• Tufted puffins, Arctic Russia

Itinerary Summary

27 Days
Aug - Sep
Russian High Arctic
Small Group Safari
Duration Price When Destination Type
27 Days £17145 Aug - Sep Russian High Arctic Small Group Safari
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Northeast Passage, Wrangel Island & Franz Josef Land

A magnificent expedition to the top of the world in search of polar bears. Experience destinations most people will never have heard of, as you learn the history of this magnificently wild part of the world.

Journey through the Northeast Passage, a lesser travelled route through the Russian High Arctic. Here you can watch for beautiful polar bears hunting on lush tundra, watch Arctic foxes hunting birds, and watch whales from the deck of the ship. With just 48 passengers, your ship will get you into smaller coves and fjords not accessible by larger ships. You’ll marvel at the isolation you’ll feel standing on islands that are about as far from civilisation as it’s possible to be. 


What makes this trip extraordinary

  • Truly a geographical odyssey with only a handful of passenger vessels ever having completed a transit of this waterway.
  • Enjoying the dramatic scenery and incredible wildlife of Russia
  • Tracing the route of legendary Arctic explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiold
  • Visiting Wrangel Island and Franz Josef Land which have large concentrations of polar bears
  • Exploring bird cliffs where colonies number in their thousands
  • Watching for bowhead, beluga and narwhal whales from the bow of the ship
  • Venturing ashore on some of the last known and seldom visited islands, the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago
  • Enjoying lectures by expert naturalists
  • Sailing the mythical waters of Chukchi, East Siberian, Laptev, Kara & Barents Sea

Embedded Video Overview

A magnificent 27 day expedition to the top of the world in search of polar bears

from £17,145 per person excluding international flights

Day by day

Day by day

Day 1

Arrive Murmansk

Murmansk is home to Russia’s icebreaker fleet and has featured as a strategically important port throughout the history of Russia. Here you will embark the Akademik Shokalskiy and depart on your voyage. Once sailing there will be introductions to both the ship and her crew.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (D)

Days 2-3

Barents Sea

The Barents Sea was named in honour of Dutch seafarer and navigator, Willem Barents, who explored this region on expeditions in 1594 and 1596. As the ship moves southwards opportunities to spot humpback whales and harp seals that feed in these waters increase.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Days 4-6

Franz Josef Land

This huge archipelago of 192 islands, which is located just 10 degrees from the North Pole, offers plenty of locations to explore. Due to its close proximity to the permanent ice of the Arctic Ocean and its accessibility to the rich waters of the Atlantic, these waters have a diverse range of marine life. Additionally, these islands have a fascinating history of exploration, scientific research and habituation.

Planned landings include Cape Triest on Alger Island, where the famous ‘Devil’s Marbles’ dot the landscape, Cape Flora on Northbrook Island, where the remains of three historic expeditions are found in close proximity. If conditions allow it is also hoped that you will visit Tikhaya Bay and Hooker Island, known for the number of guillemots and kittwakes, which can be seen on the remarkable cliffs of Rubini Rock. If the chance arises, a landing at Cape Tegetthoff is planned. Here there is a healthy population of polar bear and there is a good chance of sighting beluga and bowhead whales.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Days 7-8

Kara Sea

Due to it lying between Novaya Zemlaya, Franz Josef Land and the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago, the Kara Sea is often considered to be the coldest sea in Russia. Ostrov Vize is along the route to Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago and weather conditions permitting, the expedition aims to make a landing here.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Days 9-11

Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago

The Severnaya Zemlya Islands are situated on the border of the Kara and Laptev Seas, and are an extension of the Taymyr Peninsula. These islands were only discovered in 1914/15 and the three largest islands are heavily glaciated with deep fjords and majestic tidewater glaciers that regularly calve icebergs. It is hoped that you will have the opportunity to visit a colony of ivory gulls (weather permitting).

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Days 12-13

Laptev Sea

The Laptev Sea is bounded by the Taymyr Peninsula with the Severnaya Islands to the west and the Novosibirskie Islands to the east. Over these few days you will explore the Taymyr Peninsula, and look out for haulouts of the Laptev Sea walrus, which can only be found in this area. In addition, muskox are resident to this area and you may spot the lesser known Taymyr form of herring gull.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Days 14-15

Noviye Sebirskiye (New Siberia Islands)

These islands consist of three major groups: Southern, Central (Anzhu) and Northern (De Long), and mark the border between the Laptev and East Siberian Seas. You will spend two days exploring this remarkable yet seldom visited archipelago. If weather conditions permit then visits to all three island groups, each home to their own unique geology and landscapes, are planned.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 16

