Famous for its drifting sea ice and rich flora and fauna, Shiretoko peninsula stands dignified at the easternmost side of Japanese island Hokkaido. The word Shiretoko is derived from the Ainu word sir etok, which literally means ‘the end of the earth’ thus justifying the essence of its protruding precipice. The cliff-end of the Shiretoko peninsula overlooks the sea of Okhotsk, making it seem like the end of the world. The geographical boundary of Shiretoko peninsula goes from the central part of the peninsula to the tip, i.e. Shiretoko cape. It also includes the marine area. It is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the southwest side and sea of Okhotsk on the northwest side. By Swastika Mukhopadhyay

Shiretoko earned its position in the list consisting of UNESCO world heritage sites in 2005 owing to the formation of sea ice at the most unique location. The sea ice usually forms at the Arctic and Antarctic regions due to the freezing of sea water. Shiretoko came into the spotlight at being the southernmost area in the northern hemisphere where the sea ice can be spotted. It is also identified by its rich marine and terrestrial ecosystems also featuring a number of endangered species.

Three Hidden Gems

The sea ice is usually visible during the winter months starting from January to early April. The sea ice drifts across the sea of Okhotsk by late January. People who are interested in viewing the sea ice can participate in various tours from Utoro. One of the most enjoyable tours is the ice walk tour in which the tourist get the opportunity to explore the sea ice more closely by putting on dry suits and walking on the ice. Of course, all of these take place under the strict supervision of the tour guides.

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Apart from the acclaimed sea ice, one of the most astonishing tourist spots is the Furepe waterfall. This waterfall falls down the steep cliff of Shiretoko peninsula into the sea of Okhotsk. What makes this waterfall stand out is its water source. There is no river or any kind of surface water system leading to the waterfall. The waterfall is fueled by the groundwater present at the top of the waterfall.

Shiretoko pass is a must-visit for tourists who enjoy scenic views. This pass connects the eastern coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula with Utoro. Travellers can relax their eyes with beautiful views of the Rausu mountains, Shiretoko’s highest mountain and as well as the Kunashiri island situated across the Nemuro Strait.

All of the above-mentioned places can be visited from Utoro, which acts as a base point for all these tours. Since all the attraction points lie along the western coast, it is easily accessible from Utoro.

How to get there?

Shiretoko can be reached via air, rail and as well as roadways. Travellers from India can reach Shiretoko by flight. The nearest domestic airport is the Memanbetsu Airport with direct flights from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Sapporo. The airport lies about 100 km west of the Shiretoko National Park. If you travelling by rail, the nearest station is JR Shiretoko Shari station. Shiretoko can also be reached via rental cars from Utoro. Public service modes stand inconvenient.

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