Russian Far East: An expedition cruise guide

Travel Advice

The Russian Far East is a land of fire and ice, a geothermal wonderland for photographers where geysers gush across a bubbling landscape of smouldering, snow-capped volcanoes, thermal springs and boiling mud pots.

The Sea of Okhotsk, icebound during the winter months, is one of the most remote locations on earth. Venture further across the Bering Sea and you'll reach the Aleutian Islands and the Kenai peninsula in Alaska, some of the most inaccessible places in North America. These nutrient-rich waters support vast populations of fish, birds from every continent on earth, and countless numbers of whales, dolphins, sea lions and fur seals.

The best time to visit the Russian Far East

Ships only visit this region in the summer months (June to September), and even then the weather can sometimes be bad - overcast and with rough seas. But during these months millions of migratory birds and endangered species are to be found in this region.

Abandoned buildings in Chukotka, Russia

How to get to the Russian Far East

When sailing in the North Pacific and Russian Far East, access is tricky, and depends on the itinerary. You may take a journey westbound from the North American mainland to the Russian Far East or vice versa, or you may stick to the west side of the Pacific seaboard. Access would normally be via a gateway in Japan for west Pacific embarkations (Tokyo or Osaka), or via Vancouver and Anchorage for embarkation in North America, with the onward journey by specially chartered aircraft, for example to Nome.

Snow volcano on Chirpoy Island, Russia

Wildlife in the Russian Far East

Native species include brown bears, Steller's sea lions, sea otters, short-tailed albatross, 15 kinds of whale including humpback whales and gray whales, northern fur seals, harbor seals, bearded seals, ribbon seals and walruses, harbor porpoises and Dall's porpoises, and last but by no means least, millions of seabirds including puffins, auklets, kittiwakes, gulls, terns, and cormorants.

Bears in Kamchatka, Russia

How to choose your itinerary

This is one of the most remote and inhospitable areas to cruise, and when choosing your itinerary you will be guided by things you specifically want to see, whether it is the wildlife, the extraordinary volcanic features of the Russian Far East, or the kicking off point from Japan. The first step is to look at all the options, rule out the itineraries that don't interest you, and also check up on availability as they sell out early - you may find yourself waitlisting for a particular itinerary the following year. We can then look at the practicalities of travel arrangements, which experts are on board and so forth. Finally, all other things being equal, we can look at the style of the vessels and which is likely to suit you best.

Steller's sea eagle in the Russian Far East

Extend your trip

Access to the North American gateways is not direct - you may fly in via Vancouver or Seattle, and what a contrast these cosmopolitan cities offer to the remote exploration of the North Pacific wilderness. A relaxing stay in either one could be just what you need, or perhaps you would like to take the opportunity to combine your cruise with an exploration of a very different part of Alaska, the so-called panhandle in the south eastern part of this huge state. Or how about a rail journey across the Rockies?

Rocky Mountaineer, Canada

Still have more questions about travelling to the Russian Far East? Give our friendly team of expedition cruise experts a call today on 020 7399 7630.

Tom O'Hara
Meet the author

Marketing Manager at Mundy Adventures

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