Although physically separated from the rest of the United States, Alaska is one of the country’s most picturesque and fascinating parts. Its isolation adds to the beauty and mystery of the 49th state, making it an attractive place for intrepid travelers and nature lovers. Along with major cities like Anchorage, it’s important to experience the natural landmarks and attractions that make Alaska a beloved city. So when planning your trip itinerary, including some of the best places to visit in Alaska.
A tour of Alaska is one of the best plans if time and money allow it. So, know which places to go.
Although physically separated from the rest of the United States, Alaska is one of the country’s most picturesque and fascinating parts. Its isolation only adds to the beauty and mystery of the 49th state, making it an attractive getaway for intrepid travelers and nature lovers. Learn about the most beautiful places to visit in Alaska.
Alaska is one of the favorite destinations for tourists who love nature and winter weather, as it has more than 100,000 glaciers and is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.
Attractions change based on when you visit the state. For example, if you travel in summer, you will find the best weather for hiking or fishing, while to get to know the fauna of the place, it is preferable to arrive in spring.
It is best to travel between September and April to live the experience of seeing the northern lights.
Remember that the climate in Alaska is cold, and the recommendation is to dress in warm clothing in layers. In summer, temperatures are around 15 and 26 degrees Celsius, but the thermometer drops to 26 degrees below zero in winter.
If you are already planning your next trip to Alaska, these are the attractions that you cannot miss:
In addition to big cities like Anchorage, it’s essential to get out and experience the natural sights that make Alaska so beloved. So when planning your trip itinerary, include as many of the best places to visit in Alaska as possible.
Many of us associate the state of Alaska with snow, ice, and cold. Its winters are almost magical, like something out of a Christmas story. It is the largest US state, and we find it in the northwestern part of the American continent, next to Canada. It is known as the “last frontier” and was also the last state to join the US, in 1959, with an area of 1,718 million square kilometers. So it’s no surprise that Alaska has so much to do and see, especially for travelers in love with nature. From here, we invite you to explore Alaska with your family and friends or in search of relaxation, and we suggest adventures to discover a large part of its charms.
1. Denali national park
Denali National Park is one of the most famous and popular places to visit in Alaska. Home to the iconic and towering peak of Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in the country, Denali National Park is a protected wilderness area where all kinds of wildlife can be seen. Spot bears, moose, wolves, and more as you walk along the Savage River, admire the tranquility of Wonder Lake or hike Polychrome Pass. Hiking, whitewater rafting, and backcountry camping are popular ways to explore the national park, but there are also bus tours for a safer, more controlled way to get around. At the Denali Visitor Center, you can take short walks along park ranger-guided trails, where you’ll also find informative and educational exhibits.
2. Kenai Fjords National Park
Visiting Kenai Fjords National Park is like going back in time to the ice age. Glaciers and ice caps still exist and touch the ocean’s edge, creating dramatic and unforgettable views. Half of the park is covered in ice year-round, and deep fjords resulted in valleys of water forming. These fjords are the ideal home for a great deal of aquatic wildlife, and you can easily see migrating whales and birds that swoop down to feed on the fish in the water. Due to the icy conditions, many visitors choose to visit Kenai Fjords National Park on a guided day trip, though there are limited lodging options in the park itself.
3. Katmai National Park
In southwestern Alaska is Katmai National Park, a picturesque haven near Homer and Kodiak Islands. At the heart of the park is the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a massive ash flow left behind after the eruption of the Novarupta volcano in 1912. Also, in Katmai National Park, there are incredible opportunities to get up close and personal with local wildlife. In particular, brown bears can be seen feeding on the local salmon. Fishing is also a popular pastime thanks to the abundance of rainbow trout and salmon.
