Alaska is an amazing place, and it’s huge! Unless you’ve got years to spend, there is no way you can see and do everything, so the challenge is to figure out the best way to organize your time on vacation. Here are a few tips to consider when planning your holiday in Alaska.
Key question: Alaska by sea, land, or both?
Much of Alaska is unreachable by road, so traveling along the coast on an Alaskan cruise is a popular approach. With nearly 500 cruises heading to Alaska each year, you have plenty to choose from.
Cruising is popular for Alaskan vacations
Cruise ships are popular choices for Alaska vacations
On the other hand, one of Alaska’s top attractions is Denali National Park, far from the coast. An ideal combination is to combine an Alaska cruise with some land touring, giving you a chance to see both and get a broad impression of this amazing land.
If you want to see both, many Alaska cruises can be combined with a land program, and cruise tours are easy to arrange and coordinate. For a huge selection, take a look at Holland America. As Alaska pioneers, they know the area well, and have many options available. For example, you could cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver, and combine a seven night cruise with a land-based tour in Denali.
Snow covered Denali mountain is an impressive sight
The snow covered bulk of Denali, the highest peak in North America
Alternatively, you can drive yourself on the inland portion of your vacation, for ultimate flexibility. Taking a train is always fun too, and the rail route from Fairbanks to Anchorage (by way of Denali), is known for the spectacular scenery along the way. If you’re into adventure and want to travel even further, you can fly all the way to Barrow, the northernmost point in Alaska, and learn about the native Inuit people, and how they have adapted to survive in this harsh Arctic environment.
Alaska puts the wild in wildlife
Most visitors to Alaska are looking forward to seeing the wildlife, and this untamed region is perfect for observing wild creatures in their diverse habitats. At sea, you are bound to see humpback whales, playful sea otters, and seals basking on the ice.
In the air, there is a huge variety of bird life, including the most bald eagles in the United States. And on land, the top predators are Alaska’s magnificent bears – find the right spot, and you can watch them fishing for the salmon running upstream.
Grizzly bears by a river in Alaska
A family of grizzly bears along a river in Alaska
See Alaska’s sparkling glaciers
There’s nothing quite like the splendid glaciers of Alaska. Glacier Bay is the most famous place to see these slow moving rivers of ice. You can take a boat expedition that travels up the inlets to the sheer face of the glacier, where you can watch giant bergs calving off into the water. You can also take a flightseeing tour over the mountain peaks, to see the glaciers from above. It’s spectacular!
If you’re not visiting Glacier Bay on your vacation, optional tours from a cruise ship can often take you close to the glaciers, and sometimes even let you walk on them.
A glacier meets the sea at Alaska’s Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay is the best known place in Alaska for viewing glaciers
Alaska has a world of outdoor activities
If you’re into outdoor adventure, Alaska has a wealth of opportunities available. You can plan a rugged excursion on your own, or sample this bounty on shore excursions from a cruise ship. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Take a float plane into a remote fjord, and see some of Alaska’s most dramatic scenery, with misty forests, sheer granite cliffs, and waterfalls a thousand feet high.
Fly by helicopter out to a massive ice field, where you strap on some crampons, grab an ice axe, and head out for a trek across the glacier.
Go dog-sledding with a team of huskies. Feel like a musher and dream of the Iditarod, as a team of skilled dogs pulls your wheeled sled through the forest.
Kayak through still, cold waters, exploring the shoreline and watching for wildlife.
Fly out to an isolated wilderness cove, where you climb onto a bear viewing platform to observe these magnificent creatures catching salmon.
Try your hand at crabbing. You can help pull in the crab pots with their shellfish rewards, and enjoy a crab feast at the end of your day.
Ride the train on the historic White Pass railway, that takes you from Skagway to the Yukon, along the route of the Klondike gold rush.
Bald eagles are an impressive sight. Floating down the river on a raft through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is the best way to see them.
Snorkeling in Alaska? It sounds unlikely, but the underwater world here is teeming with life. With a thick wetsuit, booties and hood, it’s a memorable activity.
Planning for your Alaska vacation
The key to planning your ideal Alaska vacation is to think about what you and your family would most like to see and do. Are glaciers high on your list? Bears? Whales? Mountains? Float planes?
Most activities are available in specific places, so decide which experiences are your top priorities, and then plan your itinerary from there. You’ll end up with an Alaska vacation you’ll never forget.
This guest post was written on behalf of Mundy Cruising, a UK based cruise specialist.