Terra Incognita: The Northeast Passage

An odyssey from Anadyr to Murmansk - retrace the route of legendary explorer Nordenskiöld across the top of Russia. Navigate narrow fjords, search for unique wildlife, glimpse into the past and experience the warmth of Arctic hospitality in local villages across a vast and ever changing region.
27 Days

Terra Incognita: The Northeast Passage - 27 Days - $21,900

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

  • An epic 28 day Arctic voyage through ‘terra incognita’
  • Begins in Anadyr or Nome and ends in Murmansk
  • Travelling on a former Russian research vessel with only 48 people
  • Local fees of $500 per person, in addition to voyage price
  • A private charter flight from Anadyr to Nome is available at $1,300 pp

Start from Anadyr and end at Murmansk

Landmarks potentially visited on Terra Incognita: The Northeast Passage

Operator's Itinerary

Please note: You can join this expedition either in Anadyr or in Nome, Alaska. Those starting in Nome will fly by charter flight to Anadyr to join the ship and remaining expedition members who have travelled direct to Anadyr. 

Day 0: Nome 

For those departing from Nome, Alaska, your adventure begins with a flight across the Bering Sea to the Anadyr, the capital of Chukotka and the starting point for our expedition. During the flight you will cross the International Date Line, arriving into Anadyr on Day 1. It is advised that you arrive in Nome the day before or by midday today at the latest. 

Day 1: Anadyr 

Join the Akademik Shokalskiy this afternoon in the Anadyr, the bustling political and commercial hub of Chukotka. Once aboard join your expedition leader for introductions to the ship, staff and crew. This evening there are excellent chances to spot beluga whales as we sail out of the Anadyr Estuary. 

Day 2: Preobrazhnaya Bay 

Crossing the Gulf of Anadyr there will be opportunities for wildlife watching as well as time to become familiar with the ship. This afternoon we plan to explore the magnificent coastal cliffs of Preobrazhnaya Bay by Zodiac, these cliffs are home to an exceptional diversity and abundance of seabirds including Brunnich’s guillemot, crested and parakeet auklets plus tufted and horned puffins. 

Day 3: Whale Bone Alley and Gil’mimyl Hot Springs 

We visit Whale Bone Alley on Yttygran Island, one of the most significant and intriguing archaeological sites in the Arctic. The name comes from the large number of bowhead whale jaw bones placed along the beach in the form of a pathway. The site is believed to date from the 14th century and its origins and purpose and even the identity of those that built it are still debated. The waters nearby remain rich feeding grounds for whales and weather permitting, we will look to take the Zodiacs in search of grey whales and walrus. This afternoon we plan a landing at the Gil’mimyl Hot Springs. Deep within the hills of eastern Chukotka, this is a beautiful location for exploring the tundra with its rich plant life and the chance to see sandhill cranes which usually breed in the area. 

Day 4: Cape Dezhnev and Uelen Village 

Early this morning we will arrive at Cape Dezhnev, the eastern extremity of the Eurasian continent. Named after the Cossack explorer Semyon Dezhnev, the first European to sail through the Bering Strait, it is sometimes possible to see the coast of America just 50 nautical miles away. Ashore, visit the monument erected in honour of Dezhnev as well as explore the remains of the traditional Chukchi village of Naukan from which the inhabitants were resettled in the 1950s. The Bering Strait is a vitally important migratory pathway and we may see flocks of king, common and spectacled eiders passing south. A few nautical miles to the west of Cape Dezhnev is the village of Uelen; the most north-eastern village in Russia. In the afternoon we will get to enjoy the hospitality of the local people who are predominantly Chukchi. The village is the largest centre for traditional Chukchi and Inuit art in the world. A cultural performance and visit to their famous bone-carving studio and museum will conclude the afternoon’s activities; works produced from this studio can be found in most of the major Russian museums. 

Day 5: Kolyuchin Island 

Today we plan to land on Kolyuchin Island; a 4.2km long home to thousands of seabirds just north of the Russian mainland. Although we will be visiting after the peak of the breeding season, there should still be large numbers of tufted and horned puffins, Brunnich’s and common guillemots and black-legged kittiwakes. There may also be an opportunity to Zodiac cruise around the base of the cliffs where there are excellent photographic opportunities. As we set sail for Wrangel Island join your expedition team on deck as there will be good marine mammal watching opportunities – humpback and bowhead whales have been seen in the area previously. 

