy through acquaintances from hand, about 2 500 rubles per kilogram. Do not put it off until the last day and take more. No matter how much you bring, it won’t be enough!
Frog Mountain and Aikhore Waterfall
Frog Mountain got its name because its outline resembles a frog sitting on a hill. It is considered the energy center of Sakhalin.
The best way to get here is to take a bus to the Vestochka stop and then walk the Sakhalin Frog Nature Trail along the river.
The Far Eastern forest is very different from the suburbs of Moscow or the Caucasus: it has a special smell, it smells of freshness and mint tea with lemon.
This place is surrounded by mystical stories. It is believed that the Frog fulfills wishes. There is a belief that every rock, hill, stream, and place has its own spirits. There are informational signs along the trail telling about this place, and there are pyramids of rocks all along the trail.
On the rock you will see the magnificent panoramas of Aniva Bay, Lake Tunaycha and Changed. Here you have to make a wish. “Live each day as if you were climbing a mountain, and a fleeting glimpse of the top would serve as a reminder of your purpose!” – the phrase on the sign will help. Going is best on weekdays, weekends are very crowded.
If you have time, you can continue the route and reach the eight-meter Aichor waterfall, which is located northeast of the Frog on a tributary of the Komissarovka River. One of the Vestochka eco-trails leads to the waterfall. The way to the waterfall is not complicated, all the crossings are equipped with suspended and wooden bridges. On the Komissarovka itself there are also several rapids, one of the most notable is called “Two Sisters”.
EAST. Quiet Cove, crabs and sunset on the sea
I saw this place on my Instagram feed and immediately fell in love with it. The first place we went was this very cove.
On the way to Tihuya we stopped in the village Vzmorye, there is a market along the road. Two huge Kamchatka crabs at the grannies will cost 3,000-3,500 rubles.
We drove up to Tihaya at sunset, walked along the sea and climbed Bold Peak. The entire ascent took 30 minutes, and we had a wonderful view of the Sea of Okhotsk on the one hand and the setting sun behind the hills on the other.
It takes about two hours to get to the bay from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk by car. You will need scissors to cut the crab.
On the same side further down the road is another place to visit – the Zhdanko Ridge, a picturesque mountain range of volcanic origin, north of Tomari and the village of Tikhaya.
The Zhdanko Ridge is a 13-kilometer long ridge in eastern Sakhalin Island. According to Instagram statistics, it is one of the most popular places in the entire region.
There are two points of ascent to the peak: from the south side, from the Tichoi Bay, the most difficult, and from the north side, from the railway station Tsapko.
I advise the second option, it will take a little effort and you will be able to enjoy the unusual scenery. To climb from the south side, you need to be a climber and have the equipment to climb to the top. From Tsapko in good weather you can walk the entire ridge and climb to Zhdanko Peak itself. The best view opens up not from the highest point, but on the way to the peak, if you go with Tsapko. When you reach the very top of the ridge, you will see precipices and endless sea from both sides.
You can get there by car, the distance from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is 150 kilometers, an asphalt road leads to the foot.
The road from Starodubsky to Vzmorye village offers a gorgeous view, the road runs along the sea; if there was a low tide, you can drive out onto the sand and drive along the shore. There are Japanese remains in Vzmorje itself – the tall concrete Torii Gate – another good place to take pictures.
I recommend that you take your trekking shoes, wind protection – a windbreaker, a pouch for picking lingonberries and berries, and a speaker for a brisk climb.
WEST. Sapsurfing in the Sea of Japan, shooting stars and hedgehogs for breakfast
For the weekend, we left with tents for the Sea of Japan. Picturesque views followed us all the way, in the village at the house with the inscription on the fence “Shrimp” stopped and bought from a colorful woman two kilograms for 2 000 rubles.
Volcanic sand, salty Japanese sea, riding on sapas at sunset, a campfire on the beach, an amazingly low and very starry sky, sleeping in a tent to the sound of the surf – priceless, definitely the best weekend of this September. It was here that I had my first taste of local delicacies – trumpetfish and sea urchin.