Homer should be on your Alaska itinerary if you are interested in exploring nature or fishing. Located on the Kenai Peninsula, Homer is known as the fishing capital of Alaska and serves as the gateway to several national parks. While in Homer, you can walk the beach to the iconic Homer Spit, drive Skyline Drive for fantastic views, or go wildlife spotting at Kachemak Bay State Park, where you’ll find ibex, bald eagles, sea lions, whales, humpbacks, and black bears. In addition, halibut fishing day trips are incredibly popular, and you’re almost guaranteed an impressive haul that local restaurants will gladly cook up for your dinner.
Although it is not the capital, Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska. Nearly half of the state’s residents live in or around the city, as Anchorage is the economic heart of Alaska. It offers the conveniences of a large American city but is only a 30-minute drive from the Alaskan wilderness. You can start your stay in Anchorage by visiting the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, or the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Then drive along the Seward Highway to Potter’s Marsh for fantastic bird watching or hike along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
Alaska’s southernmost city is Ketchikan, a picturesque destination known as the first stop on many cruise ships heading north along the coast. Situated at the foot of Deer Mountain, Ketchikan is home to many attractions. Visitors can visit the Totem Heritage Center, the Tongass Historical Museum, or the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. The most picturesque stretch of downtown is historic Creek Street, within walking distance of the cruise ship piers. Once a rowdy red-light district, these days, Creek Street is home to a quieter kind of establishment, but it still retains its charming historic charm. Ketchikan is a hub for outdoor adventures, and there’s no shortage of guided day trips to fish for salmon, hike the Tongass National Forest, or zip line through the tree canopy.
7. Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park is known as the Alaskan Panhandle, a world-renowned place to admire glaciers, get active in the outdoors, and see wildlife. Kayaking is a fantastic way to get around the park and see a lot at the same time, and kayaks are available for rent or through guided tours. At Bartlett Cove, hiking trails meander in and around the glaciers. Two of the park’s most visited and photographed spots are Muir Inlet, off-limits to motor boats, and John Hopkins Glacier.
8. Mendenhall Glacier
This site is a must for any tourist coming to the state’s southeast, near Juneau. It is impossible to climb it because Mendenhall Lake surrounds it, but when you approach the glacier on the Nugget Falls trail, you can appreciate a waterfall that has a fall of seven meters deep.
This “river of ice” can be visited from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. from May to September and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from October to April. The access fee is 5 dollars, increasing to 15 dollars a season. Admission for children under 16 years of age is completely free.
In addition, Mendenhall has ice caves with frozen roofs that can be accessed between July and September, when there is no risk of a collapse.
A short distance from the city of Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, a vast glacier that is calving or breaking up in its adjacent lake. There are several ways to experience the glacier, ranging from an easy shuttle ride to see it up close to a helicopter ride to appreciate its size. Fitter visitors can try the Mendenhall Glacier West Glacier Trail, which is challenging but offers fantastic photo opportunities. Also worth a visit is the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, which includes exhibits on the glacier and various viewing platforms.
9. Wrangell St. Elias National Park
Three mountain ranges called the Chugach, Wrangell, and Saint Elias converge in an area known as the North American Mountain Kingdom. At the heart of this kingdom, you will find the vast Wrangell St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the US. The park is home to several visitor information centers and ranger stations. Still, you can also easily get off the beaten track and explore glacier hiking trails or overnight camping adventures. Hunting, fishing, mountain biking, and kayaking are other popular pastimes in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
Alaska’s capital city is Juneau, a major port for cruise ships that sail through the area. It’s also home to major attractions like the Alaska State Museum, the Alaska State Capitol, and the incredibly serene St. Theresa Shrine. For great views of Juneau, take the Mount Roberts Tram and, from the top, set out on one of the many hiking trails overlooking the city. Juneau is also home to several breweries, and multiple companies offer tours to warm you up on a cold day. Finally, head to Front Street to find plenty of great souvenir shops and local restaurants where you can sample regional cuisine.
11. Climb the highest peak in North America
Heights fans have another obligatory stop: Denali National Park. Here is Mount Denali, formerly called Mount McKinley. It measures 6,190 meters in altitude and is the highest peak in North America. This stunning setting is also filled with tundra, spruce forests, and glaciers and is home to several species of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, elk, caribou, and Dall’s sheep.