Days 6 to 8: Wrangel Island 

Wrangel Island is one of those islands that you have to visit to appreciate. It is a Federal Nature Reserve and World Heritage Site of international significance. Its significance lies in the fact that it is a major polar bear denning area and one of the few areas of the Arctic to not be glaciated during recent glacial episodes. In fact it is sometimes referred to as a polar bear maternity ward on account of the large numbers of cubs born here. In addition to the polar bears for which it is renowned there are numerous other Arctic species which we will be looking for including musk ox, Arctic fox, snow geese and the snowy owls which breed here annually. Because Wrangel has not been recently glaciated the diversity of tundra flora is exceptional and during walks ashore we should see the last flowers of summer. With three days scheduled to explore, the expedition team in conjunction with the local rangers will customise our program at Wrangel to deliver the very best opportunities to see and appreciate this truly remarkable island and its inhabitants. 

Day 9: East Siberian Sea 

Join your expedition team to learn more about the rich history and wildlife of the Northeast Passage as our expert lecturers share their knowledge while we transit the East Siberian Sea. This sea is defined by the Novosibirskie Islands in the west and Wrangel Island to the east, along its southern shores are three of Siberia’s major rivers, the Indigirka, Alazaya and the Kolyma. The average depth is only 54 metres making it ideal habitat for walrus and bowhead whales. 

Day 10: Ayon Island 

Guarding the eastern approaches to the Kolyma Gulf, Ayon Island is relatively low lying with fertile tundra. The Chukchi people that call this island home are reindeer herders and hunters, during the soviet era over 20,000 reindeer were farmed on the island, today it is a more manageable 4,000. Despite the harsh Arctic climate, we will enjoy the warm hospitality of the local people as we learn about life on this remote island. 

Day 11: Medvezhyi Islands 

Today we will explore the little known and seldom visited Medvezhyi Islands (Bear Islands), an archipelago of five granitic islands. As the name suggests, the islands have a sizeable population of polar bears which den on these shores over winter. A landing on the island of Chetyrekhstolbovoy offers the opportunity to hike to the unusual rock ‘pillows’ which the island is named after, the largest of these resembling Moai from a distance. The abandoned weather station here is a fascinating example of the effects of permafrost melting as it slowly slumps into the sea while the very land upon which it was built disintegrates. On Pushkareva Island investigate the old lighthouse or enjoy the Arctic flowers that cover the expansive tundra during the brief summer. 

Day 12: East Siberian Sea 

It was in this sea that the Jeanette, captained by George Washington De Long, became stuck fast and was crushed by ice in 1879. The men made their way from the sinking ship in open boats to the Kolmya River delta where many of them perished. Wreckage from the Jeanette found in Greenland in 1884 gave Nansen the idea for the now famous 1893- 96 Fram Expedition drifting across the Arctic Ocean. 

Days 13 to 14: Noviye Sebirskiye (New Siberian Islands) 

These islands, which consist of three major groups – Southern, Central (Anzhu) and Northern (De Long), mark the border between the Laptev and East Siberian Seas. It is from this vicinity that the famed polar explorer and researcher Fridtjof Nansen froze the Fram into the sea ice in his attempt to reach the geographic North Pole by means of the natural ice drift of the Arctic Ocean. The New Siberian Islands are renowned for the preservation of the remains of mammoth, rhinoceros and other Pleistocene inhabitants of the far north; it is not uncommon to encounter their fossil remains while we explore the islands. We have allowed three days for exploring this remarkable yet seldom visited archipelago, conditions permitting we hope to have the opportunity to visit all three island groups, each with their own unique geology and landscapes. The highest island in the group is the small Ostrov Bennetta (Bennett Island) which is also one of the most northerly in the archipelago. On the southern shores of Great Lyakhovskiy Island there is an active meteorological station which is permanently manned by a small contingent. 

Days 15 to 16: Laptev Sea 

This sea is bounded by the Taymyr Peninsula and the Severnaya Islands in the west and the Novosibirskie Islands in the east. It is named in honour of cousins who were both Arctic explorers. The Lena and the Yana are two of the larger rivers that drain into this sea. Along the western shore of the Laptev Sea we will take the opportunity to explore the Taymyr Peninsula. Laptev Sea walrus are only found in this area and we will be on the lookout for haulouts where we can spend time photographing this unique and quite isolated population of walrus. There are musk ox resident in this area and we may have the chance to spot the poorly known Taymyr form of herring gull. We depart from the Laptev Sea through the Vilkitskiy Strait which separates the Severnaya Islands from the mainland of Russia and also marks the northern most point of the Eurasian continent. This is a significant milestone on our journey, traditionally the last area where the ice clears and the biological divide between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean wildlife. 

Days 17 to 19: Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago 

The Severnaya Zemlya Islands translated into English mean ‘Northern Land’. They are on the border of the Kara and Laptev Seas and are an extension of the Taymyr Peninsula. These islands were not discovered until 1914-15 when Russian explorer Vilkitski finally charted the island, this was the last significant archipelago in the world to be discovered. The three largest islands are heavily glaciated with deep fiords and majestic tidewater glaciers that are regularly calving icebergs, providing a magnificent environment for cruising. This is one of the last strongholds for ivory gulls and we’ll look for an opportunity to visit a colony. 

