Kuril Islands & Russian Far East Voyage in Luxury

Experience the wild beauty of the Kuril Islands, Sea of Okhotsk and Kamchatka on a luxury expedition cruise from Japan
Travel on nature’s terms on this 18-day to Russian Far East aboard the luxurious Silver Explorer.

Embark on the voyage of a lifetime on an unparalleled exploration of the Sea of Okhotsk and a region known as the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’. The cruise from Hokkaido Province, Japan to the distant Kuril Islands and the remote reaches of Kamchatka is one of the world’s great ocean journeys, beckoning nature lovers, history buffs and those with a thirst for adventuring where few have gone before. Marvel at the dramatic scapes of this ancient land of fire and ice - its towering volcanic mounts, alpine forests, fast flowing rivers and pristine tundra. Our fleet of Zodiacs will allow us to climb ashore to observe flourishing seabird colonies and dozing seals in their thousands, and we’ll be constantly on the look-out for whales and sea lions.  Whatever your speed, this soul-stirring smorgasbord of volcanoes, wildlife and unique indigenous culture will enthral and inspire you.

The Kuril Islands & Russian Far East Luxury Expedition voyage Highlights:

  • Tyuleniy Island in the Sea of Okhotsk is tiny in size, and so densely populated with mammals and birds that the island itself is barely visible. The shoreline is carpeted with murres and other seabirds, straining to be heard above the racket of tens of thousands of roaring, barking and bellowing seals and sea lions
  • Our zodiacs follow the high tide to the very centre of mist-shrouded Yankicha Island, a part of the Kuril Islands, where an inundation of seawater has transformed a massive caldera into a lagoon. Hiking the grassy ridges, we’ll keep our eyes out for the elusive Arctic fox
  • Atlasova Island rises out of the water as a near-perfect cone. The highest volcano in the Kuril chain is a striking sight, inspiring various legends among the traditional Ainu inhabitants
  • Be on the lookout from your Zodiac for thousands of Northern fur seals and Steller sea lions, as well as parliaments of puffins and pods of breaching whales.

The island chain known as the Kurils stretches north across the Pacific Ocean from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Russia's the Kamchatka Peninsula. Four islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories, are the subject of a 60-year-old dispute between the two nations.

The Kuril Islands are part of what is known as the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and they are also the visible parts of a volcanic mountain range that is submerged under the surrounding ocean. The landscapes that define this region are unlike anywhere else on earth, made up of chains of volcanic islands, boiling lakes, rivers, hot springs and azure-blue lagoons.

As well as being a paradise for wildlife (including whales, seals, sea lions, brown bears and migratory seabirds), a few intrepid humans have also left their mark in this region. Our faithful steed on this voyage to Russia’s Far Eastern adventure playground is the Silver Explorer, a purpose-built, luxury expedition cruise ship specially designed to navigate waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations. The Silver Explorer can accommodate 144 guests and carries a fleet of 12 zodiac tenders. We’ll be joined on this cruise by an expert expedition team who will provide insight and understanding into the natural and human history of each fascinating stop on this extraordinary journey.

18 days
Make an enquiry Detailed Itinerary




Trip style

Otaru, Japan

Otaru, Japan

MS Silver Explorer

Expedition Cruise


Action rating

Group size

Type of tour

18 days / 17 nights


up to 144 passengers

Guaranteed Departures


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Day 1:Otaru, Japan

Once all guests have embarked, a mandatory safety drill is conducted before Silver Explorer leaves Otaru. Then be introduced to important members of the crew and your Expedition Team.

Day 2:Korsakov, Russia

Korsakov once served as a penal colony and achieved literary fame after a travel report by Anton Chekhov. Have enough time to get a glimpse of this city during an afternoon excursion with a cultural program. See Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk’s beautiful Cathedral of the Resurrection.

From the church continue to the Sakhalin Regional Museum, which is housed in a beautiful Japanese-style structure, due to the previous ruling of its southern neighbor. At the Gagarin Park, with its adventure playgrounds and numerous beer and barbeque spots, the afternoon might end with a traditional performance of Russian song and dance.

Day 3:Day 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 simply topping up your tan by the pool, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.

Day 4:Piltun Lagoon

Piltun Lagoon is tucked into the remote northeastern shores of the immense Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Okhotsk. The shallow waters at the mouth of Piltun Lagoon are known to harbour a rare grey whale population. It is believed that the relatively warm waters are favoured calving grounds for the whales. In the distance, across the slate-coloured lagoon sits a tall lighthouse that acts as an excellent landmark on explorations ashore to find Steller Sea Eagles, Aleutian Terns, Pine Grosbeaks, Siberian Rubythroats and Dusky Warblers.

Day 5:Iona Island

Iona (or Jonas) Island is a small and isolated point of land in the expansive Sea of Okhotsk. It is home to a Steller sea lion colony, but great numbers of Northern Fulmars and Brünnich’s Guillemots will be the first sign that the island is close at hand. On closer inspection it becomes obvious that the sea lions take up almost every available spot for resting close to the water. Overhead, guillemots and kittiwakes circle the cliffs by the thousands. Whiskered, Least and Parakeet Auklets fill the air and float in communal rafts on the water.

