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The Aleutian Islands and the Russian Far East

Expedition Curise aboard the Silver Explorer


With its magical scenery and rugged beauty, it is hard not to be impressed by the Russian Far East and the Aleutian Islands. This journey encompassing these enchanting destinations is an incredible opportunity to discover the wildlife, people, and fascinating human history of this desolate and wild part of the world. On Zodiac cruises, you’ll search for whales, seals, and brown bears, while shore excursions find you hiking volcanic landscapes that have barely been touched by human presence.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.


Day 1, Jul 6, 2020
Otaru / Embark

Otaru is a small harbor city west of Sapporo. Famous for its many hills and a nearby ski resort, the town has been an important trade and herring fishing center. A wide canal that led from the port to the old town’s warehouses has been maintained for touristic purposes and the old stone or brick-built warehouses have been beautifully converted to restaurants and boutiques. Embark on the ship and depart in the late afternoon.

Day 2, Jul 7, 2020
Korsakov, Russia

Korsakov is used as a technical stop for ships clearing in and out of Russia. In addition to being a port of call for these formalities, the city was once home to an Ainu fishing village frequented by regional traders and early Russian expeditions. History also suggests that there may have been a significant Japanese population here at one time with reports of a Japanese religious temple on record.

Day 3, Jul 8, 2020
Tyuleniy Island

Thousands of Northern fur seals and Steller sea lions call Tyuleniy Island their home. The island is appropriately named, as the word tyuleniy means “seal” in Russian. During the summer months, tens of thousands of seals and sea lions haul ashore here during the breeding season. The cacophony of their barks, belches, grunts, and groans is difficult to imagine. Bulls, their harems, and many thousands of young black pups all jostle for space on the crowded beaches that flank the small rocky island.

Day 4, Jul 9, 2020
At Sea

Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind, and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is whale watching from the Observatory Lounge, writing home to your loved ones, or relaxiing by the pool, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.

Day 5, Jul 10, 2020
Yankicha Island

Any articles published about the Kuril Islands are likely to linger over the impressive Yankicha Island. It is the southernmost of two islets forming Ushishir Island. Yankicha is distinct in having at its center a caldera that is accessible by small boat only during high tide. Inside this extraordinary lagoon are fumaroles and hot springs, both traces of the tremendous forces that created the island long ago. Fortunate visitors may encounter an Arctic fox or the rare whiskered auklet. Ashore it is also possible to see Arctic warblers and Middendorff’s grasshopper warblers.

Day 6, Jul 11, 2020
Atlasova Island

The near-perfect cone of Alaid volcano dominates Atlasova Island with its 6,500-foot peak. It is the highest volcano in the Kuril Islands and over time generated the black lava beaches and the eroding Taketomi tufa limestone cone near the landing site. At one time a women’s prison, or gulag, was located on Atlasova. The women, many of them political prisoners during the Soviet rule, were sent here to raise foxes for fur. Peregrine falcons can sometimes be spotted flying above the beach, while buzzards, Eurasian wigeons, and tufted ducks have all been observed on the island.

Day 7, Jul 12, 2020
Utashud Island, Russia

Three small islands form Utashud and seem to be the remnants of a former volcano raising 80 meters (262 feet) out of Vestinik Bay. Although the island is deprived of forest, fragments of giant petrified trees have been found on its shores. Utashud is one of the richest islands on the southeastern side of Kamchatka in terms of wildlife. The island is notable for its population of sea otters (up to 300 individuals). In fact, native people from Kamchatka used to visit this island to hunt for sea otters, valuing the thick fur of their pelts. Steller’s Sea Eagles, brown bears, harbor seals, spotted seals, grey whales and at least 10 species of seabirds are known to frequent the islands.

Day 8, Jul 13, 2020
Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka Peninsula

The Kamchatka Peninsula is part of the eastern frontier of Russia. Due to its close proximity to the United States, the region has played a strategic role in the defense of Russian territory throughout modern history. As a result, the territory was closed for many years to foreigners and Russians alike. Fortunately, the region's isolated position played a significant role in preserving and protecting its unique wilderness and rich biodiversity. With few roads, most regional transportation is by plane, boat, or helicopter.

Day 9, Jul 14, 2020
Attu Island, Aleutian Islands

On a world map, Attu Island marks the westernmost point of the United States. It is also the site of the only WWII battle fought on North American soil. Over two thousand Japanese soldiers lost their lives at the aptly named Massacre Bay on Attu’s southeastern coast. Today the island is an ornithologist’s paradise visited by an array of birds migrating through as they come or go to Asia with the seasons. Peregrine falcons, Lapland longspur, and Aleutian Canada goose might be spotted in the summer months.

Days 10-11, Jul 15-16, 2020
Kiska Harbor (Aleutian Islands)

Russian traders led by Vitus Bering in the mid-1700s would have been some of the first non-native explorers to visit Kiska Harbor on Kiska Island in the Aleutian chain. The Japanese occupied the island during WWII and relics of war have been left behind in the harbor including a Japanese two-man submarine. The occupying force of 6,000 soldiers also left a Shinto shrine behind whose remains can still be visited today. Ashore there are ptarmigans, Lapland longspurs, and bald eagles. The following day is at sea.

