Chukotka: polar bears, walrus, whales and nomads

15 days
From $8024
August - October

Tour Overview

This trip takes guests to the very best part of Chukotka for spotting polar bears and other wildlife: the Arctic Ocean coast around Cape Vankarem and Kolyuchin Island. At Cape Vankarem, a walrus colony forms every year, growing from around 5,000 in late August to 35,000 by early October. Polar bears stay next to the colony to prey on the walrus. On Kolyuchin Island, guests can expect to see more walrus and polar bears, but also a colony of over a million birds. In the nearby waters, over a hundred whales can sometimes be spotted at the same time. On the overland trip to Vankarem, guests will meet nomadic reindeer herders, climb mountains, visit gulags and most likely spot brown bears.


  • Spotting polar bears
  • Visiting walrus colonies of up to 35,000
  • Observing up to 100 whales at once in the waters around Kolyuchin Island
  • Visiting a colony of over a million birds
  • Spotting brown bears
  • Seeing the Northern Lights if lucky
  • Visiting nomadic Chukchi reindeer herders
  • Visiting gulag camps
  • Visiting abandoned villages
  • Climbing a 600m mountain for spectacular views over Kresta Bay
  • Spotting wolverines, Arctic hare, Arctic fox, Eurasian ground squirrels, etc


Day 1: Fly into Anadyr

Fly into Anadyr. The airport is actually located in a village called Ugolnye Kopi. To reach Anadyr, we need to take a 40-minute boat ride across the Anadyr Estuary. Here, we will have excellent chances of seeing beluga whales and seals up close, as they love to swim up to the boat. We are also likely to see puffins and other birds.

Check into Hotel Chukotka. City tour and museum visit. Dinner in the hotel. Pre-expedition briefing, safety instruction, etc.

Day 2: Fly to Egvekinot

Fly from Anadyr to Evgekinot, a small isolated village on the Arctic Circle and one of the most scenically beautiful places in Chukotka. After lunch, we will climb a 600-metre mountain right next to the village. At the top, we will be rewarded with spectacular views over the turquoise waters of Kresta Bay and the surrounding mountains. Overnight in comfortable bungalows.

Day 3: Travel to a nomad camp

Travel in two Trekol all-terrain vehicles 90km north on a dirt track to the even tinier village of Amguema. We will use one of Chukotka’s most scenically beautiful roads, built entirely by gulag concentration camp prisoners. On the way we will pass through spectacular mountain scenery and stop to explore small gulag camps. Amguema, population 500, is where the real journey will begin. From here we continue into the tundra, stopping at a couple of abandoned villages on the way. In the afternoon, we will reach an encampment of nomadic Chukchi reindeer herders. We will spend the rest of the day getting to know the herders and learning about their ancient way of life. Overnight at the nomad camp.

Day 4: Travel to Vankarem

We travel further north in our Trekol all-terrain vehicles all day. Late in the evening, we reach the Arctic Ocean Coast and the totally isolated village of Vankarem, population 180. Vankarem is a tiny community of indigenous Chukchi on the Arctic Ocean coast. It is, without a doubt, one of the most inaccessible places in Russia and even the world. On the way we may see Arctic fauna such as brown bears, Eurasian ground squirrels, foxes, wolverines, Arctic hares, reindeer, snow geese, cranes, etc.

European Russians consider Siberia “out there.” Siberians consider the north east “out there.” People from the northeast consider Chukotka “out there.” And in Chukotka, Vankarem is considered “out there,” a place completely cut off from the rest of the province, where time stands still. People here travel by dog sledge in winter and live traditionally by hunting sea mammals.

Every year a walrus colony appears right next to the village. In August it numbers about 5,000 and is a 20-minute walk from the village. By October, there are 35,000 walrus. The edge of the colony comes right up to the last houses in the village.

Overnight in local homes or in the school.

Day 5: By motorboat to Kolyuchin Island

If we have calm seas today, we will immediately go to Kolyuchin Island. If not, we will visit the Vankarem walrus colony and go to Kolyuchin on the first day with calm seas.