12. Drive through an icy landscape
Being such a large state and traveling long distances, renting a car in Alaska is highly recommended. Driving on its roads is quite an experience. They are in excellent condition and guarded by unique and impressive landscapes. In Alaska, you will find three main routes: the Glen Highway; the Seward Highway, which gives access to the glaciers; and the Alaska Marine Highway, the only one with a ferry service.
13. See the Northern Lights.
It is undoubtedly one of the main attractions that Alaska offers. And those who have seen the northern lights assure that it is a unique and unforgettable experience, a phenomenon of nature that dyes the sky with the colors green, yellow, and pink. The best place in Alaska to see it is Fairbanks, the second-largest city in the state. And the ideal sighting season is in winter. Here travelers can search for auroras on their own or hire a tour. They even offer cabins to stay in and contemplate them.
14. Explore a paradise of glaciers.
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like an Eskimo, you’re sure to be able to do it in Alaska. The best place is Kenai Fjords, National Park. It is a glacier paradise created in 1980 to protect some of Alaska’s most incredible and impenetrable wilderness areas. Here you’ll find one of the only four remaining ice fields in the US, the Harding Ice Field. Also, from here, and by road, you can reach Exit Glacier, one of the most visited places in Alaska. Another unforgettable option is to skirt the tidal glaciers and enter the fjords to contemplate the landscape and the variety of marine animals that live in it, such as otters, lions, or seals. Of course, for this, many travelers choose to hire a cruise.
15. Travel on an ice cruise.
As we mentioned, this is another of the most requested experiences in Alaska: sailing through frozen rivers to get closer to the glaciers. You can do it through tourist cruises or with day boat excursions. In addition to Kenai Fjords, these are offered in more areas, such as Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound. Again, remember to bundle up very well and, above all, have your camera battery fully charged to take as many photos as you want. These trips allow you to contemplate spectacular panoramic views.
16. Go on a whale-watching adventure.
Alaska is also one of the best places to go whale watching. And for this, we suggest you go to Juneau, the state capital. The city stands out not only for its beauty, its elegant streets, and its privileged location, facing the sea and between snow-capped mountains. Juneau is also a spectacular place to embark on a dedicated whale-watching trip. Remember that the best time for it is from April to November.
17. Enjoy Winter Sports
If you are an athlete, you have realized that Alaska is the perfect setting to practice all kinds of sports. Skiing, rafting, sleigh rides, kayaking, or canoeing are all possibilities.
18. Taste Fresh Salmon
You cannot end the trip without tasting a salmon. Alaska is one of the last refuges for wild fish. We urge you to try it. It is a great way to end your trip to Alaska with good taste.
19. Northern lights in Fairbanks
Fairbanks is the best place in the entire state of Alaska to view the Northern Lights; however, if your trip’s objective is to travel on the equinox since there are twice the chances of seeing them than on the solstice.
To increase the chances of witnessing this phenomenon, reserve at least three nights so that one of them has a clear sky that allows you to see the northern lights.
Fairbanks is the most populous region in the state, so you’ll have everything you need at your disposal. Also, the sun shines 24 hours a day during the summer.
20. Alaska Railroad Ride
It is the state’s highest-rated attraction by tourists on TripAdvisor, but it is only available in the summer. This iconic railroad takes visitors to Alaska’s most popular destinations: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali National Park, and Spencer Glacier.
In addition, it has day trips that bring tourists from Anchorage to Seward for a cruise on the glaciers or to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop and return to Anchorage at night.
There are also walks to watch bears, fly over the Arctic Circle, or tour a tropical jungle, depending on the final destination selected.
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21. Hubbard Glacier
This glacier, located in eastern Alaska, is almost 10 kilometers wide until it meets the sea and is 122 kilometers long. It is an active glacier, and in the last 30 years, it has experienced two large tidal waves.
On boat rides, you can see the seals, humpback whales, and orcas in its waters.