Day 12, Jul 17, 2020
Seguam Island, Alaska

Seguam Island is made up of several stratovolcanoes in the Andreanof Islands group in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The island contains two calderas, one of them having erupted as recently as 1993. The mountainous oval-shaped island covers an area of just over 80 square miles. The stark beauty of this remote island is offset by the surrounding chilly waters known for occasional whale sightings.

Day 13, Jul 18, 2020
Dutch Harbor

The crumpled peaks and tranquil scenery of Dutch Harbor belies its history as one of the few places on American soil to have been directly attacked by the Japanese, who bombed the significant US military base here during the Second World War. Located on a string of islands that loop down into the Pacific from Alaska, a visit to this Aleutian Island destination offers comprehensive military history and extraordinary ocean scenery. Hike the volcanic, gloriously green landscapes, and look out for wonderful wildlife, like bald eagles, as they survey the surroundings.

The Baby Islands are a group of small volcanic islands that are part of the Fox Islands grouping of the Aleutian Islands, located 1.2 miles northeast of Unalga Island. While surrounding waters can be challenging to navigate, the Baby Islands are worth the visit, especially for birders as the small islands (ranging from 980 to 3,280 feet long) are important nesting grounds for some species that are rarely seen elsewhere. Birders may be most excited to see the small black and white whiskered auklets.

Day 14, Jul 19, 2020
Unga Island

The Aleutian island of Unga holds an ancient petrified wood forest and a more recent ghost town that was the site of a small gold rush in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The village was eventually abandoned in the 1960s and now has a somewhat somber appearance. Many of the houses have collapsed and are overgrown with brilliant fuchsia fireweed wildflowers. From a distance the church looks intact, but up closer it is apparent that the roof is standing on the ground, and the walls have completely collapsed.

Day 15, Jul 20, 2020
Castle Bay, Alaska

Castle Bay lies immediately west of Tuliumnit or Castle Point. The rugged sandstone tower and pinnacle formations give the point and the bay their names. The bay is several miles long with a entrance about two mile wide.

Day 16, Jul 21, 2020
Kodiak Island (Larsen Bay)

Larsen Bay is one of the hotspots of commercial and sports fishing on Kodiak Island’s western side. The village of Larsen Bay is home to one of the oldest standing canneries on Kodiak Island. Situated in a scenic valley at the mouth of a narrow fjord, the small village of Larsen Bay lies within Kodiak Island’s National Wildlife Refuge -which covers the southwestern part of Kodiak Island- and is the starting point for scenic flights over the mountainous island.The abundance of wildlife near Larsen Bay attracts visitors interested in viewing Kodiak brown bears, seals and sea lions, as well as eagles and puffins.

Day 17, Jul 22, 2020
Chiswell Islands / Holgate Glacier, Alaska

The Chiswell Islands are part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, and deservedly so. Small bays, inlets and sea cliffs are populated by innumerable seabirds including Black-legged Kittiwakes, Pelagic Cormorants, Horned and Tufted Puffins, as wells as guillemots, auklets and murrelets. The Chiswell Islands are blessed with towering cliffs and sea caves offering up spectacular scenery and a Steller sea lion rookery that bustles as the marine mammals commute to feeding grounds, socialize, and care for their pups.

Kenai Fjords National Park’s famous Holgate Glacier is a spectacularly active river of ice. The surrounding glaciated landscape paints a dramatic portrait of the rugged mountains in contrast to the cold blue ice of the glacier. On approach, the waters leading up to Holgate Glacier may be peppered with bits of ice and the crackling noise of ancient air bubbles being released from small bergs. Periodically loud cannon-like blasts emanate from the glacier, and some are accompanied by calving events off the ice front. Gulls frequently sit on the small icebergs while harbor seals ply the icy waters in search of their next meal.

Day 18, Jul 23, 2020
Seward, Alaska

It is hard to believe that a place as beautiful as Seward exists. Surrounded on all sides by Kenai Fjords National Park, Chugach National Forest, and Resurrection Bay, Seward offers all the quaint realities of a small railroad town with the bonus of jaw-dropping scenery. This little town of about 2,750 citizens was founded in 1903, when survey crews arrived at the ice-free port and began planning a railroad to the Interior. Since its inception, Seward has relied heavily on tourism and commercial fishing. Disembark in the morning and depart.



Explore islands rich in wildlife, including northern fur seals, Steller sea lions, and a wealth of birdlife
The volcanic landscapes of the Kuril Islands, with their fumaroles and hot springs
Observe bald eagles up close in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and watch for brown bears in Katmai National Park
Learn about the geology, wildlife, and botany of this spectacular area from lecture presentations offered by your knowledgeable on board Expedition Team


Length: 18 days
Cost From: $18,200  
Arrive: Otaru, Japan
Depart: Seward, Alaska
Lodging: 17 nights aboard a 132-guest expedition vessel
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Wildlife & Natural History, Photography, Whale Watching, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

17-day expedition cruise, nature walks, cultural explorations, Zodiac cruises
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