Summary : An area long closed to Western travelers, this White Sea expedition will expose you to sublime beauty, magnificent architecture, and a long and fascinating history. In the fabled Solovetskiy archipelago learn of ancient legends, view archaeological finds that reach back across millennia, stroll through island flora in the botanical gardens, and tour splendid architectural monuments. Cruise by hydrofoil to Lake Onega’s World Heritage Site on Kizhi Island—here, an astonishing array of wooden folk architecture showcases everything from peasant houses to the cupola-crowned Cathedral of the Transfiguration. And, of course your White Sea adventure travels wouldn’t be complete without searching for resident birds and wildlife, including the beluga whales often spotted near the Kuzova Archipelago.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking
$999,999,999 to $0
Depart on your independent flight to Russia.
Arrive in St. Petersburg and transfer to the Hotel Astoria. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax or explore. Gather at the hotel this evening for a welcome dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, board your flight to Arkhangelsk, Russia’s first seaport, founded by Ivan the Terrible in 1584. Upon arrival, enjoy a lunch of traditional Russian foods at a local restaurant. Visit the lively farmers market where a local guide highlights the culinary heritage of the Russian north, and drive past the city’s architectural landmarks en route to the Island Sky, which remains alongside overnight.
With easy access to the Barents, White, and Arctic Seas, Arkhangelsk became the first city in Russia to establish trade relations with foreign merchants. Today visit the highlights of Arkhangelsk including the old quarter with its eclectic architecture; the harbor, embarkation point for many historic polar expeditions; and the Merchant Yard and museum, a unique example of Russian architecture from the second half of the 17th century. Enjoy lunch on board as the Island Sky cruises down the Dvina River to Mudiug Island. Go ashore here to learn about the North Russia Intervention during the early 20th century and visit the former prison camp.
Spend a full day exploring Solovki Island, the main island of the Solovetskiy chain. The first hermit monks gathered on Solovki Island during the mid-1400s and founded the Solovetskiy Monastery, which gradually took over administration of the islands and later came to play an important role in the defense of the Russian North. To connect the rapidly expanding compound and the many lakes that dot the island, the monks constructed a network of canals, creating both a source of fresh water and a highway for the transportation of goods. By the 17th century, more than 300 monks had built one of the largest monasteries in the world, and during the course of its 500-year-span, an amazing assemblage of architecture. Explore the magnificent Kremlin with its eight towers and thick rock walls surrounding the St. Nicholas Church, the Assumption Cathedral and Transfiguration Cathedral, and the museum of the infamous Gulag camp—established here during the 1920s. You will also visit inland hermitages and churches, the botanical garden, and weather permitting, board small boats for a cruise along the stone-lined canals.
The second largest island of the Solovetskiy chain, Anzerskiy is endowed with lovely, unspoiled forests and crystal-clear lakes. It is also the site of an active skete (monastic community), where you will learn about the history of the monastery, including its time as a prison camp, and modern monastic life in these ethereal surroundings.
Go ashore on Zayatskiy Island where prehistoric labyrinths and burial mounds are believed to be the remains of temporary Neolithic settlements. On Kuzova Island, observe numerous seid, stones stacked in various configurations by ancient Sami people.
Make several stops to visit the rustic villages along the rugged western coast of the White Sea. Stroll along pebbly beaches to peaceful fishing hamlets of simple wooden houses surrounded by lush evergreen forest and commanding views. Explore the coast by Zodiac to witness countless seals and seabirds, including eiders and guillemots.
Today step ashore in remote Pomor villages. The Pomors (people of the coast) traveled from the Russian mainland in the east and settled permanently here in the 13th – 14th centuries. Along with reindeer herding and fishing for salmon, herring, and cod, their summer farming enterprise includes the dehydration of mushrooms and berries.
Wind, sea conditions, and tides determine your course during two days of expedition cruising as you travel north along the coast toward the Kanin Peninsula. Explore the region by Zodiac and visit subsistence fishing villages never-before visited by foreign passenger ships. There is also a good chance to see wild Atlantic salmon spawning in the numerous rivers that lace the peninsula.
Cruise along the northern coast of the remote Kola Peninsula, a wilderness of vast tundra, mountains, spectacular waterfalls, and some of the oldest forests in Europe.
Murmansk, the world’s largest city north of the Arctic Circle, was founded in 1916. A city tour includes the major cargo port and its impressive fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers; the Orthodox Church, Savior-on-Waters; a lighthouse with panoramic views of the city; and the Murmansk Museum. You will also witness the city’s many monuments, commemorating its short, but intense history, its maritime heritage, and military struggles.
After breakfast, go ashore in Kirkenes. Drive southward into the Pasvik Valley which fits like a wedge between Russia and Finland. Go for nature walks to observe the valley’s unique birds and plants. Return to the ship for lunch, then visit the scenic settlement of Grense Jakobselv, just across from the Russian border.
North Cape (Nordkapp), commonly referred to as the northernmost point of the European continent, sits on a 1,000-foot-high plateau that rises dramatically from the Barents Sea. Historical exhibits and a film about the region are highlights of the impressive edge-of-the-world visitor center. This afternoon, be on deck as the ship cruises along the coast of Norway, keeping watch for puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, cormorants, Arctic skuas, and with luck, majestic white-tailed eagles.
This morning, disembark in Tromsø, known as the “Gateway to the Arctic” for a tour of this charming university city. Enjoy incredible views from Mount Storsteinen, visit the unique Arctic Cathedral, and explore the Polar Museum. After lunch, board your flight to Oslo and transfer to your hotel for your final overnight.
After breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the airport for your independent flights homeward.
Optional Pre-Voyage Extension: Karelia's Cultural Treasures: Explore the region of Karelia in northwestern Russia. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Accommodations in hotels and on board as outlined in the itinerary; all onboard meals; all group meals on land; group transfers; services of the expedition staff, including lectures, briefings, slide/film shows; all group activities and excursions; landing and port fees; all gratuities; emergency medical coverage (maximum benefit per paying passenger of $50,000)*; evacuation coverage (maximum benefit per paying passenger of $75,000)*.
All air transportation; excess baggage charges; airport arrival and departure taxes; transfers for independent arrivals and departures; passport and/or visa fees; accident/baggage/cancellation insurance; items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar charges, alcoholic beverages, email/Internet/fax/ telephone charges.
*Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency medical coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $50,000 is included in the cost of this expedition, as well as evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $75,000. Insurance is underwritten by National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA. The policy will contain reductions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions. All coverages may not be available in all states. Please note this coverage does not cover you against trip cancellation or for additional days of travel prior to and/or after the expedition trip dates. ExpeditionTrips strongly advises all clients to purchase travel insurance which includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage for the entire duration of your trip.