East Siberian Sea

It was in the East Siberian Sea that Jeanette, captained by George Washington De Long became stuck and was crushed by ice in 1879. It was the wreckage from the Jeanette, found in Greenland in 1884, that gave Nansen the idea for the now famous 1893-96 Fram Expedition.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 17

Medvezhyi Islands (Bear Islands)

Today is the chance to explore the little known and seldom visited Medvezhyi Islands, otherwise referred to as Bear Islands. This group of five islands has a sizeable population of polar bear dens on their shores over winter. Completing a landing on the island of Chetyrekhstolbovoy affords the opportunity to hike to the unusual rock ‘pillows’, which the island takes its name from. On Pushkareva Island you will have the chance to investigate the old lighthouse and enjoy the Arctic flowers that cover this expansive area during the brief summer.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 18

Ayon Island

Ayon Island is home to the Chukchi people, who make their living through herding and hunting reindeer. Today you will be treated to the hospitality of the local community and learn more about their way of life on this remote island.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 19

East Siberian Sea

The East Siberian Sea is defined by the Novosibirskie Islands in the west and Wrangel Island to the east. Along its southern shores are three of Siberia’s major rivers: the Indigirka, Alazaya and Kolyma. During today’s journey keep an eye out for walrus and bowhead whales.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Days 20-22

Wrangel Island

Wrangel Island is a Federal Nature Reserve and World Heritage Site of international significance. Additionally, it is a major polar bear denning area and is one of the few areas of the Arctic not to be glaciated during recent glacial episodes. Wrangel Island is also sometimes referred to as the ‘Polar Bear Maternity Ward’, due to the large number of cubs born here. However, the area is also home to numerous other species including muskox, Arctic fox, snow geese and snowy owls. The diversity of tundra flora is exceptional and during walks ashore we should see the last flowers of summer.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 23

Kolyuchin Island

The plan for today is to visit Kolyuchin Island. Although the visit will happen after the peak of breeding season, it should still be possible to spot large numbers of tufted and horned puffins, guillemot and kittiwakes. If the weather allows, there is also the option to Zodiac cruise around the base of the cliffs, with excellent photography opportunities on offer. Whilst cruising there is a chance that both humpback and bowhead whales could be spotted.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 24

Cape Dezhnev and Uelen Village

Sea conditions permitting, you will land at Cape Dezhnev early this morning. The north-easternmost point of the Eurasian continent, it is sometimes possible to see the coast of the USA from this remote and lonely outpost; Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska lies 89km across Bering Strait. Cape Dezhnev is also a historic landmark named after the Siberian Cossack, Semyon Dezhnev, who in 1648 became the first European to sail from the Arctic to the Pacific. A steep scramble from the beach brings you to an abandoned Border Guard base, a monument to Dezhnev and another to all the sailors who have sailed these seas.

A few miles to the west of Cape Dezhnev you will visit Uelen Village; the most north-eastern village in Russia. Archaeological work has revealed that walrus, seal and whale hunters have lived here for over 2,000 years. Today the population is predominantly Chukchi, with some Russians and Inuit. Hunting is still very important but the village is also one of the largest centres for traditional Chukchi and Inuit art in the world. You’ll have the chance to visit the bone-carving workshop before you return to the ship.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 25

Whale Bone Alley and Gil’mimyl Hot Springs

You will begin today by exploring Yttygran Island, home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley. Whale bones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. There are many meat pits used for storage and other remains of the busy whaling camps that once united the aboriginal villages in this area. After your landing at Whale Bone Alley you will take the Zodiacs out on a whale watching excursion, in search of grey whales and to the nearby Nuneangan Island, also known as ‘Bird Island’ due to its large colonies of nesting seabirds. Finally, head to Arakamchechen Island, a prominent walrus haulout. If the animals are present you will be able to walk across the tundra to view them from the cliffs. In the afternoon a landing at the Gil’mimyl Hot Springs is planned, to view the sandhill cranes which usually breed in the area.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 26

Preobrazhnaya Bay

As you cross the Gulf of the Anadyr there will be the opportunity for more wildlife watching. Today you will explore the magnificent coastal cliffs of Preobrazhnaya Bay by Zodiac, home to an abundance of seabirds including Brunnich’s guillemot, crested and parakeet auklets plus tufted and horned puffins.

Overnight: Akademik Shokalskiy (B, L, D)

Day 27

Anadyr- Depart

Your expedition finishes in Anadyr and after a final breakfast on board the ship it will be time to disembark. You will be transferred to the airport or a central downtown hotel depending on your onward travel plans.




This is a small group, set departure on board the Akademik Shokalskiy, a recently refurbished 48 passenger ship. The itinerary listed here is subject to change based on permits and approvals, and could change at any time. Flexibility is key with expeditions like this one.

Russian High Arctic

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