Bordering China on one side and the Sea of Okhotsk on the other the Russian State of Primorye harbours the largest area of pristine habitats in the Russian Far East. The diversity is also exceptionally high for the latitude due to the influence of the north-south aligned Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range that provides a barrier between the coast and the Amur lowlands. The Sikhote-Alin is perhaps best known for being the home of the last population of Siberian Tigers (no…. we won’t see one!) but it ought also be known for its achingly beautiful scenery, for its exceptionally diverse forests, and also for some truly lovely flowers.
By Blagodatnoe Lake we’ll see the voluptuous pink pouches of Cypripedium macranthos and another Ladies Slipper, the European Cypripedium calceolus. The lakeshore is home to lovely pink Pogonia japonica, drifts of Iris ensata, and meadows covered in the tessellated purple bells of Fritillaria ussuriensis. We’ll visit high moorlands above the Tiger’s domain where nestling in the rocks are alpines such as Smelowskia inopinata, some very fine forms of Rhodiola rosea, and the creamy spikes of Orostachys paradoxa. The gorgeous white shot with pink blooms of Rhododendron fauriei light up the slopes. The rocky outcrops have both Cassiope redowskii and Cassiope ericoides decorating them with crowds of little white bells and there’s also the Arctous alpine, the Alpine Bearberry. Mats of Diapensia obovata are joined by blue Polemonium schizanthum and the lovely yellow valerian Patrinia rupestris. Gorgeous white Eranthis stellata blooms soon after the snows melt but we should still find this beauty at the highest altitudes growing with Caltha membranacea and the large yellow flowers of Adonis amurensis. Inside the forests we’ll find Calypso bulbosa to be much commoner than in its European stations and we’ll also see Cephalanthera longibracteata. Creamy masses of foam-flowered Sorbaria rhoifolia will vie for our attention with two Peonies, Paeonia lactiflora and Paeonia obovata, and lilies such as Lilium cernuum and delicate Lilium pumilum. Mats of sky-blue Corydalis fumariifolia and yellow Hylomecon vernalis make a spectacular sight under the only just fresh green canopies of the higher woodlands. Lower down we’ll find impressive purple Corydalis gigantea, brilliant butter-yellow Corydalis ochotensis, and the hanging purple and white blooms of Atragene ochotensis. There’s also a superb range of Viola species. Among several species of Maianthemum, Streptopus, Smilacina and Polygonatum we’ll find the chocolate bells of Fritillaria camschatcensis. The Sikhote-Alin has many orchids species both familiar and unfamiliar. Alongside Musk Orchids and Frog Orchids we’ll find Listera yatabei, the eastern Birdsnest Orchid Neottia papilligera, and the simply gorgeous little Galearis cyclochila. There are stands of ivory Platanthera hologlottis, elegant green Platanthera maximowicziana, and the Aleutian Bog Orchid Platanthera tipuloides.
The forests, meadows, hills and coasts of Vladivostok’s beautiful hinterland harbour many a botanical gem. We’ll seek lovely Asarum sieboldii, the lily of the valley Convallaria keiskei, clumps of yellow Corydalis speciosa and the unusual pastel shades of Cypripedium shanxiense. Mixing with the parent plants Cypripedium calceolus and Cypripedium macranthon is a stunning population of the naturally occurring hybrid Cypripedium x ventricosum, the pouches ranging from lavender to brownish, the sepals purple to brown striped.
