A lookout over the top of Fort No. 5 toward the Amur Bay.

Vladivostok Fort No. 5
Unofficial Destination (Ruins)
No security or facilities – enter at own risk

Vladivostok has a ring of hills to the north which acts as a natural wall for the peninsula. But what nature has made, man has improved. During the early 20th century, when threat of Japanese invasion was a real concern, the Tsarist and later Soviet governments put considerable time and money toward ensuring a strong defense for the city. Each of the main northern hilltops houses a fort with a commanding view of its surrounds.

These forts were not the kind with towers and broad walls though. These were modern forts, built into the hills rather than on top of them. Deep tunnels provided safety from the bombs and artillery, and the only things visible from the outside were a few squat, concrete structures.

A modified map showing the northern fortress defensive line in red and Fort No. 5 circled in blue. Image slightly modified from wikimedia.org

A map from 1916, modified to clearly show the northern fortress defensive line in red and Fort No. 5 circled in blue.
Image slightly modified from wikimedia.org

Today, a few of Vladivostok’s forts have been turned into museums, but the rest have been abandoned completely. Abandoned forts make for great exploration, so I jumped at the chance when one of my hiking buddies here asked if I wanted to come along on a weekend excursion. From the bus stop, it took about an hour and a half of hiking to reach the hilltop. After we had a bite of lunch, we switched on our flashlights and descended into the fort’s dark tunnels. Although Fort Number 5 is a fairly popular hiking destination, there is nothing in the way of safety precautions inside. A good flashlight is a must and not the kind that comes on a cell phone. Broken pieces of concrete, sharp debris, broken stairs, patches of ice, and even random 15-foot-deep holes in the ground are all common in the tunnels. Although I don’t think that they are extensive enough to get truly lost, having a friend who knows something of the layout is certainly helpful.

We spent another hour and a half or so underground and explored most of the nooks and passages. Unfortunately, my photos of the interior did not turn out very well, but it has the general ambiance of a horror movie, which is another very good reason to go with a friend. After emerging from the deep, we were greeted with splendid views of the northern countryside and the Amur Bay already beginning its long winter freeze.

Our full trip took 6-8 hours. It’s the perfect length of time for a weekend excursion to see one of Vladivostok’s more unique sights, and still have time to hit the city center once it gets dark.

How to get there:

Reaching Fort No. 5 from VSUES is actually fairly simple. From the Гоголя bus stop, just hop on board bus number 40 until the end of the line at Завод Варяг. After departing the bus, walk to the right on a short road between the apartment buildings. This turns into a dirt path heading into the forest. Keep to the right on this path, which will begin to loop around the construction site (at the time of writing) for a new hospital. The destination will be the Де Фриз- Патрокл- О. Русский, which is one of the main highways linking Vladivostok with the rest of Primorsky Krai. The only way to cross this highway is via the overpass, which conveniently happens to be the road leading to Fort No. 5. Follow this road up the hill for approximately 1 mile and look for a smaller trail on the left which goes to the fort. I’ve marked the route, from the bus stop to the fort, on Google Maps for convenience.

Jonathan Rainey

Jonathan Rainey

Jonathan Rainey majored in History and English at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. While at Francis Marion, he was a member of Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honors Society and worked as a reporter for The Patriot, the university's newspaper. Jonathan will be serving as an SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar in Vladivostok for the 2015-2016 school year. He is pictured here at Vladivostok's annual celebration of "Tiger Day."

Jonathan is attending Home and Abroad: Security
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