Hokkaido: Northern Sea Circuit

Hokkaido: Northern Sea Circuit

From USD $7,950


Heritage Expeditions, pioneers in authentic small ship expedition cruising, invite you to join them on the ultimate exploration of Japan’s last frontier – Hokkaido. Translating in English to ‘Northern Sea Circuit’, Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost and least developed island, and a world away from the country’s more traditional and contemporary cities.

Bordered by the Sea of Japan, Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean, Hokkaido’s rugged landscape features a mountainous centre, complete with volcanic plateau, and is rightly famous for its volcanoes and hot springs. Among its multiple plains is Kushiro, the largest wetland in Japan and home of the Red-crowned Crane, one of the world’s largest and rarest cranes and iconic symbol of Japan where it is also known as the ‘bird of happiness’.

During our circumnavigation of this remarkable island we plan to explore to the outlying Rebun and Rishiri Islands, venture into national parklands, observe wildlife and experience the culture of the indigenous Ainu people and swathes of colourful flowers in bloom Hokkaido is renowned for.

With more than two million acres dedicated to national parkland, we plan to visit some of the island’s most impressive including UNESCO World Heritage Site Shiretoko National Park, or the ‘end of the Earth’ in the native Ainu dialect. Shiretoko is considered one of Japan’s most spectacular national parks and we look forward to exploring its untouched rivers, forests, mountains and waterfalls – home to Ussuri brown bears, Yezo sika deer and Ezo red fox. For birders, and non-birders alike, we hope to see the world’s largest eagle, the Steller’s sea eagle, and owl, Blakiston’s fish owl, Black Woodpecker and White-tailed eagle among other impressive species.

We hope you can join us for this rare opportunity to join this circumnavigation of Japan’s most enchanting isle as we explore the unspoiled nature, primeval wilderness, astounding rare wildlife, limpid lakes and alpine flowers during this unforgettable 13-day adventure.

