Exploring the Russian Arctic: Franz Josef Land and the Kara Sea

National Geographic Endurance
National Geographic Endurance
126 Passengers

Venture where only the most intrepid explorers have gone before, on a thrilling voyage to the Russian High Arctic and the Kara Sea, where isolated isles and ice-fringed waters harbor dazzling wildlife and intriguing histories. Experience exploration in its purest form aboard the Polar Class 5 National Geographic Endurance, charting a course from the fjord-laced coast of northern Norway to the historic port of Murmansk, Russia, to remote Arctic archipelagos including Franz Josef Land. Seek out thriving wildlife—including polar bears, whales, walruses, and seabird colonies—and experience a pristine wilderness reached by few visitors.

• Sail aboard our new, state-of-the-art polar ship to the northern reaches of the planet, and ply the icy waters of the Kara Sea, only navigable for a few months of the year.
• Set foot on the world’s northernmost archipelago, Franz Josef Land, following in the path of a 2013 expedition by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas team.
• Explore along the sandy shores of Ostrov Isachenko, part of Russia’s Great Arctic State Nature Reserve, and watch for polar bears from the ship’s deck.
• Learn about indigenous culture in Murmansk, Russia, and take a guided tour of the world’s first nuclear-powered icebreaker.

Brief Itinerary

Days 1 to 3 Home/Oslo, Norway/Tromsø/Embark
Day 4 Norway’s Fjords
Day 5 Murmansk, Russia
Days 6 & 7 At Sea
Days 8 to 10 Novaya Zemlya
Days 11 & 12 Exploring the Kara Sea
Days 13 to 15 Severnaya Zemlya
Days 16 to 19 Franz Josef Land
Days 20 to 22 At Sea
Day 23 Tromsø, Norway/Oslo
Day 24 Oslo/Home

Days 1 to 3 — Home/Oslo, Norway/Tromsø/Embark

Fly overnight to Oslo (flight not included), and check in to our hotel upon arrival. In the afternoon, get acquainted with the charming capital on a guided tour. Walk among the city’s famed Vigeland sculptures—hundreds of life-size, expressive human figures that adorn terraced parklands. Then, delve into Norway’s history of polar exploration at the Fram Museum and climb aboard its namesake, a record-setting, wooden ship. Enjoy an evening at leisure. Take a charter flight to Tromsø, known as the “gateway to the Arctic” due to the numerous polar expeditions that originated here, and embark National Geographic Endurance.

Day 4 — Norway’s Fjords

Explore Norway’s spectacular northern coast, which was carved by glaciers over millions of years. Glide through sublime, steep-walled fjords, marveling at the mountainous islands and chiseled peaks that lace these shores. Watch for seabirds and marine mammals and learn about the region’s natural history from our expedition team.

Day 5 — Murmansk, Russia

Cross into Russian waters and venture ashore at Murmansk, the largest seaport above the Arctic Circle and the final city founded by the Russian Empire. This ice-free harbor served as a vital supply port during World War II, and today supports a thriving fishing industry. See Murmansk’s gold-domed Russian Orthodox church and pay your respects at the scenic lighthouse, built to memorialize sailors lost at sea. At the Museum of Murmansk Shipping Company, delve into the history of Arctic exploration along the Great Northern Sea Route. Then, step aboard the Soviet-era Lenin, a nuclear-powered icebreaker turned fascinating museum, and learn about indigenous culture at the Museum of Regional Studies.

Days 6 & 7 — At Sea

Enjoy the National Geographic Endurance’s many amenities as we cross the Barents Sea and continue further north toward the Kara Sea. Soak in the ship’s infinity-style outdoor hot tubs, take in panoramic views from the rooftop observation deck, and enjoy talks from our onboard experts about the wildlife and geology that await us.

Days 8 to 10 — Novaya Zemlya

Spend a few days exploring the ice-draped coastlines of the Novaya Zemlya (“New Land”) archipelago, a chain of rugged islands that has yet to be thoroughly explored. Watch for Arctic wildlife as we navigate past Ice Harbor, where Dutch explorer Willem Barents was marooned for the winter of 1596 to 1597. Seals, walruses, and polar bears may be found on coastal ice floes year-round, and rich birdlife inhabits the shorelines during the summer months. Depending on weather and ice, we plan to make a number of landings on these rarely visited shores.