Day 6-7:Okhotsk, Yegrineyskaya and Ushki Bays

The city of Okhotsk is located on the banks of the Okhota River that gives its name to both the town and the surrounding sea. For many years Okhotsk was the most important port in the Russian Far East. It was from here that Vitus Bering left for his two expeditions in the early 18th century, but the town had lost its importance in the 19th century and today counts only about 4,000 inhabitants. The puddled, unpaved streets give visitors the feeling of having stepped back in time. There are few signs of any 21st-century conveniences, but monuments honoring Russia’s Communist past, including a large statue of Lenin, tower over the town.

Day 8:Talan Island & Zavyalov Island

Researchers occasionally visit Talan to monitor the seabirds here including Steller’s Sea Eagles, Parakeet Auklets, Ancient Murrelets and Spectacled Guillemots. The breeding seabirds on the island have been counted for nearly 30 consecutive years. The counts have revealed that the number of Tufted Puffins has increased. At last tally 120,000 were breeding on Talan. In addition, Horned Puffin populations are stable at 80,000 individuals. However, the results are not always encouraging. Originally 1.5 million Crested Auklets were found breeding on Talan, and lately that number has been halved. Although they feed on puffins, red foxes that take advantage of the ice to come over from the mainland for the breeding season are unlikely to be responsible for such a large drop in numbers. The foxes return to the mainland each winter once the birds have left and the ice has grown thick enough to support their weight. Zavyalov Island is a large island in the northern portion of the Sea of Okhotsk. Visits to the island are only realistic in the summer months. During the long, dark Siberian winter it is likely that Zavyalov is iced in for months at a time. Zavyalov is mountainous and vegetated by Siberian dwarf pine and dwarf birch. Both are hardy species that can endure the bitter winters and short summers. The diminutive vegetation offers little shelter for brown bears that can be seen grazing the island’s shores in search of berries, roots, and feasting at low-tide on the shellfish at the shoreline. The coasts of Zavyalov also support breeding populations of Steller’s sea lions.

Day 9-11:Kony Peninsula and Utashud Island

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 12-13:Kekurnyi Point and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

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. Kamchatka is a spectacular, lavish landscape dotted with fuming volcanoes (150, of which 29 are active), fast-running rivers, and a wilderness that is inhabited by the largest brown bear population (10,300) in the world. The largest eagle in the world, the Steller's sea eagle (approximately 4,500 in number), is also found in the region. Kamchatka is poised to become one of the most exciting sport-fishing destinations in the world, with an estimated third of the world's Pacific salmon population.

Day 14:Atlasova Island

The near-perfect cone of Alaid volcano dominates Atlasova Island with its 2000-meter (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. The symmetrical volcanic island also plays a key role in the region's native folklore.

Day 15: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. From the sea, the number of auklets around the island is truly incredible. The island is a nature reserve for birds, and crafty foxes contentedly live off the vast number of breeding birds that nest on the slopes between craggy boulders and stones.

Day 16:Chirpoy Island

The oftentimes fog-shrouded coasts of Chirpoy Island teem with a profusion of wildlife including Steller sea lions, Northern Fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins and auklets. Whales, and specifically orcas, have also been seen around Chirpoy. The dramatic volcanic nature of the island is apparent in the subtly shaded layers of sediment flanking the sides of the active Snou volcano.

Day 17: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. Alongside the marine mammals, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Slaty-backed Gulls, Tufted Puffins, Common Murres and Pelagic Cormorants summer on the busy shores in the thousands. The profusion of wildlife is offset by a few abandoned and decaying wooden buildings that harken back to a productive Russian fishery that used to operate here.

Day 18:Hokkaido (Otaru), Japan

We say farewell in Hokkaido, where we started our expedition. As you look back on your wonderful experience, you may already be looking forward to your next incredible adventure!


Spacious suites with butler service onboard luxurious Silver Explorer expedition cruise ship

  • All meals onboard
  • Beverages in-suite and throughout the ship – select wines, premium spirits, specialty coffees and soft drinks, plus your own tailored mini-bar
  • Personalised service – the best crew-to-guest ratio in expedition cruising
  • Butler service in every suite and stateroom
  • Guided Zodiac, land and sea tours, and shoreside activities led by the Expeditions Team
  • Enrichment lectures by a highly qualified Expeditions Team
  • Gratuities
  • Free Wifi* (unlimited free WiFi for guests sailing in select suite categories. One hour free WiFi per day for all guests)
  • Complimentary parka
  • Russian visa support document* - Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Airfare, visa, travel insurance, hotel in Japan, transfers to/from the pier

Dates & Prices

DatesAvailabilityPriceSingle sup. 
Jun 18 - Jul 5, 2020
Guaranteed Departures
Available US $16,000 contact us Reserve
18 days
Otaru, Japan
Make an enquiry Detailed Itinerary
18 days
Make an enquiry Detailed Itinerary
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