10 alaska points of interest Ideas

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aces to See in Alaska: the Best Attractions of the State

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

Alaska is the largest U.S. state and it is therefore difficult to visit it completely in a single trip, considering the fact that most of the territory is not connected by roads or railways and some points of interest are accessible only by boat, by small planes or on foot. There are few human settlements, but this does not mean that there is a lack of things to see, on the contrary: the limited presence of man makes Alaska one of the most suitable states to immerse yourself in unspoiled nature and to lose your gaze amidst the breathtaking landscapes.

Given the vastness of this territory and the wealth of beauty it offers, it is really difficult to limit the list of the best places to visit in Alaska to 10. With this list, I don’t want to exclude all the other attractions, artificial or natural, from a possible itinerary, but to suggest some of those places that make Alaska unique and different from the other 49 states of the federation. If you are planning a trip to the far north of America, you really should include at least one of these places in your travel itinerary. Here is our Alaska must-see and do list. 

1 Denali National Park

best things to see in alaska

Snowy peaks and glaciers crossed by winding streams, uncontaminated forests and wild animals in abundance: we could define this natural park as the symbol of all Alaska. We are not talking about a small, limited green area that can be visited in a few hours, but a reserve of 15,000 square miles, which includes among others, the highest mountain in North America. With its 20310 feet, Mount McKinley dominates this wide geographical area and the slopes of the mountain range are home to an intricate forest where bears, moose and many other species live undisturbed.

Easily accessible from Anchorage, either independently or with organized tours, the park can be explored primarily in two ways: by car or on foot. From Anchorage, driving the Parks Highway, which runs along the southeastern side of the park, is a thrill in itself for lovers of mountainous landscapes. Once you have arrived at the Denali National Park from the Visitor Center, you enter into what is one of the most beautiful roads in all of Alaska: the Denali Park Road. Only the first 24 km of this road that crosses the park is passable by your own means, after which, the only alternative is to get on an official park shuttle. If already in the first stretch you can see wild animals, entering the inner area of the reserve to see bears, wolves and large herbivores such as moose and caribou will be child’s play.

The second way to visit the park is by using your own legs. The possibilities of trekking in these mountains are endless: you can take routes of a few hours or several days in a row, ranging between dense forests and rugged ridges. Moving around on foot, the possibility of encountering wild animals increases: this is good for photo opportunities, but in order for the experience not to become negative those undertaking a trek on these paths must rely on a guide or be well prepared to handle risky situations.

  • Denali ATV tours
  • Denali Shuttle
  • All the activities in Denali

2 Inside Passage

alaska attractions

Alaska’s southeastern coastline is not only rugged: it is dotted with a dense archipelago of hundreds of islands of varying size, protecting it from the ocean’s elements. The sinuous tongue of sea that meanders between these islands and the coast is the Inside Passage. We are talking about a real marine highway, which connects Vancouver to Skagway by boat, touching many other towns including the capital of Alaska, Juneau. Without a doubt, traveling through the Inside Passage is one of the best experiences you can have in Alaska. Sea and land animals, fjords and glaciers: every day spent on these waters makes your eyes open wide with amazement. The dilemma is which vehicle to use.

There are 3 main alternatives: cruise ships, small local cruise ships and ferries. Those who love cruises, for the luxury and comfort they can offer, will find that the best ships in the world sail here and you can enjoy breathtaking views immersed in total relaxation, with the possibility of excursions along the way. Smaller ships, which offer short and medium-range cruises, do not have the same comforts but offer many advantages: not only is the price lower, but the reduced size allows the ships to dock even in smaller ports and to get much closer to the coast, giving tourists a much better view.

  • Inside Passage tours available
  • Alaska Cruises available
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The Alaska Marine Highway System is the state-run ferry service that runs along this marine highway. This choice, although more spartan, is the ideal one for those who want to immerse themselves in the local culture and venture even in less touristy and little-known places. The capillary network of connections also allows you to study your own route, deciding how long to stay in every town, basing only on the ferry schedules.

