Circumnavigation of Hokkaido

Circumnavigation of Hokkaido

From GBP £7,195


Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost and least developed island is often considered by the Japanese to be the country’s last frontier and is a world away from the traditional view of Japan. Every year the island emerges from a bitter Siberian winter into the warmth of spring, when the thaw reveals a glorious landscape littered with wild flowers. Only colonised by Japan in the past 150 years, we won’t find a land of ancient temples and shrines or developed cities with skyscrapers during our visit, but what the island lacks in regard to 21st century development, it more than makes up for in natural wonders with large swathes of wild, open spaces, primeval forests, crystal clear lakes, beautiful alpine flowers, active volcanoes and bubbling hot springs. During our circumnavigation of this remarkable island, we will visit the outlying Rebun and Rishiri Islands, explore nature trails, watch for wildlife in the national parks, learn more of the indigenous Ainu people and hopefully see the multitude of colourful flowers that should be in bloom to coincide with our visit.

More than two million acres on Hokkaido are dedicated to national parkland and we will visit some of the most remarkable including the Shiretoko National Park located on the north eastern tip of the island and which in Ainu means ‘end of the world’. UNESCO has called it one of the richest integrated ecosystems in the world and in 2005 designated it as a World Heritage Site. We will have a full day to explore the national park, home to brown bears, Yezo shika deer and red fox whilst birders can keep an eye out for Steller sea eagles, Blakiston fish owl and white-tailed eagles. Whilst in the Kushiro Marshlands we visit the home of Hokkaido’s resident red-crowned cranes, Japan’s iconic bird, known as the bird of happiness. We hope you can join us for this rare circumnavigation of Japan’s most enchanting isle.

Trip Name
Circumnavigation of Hokkaido
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition Length: 90 metres Passenger Capacity: 114 (in 57 suites) Built: 1991 / refurbished 2012 The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows. If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere. Your Suite Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub. Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Your space The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request. Your dining With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board. For your comfort, safety and security The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only. Gratuities Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.


