5 Things NOT to Miss in Alaska
Untamed, practically uninhabited, and spreading
over almost 2 million square kilometers, Alaska is the ultimate escape into the wild, with a wide range of daring, snow-dominated activities. From winter festivities that will give you a glimpse into some of its traditions such as dogsled races, and views of the Aurora Borealis, to milder, summertime hikes, wildlife spotting, and cruising, Alaska surely has a plethora of exciting adventures to offer all-year-round.
First-time visitors might have a hard time choosing its many versatile activities, and deciding when might be the best season to travel, so the following list includes some of the most popular and valuable experiences you can treat yourself to when planning your trip into the wild, wild north!
1. Fairbanks for the Winter Aurora
Travelers come from all over the world during the harsh winter months only to be able to experience one of the most breathtaking phenomena on the planet – the magical northern lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, and visible during winter, especially in the region of Fairbanks.
Starting in September, and all the way to April, the long, never-ending nights of the north allow you to witness a true spectacle. The best way to make sure that you’ll observe this incredible sight is to stay in or near Fairbanks and join a guided tour that will take you to some of the best spots for catching Aurora, preferably after midnight.
2. Anchorage for Culture Vultures
The largest city in Alaska, and with a population of around 300,000 people, Anchorage is also one of those rare spots that have a well-developed tourist infrastructure. Its access to highways and connections to Inside Passage islands and other parts of Alaska also make it a perfect central base for all other excursions into the wilderness, and exploration of the country.
While there, you have the opportunity to learn about the 11 major cultures of Alaska, presented in the form of exhibitions, performances, and storytelling in the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Created to preserve the traditions and culture of the indigenous peoples, the center is a perfect spot for history buffs who will appreciate the first-hand experience and immerse themselves into the authentic lives of the native people.
3. The Inside Passage
Many would say that spending your Alaska holidays cruising this particular segment of the country is a dream-come-true, especially if you’d like to combine comfort with access to some of the most pristine icy wilderness in the world. The Inside Passage is a stretch of glaciers, dramatic mountain peaks, and enchanting waterfalls, giving you a glimpse into the still intact natural habitats of numerous marine and terrestrial species alike.
You’ll have the opportunity to see the indigenous people’s totem poles, those of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Indians who inhabit Inside Passage, along with uniquely charming coastal towns of Sitka, Skagway, and the unusual capital of Alaska called Juneau, which can only be reached by boats or airplanes.
4. Kenai Fjords National Park
Much like other national parks, Kenai Fjords was established with the purpose of safeguarding the wildlife native to the area, along with the rainforest ecosystem and various historical and archeological sites of relevance. As a result, you can now visit this pristine wilderness of glaciers, boasting an abundance of marine life, including sea lions, humpback and killer whales, while bears, wolves, coyotes and the like inhabit the dryland.
Experienced kayakers can enjoy the sport within the park, while hiking, guided tours with rangers, skiing and dog sledding are some of the most beloved activities available for locals and tourists alike. For veteran mountaineers who are well-equipped for such harsh conditions, there’s an option of icefield crossings which can last for days on end, while the Harding Icefield Trail is also a sought-after option among avid hikers.
5. Steve Kroschel’s Wildlife Center
When most people hear “wildlife center”, they simply assume it must be a zoo – however, that cannot be said for what Steve Kroschel has done with this organization. In their own words, it’s an experience! This filmmaker has created a home to orphaned wild animals that are native to both Canada and Alaska. Today, he takes care of wolves, wolverines, grizzly bears, moose, and numerous other furry companions, and anyone is welcome to visit!
Located approximately 45km to the north of Haines, you can get there easily by car, and spend some time meeting and greeting all these wild animals Steve has rescued over the years. There are private tours, group tours and you’ll have a unique chance to snap a few photos of these incredible beasts in their natural habitat.
Looking for a great guide to the beauty of Alaska? followsummer recommends:
Eye Witness Travel Alaska (we take them everywhere we travel!)
Enjoy Alaska, my friends!
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