When you think of who visits the US state of Alaska, I guess you would imagine those hardy adventurous souls who are seeking to challenge themselves in a part of the world that provides extreme conditions and inspiring scenery.
That is undoubtedly true however you can also do it in style and comfort on a cruise, you can take a once-in-a-lifetime road trip or of course, you can stay in a choice of accommodations and just relax alongside unspoiled nature, majestic mountains, glaciers, fjords, crystal clear lakes, waterfalls and the National Parks.
How amazing would that be right now, just to take in that fresh air and experience scenery like nowhere else in the world? Someone lucky enough to have done exactly this is Denise Hunn from Prestige Travel. Here she tells us why she has no hesitation in boldly going to the “Final Frontier” of the USA – Alaska.
Wide Open Spaces
Bordering the Canadian province of British Columbia and the territory of The Yukon, Alaska holds a unique fascination for travellers. Once a Russian territory, it shares a maritime border with that country and parts of this U.S. state still retain a strong Russian heritage.
Although the largest state in the USA. it has one of the smallest populations with half of its people residing in the Anchorage metropolitan area. For visitors, this means wide open spaces with scenery, experiences, wildlife viewing and even great rail journeys as the main reasons to spend time in this accessible, yet seemingly remote, part of the United States.
Often referred to as ‘the Lower 48’, Alaska’s capital city is Juneau which interestingly is only accessible by water or air, it has no road connection to the rest of the North American Highway system.
Cruise The Alaskan Coast
By far the most popular way to visit Alaska is onboard a cruise ship which, in the main, set sail from Vancouver in Canada and Seattle in the United States. There’s a variety of cruise companies sailing between May and mid-September and, depending on the cruise line, you’ll visit such towns as Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.
During the cruise, you will often see orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and sea otters together with a host of sea birds including bald eagles. This truly is a wonderful way to explore some of Alaska’s stunning coastal scenery and a myriad of glaciers too!
Glacier Bay National Park, a stunning World Heritage Site is a ‘must see’ – not all cruise lines are allowed access, so we recommend you carefully check the itinerary before booking to ensure your cruise includes this area.
Road or Rail
If you want to explore the interior of Alaska, then either self-drive or the world-famous Alaska Railroad is available. The roads in Alaska are well signposted and generally not busy although you may come across a jam if a bear, or other wildlife, is on the roadside – known in North America as a bear jam!
Surely a drive along the Alaska Highway will provide a tick on anyone’s bucket list! Some of the drives between overnight stays will be quite short in distance but long in duration due to the multiple stops you’ll want to make for another amazing photograph!
The Alaska Railroad links many communities via three main routes: Denali Star, Coastal Classic and Glacier Discovery and is a relaxing, enjoyable way to view the spectacular scenery.
Choose from Adventure Class with large picture windows or GoldStar Service which offers upper-level dome car seating – ideal for photographers and sightseers alike.
Alaska’s Big Five
The magnificent Denali National Park including North America’s highest peak, the majestic Mount Denali, is a great spot for wildlife viewing – keep an eye out for Alaska’s ‘Big 5’ – caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, grizzly bears and moose – all of which live in the park.
You can’t drive yourself into the park but there are organised excursions which are timed around when the animals are at their most active; either early morning or late afternoon so there’s always a good chance of seeing wildlife.
The animals are, of course, entirely wild so you never know what, or when, you’ll need your camera so keep it to hand!
Along with amazing mountain scenery, Alaska offers some of the best coastal scenery to be found in the world. While it is possible to see much of this onboard a cruise ship, you can get up close and personal by spending time in Seward, Kenai Fjords or even Homer.
A sightseeing day cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park offers views of the magnificent Northwestern Fjord which is home to numerous alpine glaciers and boasts breathtaking scenery together with the opportunity to watch marine wildlife. A day excursion from Anchorage takes you to Prince William Sound where you can see 26 ‘named’ glaciers and many unnamed. These towering masses of ice are truly a sight to see and even often hear when a piece of ice breaks off (known as calving) and falls into the water with an almighty splash.
The cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks offer modern amenities but, in no way, can be likened to other cities in the U.S. They both have international airports but do not have large, multi-storied glass towers you associate with other cities around the world.
Spend a couple of days exploring and getting the feel for what it is like to live in cities full of the gold rush and exploration history before heading out to explore the final frontier!
Prestige Travel is a travel specialist for Canada and Alaska in the United States of America. Each of their holidays is tailored to your specific needs and interests. The unique combination of cities, countryside, mountains, train journeys, cruises and wildlife make for many fantastic and varied memories to cherish.
You can book Prestige Travel to Canada and Alaska with your local travel agent or contact them as below.
T: 01502 567222