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Setting sail from Otaru
The charming port town of Otaru, on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, is a common start and end point for cruises visiting both Japan and the Russian Far East. The town has a notable history, playing an important role in the herring trade during the 19th century, and this is reflected in the stone warehouses alongside the picturesque canal. It's only a small place, so if you run out of things to do then the city of Sapporo is just a half-hour train ride away, or you can explore the wild and beautiful landscapes of rural Hokkaido.
Here’s a weird thing – there is a thriving Venetian glass industry here, dating back to the need for glass fishing floats.
Tyuleniy is the Russian word for ‘seal’, and this tiny island, located off the south east coast of Sakhalin in the Sea of Okhotsk, is an important breeding ground for both northern fur seals and Steller sea lions.
Russia: Piltun Lagoon
Russia: Iony Island
Russia: Yegrineyskaya Bay, Ushki
Russia: Talan Island
Russia: Zavyalov Island
Russia: Utashud Island
Russia: Kekurnyy Point
Russia: Shumshu Island
Shumshu Island, at the northern end of the Kuril chain, was the site of one of the final battles of World War Two between the Soviet Union and Japan, and has remained under Russian control ever since. Shumshu has a human population of just 100 people, and around the coastline you’ll see wildlife including cormorants, otters and seals.
Russia: Atlasova Island
Atlasova Island is dominated by the Alaid volcano, the tallest in the Kuril Islands, and fringed by black lava beaches where you may spot birds including peregrine falcons, buzzards and tufted ducks. The island was a women’s gulag during the Soviet era, but these days it is uninhabited.
Russia: Nemo Peak (Onekotan Island)
Russia: Krenitsyna Point (Onekotan Island)
Russia: Yankicha Island
Yankicha Island is one of two islets that make up Ushishir Island, and is formed from an extinct volcano. At its centre is a stunning caldera that floods at high tide, along with hot springs and fumaroles, and the island is home to wildlife including Arctic foxes, harbour seals and the rare whiskered auklet.
Russia: Chirpoy Island
Chirpoy Island is formed from three overlapping statovolcanoes, and if the Snow volcano is active when you visit you may be lucky enough to see the remarkable spectacle of the lava flow meeting the sea. Look out too for wildlife including Steller sea lions, puffins and orcas.
Arriving in Otaru
Get out of the city to see the breathtaking mountain scenery in the region, not to mention the great beaches.
For once-in-a-lifetime tailor-made itineraries, Mundy Adventures specialises in expedition cruises to some of the most wonderful places on earth; places often only accessible by water.
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Thrilling, awe-inspiring and unforgettable – Silver Explorer takes just 144 privileged travellers on genuine adventures to some of the most remote regions of the planet.
What we love
The intimate Silver Explorer gives you a magical home from home as you visit places with no tourism infrastructure whatsoever. Without the ship, you simply wouldn't be able to get there. But as it is, you can travel like an intrepid Explorer, without any compromise on style or comfort.
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Where to stay in Otaru
If you’ve always wanted to stay at a ryokan, Ginrinso could be a great choice – expensive, but pretty special.
Take a tour of Otaru
A local tour by ebisuya (rickshaw) is easy paced with a great guide thrown in.