The Koryaksky Autonomous Area is located on the northern Kamchatka Peninsula, occupying about 60% of its territory, as well as the adjoining part of the mainland and Karaginsky Island. It has coastlines on the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk. The area belongs to the Far Eastern Federal District; its center is the village of Palana. Administratively, it is divided into four districts: Karaginsky with its center in the village of Ossora, Olyutorsky (village of Tilichiki), Penzhinsky (village of Kamenskoe), and Tilgilsky (village of Tigil). The region borders on Kamchatka Region in the south, Magadan Region in the northwest, and Chukotka Autonomous Area in the north. The Koryak Autonomous Area is one Russia's most northerly and least populated territories.
The Koryak (elevations up to 2562 m) and Kolyma mountains are located within the area, and the Middle (Sredinny) Range extends through the southern part. The climate is subarctic, with average January temperatures of -24°C to -26°C and average July temperatures of +10°C to +14°C. The vegetation consists of lowland moss and lichen, mountain tundra, and cedar-alder dwarf forest communities.
The Koryaksky Autonomous Area has an area of 301 500 km2 (1.8% of the RF). More than 30 nationalities live here. Native Koryaks make up 16.4% of the population, Russians- 62%; Ukrainians- 7.2%, Chukchis- 3.6% and other.
The origin of the Koryaks is still uncertain. The first information on them came from S.I. Dezhnev's expedition in the mid-17th century. Koryak settlements have been discovered in northwest Kamchatka and on the Okhotsk and Bering Sea coasts. At that time, the Koryak tribes lived in large patriarchal family communities made up of close relatives in the paternal line. The oldest man was the head of the community. Koryak tribes were divided by their type of activity into nomads (native name chav`chu, "reindeer herders") and settled groups (native name nymyl"o, "residents" or "settlers"), which included several isolated groups: Karagins (karan`ynyl"o), Alyutors (alutal"u), Parens (poityl"o), Kamens (vaikynel"o), and others.
The settled Koryaks inhabited the east and west coasts of Kamchatka near Penzhina Bay and the Taigonos Peninsula. Their settlements consisted of either a community of several related families or production associations (for example, canoe associations that used a common canoe) whose core was a large patriarchal family. Other relatives involved in the trade were grouped around it. The main activities of the settled Koryaks were gathering, land hunting, and especially whale and walrus hunting on the sea. However, by the end of the 19th century, hunting of these animals ended because of American whalers, and fishing began to play the primary role in the economy. With the arrival of civilized people, the Koryaks learned how to use firearms, which made hunting somewhat easier. Reindeer herding became widespread in the 19th century. The Koryaks acquired reindeer in exchange for goods obtained from Russian traders (metal tools, food products, and ready-made goods) and marine mammal products. The latter, along with reindeer and dog skins, were extensively used to make Koryak clothing and canoes. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Koryaks began trading with Americans who had their storehouses and other facilities on lands occupied by the local people.
The nomadic tribes roamed throughout the interior districts of Kamchatka and the adjoining mainland. Their main occupation was large-scale reindeer herding. A single tribe would have 400-2000 head of reindeer. In addition, they hunted animals for furs. A nomad camp also consisted of a community of families, whose chief owned most of the reindeer herd. The camp's economy and social life were under his authority. All members of the community were related to one another, and their bonds were supported by ancient traditions and rites.
The nature of the north is unique, and one of humanity's most important tasks today is to preserve this wild and beautiful nature in its primeval state. The Koryak Preserve, which includes the territory of Olyutorsky and Penzhinsky districts, was recently established in the Koryak Autonomous Area. Its plant and animal life is rich and varied. The Govena Peninsula abounds with sable, foxes, weasels, snow sheep, and brown bears. Parapolsky Vale (Dol), with its unique water and bog environment, is a habitat and flyover for waterfowl and also has one of the world's largest moose populations. Coastal waters teem with commercial fish like salmon, navaga (a member of the cod family), and herring, as well as marine mammals.