Days 20 to 21: Kara Sea 

Lying between Novaya Zemlaya, Franz Josef Land and the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago with two of Russia’s greatest rivers, the Ob and the Yenisei flowing in along its southern shore the Kara Sea is generally considered to be the coldest sea in Russia. The large relatively flat Ostrov Vize is along our route to Franz Josef Land and we will look to make a landing, conditions permitting. Interestingly this island was “discovered” by Vladimir Wiese who postulated on its presence after analysing the drift of the St Anna. 

Days 22 to 24: Franz Josef Land 

This huge archipelago of 192 islands located only 10 degrees from the North Pole offers numerous locations for us to explore. Closed to outsiders for decades Franz Josef Land is today one of the great Arctic wildlife refuges, its position close to the permanent ice of the Arctic Ocean yet accessible to the rich waters of the Atlantic gifts these waters an unusual diversity and abundance of marine life. The islands were named in 1870 after Emperor Franz Josef when they were discovered by the Payer-Weyprecht expedition that was searching for the Northeast Passage. The islands have a fascinating and rich record of exploration, scientific research and habitation.

During our time here we have a busy schedule of landings planned including Cape Triest on Alger Island where the famous ‘Devil’s Marbles’ (spherical geodes) dot the landscape, Cape Flora on Northbrook Island where the remains of three historic expeditions are found in close proximity and Tikhaya Bay on Hooker Island where the numbers of guillemots and kittiwakes on the remarkable columnar cliffs of Rubini Rock are unforgettable. We also plan to include a visit to Cape Tegetthoff, the first part of Franz Josef Land to be discovered. There is a very healthy population of polar bears living amongst the archipelago and we will be keeping a close lookout for these both ashore and on any ice which remains. Sailing within the islands there are good chances to spot beluga whales and bowhead whale and if we are extremely fortunate we may find the extraordinary narwhal with its unicorn-like single tusk. 

Days 25 to 26: Barents Sea 

The Barents Sea was named in honour of Dutch seafarer and navigator, Willem Barents, who explored this region on expeditions in 1594 and 1596. During our two days at sea we will complete our lecture series and recap the experiences of our voyage. As we move southwards the opportunities for spotting the large numbers of humpback whales and harp seals that feed in these waters increase. Approaching the coast of Russia join your expedition staff on deck as our voyage through the fabled waters of the Northern Sea Route draws to a conclusion. 

Day 27: Murmansk 

Murmansk is home to the Russia’s icebreaker fleet and featured as a strategically important port throughout the history of Russia. On arrival, the Akademik Shokalskiy will join an elite group of passenger vessels to have completed five transits of the Northeast Passage. We will disembark the ship in Murmansk where complimentary transfers to the airport or central hotels will be available. 

Important Notes: This expedition is subject to approval from various Russian Federal and Regional Authorities and may have to change depending on these approvals. Permits have been lodged for all the sites mentioned in the itinerary, depending on approvals these may have to be amended or substituted. We will endeavour to keep participants fully informed of any changes in the itinerary as and when they occur. 

This plucky little ship has an outstanding record of safely navigating The Arctic's most remote corners

Loli Figueroa Polar Specialist

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

Prices quoted below are per person based on 2 people sharing. Cabin availability changes all the time so please contact us for up-to-date details and information on specific cabin availability.

Additional Notes

Please note: the 04-Sep-2022 departure is carried out in reverse, travelling from Murmansk to Anadyr.

The charter flight between Anadyr and Nome costs an additional $1300 per person on top of the voyage price. In addition to this, a local payment of $500 is required.

Single Supplement And Child Policy

For those travelling solo and want their own cabin, the single supplement in a twin cabin is 1.7 times the cost of a single berth. However, there is no single supplement for passengers willing to share a cabin.


  • Voyage aboard the vessel as indicated in the itinerary
  • Accommodation during the voyage on full board basis
  • All shore excursions and zodiac activities
  • Educational lectures by expert onboard polar guides
  • Access to an onboard doctor and basic medical services
  • Loan of rubber boots for the voyage's duration
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information
  • Port taxes and any entry fees to historic landing sites


  • Flights to and from points of embarkation/disembarkation
  • Any additional services before and after your voyage
  • Transfers not specific to the itinerary
  • Travel insurance
  • Optional adventure activities
  • Any visa, passport and vaccination expenses
  • Airport arrival or departure taxes
  • Items of a personal nature: laundry, beverages, etc
  • Customary staff gratuity at the end of the voyage
  • Additional onboard purchases (i.e. gift shop)

Questions about this Voyage?