Trip Name
Hokkaido: Northern Sea Circuit
Vessel Type: Expedition Ship Length: 124 metres Passenger Capacity: 140 Built: 1991 Heritage Adventurer is a true pioneering expedition vessel of exceptional pedigree. Often referred to as the ‘Grande Dame of Polar Exploration’ due to her celebrated history and refined design, she was purpose-built for adventure in 1991 at Finland’s Rauma shipyard and specifically designed for Polar exploration.Setting a peerless standard in authentic expedition travel, Heritage Adventurer (formerly known as MS Hanseatic) combines the highest passenger ship ice-class rating (1A Super) with an impressive history of Polar exploration. Having held records for the most northern and southern Arctic and Antarctic navigations, and for traversing both the Northwest and Northeast Passages, makes Heritage Adventurer perfect for pioneering New Zealand-based Heritage Expeditions signature experiential expedition travel.Originally designed to accommodate 184 guests, Heritage Adventurer now welcomes just 140 expeditioners ensuring spacious, stylish and comfortable voyages, while a fleet of 14 Zodiacs ensures all guests are able to maximise their expedition adventure. Heritage Adventurer proudly continues our traditions of exceptional, personalised expedition experiences as Heritage Expeditions flagship. Observation Lounge – One of the most celebrated and best-known features of Heritage Adventurer is the awe-inducing Observation Lounge, Library and Bar. Located on Deck 7 and perched directly above the Bridge, enjoy sweeping 270-degree views through floor to ceiling windows, perfect for wildlife spotting and quick access to the outer deck. Bring your binoculars to spot wildlife, observe the ever-changing landscape, write in your journal or relax with a book. Observation Deck – Enjoy 360-degree views from the highest point on the ship. The Observation Deck sits above the Observation Lounge and provides exceptional outside viewing options. Stretching the full width of the vessel, this is the perfect spot to take in the surrounding land and seascapes. Perfect on a sunny day, recline in the comfortable sun loungers protected from the wind and elements and watch your voyage unfold.  The Bridge – No expedition is complete without visiting Heritage Adventurer’s busy nerve centre. Located on Deck 6, Heritage Expeditions’ Open Bridge Policy means you are welcome to observe the Captain and crew at work while enjoying some of the ship’s best views. It’s a fascinating place to learn about navigation and vessel operations, however please note the Bridge will be closed when departing or arriving at port. Dining Room  – Indulge in fine international cuisine from our talented chefs in the lavish surrounds of our Dining Room on Deck 4. Sensational 270-degree views provide a stunning backdrop to meals here along with an international wine list featuring many outstanding regional wines. With relaxed seating arrangements, all guests can enjoy dining in a single sitting from hearty breakfasts setting you up for the day’s adventure to sumptuous lunches and multi-course evening dining. Bistro  – Simple fast and delicious meals and snacks are on offer in our relaxed Bistro on Deck 6. Perfect for early risers to enjoy tea, coffee and light breakfast options the Bistro provides great views and opens directly onto a covered and heated teak-deck outdoor dining area. The Bar and Lounge  – The social hub of  Heritage Adventurer, the Bar and Lounge on Deck 5 features seating for all guests. Enjoy a beverage at the bar, sink into an armchair, relax on one of the many spacious loungers and watch the world go by through the panoramic windows or make new friends at the communal seating. This multi-tasking space also doubles as the location of daily briefings and evening recaps with the expedition team. The Gym – Featuring spectacular ocean views, the well-equipped gym is adjacent to the pool, hot tub and sauna in Deck 7’s wellbeing zone. Maintain your routine with an elliptical cross trainer, treadmill, rowing machine, stationary bikes, TRX as well as free weights, yoga mats and fitness balls. Towels are provided with change room and shower amenities nearby. Sauna and Steam Room – True to her Nordic origins, Heritage Adventurer features a dry-heat Finnish sauna and European steam room on Deck 7. Perfect for warming up post Polar plunge or unwinding after a day’s adventures, the sauna and steam room include change room facilities, showers and towels. Swimming Pool and Hot Tub – Surrounded by relaxed teak seating including sun loungers, the open-air saltwater pool can be heated or chilled. Encased in glass the hot tub ensures all-weather use, perfect for those who like to relax with a view following a day of exploring. Lectures and Presentations – Enjoy informative and entertaining lectures on history, biology, wildlife, and ecology in the comfort of the Presentation Theatre. With state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, our world-renowned expedition team will bring your adventure to life through interactive presentations and discussions.