The tundra's most important resource is Iceland moss, the primary food of reindeer. Cedar and alder dwarf forests are common throughout the area, stone birch grows on the west coast of Kamchatka, and sparse stands of deciduous forest are found along the upper Penzhina River. Most of the Koryak Autonomous Area is mountainous (Koryak and Kolyma ranges) with an average elevation of 1000 m; the highest point is Ice (Ledyanaya) Mountain (2562 m). Lowland areas occur only along the coast. The Penzhina is the longest river (713 km); there are also many lakes and bogs in the valleys.
The Koryak Autonomous Area is situated in the forest tundra zone. Mountain tundra soils predominate in mountainous areas, and podzolic and boggy soils, in lowland areas.
The northern Kamchatka Penisula is poorly known; therefore, the only mineral resources being produced are brown coal in Korf and mercury ore on Cape Olyutorsk.
The culture of the Koryak area attracts interest with its rich, centuries-old traditions. It developed over many years and became increasingly diversified through the influence of various nationalities.
There are six museums in the Koryak Autonomous Area with 8200 exhibits. Since fishing is the area's main industry, the museums have many old examples of fishing gear. There is also a large collection of national costumes.
Twenty-nine libraries with a stock of 475 000 volumes operate in the area, although this stock has decreased 0.6% in recent years.
The area's cultural fund includes a concert organization, 29 clubs, and 10 children's music and art schools.
A vacation in the Koryaksky Autonomous Area is full of variety, in spite of the climatic conditions. This is a remote territory of wild mountains and river valleys, crystal-clear lakes, and beautiful volcanoes. With the approach of the warm season, this marvelous natural area is taken over by thousands of tourists wanting to experience the exotic. Hikes to volcanoes and hot springs, rafting on mountain rivers, and hunting and fishing attract tourists from around the world. Much of the area is mountainous, which has led to rapid development of alpine skiing. Ski areas are located on the highest hills; the best centers are Moroznaya, Krasnaya Sopka, and Edelweiss. The longest slope is at Moroznaya (2100 m), and the highest is at Edelweiss (800 m); it is illuminated after dark. The gradient of the runs varies from 20 to 30°. There are also runs for novices and ski instructors. There are many activities for those who simply want to relax instead of skiing. Tourists can swim in natural therapeutic waters from hot springs. This kind of bathing has restorative and beneficial effects on the human organism. Excursions to the Valley of the Geysers are available to anyone interested. Geysers are one of nature's most interesting objects. They are unique and beautiful creations found in only a few places on earth, e.g., Iceland, New Zealand, and Yellowstone National Park in the US. There are more than 40 geysers in the valley, the largest being Velikan. For those who love primeval nature, the territory offers great opportunities for enjoying virgin wilderness. The area's environment has undergone many formation cycles, making it unique. It formed under difficult climatic conditions, and so it is very different from other parts of Siberia and the Far East.
The area has distinctive vegetation, especially herbaceous plants, which are typically very large in comparison with other Russian regions. The stems sometimes reach heights of three or more meters. Some of them are edible and tasty. The region has a wide variety of wild berries, most of them edible. The berries here are larger than their counterparts in Siberia.
The wildlife is typical of the tundra: sable, fox, ermine, and bears. Many tourists come to hunt in the Koryak forests. Here you can hunt bears, Koryak snow sheep, moose, caribou, and musk deer. Hunters regard the snow sheep as the finest trophy, with horns that can reach lengths of 80 to 100 cm. For those who prefer more dangerous hunting, tour companies can arrange bear hunts; individual bears sometimes reach a weight of 600 kg. However, this kind of hunting is more than just of sporting interest or a chase after trophies; it is also about romanticism, since while tracking an animal hunters live in tents and cook over a campfire. Many tourists take a vacation in this remote part of Russia solely for this purpose. Tour companies also offer fishing trips of the Bystraya and Plotnikova rivers. There are few places in Russia where you can catch fish like Koryak fish.