Destinations in Alaska

Planning Your Trip: When to Go

The time of year you go will help determine your destinations in Alaska. When the land is cloaked in wintry darkness, you can see the Northern Lights, or the Yukon Quest sled dog race. This is also a good time to see Alaska’s winter festivals.

Temperatures range from the 50’s to the 70’s and the sun is out above the Arctic Circle for 24 hours a day between mid-May and mid-September. August is a good time to take a hike, when the ground is drier and the bugs are not as bad. The high point of the season is April through September. People take cruises during this time.

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 can take a significant period of time given the size of the state but allow for great flexibility. The ferry system is extensive. You can see Alaska from the coastline. The buses and trains are good, but they run limited routes. The trains are a particularly beautiful way to see the country, though. Charter boats are ideal because you choose where you go. However, you would need to organize a group of people to reserve the charter boat with.

Inside Passage Scenery
Inside Passage Scenery

Why not explore Alaskan cruise destinations? You can see the exquisite landscapes, indescribable natural wonders, whales and glaciers from the deck of a ship. If you want to see the land from above, take a zip-line tour or flight. You can also arrange to spend some time off the boat. If you need lodging on shore, why not stay in rustic lodges as you travel down remote roads and railways in luxury.

Planning Your Trip: Where to Go

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

Southwest

Check out Southwest Alaska, where the Aleutian Islands begin. The island chain stretches over a thousand miles west, and includes charming native fishing villages. It’s a hot spot for fishing. It is more rugged, less accessible and there are incredible opportunities to spot bears and birds. There are also active volcanoes.

If you want to learn about native populations, the community of Bethel has a traditional native dance festival and is a meeting spot for the 50 nearby native villages.

Aurora borealis near Fairbanks; destinations in Alaska
Aurora borealis near Fairbanks

Arctic Far North

The Far North goes all the way to the Arctic. Northern Lights are prominent in Fairbanks’ skies during the winter. The town also features mountain lakes, hot springs and a gold rush history.

Interior

In the Interior region you’ll find Denali, North America’s tallest mountain. There is also the small city of Fairbanks. 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.

Anchorage with Chugach Mountains behind; destinations in Alaska
Anchorage and the Chugach Mountains

Southcentral

About half the population of Alaska is in Southcentral, the most heavily populated area. This is where Anchorage, the largest city is located.

There is plenty of infrastructure for tourists, including better roads—the Alaska Highway, for instance—and most flights land here. There are plenty of cultural attractions.

Anchorage is a good base camp to explore the wilderness of the region. Many travelers go snowboarding, dog-sledding, and ice fishing, as well as skiing, both alpine and cross-country.

Breaching whale in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Breaching whale in Kenai Fjords National Park

Check out 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 of humpback, orca and grey whales.

Inside Passage

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

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

About Kevin Devoto

Kevin Devoto is an avid outdoor enthusiast and freelance writer. He enjoys writing about sustainability, eco friendly behaviors and local travel. He has traveled all over the world but has taken a particular interest in our great National Parks.

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