Follow in the path of Alaska’s historic fur trade and discover some of the indigenous peoples of Alaska during a 15-day expedition cruise with National Geographic. Journey from Nome to Vancouver, stopping off at some of the most isolated regions and seldom visited islands. Explore the wild landscapes of infinite tundra to glittering lakes, wide spaces, gigantic glaciers, steep mountains and temperate rainforest. Sail south through the Bering Seato the Pribilof islands, known as the Galapagos of the North. Use our Zodiacs® to land on these remote shores where you will have the option of participating in organised hikes, that offer spectacular rewards. Passing through the Aleutians and along the Alaska Peninsula, you will then cross the Gulf of Alaska to the magnificent Icy Bay, where you will be able to discover a fjord surrounded by hanging glaciers and vertiginous waterfalls, making for the perfect photo opportunity. Travelling alongside a National Geographic expert and photographer, get closer to some of the region’s most majestic creatures including black & brown bears, whales, orcas, seals and a wealth of bird species.

This Expedition Cruise is onboard Ponant’s L'Austral ship, part of the Sisterships fleet. View full details including deck plans and features onboard here.

Trip highlights

Visit traditional villages and encounter the indigenous people of the Far North: the Aleuts, Tlingits, Kwakwaka’wakws, Yupiks, and Haïdas.

Travel alongside a National Geographic photographer and expert who will enrich your expedition experience by conducting workshops, sharing their photography tips and recounting tales of their National Geographic assignments.

Hike on the island of Chankliut Island in Alaska, an uninhabited land offering mountainous terrain, lush moors, an expanse of valleys and picturesque lakes.

As you journey through these remote lands, keep an eye out for a magnitude of wildlife including brown bears, grizzlies, Arctic terns, seals, whales and orcas.

Itinerary - 15 Days

1 Nome, Alaska

Begin your expedition cruise in Nome, Alaska that sits at the tip of the Seward Peninsula overlooking the Bering Sea. Explore the rustic charm of this former gold-mining town, that is set within the heart of the magnificent wilderness. Get to know the cities legacy of local traditions including fishing, reindeer rearing and sled-racing. Furthermore, don’t miss the spectacular Arctic fauna that can be found around the city and surrounding areas.

2 At Sea

Spend your time at sea and make the most of the amenities on board L'Austral. Enjoy a relaxing massage in the onboard spa whilst gazing out to sea or take a dip in the swimming pool. You may be able to catch up with our onboard National Geographic Experts and Photographers as they give greater insight into the destination via communal workshops. Alternatively, venture to the upper deck to enjoy the spectacular scenery and you may be lucky enough to observe marine wildlife in the waters below.

3 St Matthew Island

Located in the heart of the Bering Sea, St Matthew Island is more than 200 miles from the nearest Alaska village and ispart of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (AMNWR) and represents the southernmost limit of the Polar Bear’s range. With its black sand beaches and high cliffs, this is the perfect nesting habitat for a variety of birds, including Tufted Puffins, Crested Auklets, Thick-billed Murres, the elusive Red-legged kittiwake and the rare Mckay’s Bunting.

It was the observations of the incredible seabirds nesting on St. Matthew by the Harriman Expedition in 1899 that convinced Teddy Roosevelt make St. Matthew a Federal Bird Reserve in 1909, a precursor to its current status as part of the AMNWR.

The uninhabited island is furthermore home to an array of other wildlife including Arctic foxes, and even the whistling vole, which you may be lucky enough to spot.

4 Saint Paul Island, Pribilof Islands

Saint Paul is the largest of the Pribilofs, located 240 miles north of the Aleutians. Today, there is an Aleut community of 500 people, that was founded by the Russian fur traders in the 18th century, who relocated the Aleuts here to harvest the northern fur seals that breed here. With the ending of the commercial fur seal trade, today 500,000 fur seals can found on the beaches. Additionally, the bird cliffs are home to millions of sea birds as the island is surrounded by some of the richest fishing grounds in the world.

During your visit here, you will have the opportunity to witness this incredible abundance of wildlife in the unique volcanic landscape of St. Paul Island.

5 Dutch Harbour, Unalaska

Unalaska Island and its port, Dutch Harbour, is one of the exceptional stops of this voyage. This is the only deep-water port of the Aleutian Islands and the landscapes are utterly unique; volcanic summits surrounded by the sea and lush green valleys. Unalaska is not only an island with astonishing nature and very varied wildlife, it is also rich in history, with the ancient Aleut culture and having played a significant role in World War II during “the Forgotten War”.

6 Unga Island, Alaska

Head out on our Zodiacs® and explore Unga Island with our team of on board naturalist-guides. Begin the exploration in a former village of which many vestiges remain, run-down wooden houses scattered around a flowery meadow, a church with crumbling walls but a roof that still stands.