Forests of Acer ginnala flame scarlet in the autumn but now they are home to Cobra Lilies such as the elegant Arisaema peninsulae and impressive Arisaema robustum, Anemonidium dichotomum and Anemonoides udensis, Paris manshurica and Trillium rhombifolium-komarovii. Deutzia glabrata and Philadelphus tenuifolius bloom with a mix of other Acer species and we’ll soon delight in seeing both Magnolia obovata and Magnolia sieboldii in flower. The diversity in the woodlands of the Kedrowaja-Pad Nature Reserve and the Ussuriyskiye-Gosudarstvennyy Prirodnyy National Park is in part explained by the finger of warm humid continental climate that stretches north to this part (though winters are anything but!) and by the alignment of landforms. Here amongst Tilia taquetii, various Betulas, Corylus and Juglans, Abies and all sorts of Piceas and Pinus species we’ll find beautiful flowering shrubs such as Weigela praecox, Syringa wolfii, Viburnum sargentii, Armeniaca manschurica and various Euonymus species. The stands of Rhododendron japonicum and Rhododendron smirnovii can be sensational if the colour clashes are not too much for you! Other notable species will be Pulsatilla dahurica, Dictamnus dasycarpus, Primula patens, Aquilegia oxysepala, Lilium buschianum, Hemerocallis minor and both Iris laevigata and Iris sanguinea.
On mystical Sakhalin Island meadows are covered in a pink mist from endemic Primula sachalinensis. This intriguing island has the feel of Siberia but somehow reminds one of a Baltic Island, perhaps a consequence of the long coastline. Coastal habitats are diverse and often relatively untouched for the human population on the island is low. We’ll be able to see Lilium debile flowering in the dunes on the western capes. Forests are home to a range of fine orchids such as Dactylostalix ringens, Neottianthe cucullata and endemic Ephippianthus sachalinensis, a beautiful orchid with leaves not unlike a Paris! Other botanical gems we’ll encounter include Lilium penssylvannicum, Hemerocallis middendorffii, Lonicera chamissoi, a range of Polygonatum species, and the Palamino Ladies Slipper, Cypripedium yatabeanum, one of a number of plants also found across the Bering Strait in Alaska.
Flowers. Also Wilderness Landscapes.
Ian Green, and local botanists
Mostly easy, with walks of between two and six miles in a day, but with a couple of days of moderate walks of up to eight miles. Most of the walking is along trails but sometimes it is across wilderness terrain where the ground may be uneven and there will be occasional steep sections.
Included in the Price
All flights. Accommodation, transport, meals and tips in Russia. Services of your leaders. Please note: the Russian Visa, alcoholic drinks at the hotels and items of a personal nature including travel insurance are not included.
Minimum group size is 4 and the maximum is 15.
In Vladivostok we have 4 nights at the excellent Hotel Bay Garden. This 4 star hotel is set on a low hill overlooking Amurskiy Bay and out to the ‘almost-island’ of Peschanyy. In the Sikhote-Alin Reserve we’ll be staying in a rather pleasant cottage in forest on the edge of the small village by the entrance to the reserve. The log-built cottage has nice light airy rooms each for one or two people. There’s a hot shower and WCs though these are not en-suite, so facilities are shared here. Breakfasts and dinners are served in the cottage dining room. There’s a night back in Vladivostok at the end of the main tour. On the extension to Sakhalin we’ve 4 nights in the Santa Resort Hotel in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. This hotel has excellent Japanese and Russian restaurants and is right by Gargarin Park on one side and the forested mountain of Gorny Vozduh on the other. We’ve also two nights staying in cottages in the Poronayskiy Region before returning to Vladivostok and the Hotel Bay Garden for the final night of the tour. Single accommodation is available throughout. En suite showers and WCs are available in the hotels but not when staying in the cottages in the Sikhote-Alin and in the Poronayskiy Region. In those areas we will have shared facilities.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow via Moscow to Vladivostok. We’ll have internal return flights from Vladivostok to Terney (a small plane, just us) and also Vladivostok to Sakhalin return on the extension. indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Generally warm with some rain. Temperatures in Vladivostok will be around the 20°C mark but can be 5°C-6°C or more either side of this depending on whether the weather is sunny or rainy. Night temperatures are a pleasant 12°C or 13°C. It is a degree or two cooler in the Sikhote-Alin and on Sakhalin. Rain is the main feature. Summers in the region are warm and relatively wet though perhaps less wet than say the UK. You can expect rain on average perhaps every second or third day and it can sometimes be heavy and prolonged and sometimes just a passing shower.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Flower, mammal and bird checklists are available.