Franz Josef Land (Arctic Russia)

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Franz Josef Land cruise port

Arctic - Antarctica

Local Time
2024-07-17 22:48

min: 27 °F (-3 °C) / max: 32 °F (1 °C) 31°F
Wind: 290°/ 4.4 m/s  Gust: 6.2 m/sWind: 290°/ 4.4 m/s  Gust: 6.2 m/sGentle breeze
4.4 m/s
Min / Max Temperature32 °F / 1 °C
27 °F / -2 °C
  Port Map

Franz Josef Land (aka Franz Joseph Land) is a Russian Arctic archipelago located in northern Asia (Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, Kara Sea). The archipelago consists of a total of 191 islands, which are inhabited by Russian military personnel only.

The islands cover a total land area of 16134 km2 (6229 mi2) stretching east to west 375 km (233 mi) and north to south 234 km (145 mi). The archipelago is divided into three groups (western, central, eastern) separated by two sea channels - British Channel and Austrian Strait. The central group is divided into northern and southern (divided by Markham Strait). The largest islands are George Land (total area 2741 km2 / 1058 mi2), Wilczek Land (2203 km2 / 851 mi2), Graham Bell (1557 km2 (601 mi2) and Alexandra (1095 km2 / 423 mi2).

Cape Fligely (Rudolf Island) is the Eastern Hemisphere's northernmost point. Franz Josef Land islands have a total of 4425 km (2750 mi) coastline. The archipelago's highest elevation point is on Wilczek Land (670 m / 2200 ft above sea level). The archipelago was first discovered in 1865 by Norwegian sailors but was first reported in 1873 during a North Pole expedition. The area was named after Franz Joseph I of Austria (1830-1916).


Franz Josef Land was annexed by the USSR (Soviet Union) in 1926 when were settled several Russian research outposts (military bases). After WW2 (1939-1945) were built military airfields (on Alexandra Land and Graham Bell Island) and the archipelago was closed off for foreigners until 1990. Since April 1994, the archipelago is a nature reserve park, part of the Russian Arctic National Park. Franz Josef Land has rare marine mammals, including 3 seal species, walruses, whales (Minke, humpback, beluga, fin, orca and narwhales).

In 2012, the Graham Bell Airfield was reopened for military purposes.

Cruise travel to Franz Josef Land is very limited as the archipelago has no infrastructure to support it and these islands can only be reached by an icebreaker ship. Typically, these Arctic cruises are operated with departures from Murmansk. The first tourist landings (8) were made in 2012. The most common is the 3-week (21-day) North Pole cruise itinerary offered by the Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy stopping here en-route.

The most popular polar cruising destinations here are bird cliffs and the walrus colonies on Northbrook Island (Cape Flora) and Hooker Island (Cape Rubini). Another destination are the Nansen's hut remains (Jackson Island). Cruise passengers are commonly landed by the icebreaker's helicopter.

In September 2016, Franz Josef Land was visited by the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises ship Hanseatic (now Heritage Adventurer) as part of its "Northeast Passage" itinerary (CruiseMapper news link).

Franz Josef Land tours, shore excursions, hotels

City Tours and Shore Excursions

Alexandra Land