SOUTH. Fishermen, surfers and rock faces
The way ahead is to Okhotsk. To get to the settlement is very easy, you have to take bus #174 which leaves from the bus station at 08:30 and 10:30, the price is 64 rubles, in less than an hour you will be at the sea. There are fishermen, and if you’re lucky and svelte, surfers. Have a picnic on the beach, sit on the sand and take a break from the hustle and bustle – the perfect place to meditate. It smells like the real sea here!
The biggest lake on Sakhalin – Tunaicha, with a sandy beach and tourist base in the forest – is 20 minutes on foot from the sea. We followed the road on foot and it turned out that bears are very common there. Good thing I found out about it after our walk. The locals said that if you encounter a bear (healthy and without cubs), you should just stand there and do nothing, nothing. Gladly, the “see a bear and die” item was not on my list.
Surfing on the island
Surfing on Sakhalin island is a young phenomenon and we are just starting to get acquainted with this culture. With very little experience behind us we have formed a definite picture of surfing. We live on an island and we are surrounded by water, it gives us a lot of opportunities to choose a spot and find the best waves. We have discovered many different spots (reef, beach break, point break), and six of them are already marked on MSW.
On the east side of the Sea of Okhotsk (Pacific side) spots (Bus Station, Lesnoye, Trudniy, Tikhaya Bay) work very well in spring and fall – you can say these are the seasons for the east coast, you can feel the ocean energy here, sometimes come big waves of two or three meters with a good period – 10-12 seconds.
In the west (mainland side strait) a cyclone forms in the Sea of Japan, passes through Vladivostok and meets our coast. The most popular spots are Yablochnoe (Kholmsk town) and Alibi (Nevelsk town). This coast works all year round, there is no ice on this side in winter, and in summer the water gets warm, so you can surf in shorts for a couple of hours – it’s very rare.
The water in the seas is cool, and we mostly use 5-4-3 millimeter wetsuits all season.
All the spots are reached by their own transportation. The nearest spot is Bus Station in Okhotsk, 30 minutes drive from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, there is a regular bus. To get to the other spots it will take at least an hour and a half or two hours by car.
Having experience in teaching adults and children snowboarding and skateboarding we have started a new project – Islanders Surf School – and now we are glad to help people to get acquainted with the sea, the ocean, to catch their first wave and to help them to buy their own equipment. We see feedback and a great desire to learn to surf here – it’s very satisfying.
We organize different lectures and parties on surfing, and in October we organized surfing competitions in two disciplines: longboard and shortboard. Read more about the competitions at Sakhalin.info.
We went surfing at Lesnoe surf spot after the storm. What makes Sakhalin unique is that the nature here is completely wild. Miles of sandy beach and endless sea and not a single soul in sight. The guys were surfing, catching fish with their hands, and I was collecting shells. After the storm, tons of scallops came ashore, which the local fishermen collected at night. But we were lucky too, we found two huge tentacles of octopus and scallops on the shore and made a great dinner in the evening.
After sea meditation in Okhotsk, we went to Cape Velikan. How to get there: from Okhotsk drive more 22 km by the seashore, chasing seagulls, to the former outpost “Svobodnaya”, then turn to the south – the road is country road, and only a jeep will pass. Approximately in 16 kilometers there is a sign – a stone with an inscription “The Giant”, the road is one, it is impossible to get lost, and it will lead out to the sea.
We reached the shore: around rocks, birds and rocks with bizarre faces. Right on the shore you can see a crawling giant. I counted 13 faces, one fish and a sheep.
There are stone arches in the water, seagulls around, a beach with fine pebbles and shells. After a walk along the shore you can climb up one of the rocks and walk along the trail – an unreal view opens up. The main thing is to remember about the bears and not to walk through the forest to the car, it is better to walk back down the rocks. In the evening there can be a tide, and you will have to go by water in some places. This is a special place with its own energy, it strongly impressed me.