Hokkaido (Otaru) to Seward (Anchorage, Alaska)
18 days with Silversea Rating:
Day 1 Hokkaido (Otaru)
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.
Day 2 Korsakov
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 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 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 5 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 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.
Day 7 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.
Day 8 Date Line, Attu Island
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.
Day 9 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.
Day 10 Day At Sea
Day 11 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 200 square kilometers or 80 square miles. The stark beauty of this remote island is offset by the chilly surrounding waters known for occasional whale sightings.
Day 12 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, which loops 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.
Day 13 Unga Village (Alaska), The Haystacks (Alaska)
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 1960’s 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 14 Chignik (Alaska), Aghiyuk Island (Semedi Islands)
Chignik is a fishing village on the Alaskan Peninsula and home for just under 100 year-round inhabitants. Most of the houses in the community are connected by a boardwalk that fringes a local stream and neighborhood kids can be seen riding their bicycles back and forth on its length. In the summer months the population doubles, as the fishing gets better and the town supports a couple of fish-processing plants. Chignik is a remote outpost at the doorstep of the Aleutian Island chain and offers up a true taste of Alaskan outback life.
The dramatic rock formations of Aghiyuk Island jut out of the water as one of the dramatic Semedi Islands. The Semedi Islands are part of Kodiak Island Borough and are located southwest of Kodiak Island, about half way between the Alaska Peninsula mainland and Chirikof Island. Along with Choiet Island, Aghiyuk is one of the largest islands of the group, all of which are uninhabited. Part of the Alaska Peninsula unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Aghiyuk is a great destination for spotting the beautiful black and white Horned Puffins.
Days 15-16 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.
Day 17 Chiswell Islands (Alaska), 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.
Day 18 Seward (Anchorage, 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.
All This Included
With magical scenery and rugged beauty, it is hard not to be impressed by the Russian Far East. Seldom visited, you will not find any tourist traps here, rather seals, Brown bears and Red and Arctic foxes are far more likely to be your travel companions. The tiny island of Yankicha will be yours alone to discover during a hike but it will be the cultural delights of Korsakov that will win your heart.
Cruising: Cabin onboard Silver Explorer
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