Originally called Ougnagok by the Aleuts, this small hamlet, which was home to some 100 inhabitants in the 19th century, was renamed Delarof, after Evstratii Ivanovich Delarov. While working for the Shelikhov-Golikov Company, he was the first Greek mariner to discover the Aleutian Islands. Today, this small ghost-village is overrun by willowherb and has been renamed Unga.

7 Chankliut Island, Alaska

Off the Alaska Peninsula hides a small gem: Chankliut, a completely uninhabited island. Offering mountainous terrain, lush moors and valleys covered in sea lyme grass.
As part of the Aleutian archipelago, Chankliut Island offers a unique landscape which you can head off and explore. Take a walk around the picturesque lake and cross a sumptuous meadow where beautiful aconite and willowherb vie for attention. You will also have the opportunity to explore the neighbouring valley and its ancient calderas to admire the splendour of the scenery.

8 At Sea

Spend your time at sea and make the most of the amenities on board L'Austral. Enjoy a relaxing massage in the onboard spa whilst gazing out to sea or take a dip in the swimming pool. You may be able to catch up with our onboard National Geographic Experts and Photographers as they give greater insight into the destination via communal workshops. Alternatively, venture to the upper deck to enjoy the spectacular scenery and you may be lucky enough to observe marine wildlife in the waters below.

9 Tsaa Fjord, Icy Bay, Alaska

Formed by the retreat of the Guyot, Yahtse and Tyndall glaciers over the past 100 years, Icy Bay is one of those timeless places where silence reigns supreme.

Marvel at the spectacular beauty that lies ahead as we enjoy the views over the Saint Elias Mountains. The bay, which is several kilometres wide, is often scattered with icebergs sliding on clear and deep waters. It will let you access several sounds, among which are the Tsaa fjord, very close to the Guyot glacier.

10 Sitka, Alaska

Situated on Baranof island, to the west of the Alexander archipelago, Sitka is a perfectly nestled at the foot of magnificent glacial carved mountains facing the Pacific Ocean. Historically, the Russian Capital of America, Sitka was once known as the Paris of the Pacific and governed territories extending as far as California.

The historical national park of Sitka shelters totems carved out of red cedar, a tree that is omnipresent in the region. These totems are testimonials of the presence of the Tlingit Indians, who despite losing the battle of Sitka against the Russians in 1804, continue to live throughout southeast Alaska to this day.

Explore the many natural wonders of this area; from the imposing mountain ranges to the snow-peaked Edgecumbe volcano and the numerous islands scattered around Sitka stretch out before you in a vision of preserved Alaska.

11 Kake, Alaska

Discover the small Tlingit village of Kake, home of the largest totem pole in the world, just west of Petersburg on Kupreanof Island. On approach notice the dark, reflective waters shadowed by densely forested lands. Renowned as being a paradise for salmon, explore the Gunnuk River near the village, where you can spot these jumping fish and may also be lucky enough to see the many black bears and bald eagles trying to catch them in the water.

12 Prince Rupert

Located on the remote Kaien Island, Prince Rupert offers guests the opportunity to be at one with nature. The small town, which was founded in 1910 has witnessed some of the region’s most historic events including the birth of the American Indian nations, such as the Haida and Gitksan.

During your time at Prince Rupert, make a point of admiring its grandiose landscapes where more than 300 pairs of bald eagles have made a home. Explore the picturesque residential districts where the sea mist often lingers; and its famous Museum of Northern British Columbia, home to a large collection of ancient totems.

13 At Sea

Spend your time at sea and make the most of the amenities on board L'Austral. Enjoy a relaxing massage in the onboard spa whilst gazing out to sea or take a dip in the swimming pool. You may be able to catch up with our onboard National Geographic Experts and Photographers as they give greater insight into the destination via communal workshops. Alternatively, venture to the upper deck to enjoy the spectacular scenery and you may be lucky enough to observe marine wildlife in the waters below.

14 Alert Bay & Sailing in the Johnstone Strait

Situated by the north coast of Vancouver Island is the small wooded Cormorant Island. Surrounded by pebble beaches, this is the perfect spot for hiking and whale watching. When the ship calls at Alert Bay, a small sheltered fishing port located in the island’s south, set off to discover the indigenous culture and its traditions. The Namgis community, which is part of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations, lives here in harmony with the other village inhabitants.

Johnstone Strait is a 100 km-long channel formed by an old glacier bed, dotted with a string of lush islands. Take the time to observe the wildlife that resides here, look for the local population of orcas, which you may be lucky enough to spot from the ship’s deck as you cruise through these scenic channels.

15 Vancouver

Complete your expedition cruise in the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver. Located in British Columbia on Canada's west coast, Vancouver is a meeting of two worlds, the picturesque mountains which surround the skyrise buildings in the city centre.

From the bustling Chinatown to the Indian district; Vancouver is a melting pot of cultures across the globe. Explore the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is known for works by regional artists, while the Museum of Anthropology houses important First Nations collections. Granville Island Jetty is a fascinating revitalised industrial area that hosts galleries, restaurants and a huge produce market.

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