Day 1 - Day 1 - Otaru.
Arrive in Otaru on the west coast of Hokkaido Island. Transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay and spend the rest of the day at leisure to explore or relax in the hotel.
Day 2 - Day 2 - Otaru.
This morning is at leisure. You may wish to explore independently and visit Sakaimachi Street where you find seafood vendors, cafes, shops selling some of Otaru’s famous glassware and the town’s steam clock situated outside the Music Box Museum. In the early afternoon we will check out of the hotel and spend some time at the Otaru Art Base, a series of former office buildings that have been renovated to house exhibitions of Japanese and Western art, before continuing to the Tanaka Sake Brewery to learn more about this famous Japanese drink. After our visit we will transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky for embarkation and enjoy Welcome Dinner and Drinks as we sail this evening.
Day 3 - Day 3 - Teuri-Jima & Rishiri Island.
At dawn we arrive at the tiny island of Teuri Jima, part of the Shokanbetsu-Teuri-Yagishiri National Park and an important sanctuary for nesting seabirds including common murre and black-tailed gulls. We will use our ship to sail by the cliffs and, if time permits, we will use the Zodiacs for a closer look. Later this morning we continue our journey to the Rishiri- Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park, arriving at lunchtime. At Rishiri Island the skyline is dominated by the dormant volcano of Mount Rishiri which climbs to 1721 metres. On an afternoon tour we will see the beautiful scenery and alpine wildflowers in bloom at Himenuma Pond and Kutsugata Cape Park whilst we hope to see Black Woodpecker during a walk at the Forest Park.
Day 4 - Day 4 - Rebun Island.
We remain at anchor overnight in the National Park and will spend the day at neighbouring Rebun Island which is famous for its rich flora, including many alpine flowers, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and which carpet the island from late April to mid September. Today we will take a series of walks around the coastline offering views over to Rishiro volcano and Cape Gorota. Return to the ship for lunch and sail this afternoon. We will clear immigration formalities from Japan this evening as we sail to Russia.
Day 5 - Day 5 - Korsakov, Russia.
Arrive this morning at Korsakov where we will clear into Russia. Once the formalities are concluded we will explore part of this city which was founded in 1853 as Sakhalin’s first Russian military post. From here we drive to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital of the island with a population of just over 160,000. Founded as a small Russian settlement in the 1880s, the city became a Japanese prefect capital when the southern half of Sakhalin was declared a Japanese colony in 1905; after World War II it was returned to Russia. Highlights include a visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Regional Museum housed in an impressive former Japanese mansion, and the bustling market. Return to the ship this afternoon as we return to Japanese waters.
Day 6 - Day 6 - Shiretoko National Park, Japan.
We return to Hokkaido this morning at the port of Abashiri where we will spend a day and a half. From here we will make a full day excursion to the Shiretoko National Park which covers the majority of the Shiretoko Peninsula. This remote and untouched park combines rivers, forests, mountains and waterfalls and is home to an array of wildlife including brown bears, Yezo shika deer and red fox whilst birders can keep an eye out for Steller sea eagles, Blakiston fish owl and white-tailed eagles. If weather permits we will also take the Shiretoko pass offering stunning views of Mount Rausu. We will return to the ship via the Koshimizu Gensai-kaen, an eight kilometre long dune covered in over 40 varieties of wildflowers against a backdrop of the Sea of Okutsk. Return to the ship this evening as we moor overnight in Abashiri.
Day 7 - Day 7 - Abashiri.
There will be a choice of activities this morning. Chose to take a trip to Lake Kussharo, a beautiful caldera lake where we can enjoy the scenery or join a nature walk and maybe take a dip in one of the hot spring baths. We return to the ship via the eight hectare Shibzakura Park in Ozora where we hope to see it covered in the tiny red, pink, white and purple flowers of spring. Alternatively spend a more leisurely morning in Abashiri and learn more about the Ainu at the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples and visit the Okhotski Sea Ice Museum which offers insight into the sea ice that surrounds the city during the winter. Return to the ship for lunch and spend the afternoon on deck as we sail this afternoon around the Shiretoko Peninsula and into the Nemuro Channel where we will keep an eye out for wildlife, the abundant birdlife and minke, orca and sperm whales who inhabit these waters.
Day 8 - Day 8 - Kushiro.
Today we will visit Kushiro Marshlands, Japan’s largest wetland and marsh habitat and home to the only known population of Japan’s sacred red-crowned cranes. The cranes were thought to have been made extinct due to overhunting and habitat destruction. However in 1926 a group of 20 birds were discovered in this area and with conservation efforts now number more than 1000. We will visit the observatory with displays of the fauna and fauna of the region and views over the marshlands before taking the walking trails. Return to the ship via the small but excellent Kushiro City Museum that offers an insight into Ainu culture and natural history of the area.
Day 9 - Day 9 - Tomakomai.
