Sailing from Japan
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.
Get out of the city to see the breathtaking mountain scenery in the region, not to mention the great beaches.
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: 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.
Russia: Urup Island, Simushir 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: Raikoke (Kuril Islands)
Russia: Kuril Islands
The strange and beautiful Kuril Islands are actually a chain of underwater volcanoes peeking out above the water, and the archipelago is defined by volcanic activity. This is a landscape of boiling lakes, blue-green lagoons and smouldering peaks, home to a staggering variety of wildlife.
Russia: Krenitsyna Point (Onekotan Island)
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.
Petropavlovsk is the main city on Russia’s remote Kamchatka peninsula, a hardy place where bleak Soviet tower blocks stand in the shadow of giant volcanoes. It’s a spectacular setting, and the city serves as the main gateway for exploring Kamchatka’s otherworldly landscapes and incredible wildlife.
Russia: Commander Islands
29 July - 4 August
The former Soviet military port of Provideniya is home to just 2,000 people, many of whom belong to the Yupik indigenous group. The port sits on a fjord sheltered from the Bering Sea, and is close to the southern limits of the Arctic ice pack.
Arriving in Anchorage
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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.