Chukotka: whale hunters ancient and modern

15 days
From $5196
July - September

Tour Overview

Chukotka's Bering Sea coast has been inhabited by whale-hunting Chukchi and Yupik (Eskimos) for thousands of years. The remains of their ancient villages and sacred sites, built of whale bones, still stand today in several places. Their culture has survived right up to the present day, with many villages relying on whale, walrus and seal hunting for food and using traditional dog sleds for transport. They do this using harpoons from small boats. After spearing down a whale, they drag it back to land, butcher it on the shore and share out the meat and fat with all the villagers. Nobody ever has to pay for this: it is alsways given away for free. On this trip, we will visit the ancient whalebone villages and sacred sites, as well as partaking in a whale hunt with indigenous Chukchi and Yupik people. We will also visit bird colonies, seal and walrus rookeries, an abandoned town and an encampment of nomadic Chukchi reindeer herders. We will have plenty of time to observe whales while they are not being hunted, and may also spot brown bears, foxes and Eurasian ground squirrels. We will visit Cape Dezhnev, the easternmost point of the Eurasian landmass, from which Alaska is visible on a clear day.


  • Observing humpback, grey, killer, beluga and bowhead whales
  • Visiting ancient Yupik sacred sites and villages built of whale bones
  • Accompanying Yupik and Chukchi people on a whale hunt
  • Visiting nomadic Chukchi reindeer herders
  • Visiting seal and walrus rookeries
  • Visiting colonies of puffins, cormorants, kittiwake, guillemot and other birds
  • Climbing a small mountain for spectacular views over Provideniya Bay
  • Visiting the abandoned town of Ureliki
  • Viewing Alaska from the easternmost point of Eurasia
  • Fishing for crabs in the Bering Strait 
  • Spotting brown bears, foxes and Eurasian ground squirrels


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 Provideniya

Fly into Provideniya, a village of 2000 beautifully situated on a mountain-ringed bay of the Bering Sea. After checking into our hotel, we will climb the nearest mountain for spectacular views over the mountain and the bay.

Day 3: Avan whalebone village

After breakfast, we travel to the other side of the bay to visit the abandoned town of Ureliki. Five-storey appartment blocks stand empty and can be fully explored. From there we head on 30km to the ancient Yupik village of Avan, built of whalebones. Avan is spectacularly located on the shores of a mountain-ringed lake, which is separated from the sea by a narrow sand spit. In this area we will have good chances of seeing whales, foxes and Eurasian ground squirrels. After exploring the village and nearby burial sites, we will head further down the coast to view an impressive bird colony on the nearby cliffs.

Overnight in Provideniya.

Day 4: Travel to Senyavin Strait

Travel 25km through the mountains to Rumilet Bay, whose stunningly transparent waters are ringed by mountains and separated from a small lake by a narrow sand spit. From here we will take motorboats out to the Bering Sea islands of Yttygran, Arakamchechen, Achinkinkan and Merkinkan. On Yttygran, whose coast is lined by whale skull sentinels, we will visit an ancient Yupik sacred site built of 5-metre long whale jawbones thrust into the ground and a large bird colony. On Arakamchechen we will visit the grave of a 19th-century sailor who died here. On Achinkinkan we will visit a huge bird colony and a seal rookery. On Merkinkan we will visit a puffin colony. Throughout the day, we are guaranteed to see large numbers of whales up close, especially greys and humpbacks.

Overnight in a basic wooden cabin near natural hot springs sandwiched between the mountains and the Bering Sea.

Days 5: Senyavin Strait

More wildlife photography in Senyavin Strait.

Day 6: By boat to Lorino

Today we travel around 5 hours by motorboat to the village of Lorino. On the way we will of course have many opportunities to view whales, seals and birds.

Lorino is the centre of Chukotkan whale hunting culture. About 120 whales are killed along the Chukotka coast every year, of which 55 are in Lorino. After checking into our guest house, we will go out to explore the village and the surrounding area.

Day 7: Whale hunt with Chukchi or Yupik

If we have calm seas on this day, we will immediately go out in boats with the local Chukchi and Yupik whale hunters. If we do not have calm seas, this will be postponed until another day and we will transfer the activities of that day to today.

Assuming we have calm seas, we will head out in boats and spend several hours chasing whales until the hunters manage to spear one down. They attach floats to their harpoons, so that the whale carcass does not sink. They then tow it back to the shore, where they butcher it. The whole village comes down to the beach to take as much whale meat and fat as they want, so it has a bit of a party atmosphere.

Overnight in Lorino.

Day 8: By boat to Naukan village

Today, we will travel three hours by boat to the abandoned village of Naukan. This site had been occupied by Yupik people for thousands of years. The remains of the old whalebone village still remain. The inhabitants were moved to Lavrentiya village in the 1950s, as Naukan was considered too remote to supply and too close to the enemies across the Bering Strait. Until it was abandoned, it was the easternmost settlement in Eurasia, just across the Bering Strait from Alaska. On a clear day, Alaska can even be seen from Cape Dezhnev, on which Naukan is situated.

Return to Lorino, with plenty of opportunities to spot whales on the way.

Days 9 - 11: Nomadic Chukchi reindeer herders

We will travel through the tundra to an encampment of nomadic Chukchi reindeer herders. We will spend these days observing and taking part in their daily lives. We will return to Lorino in the evening of Day 12.

Day 12: Whalebone village of Masik

Today we will travel 15 minutes by boat to the ancient whalebone village of Masik, widely regarded to be the best preserved and most picturesque in all Chukotka. Afterwards, we will returning to Lorino for lunch. After lunch we will go fishing for crabs and visit a workshop where local artists carve figures from whale bones and walrus tusks.

Day 13: Flight from Lavrentiya to Anadyr

Transfer 40 minutes by road to the district centre of Lavrentiya and fly to Anadyr. Visit the abandoned Soviet military installation of Gudym before taking a ferry across the estuary. Good chances of seeing beluga whales, seals, puffins and other birds. Overnight in the Hotel Chukotka.

Day 14: Day trip from Anadyr

If we have calm seas today, we will do a boat trip to Russkaya Koshka, where there is usually a walrus colony. On the way, we will have good chances of seeing whales and seals. We will also stop at some bird colonies. If we have rough seas, we will do a hike up Mount Dionysius for spectacular views over the Anadyr tundra and estuary. We will have good chances of seeing various animals and birds during the hike too. Overnight in the Hotel Chukotka.

Day 15: Fly home

Ferry across the estuary to the airport. Good chances of seeing beluga whales, seals, puffins and other birds. Fly home.


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Price includes:


  • Flights Anadyr – Provideniya and Lavrentiya to Anadyr
  • All transport and transfers on Chukotka
  • Accommodation in single rooms in Anadyr
  • Accommodation in basic hotels, guest houses and local homes elsewhere
  • All food in Chukotka
  • All permits required for the region
  • English speaking guide and all his food and expenses
  • Letter of invitation for 30-day Russian tourist visa
  • Satellite phone for emergency calls


Price does not include:


  • Flights to and from Chukotka. This can be added if required.
  • Accommodation, guiding, food or transfers in Moscow. This can be added if required.
  • 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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