Spend the morning at sea as we arrive into Tomakomai in the early afternoon. Choose to visit the Shiraoi Poroto Kotan Museum, one of the country’s best museums about the Ainu people, situated on the banks of Lake Poroto. Made up of five traditional thatched houses each demonstrate different aspects of Ainu traditions and culture and offer a rare chance to see traditional dance and music. Alternatively visit Hokkaidos’s capital city of Sapporo where we can explore the colourful botanical gardens, visit the small Ainu museum displaying around 2500 artefacts and enjoy a tour of the famous brewery.
Day 10 - Day 10 - Muroran.
We will spend our morning around the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, named after the two caldera lakes which offer wonderful scenery and excellent hiking and walking opportunities. This is still an active area and a geological wonder with the volcano Showa Shin-zan only created in the 1940s. Our day will be flexible around the weather but if clear we may take the cable car to the top of Mount Usu for the wonderful views to Lake Toya, visit Jigokudani, “Hell Valley”, a steaming lunar like valley of steam vents and sulphurous streams formed over 10,000 years ago or enjoy scenic walks in the volcanic peaks that surround Lake Shikotsu. Return to the ship for lunch and spend the afternoon at leisure in Muroran, maybe visit the scenic cape and lighthouse or the active may wish to walk up Mount Sokuryo offering views to the city below.
Day 11 - Day 11 - Hakodate.
Our final day in Hokkaido will be at the southern port of Hakodate. We will make our way to Onuma Park, on the outskirts of the city and known for its picturesque, island-dotted lakes and majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake. We have the option to take a series of walks around the lake’s peninsulas and islands, several of which are connected with each other by small bridges and surrounded by birch and maple forests. Return to the ship for lunch and this afternoon either relax on board or join a city tour including the 19th century Fort Goryokaku, built as a citadel but now a public park. We will remain in Hakodate till late for anyone who wishes to take an after dinner stroll or perhaps even the cable car up Mount Hakodate for the spectacular night views.
Day 12 - Day 12 - Aomori.
This morning we arrive on the northern coast of Honshu. From our berth in Aomori we offer a choice of options. Maybe join the tour to Towada Hachimantai National Park which involves a scenic drive through the Kayano plateau, Hakkoda mountains and scenic Oirase Valley. We will take the Hakkoda cable car which climbs to 1324 metres above sea level and offers stunning views before continuing to Lake Towada, a magnificent ancient caldera lake surrounded by deciduous forests. Enjoy walking along the paths and through the woodlands to the viewpoints around the lake. Alternatively, visit the former Feudal town of Hirosaki which was the political capital of the region in the Edo Period. A tour of the city will include the three story castle, which was the focal point of the old city and the base of the powerful Tsugaru Clan. Surrounding the castle was the samurai and merchant district where we can visit the preserved houses and the Fujita Kinen Teien, a Japanese landscape garden built in 1919.
Day 13 - Day 13 - Akita.
Spend the day in the Akita Prefecture, known for its rice farming, traditional festivals, and treasured dog breed of the same name. This morning we will drive inland to Kakunodate which was established in 1620 by the Lords of Akita as a military outpost with a castle built on Mount Furishiroyama. Two distinct areas were then developed, one for samurai and the other for merchants. Today it remains one of the best examples of a castle town in Japan and the Uchimachi samurai quarter maintains a number of the original wooden houses and well maintained gardens which we can explore. The afternoon is free to explore Akita. At the centre lies Senshu Park, built from the ruins of Kubota Castle, a former samurai fortress. Lotus flowers now fill the remnants of old moats, and tree-lined walking trails lead to its watchtower, temple, and shrine. You may also wish to visit the Akita Museum of Art which includes a large collection of work by Fujita Tsuguharu including his giant “Annual Events in Akita” mural.
Day 14 - Day 14 - Niigata to Tokyo.
Disembark this morning and take the bullet train to Tokyo. On arrival we enjoy an afternoon city tour including Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple and the Imperial Palace Plaza. We then transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay.
Day 15 - Day 15 - Tokyo.
After breakfast in the hotel we transfer to the airport for your flight back home.
Day 16 - Day 16 - Tokyo to London.
After breakfast in the hotel we transfer to the airport for our scheduled flight to London. Arrive this evening.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
18-05-201901-06-2019GBP £7,195Castle Standard Suite
18-05-201901-06-2019GBP £9,195Castle Standard Suite Sole
18-05-201901-06-2019GBP £9,795Promenade Owner's Corner Suite
18-05-201901-06-2019GBP £7,495Caledonian Superior Suite
18-05-201901-06-2019GBP £7,995Promenade Premium Suite
18-05-201901-06-2019GBP £8,495Bridge Deluxe Balcony Suite
18-05-201901-06-2019GBP £8,795Promenade Prem. Balcony Suite


    • Arrive at the tiny island of Teuri Jima, part of the Shokanbetsu
    • Teuri-Yagishiri National Park and an important sanctuary for nesting seabirds including common murre and black-tailed gulls
    • Spend the day at Rebun Island which is famous for its rich flora, including many alpine flowers some of which cannot be found anywhere else on the world
    • Enjoy a full day excursion to the Shiretoko National Park which covers the majority of the Shiretoko Peninsula
    • Visit the Shikotsu-Toya National Park named after the two caldera lakes which offer wonderful scenery and excellent hiking and walking opportunities