Alaska should be on your list if you’re looking for a unique travel destination that offers breathtaking natural beauty and diverse cultural experiences. With its rugged landscapes, abundant wildlife, and fascinating history, the Last Frontier offers something for every type of traveller. This comprehensive Alaska travel guide will explore the state’s different regions, popular attractions, and things to do. We’ll also cover how to reach Alaska and the main cities you want to visit.
Why Visit Alaska?
Alaska is the largest state in the United States, with over 663,000 square miles of land. It’s a land of extremes, with towering mountains, vast forests, expansive glaciers, and abundant wildlife. Alaska is also home to a rich Native American culture, and fascinating gold rushes, and pioneer settlement history. So whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a cultural explorer, or a history buff, Alaska has something to offer.
Alaska has five distinct regions, each with unique characters and attractions.
Southeast Alaska is known for its rugged coastline, dense rainforests, and abundant wildlife. The region is home to the state capital, Juneau, and numerous charming small towns. However, the most popular attraction in Southeast Alaska is Glacier Bay National Park, where you can witness the majesty of towering glaciers and spot humpback whales, sea otters, and other marine wildlife.
Southcentral Alaska is home to Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska, and the stunning Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound. The region is known for its world-class fishing and outdoor adventure opportunities, including hiking, biking, and skiing.
Interior Alaska is home to Fairbanks, the second-largest city in Alaska, and the famous Denali National Park. Denali is the tallest mountain in North America and is home to diverse wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, and moose. Interior Alaska is also famous for its northern lights, seen from September through April.
Far North Alaska
Far North Alaska is the state’s most remote and sparsely populated region, but it’s also one of the most spectacular. The region includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to caribou, grizzly bears, and polar bears, as well as the northernmost city in the United States, Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow).
Popular Attractions in Alaska
Alaska has numerous national parks, wildlife refuges, and other natural attractions that draw visitors worldwide. Here are some of the most popular:
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is a vast wilderness area that covers over six million acres. The park is home to Mount Denali, the highest peak in North America, and a diverse array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, and Dall sheep. Visitors can explore the park on foot or by bus.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park is located in Southeast Alaska, home to over 3 million acres of pristine wilderness. The park features towering glaciers, deep fjords, and abundant marine wildlife, including humpback whales, sea otters, and sea lions. Visitors can take a boat tour of the bay or hike on the park’s many trails.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park is located in Southcentral Alaska and is known for its stunning glaciers and coastal scenery. Visitors can take a boat tour of the fjords or hike on the park’s many trails. The park is also home to diverse wildlife, including sea otters, harbour seals, and bald eagles.
Mendenhall Glacier is located near Juneau and is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska. Visitors can take a guided glacier tour or hike on nearby trails. In addition, the visitor centre offers exhibits on the glacier’s formation and the surrounding ecosystem.
Tongass National Forest
Tongass National Forest is located in Southeast Alaska, the largest national forest in the United States. The forest covers over 17 million acres and features numerous hiking trails, scenic drives, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Visitors can also explore the historic mining town of Sitka or take a boat tour of the Inside Passage.
Things to Do in Alaska
Alaska offers endless outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and wildlife-watching opportunities. Here are some of the top things to do in the state:
Alaska is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can go hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and skiing in the state’s many wilderness areas. Some popular outdoor destinations include Denali National Park, the Kenai Peninsula, and the Chugach Mountains.
Alaska has a rich Native American culture, with numerous tribes and communities throughout the state. Visitors can explore traditional villages, attend cultural festivals, and learn about Alaska’s history and heritage at museums and cultural centres.
Alaska is home to diverse wildlife, from grizzly bears and wolves to whales and sea otters. Visitors can take guided tours to view wildlife in their natural habitat or explore on their own. Some of the best wildlife viewing destinations include Denali National Park, Glacier Bay National Park, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Alaska is a winter wonderland with opportunities for skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and more. In addition, visitors can explore the state’s many winter festivals or enjoy the beauty of the snowy landscapes.
Main Cities in Alaska
Alaska’s main cities offer a unique blend of urban and wilderness experiences.
Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and is located in Southcentral Alaska. The city offers numerous outdoor recreation opportunities and a vibrant arts and culture scene.
Fairbanks is located in Interior Alaska and is known for its stunning aurora borealis displays and hot springs. Visitors can also explore the city’s gold rush history and learn about the indigenous Athabascan culture.
Juneau is the capital city of Alaska and is located in Southeast Alaska. The city is only accessible by air or sea and is known for its scenic beauty and rich history. Visitors can explore the Mendenhall Glacier, take a whale-watching tour, or visit the State Capitol Building.
Sitka is located in Southeast Alaska and is known for its stunning coastal scenery and rich Russian history. Visitors can explore the historic Russian Bishop’s House, hike to the top of Mount Edgecumbe, or take a guided fishing tour.
How to Reach Alaska
Alaska is a remote destination but easily accessible by air or sea.
Most visitors to Alaska arrive by air, with major airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. In addition, Alaska Airlines and other major carriers offer regular flights to the state from major cities throughout the United States and Canada.
Alaska is also a popular destination for cruise ships, with numerous ports of call throughout the state. Visitors can take a scenic cruise through the Inside Passage or explore the state’s remote regions by small ship.