Days 11 & 12 — Exploring the Kara Sea

An extension of the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia, the Kara Sea is one of the coldest seas in the world, formed by glacial ice during the last ice age. Frozen for most of the year, these waters provide an important source for fish—including cod and salmon—and harbor iconic marine creatures including seals, whales, and polar bears. In keeping with the nature of a true Arctic expedition, our day-by-day itinerary will remain flexible. We’ll leverage the extensive experience of our captain and crew, as well as of our technological resources and ice-strengthened ship, to chart a course through one of the most remote regions on Earth.

Commune with an array of Arctic wildlife along the shores of Solitude Island, as Ostrov Uyedineniya is sometimes called. In 1993, this desert tundra became part of the Great Arctic State Nature Reserve—Russia’s largest expanse of protected land—to preserve the fragile wildlife that lives in this harsh landscape. Venture further into the reserve on Ostrov Isachenko, the largest island of the Kirov archipelago. Go for walks onshore with our naturalists, spotting birds on sandy beaches and in the fertile intertidal zone; and enjoy daily adventures by kayak or Zodiac.

Days 13 to 15 — Severnaya Zemlya

Make the most of 24 hours of daylight, joining our naturalists on deck to spot beluga whales and other marine mammals in the shallow coastal waters surrounding the archipelago of Severnaya Zemlya. Separated from the Siberian mainland by the Vil’kitskogo Strait, this chain of islands is roughly the size of Indiana and remains one of the planet’s most recently charted territories—only known since 1913 when an ocean expedition discovered this vast expanse of Arctic tundra. Depending on ice and weather, we will schedule a variety of hikes and Zodiac cruises to best explore the area. Continue navigating these waters as we journey east and pass Cape Chelyuskin, the most northerly point of the Eurasian continent.

Days 16 to 19 — Franz Josef Land

Experience the grandeur of life at the top of the planet amid the dramatic scenery of the world’s northernmost archipelago, Franz Josef Land. For much of the year, vast ice sheets cover the surface of these uninhabited islands, located some 550 miles from the North Pole. Learn about the 2013 expedition to the archipelago led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala as part of the Pristine Seas project, which resulted in the first deep-sea footage of the rare Greenland shark. Set out by Zodiac and kayak to experience dramatic icescapes and seldom-seen coastlines, and search for wildlife on the shores or in the sky. Venture ashore with our National Geographic photographer and naturalists to explore this untouched wilderness where fresh discoveries await each day.

Days 20 to 22 — At Sea

As we sail back to Norway, reflect on our adventures while scanning the water for marine life and enjoying life onboard. Take a yoga class, unwind with a massage in the wellness center, and curl up next to the fireplace in the library. Share images with our National Geographic certified photography instructor, and marvel at footage captured by the ship’s underwater camera. Our voyage culminates with a farewell dinner on board.

Day 23 — Tromsø, Norway/Oslo

Arrive in Tromsø and disembark our ship. Enjoy a tour of the city before taking a charter flight back to Oslo. Check in to our hotel near Oslo airport and spend the evening at your leisure.

Day 24 — Oslo/Home

After breakfast, transfer to the airport to catch your flight home (flight not included).

* Itinerary may be subject to change

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Click on the tour dates in the left column to view a trip itinerary. Point MOUSE at Cabin Category to view DETAILED description.

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Prices are per person, double occupancy unless indicated solo.  All trips may incur a fuel surcharge.

Kayaking is available as an additional activity available to all passengers and arranged onboard free of charge.


   Category 1
Fore Deck (deck 4) with two large windows, Alcove seating, Relax chair. 183 square ft.
   Category 2
Fore Deck (deck 4) with two large windows, Alcove seating, Relax chair. 205 square ft.
   Category 3
Main Deck (deck 5)—Suite with balcony and sofa. 205 square ft.
   Category 4
Lounge Deck (deck 6)—Suite with balcony and sofa. 205 square ft.
   Category 5
Bridge Deck (deck 7)—Suite with balcony and sofa. 205 square ft.
   Category 6
Bridge Deck (deck 7)—Junior Balcony Suite with large balcony, sofa bed. 344 square ft.
   Category 7
Bridge Deck (deck 7)—Large Balcony Suite with large balcony, sofa bed, bathtub, walk-in closet. 430 square ft.
   Category A Solo
Main Deck (deck 5)—Suite with balcony and sofa. 140 square ft.
   Category B Solo
Lounge Deck (deck 6)—Suite with balcony and sofa. 140 square ft.