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Absolutely Everything You Need to Know to Explore Alaska

Planning Your Trip: When to Go

Planning a big trip to Alaska? Don’t go when the land is cloaked in wintry darkness- unless you want to see the winter festivals, the aurora borealis, or the Yukon Quest sled dog race.

Late summer is a good time to go hiking because the bugs are not as bad and the ground is drier. Temperatures are more moderate hours during the summer, and it is light all day long. April through September is the best part of the season.

exploring alaska

Planning Your Trip: Where to Go

Next, you should choose your destinations— or multiple destinations. There are five regions in Alaska are as follows:

Access the Southwest by plane or boat. Southwest Alaska is where the Aleutian Islands begin. Southwest Alaska is less accessible and more rugged. There are also active volcanoes. Here are incredible opportunities to spot wildlife.

The community of Bethel has a traditional native dance festival and is an administrative spot for 50 neighboring native villages. There are many opportunities to learn about indigenous cultures. The Aleutian island chain stretches over a thousand miles west, and include charming native fishing villages. Fishing here is an important industry.

The Far North goes all the way to the Arctic. In the Interior region, you can find North America’s tallest mountain, Mt. McKinley, and the small city of Fairbanks. Northern Lights are prominent in Fairbanks’ skies during the winter. The town also features hot springs, mountain lakes, and a gold rush history.

exploring alaska

Southcentral is the most heavily populated area and where Anchorage, the largest city is located. About half of the population lives in Southcentral Alaska. The roads are better in this region, and there is plenty of infrastructure for tourists. Most flights land here, and there are plenty of cultural attractions. It is also possible to take the Alaska Highway through Canada to get to islands through the Inside Passage. Anchorage is a good base camp for travelers exploring the wilderness of the region. Many travelers try skiing, both alpine and cross-country, as well as snowboarding, dog-sledding, and ice fishing. Travelers also like to wander the Kenai Peninsula, the “halibut fishing capital of the world” and Seward, which is the entry to Kenai Fjords National Park, with its glaciers, mountains, and barren rock formations. Prince William Sound, on the eastern side of peninsula, has excellent whale watching including humpback, orca, and grey whales.

The Inside Passage, also known as Southeast Alaska, is comprised of a collection of islands and fjords between the Alaskan mainland and the lower 48 states.

The Interior, including Fairbanks, is the gateway to the Arctic. It was forged millions of years ago by powerful glaciers. To its east is Canada, and to the west, the Pacific Ocean. Wildlife here includes bald eagles, humpback whales, and sea lions. There are excellent places to kayak in the many placid bays. A big attraction is Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, which includes sixteen tidewater glaciers between snowy peaks. The park is only accessible via sea or air.

If you’re looking for cultural excursions here, check out towns like Sitka and Skagway, which exhibit Russian influences, including the iconic onion-dome churches. There are numerous native heritage sites, including Tlingit cultural sites such as the totem-pole parks. Juneau, Alaska’s capital city is here also, next to the Mendenhall Glacier.

The Inside Passage and Southcentral are the most popular and easiest to access via flight, ferry, or cruise ship. Other regions are more remote and require wilderness planning and potentially expensive plane tickets.

exploring alaska

Getting Around

People usually get around Alaska by charter boat, cruise, ferry, plane, bus, car, or train. It really depends on where you want to go. Cars allow for great flexibility, but it can take a significant period of time given the size of the state. There are also buses, but they run limited routes. The trains are somewhat limited as well, but they are a beautiful way to see the state. The ferry system is extensive, but of course, this means that you would spend most of your time along the coastline. Charter boats are neat because you can choose where you go, but you would need to organize a group. Cruise ships of course have set itineraries. Why not explore Alaskan cruises? You will encounter a wilderness like no other from your cruise ship. There are pristine landscapes, and indescribable natural wonders. Here, you can see 30-ton whales, glaciers like the Mendenhall Glacier. You could witness the landscape from above on a zip-line tour or flight. A cruise tour can be partnered with a land tour. You can stay on the ship, and also on land, in rustic lodges, as you travel down remote roads and railways in luxury.

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