A trip to Alaska seems to be on the bucket list for lots of people. Whether you’re an adventurer, an ecologist, a hunter or fisherman, a photographer or just an average sightseer, Alaska has what you’re looking for and ten times more! There are lots of ways to experience Alaska. Cruising is a popular way to see lots of different ports, glaciers, and the amazing sea creatures that are native to the area. Cruises also offer the benefit of onboard ecologists and guides who can make a cruise a real educational experience. Motorcoach tours and rail tours take you to the interior, where you can learn about early settlers and how they survived in this unique environment. Side trips for glacier hiking, wildlife encounters, historical sites, and spectacular “photo-ops” make these tours very popular, and like the cruises they have expert guides to give you background information. Renting a motorhome to travel at your leisure through Alaska’s unspoiled wilderness, camping and enjoying uncrowded vistas and national parks appeals to many people, especially families with young children. Guided hunting and fishing trips include flights to areas inaccessible by vehicles, making these trips a true adventure for serious sportsmen.
While most cruises and tours operate in the spring, summer and fall, winter is a great time to visit Alaska if you’re a downhill or cross-country skier. (If you’re a serious skier, you may want the extreme experience of “heli-skiing!”) You can try your luck at “mushing” a dog team, or take the opportunity to view the spectacular northern lights on a specialty tour north of the Arctic Circle.
Whatever your motivation is for a trip to Alaska, you will not be disappointed. The vastness and beauty of America’s last frontier is sure to impress and amaze even the most seasoned traveler.
If you are experiencing Alaska on a cruise or with a motorcoach tour group, you’ll have many opportunities for shore excursions and side trip options that will delight everyone in your party, from kids to grandparents. Following are some of the most popular:
- Day trips on a fishing boat. These are popular in Ketchikan and Sitka, where fishing for salmon and halibut is taken to a whole new level – especially if you’re there in late summer when the salmon are returning to their spawning grounds.
- Helicopter “flightseeing” is available in almost every Alaskan port of call. A flight out of Skagway will take you over Glacier Bay with awe-inspiring views of the glaciers and rugged mountain peaks. Land on the Denver Glacier to visit a dog camp and learn to “mush” a team. A dog camp tour is also available out of Juneau, landing on the Juneau Ice Field.
- Take a sea kayaking tour in Ketchikan, boarding your sea kayak at the port and taking off for a 3 or 5 hour tour of the Alaskan coastline, affording great chances for seeing Alaska’s marine creatures and sea birds. Or raft the Mendenhall River out of Juneau which takes you through a forest and a series of thrilling rapids. In Haines, float down the Chilkat River through the Bald Eagle Preserve for great opportunities to view Alaskan wildlife – bears, wolves, otters, moose and eagles all call this area home.
- In Ketchikan visit the Saxman Totem Village for a glimpse into the history and lives of the original Alaskan natives. This tour also includes a lumberjack show, highlighting the skills of the men who make their living in the logging industry. The Juneau-Douglas City Museum is another place where you can explore the rich history of Alaska and its people.
- Take a ride on the Yukon Route train out of Skagway for beautiful views of mountains and glaciers, and a chance to visit a re-creation of a gold rush camp complete with a vaudeville show and a salmon bake. The historic White Pass train takes you to the summit, but it’s up to you to get back down by riding a mountain bike down 3,000 feet of mountain trails!
- Juneau wildlife tours include whale watching on small boats that whisk you out to the breeding grounds for up-close views. Or you can opt for a bear viewing tour with a float plane ride to Admiralty Island’s beach, an ideal spot for watching bears in their natural habitat. The Chilkoot Wildlife Tour out of Haines is a driving tour guided by a naturalist who is intimately acquainted with the animals and birds that populate the area. Expect to see harbor seals, mergansers, bald eagles and bears later in the summer when they’re on the hunt for spawning salmon.
- Juneau and Haines both offer photography tours designed specifically for photographers who want an opportunity to find the perfect shot at a particular destination, whether it’s pictures of mountains and glaciers or native wildlife. This takes some time – you won’t be rushed!
If you’re on a self-driving trip, all of the above options are open to you also. More than likely you’ll be traveling in the summer when many of the tours will be sold out. That’s where your travel agent comes in! We can help plan your trip and book the tours of your choice ahead of time so you won’t be disappointed.
Those traveling independently also have a great opportunity to visit the unforgettable national parks in Alaska which you’ll find to be much less crowded than most in the lower 48. Campers, hikers and photographers will find these parks right up their alley. Most offer hiking trails, kayaking and canoeing, campgrounds and backcountry camping options, and some have ranger led expeditions and children’s programs. Visit:
- The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve where you’ll find Ice Age fossils and discover the route of prehistoric people from Asia to North America.
- Denali National Park and Preserve, a six million acre wilderness spreading beneath North America’s highest mountain peak, Mt. Denali. If you’re lucky, the clouds shrouding the summit will allow you a peek at one of nature’s most impressive sights.
- Katmai National Park and Preserve, a volcanic landscape populated by many species of wildlife.
- Kenai Fjords National Park, offering stunning views of nearly 40 glaciers in the Harding Ice Fields and one of the best parks for education regarding global warming.
- Kobuk Valley National Park with its varied landscape from dense forest to miles of sand dunes is also the location for the migration of thousands of caribou each year.
- Sitka National Historic Park is located on an island on Sitka Sound. This is the site of historic warfare between Russian invaders and the Tlingit natives of Alaska. Totem poles carved by the Tlingit stand guard along the island’s coast.
- Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is a designated wilderness area with no roads or trails leading to it. Visitors must either hike to the park or fly in. The northernmost national park in the USA, it’s located north of the Arctic Circle, and is a place uniquely suited for viewing the northern lights.