Day 1 - Day 1: Niigata
Arrive at the port town of Niigata,famous for snow, rice, sake andhot springs, and transfer to yourhotel where our group will spendthe first night of the expedition. Thisevening meet your fellow voyagersand expedition team over dinnerat the hotel.
Day 2 - Day 2: Niigata
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel beforeexploring this bustling port town.This afternoon you will board yourship, settle into your cabin andfamiliarise yourself withHeritageAdventurer. We will also take theopportunity to introduce you toyour expedition team and ourvoyage plans. Join the expeditionteam in the Observation Loungeand up on the Observation Deckas we set sail for Akita.
Day 3 - Day 3: Akita
Today we have a full day in Akita.Nestled between mountains andthe sea, Akita’s scenic beauty andfestival capital status, preservedsamurai village and museumsboasting world-class art makesit perfect for connecting with Japan’s history and culture.This morning we will ventureinland to the castle town ofKakunodate. While the castleno longer remains, this formersamurai city’s Uchimachi samuraiquarter maintains a numberof the original, centuries oldsamurai houses. Back in Akita,you will have free time to explorethis fascinating cultural centreincluding the castle ruins atSenshu Park and Akita Museumof Art, designed by renownedJapanese architect Ando Tadaoand featuring works by legendaryartist Leonard Foujita.
Day 4 - Day 4: Aomori
From our berth in Aomori wewill travel inland to explore thespectacular Towada HachimantaiNational Park and one of Japan’smost famous volcanic areas. Ourjourney will see us passing throughthe Kayano Plateau and HakkodaMountains to the scenic OiraseValley and magnificent ancientcaldera Lake Towada. There arenumerous paths to explore hereincluding the bird-filled primevalforest flanking the trails at Tsutano Nana Numa (the sevenponds of Tsuta). We also plan toexplore Oirase Gorge, running 14kilometres from Lake Towada toYakeyama it is considered oneof Japan’s most beautiful riversresplendent with crystal clearwater, rapids, waterfalls andverdant wilderness-clad banks.Returning to Aomori enjoy somefree time in the city.
Day 5 - Day 5: Hakodate
Today we sail into the portof Hakodate, located at thesouthern tip of Hokkaido. Thismorning will see us venturing toOnuma Park where we plan toexplore its picturesque, island-dotted lakes and majesticdormant volcano, MountKomagatake. Explore thelakes’ endlessly fascinating an WWW.HERITAGE-EXPEDITIONS.COM [email protected]: NORTHERN SEA CIRCUITA CIRCUMNAVIGATION OFJAPAN’S LAST FRONTIERInstagram-worthy peninsulasand islands, many of which areconnected by small bridges,by foot. Back in Hakodate thisafternoon, there will be an optionto enjoy a city tour including theenchanting Fort Goryokaku. Thismassive star-shaped citadel wasbuilt in the last years of the EdoPeriod, but repurposed now as aquirky public park boasting morethan 1,000 cherry trees along itsmoats.
Day 6 - Day 6: Muroran
Adventures abound at Shikotsu-Toya National Park, named afterits famous twin caldera lakes.Another picturesque naturalhot spot, the park’s spectacularscenery including the abovementioned lakes, hot springs andvolcanic wonderland, are all easilyaccessible and offer multiple hikingand walking options. Activities herecould include riding the cable carto the top of Mount Usu to take inthe grand scale views over LakeToya or visiting the geothermalspectacle of steaming vents andsulphurous streams at Jigokudaniaka ‘Hell Valley’. This afternoonenjoy free time to explore Muroranat your leisure, visit the sceniccape and lighthouse or take in thecity from above after a walk upMount Sokuryo.
Day 7 - Day 7: Kushiro
Major fishing port city Kushiro isrightly famous for Kushiro Shitsugen,Japan’s largest marshland andnational park home to Japan’ssacred Red-crowned Cranes(tancho). Once thought to beextinct, a flock of 20 birds werediscovered here in 1926; despitenumbers now reaching almost2,000 individuals, the cranes’ statusremains endangered due to theshrinking of its wetland habitat.Exploring the marshland’s walkingtrails we hope to see the cranes intheir natural habitat before visitingthe Kushiro Crane Reserve to learnabout its breeding programme andrehabilitation for sick and injuredbirds. This afternoon explore thearchitecturally striking Kushiro CityMuseum. Equally fascinating inside,discover Kushiro’s natural historyand beauty of the indigenous Ainuculture.
Day 8 - Day 8: Abashiri