3 Glacier Bay

things to do in alaska

To the northwest of the Inside Passage is a place where it seems as if you are going back thousands of years in time, to the Ice Age, but which did not exist until two centuries ago. In 1778 James Cook documented an immense and impenetrable expanse of ice hundreds of meters thick in this area. A few years later, as recently as 1794, George Vancouver discovered that some of the ice had melted, making a five-mile bay appear. Glacier Bay continued to expand as the ice melted: while at the mouth of the inlet the ice gave way to a forest. Now ships can creep up to 65 miles into the bay, which continues to expand with numerous branches.

The starting point for visiting Glacier Bay is Gustavus, which can be reached by plane or ship. From here it is possible to reach Bartlett Cove, on the eastern shore of the bay, by car or bus. From here, some paths in the forest branch off, for those who want to enjoy the beauty of the bay on foot. An alternative is to rent a kayak and explore the coastline paddling, but given the current depth of the inlet, it is difficult to see the inner areas. The wiser choice is to board a boat and be enthralled. Some of the ice floes facing the sea drop numerous fragments daily, frequently the size of a car. Fortunately for the environment, icebergs of larger dimensions are rarer, but it cannot be denied that it is breathtaking to witness the collapse of a cube of ice as big as a house into the water.

4 Aleutian Islands

alaska sights

The archipelago that stretches eastward from the Alaska Peninsula is one of the most beautiful and pristine, yet at the same time least visited, areas in all of Alaska. Both factors are related to the same reason: the difficulty in reaching them. Only 8,000 people live in the archipelago and more than half of them in Unalaska, the main one of the only 10 inhabited islands. A fishermen’s paradise,  tourists can only reach the Aleutians by ferry, which travels twice a month in summer, or by plane. The easternmost islands, closer to the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka than to the American coast, are an even more difficult destination to visit.

More than 60 active volcanoes dominate this vast archipelago, where the wildlife of the most diverse marine species lives unaware of the presence of man. There are more than 2500 islands and reefs, most of them in the Aleutian archipelago, which are part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge: the national reserve where marine life lives undisturbed. Those who undertake a trip to the Aleutian Islands will be surprised especially by the birds: tens of millions of seabirds of many species nest on these shores and there are few places in the world comparable to this for bird watching enthusiasts.

5 Sitka: the Russian city of U.S.A.

what to do in alaska

Everyone knows that Alaska and Hawaii were the last two states to join the U.S. federation, in 1959. It is not so often mentioned, however, that Alaska was not an independent state until 1867, but was under the Russian government. It was the Russians, crossing the Bering Strait, who first colonized this geographical area, taking away from the natives the wild lands where they had been living since time immemorial. It is no coincidence that in Sitka, the American flag was raised to replace the Russian one when the two superpowers completed the sale of this gigantic and still wild piece of the world. Sitka was in fact the capital of Alaska, and its main port when power was in the hands of Moscow. Still today there are architectural elements, such as the orthodox cathedral of St. Michael or the Russian Bishop’s house, as well as cultural and religious elements: here, in fact, part of the population is of the Russian Orthodox faith.

Even being able to visit a city of Russian origin in the United States is quite a special occasion, but it is not the only reason why it is worth going to Sitka. Although it has lost its historical commercial importance, it remains the fifth most populous center in the state and one of the most vibrant. But above all it is one of the places where it is easier to see whales, so much so that every year between October and November, the Sitka WhaleFest is held.

Have we made you want to visit it? If so, you ought to know a few things. The city is located on an island, so it is impossible to get there directly by car, but even by boat is not so simple. Although the archipelago is that of the Inside Passage, Sitka is located on the coast facing the ocean, rather than on the Inside Passage traveled by cruise ships and local ferries. However, thanks to the aforementioned Alaska Marine Highway System it is connected to the capital city of Juneau, but bear in mind that it will take almost 10 hours of travel. Those who don’t want to spend all this time on the ship can opt for the planes of Alaska Airlines which take about 40 minutes from the capital. Other flights are also available from Anchorage (about three hours and ten), from Ketchikan (about one hour) and from Seattle (about four hours).

