12 Things to See and Do in Alaska

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  • The largest state in the U.S., Alaska is a refuge for wild nature, with landscapes that impress with their beauty and grandeur.
  • It’s an unmissable destination for those who love fishing and exploring forests, mountains and glaciers.
  • Alaska is one of the few places in the world where you can observe the Aurora Borealis.

The wondrous glaciers, mountains and forests that make up Alaska can seem challenging and even intimidating at first. But make no mistake, this state’s wild nature is in harmony with human presence. This proof is in the hundreds of boat, car and plane tours to discover its beauty. There are plenty of options for those who want adventures, to be immersed in nature and enjoy one of the best salmon in the world.

Although it’s known for its biting temperatures in the winter months, Alaska is quite inviting in spring and summer. Check out these 12 tips on what to see and do in this fascinating place.

1. See Otters and Orcas in Kenai Fjords National Park

Established in the 1980s, Kenai Fjords National Park is an excellent opportunity to get closer to Alaska’s marine life and experience the glaciers of the Harding Icefield. The ships that organize visits to the park depart from the city of Seward. Several companies offer tours, so it’s a good idea to compare prices, durations and other offerings.

During the expedition, you can observe several species in their natural habitats, such as otters, sea lions and orcas, as well as get close to the park’s large glaciers, which are impressive for their beauty.

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2. Get in Touch with the Wild in Denali National Park

Denali National Park is an attraction that cannot be left out of your travel itinerary. It brings together what’s most beautiful and impressive in wild nature: forests, various animal species, streams and glaciers. It’s also home to the highest peak in North America: Mount McKinley.

During the summer, the park is popular for hiking, camping and fishing. In winter, skiing or sledding is more common. To see the park, board one of the authorized buses that run along Denali Park Road. You’ll need to follow the driver’s guidelines and keep your distance from the animals.

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3. See the Northern Lights in Fairbanks

One of nature’s most beautiful phenomena, the Northern Lights, can be seen up close in Alaska, more precisely in Fairbanks, the second-largest city in the state. Fairbanks is considered one of the best places in the world to see the phenomenon, given its close proximity to the Arctic Circle.

Consider hiring local guides who know how to get to the best vantage points. Keep in mind that you’ll need to spend at least three nights in the city during the autumn and winter months for the opportunity to gaze at the Northern Lights.

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4. Discover the Salmon Capital of the World

Ketchikan is a town located on the island of Revillagigedo with a strong indigenous heritage. Thanks to its port, it’s part of the main cruise route in the region, attracting visitors from all over. It’s known for being the salmon capital of the world and hosting an important lumberjack competition: the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.

When you’re here, visit Creek Street, where colorful wooden houses stand over the top of a creek. For those who want to get closer to wild nature, it’s worth going to Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary to observe black bears, eagles and other fauna.

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5. Take a Day to Fish in Homer During The Summer

Located on the Kenai Peninsula, little Homer is famous for fishing during the summer. The city’s landmark is the Homer Spit, an extensive strip of land that extends toward the sea, where shops, art galleries and great restaurants and bars are concentrated.

Kachemak Bay State Park is also located in the city, which can only be reached by boat or plane. Hire an expert guide and set aside a day to explore this incredible place’s waterfalls, glaciers and various species of wild animals.

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6. Go to the Whale Meeting in Seward

On the shores of Resurrection Bay, you’ll find Seward, a port city with beautiful mountains and an azure sea. Since it’s easily accessible, the region has a lively nightlife, with plenty of bars and restaurants.

The city is also known for its whale-watching points: Whale’s View and Beluga View. It’s worth spending a few hours enjoying the beauty of Alaska’s marine life.

There’s more: The path that leads to this paradise is worth the entire trip. The Seward Highway Scenic Byway — the road that connects Anchorage to Seward — is one of the most scenic routes in the U.S.

Shutterstock/Iryna Makukha

7. Take a Boat Trip to Tracy Arm Fjord

If your goal is to experience wildlife and glaciers all in one place, the Tracy Arm is a good choice. The place is a 50 km fjord with unbelievably breathtaking landscapes. To get there, you need to take a boat from the city of Juneau.

During the summer, it’s possible to see large icebergs floating through the water and experience the animals that live around them – like sea lions, birds, bears and whales – up close and personal.

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8. Learn About Alaska’s Favorite Sport: Dog Mushing

If you’ve ever wanted to rocket across the snow in a sled pulled by dogs, Alaska is the place to do it. Known as dog mushing, the sport is integral to Alaskan culture. It’s where the most famous race, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, is celebrated.

There are many cities in the state where you can visit sled dog kennels and learn about their care and training. You can even chat with mushers who cross Alaska every year to compete in the Iditarod.

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9. Discover a Desert in Kobuk Valley

It’s not very easy to access, so it might surprise many people to know that Alaska is home to a desert with fine sand dunes located in the Kobuk Valley National Park. The park is home to diverse landscapes, including mountains, forests and inhospitable sand dunes, along with streams and rivers.

The dunes, which lie south of the Kavet Creek, occupy an area of ​​about 25 square miles. On the Kobuk River, you can catch salmon and other fish while floating over the waters in a canoe. Access to the park, which is in northwest Alaska, is by plane only.

Shutterstock/Lloyd Wallin Photography

10. Explore the Beauty of Glacier Bay National Park

Considered a World Heritage Site by Unesco, the Glacier Bay National Park is another place you shouldn’t leave off of your travel itinerary.

Located in Juneau, a city on the southern coast of Alaska, the park is one of the most sought-after destinations by tourists because of the dozens of glaciers and icebergs, which you can experience up close on boat tours. The park is also home to diverse wildlife, with more than 200 species of birds roaming the region.

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11. Discover the Work of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary dedicated to rehabilitating animals that call Alaska home, including bears, wolves, hawks and moose. If you’re interested in learning about the organization’s work and visiting Anchorage, it’s not too far away.

The sanctuary, which is open throughout the year, is divided into areas with groupings of different animals. Visitors can observe the animals and learn more about each species as well as the importance of preserving them. On the institution’s website, you can find more details on how the visits and activities of the sanctuary work.

Shutterstock/Jagannathan Narayanan

12. Board a Plane in Anchorage

Anchorage is home to the most important airport in Alaska, where most tourists disembark for their adventures. The curious Lake Hood looks more like a parking lot for dozens of colorful single-engine planes, a popular means of transport among the locals. There are an estimated 10,000 small planes across the region capable of landing on snow and water.

With so many options to discover and get closer to nature in its most original form, it is not difficult to understand why more and more people choose Alaska as a vacation destination. Plan ahead, but be adventurous!

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Tim Kaechle

Tim Kaechle

Tim Kaechle is a freelance writer and digital nomad who loves learning and creating things for the web. When he’s not busy writing about his myriad of interests, he’s brushing up on his programming and digital design skills, all while wandering the world. He’s currently kicking around in Brazil and planning his next big adventure.

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