This morning position yourself onthe Observation Deck or in theObservation Lounge to enjoyviews of the coastline and lookfor wildlife as we sail through the Nemuro Channel and around theShiretoko Peninsula to Abashiri.This afternoon we plan to visitLake Kussharo, a stunning tree-lined caldera lake, the largestin Akan Mashu National Parkwith a circumference of 57kilometres. We also plan to visitHigashimokoto Shibazakura Parkand its 10 hectares of floweringfields which turn vivid pink fromMay to early June during thepark’s annual ShibazakuraFestival. This evening we moorovernight in Abashiri.
Day 9 - Day 9: Shiretoko National Park
Today we have allowed a fullday to explore Shiretoko, one ofJapan’s most pristine nationalparks and a designated UNESCOWorld Heritage Site due tothe diversity of its ecosystems.This remote and untouchedpark combines rivers, forests,mountains and waterfalls, and ishome to 36 land and 22 marinemammal species, as well as 285bird species, including Yezo brownbears and Blakiston’s fish owls. Thepeninsula’s volcanic landscapesare impressive and we hope to traverse the Shiretoko Pass with itsstunning views of Mount Rausu,the highest point on the ShiretokoPeninsula and return via thespectacular 20-kilometre coastalstretch of wildflowers known asKoshimizu Gensei-kaen.
Day 10 - Day 10: Korsakov, Russia
This morning we arrive at thePort of Korsakov. After clearingcustoms we plan to explore thecity – Sakhalin Island’s first Russianmilitary post. From here we planto visit Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, theisland’s capital which was oncebriefly claimed by Japan andreturned to Russia after World WarII. Architecture nods to Japan’soccupancy can still be observedaround the city and optionsduring our visit include exploringthe Russian Orthodox Church,Sakhalin Regional Museum whichis housed in a former Japanesemansion, and a slice of Russian lifeat the bustling local market.
Day 11 - Day 11: Rebun Island
After clearing customs formalitiesin Wakkanai we will sail to theRishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu NationalPark and berth at Rebun Island.Also known as Japan’s ‘islandof flowers’, we plan to exploreRebun Island, a scenic isle off thenorthwest tip of Hokkaido andtreasure trove of natural beauty.This tiny island is famous for itsrich flora, including many alpineflowers not found anywhere else in the world which carpetthe island from late April tomid September. We plan totake advantage of severalopportunities to explore the floralsplendour along the coastlinewhich also offer excellent viewsover the surrounding crystal clearwaters, of Rishiri Volcano and therugged beauty of Cape Gorota.
Day 12 - Day 12: Rishiri & Teuri-Jima
This morning we will exploreneighbouring Rishiri Island wherethe skyline is dominated by thedormant volcano of Mount Rishiriclimbing to 1,721 metres. Our tourof the island may include walkingaround manmade HimenumaPond listening the to birdlife andtaking in majestic Mount Rishiriand surrounding flora reflectedin the pond’s surface, andKutsugata Cape Park where wehope to see Japan’s famed BlackWoodpecker and Long-tailed Titexploring the forest walks. Therewill also be free time to ventureinto the town or visit the hotsprings. This afternoon we arriveat the tiny island of Teuri-Jima,part of the Shokanbetsu- Teuri-Yagishiri National Park and animportant sanctuary for nestingseabirds including Common Murre and Black-tailed gulls. Wewill use our ship to sail by the cliffsand, if time permits, will launchthe Zodiacs for a closer look
Day 13 - Day 13: Otaru
This morning we arrive in Otaru,a port city in Hokkaido knownfor glassworks, music boxes, sakedistilleries and the picturesqueOtaru Canal flanked with shopsand cafes built within repurposed1920s warehouses. After breakfastthere will be a complimentarycoach to a central hotel or tothe airport. To allow time fordisembarkation proceduresand travel from Otaru, we donot recommend booking flightsdeparting before 1300 hours.
Day 14 - Please Note:
During our voyage,circumstances may make itnecessary or desirable to deviatefrom the proposed itinerary.This can include poor weatherand opportunities for makingunplanned excursions. YourExpedition Leader will keep youfully informed.Please note: Voyages areplanned and scheduled pendingfinal regulatory approval.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
03-06-202215-06-2022USD $7,950MAIN DECK TRIPLE CABINS
03-06-202215-06-2022USD $8,350SUPERIOR TRIPLE CABINS
03-06-202215-06-2022USD $9,995SUPERIOR CABIN DECK 4
03-06-202215-06-2022USD $10,495SUPERIOR CABINS DECK 5
03-06-202215-06-2022USD $12,295MAIN DECK SINGLE CABINS
03-06-202215-06-2022USD $12,750SUPERIOR SINGLE CABINS
03-06-202215-06-2022USD $13,175WORSLEY SUITES
03-06-202215-06-2022USD $18,295HERITAGE SUITES


    • Enjoy Niigata & Akita
    • Discover Aomori & Hakodate
    • Explore Muroran & Abashiri
    • Travel to Shiretoko National Park & Rebun Island