Activities and tours available in Sitka

6 Kenai Fjords

visiting alaska

The fjords are not just in Norway: even if Alaska is not known in the world for this, there is a place where the fjords are the main tourist attraction. It is the Kenai Peninsula, the region south of Anchorage, about the size of Belgium and composed mainly of swamps, lakes and glaciers. A kingdom of fresh water and ice that gives life to a complex ecosystem and contains one of the most evocative parks in the state: the Kenai Fjords National Park. Located on the opposite side of the peninsula from the capital Kenai (a city that like Sitka still carries with it Russian origins, especially thanks to the presence of the community of Old Believers, a Russian Orthodox ethnic group that also speaks Russian in addition to English), the park is one of the best places in Alaska to see the glaciers.

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There are those who choose ice expeditions, but the most popular option is boat or kayak tours along the coasts and inside the deep fjords, at the bottom of which glaciers regularly drop icebergs into the sea. As in Glacier Bay, waiting for a mammoth block of ice to break off and sink into the sea is a favorite activity among tourists, and not without reason. The rumbling crunch and final thud are sounds that stick in the mind as much as the sight of the icebergs themselves. Here are 2 cruises to consider:

  • Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay Half-Day Cruise
  • One Day Cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park

7 Gold Rush Railroads and Trails

what to see in alaska

If the boundless territory of Alaska is attracting more and more tourists from all over the world, it is not only for its landscapes. Even today, its countless natural resources are a magnet for big investors, but before the hydrocarbons boom, it was another raw material that made people look at the Alaskan lands with dreamy eyes: gold. In truth, the area of the North American continent historically richest in gold is the Klondike, the Canadian region right on the border with Alaska. One might ask: if the gold is in Canada, what does Alaska have to do with it? It was from here that the U.S. gold prospectors departed and even today the area near the border is characterized by this theme, with a national park called Klondike gold rush national historical park.

A railway (the White Pass and Yukon Route) was built that connects the Canadian city of Whitehorse with the Alaskan Skagway, a strategic port on the ocean that allowed maritime connection with the United States. Many workers and many pack horses died during the construction of this railroad where the mountains were cut by dynamite. Today, a vintage train connects Skagway with White Pass Summit, the border town between the two states: a journey of 40 miles (there and back) lasting 3 hours that we can consider to be one of the most scenic in North America. With its spectacular waterfalls and vertiginous bridges over glaciers, this steam train is a jaw-dropping experience.

The drawback of a tourist train is its rather high cost, but there are other ways to admire these landscapes. Highway 98 runs parallel to the railroad for much of the route, and several trails allow for hikes of various lengths. The most famous is the Denver glacier trail.

  • White Pass Train Tour
  • Train Tour with Bicycle Excursion

8 Fairbanks

best places to visit in Alaska

The capital of Alaska is Juneau and many people think of Anchorage as the only major city in the country. Many Alaskans, however, see Fairbanks as the hub of their state. Looking at the map it is immediately apparent that Fairbanks is in the middle of nowhere, but knowing the history of the gold rush, of which it was one of the main starting points, one could presume that it was built just for this purpose. In truth, founder E. T. Barnette, who wanted to create a trading station on the Tanana River in 1901, got stuck literally in the middle of nowhere with his steamer and laid where the city’s foundation stone was, on the Chena River. A year later, gold was discovered in the vicinity.

The isolated location made Fairbanks a unique city and for this reason one of the most interesting destinations on a trip to Alaska. Expanding and enriched by the gold rush, it now has about 30,000 inhabitants (which don’t seem many, but this makes it the second most populous city in the state) and is an excellent starting point for excursions throughout the north central part of the country. Among the most interesting attractions is the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, which offers an interesting introduction to the Alaskan territory and the peoples who have inhabited it over time, and especially the Fairbanks Ice Museum. As the name suggests, ice is the protagonist of this exhibition, perpetually kept at -7°, composed exclusively of ice sculptures. The art of ice sculpture in Fairbanks also becomes a worldwide event each year in March, when the city hosts the World Ice Sculpture Championships, with artists flocking from all over the world to compete with sometimes colossal works (up to 20 feet tall).

