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Though Alaska is part of the United States, in many ways it seems like a world apart. It’s snowcapped mountains, breathtaking glaciers, wildlife and vivid native culture make the 49th state one spot that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Whether you visit on cruise ship or on land there are several experiences in the state that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. From flying high above snow-capped lands to whale watching among glaciers, I’ll go through ten spots that offer the overall best Alaskan vacation experience.
1. Inside Passage
One of the most beautiful ways to explore the last frontier in luxury is through sails to Alaska’s Inside Passage. This complex ice maze of fjords, bays, and lush green islands is home to a variety of wildlife. Expect to see orca, mountain goats, bald eagles, bears, puffins, sea otters and much more during your time here. It’s not just the glaciers that are awe-inspiring, the mountains are carpeted with majestic forests that are home to Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Indians known for their towering totem poles.
To learn more about the native Alaskan culture up close visit Ketchikan. This island town is home to the Tlingit people. Close to town visitors will find the Misty Fiords National Monument. This glacier-carved wilderness features snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. Ketchikan is a great place to canoe and hike. If you’re a salmon lover you’re in luck here because Ketchikan is known as the Salmon Capital of the World! When visiting don’t miss hiking the Tongass National Forest or zip-lining through the tree canopy.
When visiting anywhere I always think it is important to visit the spot that most of the residents live. This gives you a deeper understanding of the day-to-day life of locals. Anchorage is the largest and most inhabited city in the state of Alaska. It also serves as the economic heart of Alaska. When visiting don’t miss the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center or the Alaska Native Heritage Center. If you’re interested in bird watching drive along the Seward Highway to Potter’s Marsh or hike along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
4. Glacier Bay National Park
For some of the best kayaking in the world, visit Glacier Bay National Park. This is a world-renowned spot to admire glaciers, get active outdoors and see wildlife. Kayaks are available for rent or through guided tours, and can be booked through the cruise ship if that is the way you arrive. For incredible glacier hiking head to Bartlett Cove where trails wind through and around the massive ice structures. Don’t miss Muir Inlet and the John Hopkins Glacier for epic photos.
5. Hubbard Glacier
Another iconic site of Alaska that you can only see from the water is the Hubbard Glacier. If you’re taking a cruise then make sure this is on your itinerary. It is a mesmerizing natural wonder framed in striking glacial blue. The Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America at four-hundred feet tall, six miles wide, seventy-six miles long and one-thousand-two-hundred feet deep.
Fishing enthusiasts should make a stop at Homer a priority. It is known as the fishing capital of Alaska. The most popular experience is the day-long halibut fishing trip that ends with local restaurants cooking up your haul for dinner. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy fishing, Homer is worth visiting because it has access to several of Alaska’s national parks. Three things you must do there are visit the iconic Homer Spit, enjoy the picturesque vistas at Skyline Drive, and take a wildlife safari in Kachemak Bay State Park.
7. Katmai National Park
Close to Homer is Katmai National Park. The most fascinating part of this park is the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a massive ash flow that stayed after the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano. This is also a great place to see local brown bears catching salmon. There is an abundance of rainbow trout and salmon here making it an ideal spot for fishing.
8. Kenai Fjords National Park
To see views that resemble the ice age, visit Kenai Fjords National Park. Here visitors will see glaciers, fjords, and ice caps that touch the edge of the ocean creating unforgettable views. Fifty percent of this park is covered in ice year-round. This national park is the ideal home for aquatic wildlife. It is common to see pods of migrating whales here so bring your binoculars!
9. Denali National Park
Denali National Park is by far one of the most famous places to visit in Alaska. The country’s highest mountain, Mount McKinley, is found here. Three things you must do when visiting Denali National Park are wildlife watch along the Savage River, take in the beauty of Wonder Lake or hike through Polychrome Pass. This park is popular for adventure travelers who like to get down and dirty when it comes to travel. However, if you’re more of an observer there are also opportunities to take motorized tours through the park which make it more accessible for all types of visitors.
10 . Tracy Arm-Fjord & Glaciers
Another incredible site that is worth seeing from the water is the Tracy Arm-Fjord and twin Sawyer glaciers. The thirty-mile stretch has epic views that were originally named after a naval crewman who paddled it in 1899. If you time it right you might be lucky to hear the thunderous crack as the glaciers calve and send tremendous chunks of ice falling into the waters. Along this route, expect to see waterfalls, snow-topped peaks, and tons of aquatic wildlife. Adventurous travelers can book a kayaking excursion from the cruise ship with this experience. However, fishing, hiking and swimming is an option as well.
There is no better way to discover the stunning Alaska terrain and fauna than by taking a cruise through its natural wondrous waters. The best time of year to visit is during summer when you’ll get long days of sunlight and warmer temperatures. What are you waiting for? Make a trip to Alaska a priority for your 2019 summer!