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Alaska Tourism And Travel Guide
-2.8° C / 27° F
January to December
5 to 7 Days
The Last Frontier as it is famously called, Alaska is the northernmost state of America, located far up across Canada. It is a beautiful land of paradoxes as it sees almost 24-hour days through the peak of its summers and pitch dark all-day nights in the thick of winters. It sees midnight sun sparkling up in the sky in summer and then sees northern lights dancing tango in winter skies. How cool is that? Also, Alaska’s great tourism stems from the fact that it is endowed with a rare and precious natural bounty of alpine forests, glacial rocks and mountains, rivers that overflow with fishes and seals and sea-weeds, as well as grizzly and polar bears, reindeers, moose and foxes. What’s more is, Alaska is the home to Santa Claus!
So what are you waiting for? Start packing your bags and keep this travel guide handy to explore Alaska.
How to Reach
The best way to reach Alaska is by flying in, while the most picturesque way would definitely be taking a cruise ship. Trains, however, don’t connect any place to Alaska.
Fly from India to Alaska’s Anchorage Airport through stopover flights only. They take almost 23 hours from Mumbai and Delhi and stop at a European country as well as a North American city before reaching Alaska. You can also fly to America or Canada and then take a connecting flight after a few days if you wish to avoid all the fatigue of full-day travel.
Regular cruises are plied from Canada’s British Columbia and Vancouver as well as North America’s port cities to Alaska. It is a very scenic way to travel and full of luxurious amenities and pampering. You can take a flight to Canada and then sail to the Pacific North-west on cruise.
A road trip from Canada or British Columbia is an adventure you can indulge in if that is your thing. A 1300 mile trip is not for the faint hearted and takes a lot of preparation, physical as well as mental.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Alaska sees only two main seasons, that of excruciatingly cold winter and pleasant summer. Both can be ideal times to visit, depending on what you wish to do and if you are ready to brave the cold (in case of winter).
Summer (April to September):
Alaska is a haven of summer holiday delights, from hiking and trekking to fishing, kayaking and river rafting; there are so many things you can do here in the months between March and August. The temperatures remain between 15-26°C on an average and for almost two months, the sun is seen in the sky all day. This 24-hour daylight is termed as midnight sun and makes for a great marvel fro tourists coming to this place. You can visit the many national parks, traipse across streams, enjoy sighting bald eagles, reindeers, grizzly bears and birds, all the while feeling pleasant and warm.
Winter (October to March):
If summer is good for outdoor trekking and fishing activities, winter here is great for skiing, dogsledding, bathing in hot springs, meeting eskimos and sharing their igloos. Winters in Alaska are excruciatingly cold, almost biting to the skin if you are not wrapped in the right kind of layers. The temperatures drop to below -24°C at most places and the sun is almost never seen between December and February. But what is amazing about this time of the year is the phenomenon of Northern Lights, seen dancing in the night skies only in this season. Most tourists plan a winter trip and brave the elements only for this marvel.
Things to Do
Enjoy a day at Denali National Park:
This 6 million acre land is full of thick alpine vegetation, swelling streams and hard glaciers, all of them fully bright in summer months. You must visit Denali National Park for a trek and indulge in fishing, kayaking and sightseeing around for animals like grizzly bears, reindeers, elks, wolves and more. Mt. McKinley is the tallest peak in America, standing mighty here, and makes for a great photo-op.
See the Northern Lights:
This is a winter activity through and through. Visit Alaska between mid-August and February to observe northern lights, seen from places like Fairbanks, Anchorage and Brooks Range. They each send out updates on viewing times and usually you can see them between 10 pm and 2 am; a great visual orchestra starting with green dancing lights, moving on to other heavenly colours that look like curtains moving in the sky.
Visit Santa Claus:
Mr. Nicolas Claus, better known as Santa Claus, lives in the town of North Pole. This folklore finds its reality in the town of North Pole in Alaska, where the whole town is steeped in Christmas spirit all year round and makes toys, answers children’s mail and basically lives like they are Santa’s tribe. A visit to Santa’s homestead here is amazing.
Go for an Outing:
Head out in summers here, do outdoorsy stuff, explore forests and national parks, visit museums of natives and meet locals in cafes. The Indian Village is great if you want to educate yourself about the rich cultural history of Alaska, Juneau for whale watching, Alaska Railroad for a scenic train ride and Glacier Bay for hiking. You can also indulge in kayaking, river rafting, salmon fishing and flight-seeing.
How cool will it be when you have your own personal sleigh and a line of beautiful furry mountain dogs will pull it for you through the snow? Well, it happens in Alaska as a national sport and all year round. Head to Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Seward or Fairbanks to enjoy dogsledding.
Food in Alaska has some British influence, a lot of American influence; but for the most part, is peculiar to its own heritage and nature. The salmon here is delicious, freshly caught and smoked or poached, as is the crab and halibut. Locally grown vegetables are fresh and make for great salads and side dishes, while you can eat game meat, whale meat and reindeer meat too. For salmon dishes, head to Alaska Salmon Bake in Fairbanks, while the quintessential ‘Fish & Chips’ are best eaten at Swiftwater Seafood Café in Whittier. Most towns don’t have the best of eateries and even if they do, they might not cater well to the Indian palate. So stick to your hotel's diner or B&Bs. If you are open to trying new stuff then go ahead and indulge. For vegetarians and vegans there are a few more options nowadays but still don’t do enough.
Alaska is more than just nature and museums and natural phenomenon that marvel your senses. Here you can also shop for some really unique stuff, like native art consisting woven birch baskets, handmade dolls, jewellery, clothes and hand carved walrus ivory. Ulu knives are famous here, as are glacial mud packs, spirits, beers and wines. Also do pick up natural soaps, wild berries and birch syrup as souvenir presents for back home. Your best shopping bets here include the local Anchorage Market every weekend in summers, Dimond Center Mall and the 5th Avenue.