All the activities available in Fairbanks

9 Alaska Native Heritage Center

alaska must see and do

The city of Anchorage itself is not one of the most interesting places in Alaska, but its surroundings are full of interesting destinations. Among the day trips from Anchorage, one of the most recommended is the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which is located in the northern suburbs of the city and is therefore easily accessible. It is not a museum, but a group of villages where representatives of as many as 11 native cultures live. The different tribes of Alaskan natives exhibit their traditions and their way of life here. Among handicrafts and underground communal houses, visitors can discover many curiosities about how life was (and in part, how it continues to be) in Alaska before the arrival of foreign settlers, in just a few hours.

Anchorage tour with Alaska Native Heritage Center

10 Kobuk Valley

what is there to see in alaska

No one, when thinking of Alaska, imagines dunes of fine sand, entirely comparable to those of the Sahara Desert. Yet, the great northern state offers this too. The Kobuk Valley National Park is one of the destinations less beaten by tourists (especially due to the difficulty in reaching it), but at the same time one of the most curious. To the north of the Arctic Circle, where the taiga ends and the tundra begins to take over, a territory of 730 thousand hectares opens up between two mountain ranges, devoid of roads and paths, which contains one of the most hidden treasures of North America.

In the park dominated by grizzlies and flown by golden eagles, an area of 40 square miles of golden sand dunes, up to 100 feet high, opens up unexpectedly. Unlike other deserts, this small Sahara has been formed over the millennia by the erosion that glaciers have worked on the rocks. It is only possible to reach these areas by small planes, but for those who can afford it, the landscapes of the Kobuk Valley are a truly unique experience.

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Alaska attractions map

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

Extra Information About alaska points of interest That You May Find Interested

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Top 10 Places to See in Alaska: the Best Attractions of the State

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Frequently Asked Questions About alaska points of interest

If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic alaska points of interest, then this section may help you solve it.

What is Alaska’s top tourist destination?

National Park of Denali

What in Alaska should I not miss?

We are well known for the Iditarod, gold mining, sourdough, the Alaska Railroad, aviation, Alaska Native culture, homesteading, world-class fishing, world-class seafood, outdoor adventures, fresh air, and a slower, more self-sufficient way of life.

What three things are Alaska’s claims to fame?

The Top Destinations in Alaska

  • Kodiak.
  • Skagway.
  • Fairbanks.
  • Valdez.
  • Katmai National Park and Preserve.
  • Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.
  • Talkeetna.
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

Where in Alaska is the best place to travel?

There are numerous things to do in Anchorage no matter how much time you have; most people schedule at least three days there while visiting Alaska.

Are 3 days sufficient for Alaska?

Few foods are as closely associated with Alaska as seafood, which is as fresh as it gets whether steamed, seared, or served as sushi. Fresh salmon, flaky halibut, and monster king crab draw a lot of attention, and for good reason.

What dish is most popular in Alaska?

The ideal length of time for a trip to Alaska is seven to ten days; if you’re taking a land-only tour, you can complete the journey from Kenai Fjords National Park to Denali National Park in seven days, leaving plenty of time for day-long guided excursions along the way.

Are 3 days sufficient for Alaska?

Early November through mid-December is the least expensive time to visit Alaska; Anchorage is the least expensive city to stay in, and it has the most pronounced seasonality curve, with midsummer being the most expensive time to travel.

How long should you stay in Alaska?

The town of Utqiavik, Alaska, the northernmost town in the US, experiences a polar night every year that lasts from mid-November to mid-January, meaning residents won’t see daylight for two months after the sun sets in November.

Which month is the darkest in Alaska?

Leave no trace behind when you visit trails, and if you’re taking from the land — whether fishing, hunting, or gathering berries — take only what you need. Don’t disrespect the Alaska Natives or their land. And never mock the customs or traditional foods.

In Alaska, what should you avoid doing?

While our summer season is short, it is the driest and warmest time to visit, and it is the best time to see Alaska. From mid-May to mid-September, you are sure to see the best that the State of Alaska has to offer.

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