To reach Kolyuchin Island, we must first travel 70km by motor boat, following the coastline to the indigenous village of Nutepelmen. On the way, we will have very good chances of spotting polar bears and whales. From Nutepelmen, we cross the 11km strait that separates Kolyuchin Island from the mainland.

After lunch in some hunters’ cabins on the island, we will set off to explore. Here, as well as large walrus colonies, seals and polar bears, we will be able to observe one of the biggest bird colonies in the Eastern Arctic, where over a million birds will overpower you with their deafening cacophony and smell! This is truly one of the sights that leaves visitors speechless, almost more so than polar bears and walrus. Among the birds you will spot puffins, cormorants, guillemot, sandpipers, eiders, peregrine falcon, ducks, geese, petrels, kittiwake and many other types of gulls and other birds. Sometimes a flock of petrels will surround our boat, which looks like something out of the Alfred Hitchcock film “Birds”.

Many types of whales are constantly in the waters around Kolyuchin, including bowhead, humpbacks, gray whales, minkes and orcas. In some years you can see up to 100 fountains at the same time from the shore of Kolyuchin island.

Dinner and overnight in the hunters cabins. Arctic foxes here are very tame. If you do not follow them around or scare them, they will come right up to the cabins.

Day 6: Explore Kolyuchin Island

Another day exploring Kolyuchin Island and nearby waters.

Day 7: Return to Vankarem

Day 7: Return to Vankarem via Nutepelmen. Visit the Vankarem walrus colony in the afternoon if we have time. Overnight in local homes or in the school.

Days 8 - 9: Explore Cape Vankarem and its surroundings

On these days we will visit the walrus colony and spend as much time as we want there photographing the walrus and polar bears. We will also be able to explore the surrounding coastline and tundra in the hope of seeing other animals and birds.

Days 10 - 11: Return to Egvekinot

We return to Egvekinot in our Trekol all-terrain vehicles. We will aim to overnight with the Chukchi reindeer herders on Day 10. However, if swampy ground, fog or anything else delays us, we may need to overnight in the Trekols. Sleeping spaces can be set up for this. On Day 11, we will overnight in the Egvekinot bungalows.

Day 12: Fly to Anadyr

Flight to Anadyr. After arrival, we visit the abandoned Soviet military installation of Gudym before taking the ferry and checking into the Hotel Chukotka. Again, on the ferry ride we will have good chances of seeing beluga whales, seals puffins and other birds.

Day 13: Boat trip to Russkaya Koshka

Today we will do a boat trip to another walrus colony. On the way we will pass some stunning coastal scenery. We will see some bird cliffs and, very likely, whales and seals too. Overnight in Hotel Chukotka.

Day 14: Hike up Mount Dionysius

Today we take a Trekol all-terrain vehicle through the tundra to the base of Mount Dionysius. We will take a hike to the top for spectacular views over the Anadyr tundra and estuary. On the way we will have good chances of spotting various types of birds and animals. Overnight in Hotel Chukotka.

Day 15: Fly home

Ferry crossing to the airport, spotting beluga whales, seals and puffins on the way. Fly home.

Tour price

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Price includes:


  • All transport and transfers on Chukotka
  • Flights Anadyr – Egvekinot – Anadyr
  • Two 6-wheeler Trekol all terrain vehicle with drivers, petrol and all drivers’ expenses 
  • All accommodation throughout the trip. In Anadyr this will be in single rooms. In Egvekinot it will be in single rooms in 2- or 3-room bungalows.
  • All meals in Chukotka
  • All permits required for the region
  • English- and Russian-speaking guide
  • Local armed and trained biologist guides in Vankarem and Kolyuchin Island
  • Letter of invitation for 30-day Russian tourist visa
  • Satellite phone for emergency calls 


Price does not include:


  • Transfers, accommodation, food or guiding in Moscow. This can be added at extra cost if so desired. 
  • Flights to and from Chukotka
  • Personal travel insurance or medical insurance 
  • Personal expenses 
  • Clothing or equipment
  • Satellite phone for personal or work-related calls. You can purchase minutes for $2 per minute. 
  • Extra expenses caused by bad weather, flight delays or other force majeure situations

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