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15 great reasons to visit Alaska

Ah … Alaska! A place of immense glaciers, abundant wildlife, and incredibly beautiful views. This remote and unique destination has so much to offer.

Note: This is a guest post by Camila Neves.

This year I had the opportunity to travel the state for two months and let me tell you: it was the trip of a lifetime.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I (Rachel) will receive a small commission. This will not affect your price.

Whether you’re hoping to get off the grid, or simply want to experience a vacation like no other, here are 15 great reasons to visit Alaska:

Chugach State Park.

1. Locals are warm and friendly.

Alaska definitely has some of the kindest people you will ever encounter. They are welcoming and friendly, always eager to share their great state and culture with visitors. You’ll feel instantly at home in Alaska.

2. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful.

From huge alpine meadows to sprawling glaciers, Alaska’s natural beauty will take your breath away. It doesn’t even matter exactly where you are in the state because incredible views are available all around. Hatcher Pass and Glacier Bay National Park are definitely good places to begin understanding what the beauty of Alaska is all about.

Book your accommodations near Hatcher Pass or Glacier Bay!

3. Glaciers. So many of them!

If you have never seen an impressive real-life glacier, Alaska is the best place to do it (and if you have, you know it’s a feeling like no other!)

Alaska is home to some of the largest glaciers in the world, including the Harding Icefield and Bering Glacier. These massive blocks of ice are constantly moving, slowly grinding their way down mountainsides and into valleys, so it’s good to visit as soon as possible!

Harding Icefield.

4. You can witness some of the world’s most impressive wildlife up close and personal.

From humpback whales breaching in Kenai Fjords to grizzly bears in Kodiak Island, Alaska is home to an abundance of incredible animals that you won’t find as easily anywhere else. There are endless opportunities to see remarkable wildlife in its natural habitat.

Access Kenai Fjords and Harding Icefield from accommodations in Seward. And take a look at these tours to Kenai Fjords!

5. You can visit St Elias National Park and Preserve, the largest National Park in the country.

At over 18 million acres, St Elias is the largest national park in the United States. With so much land to explore, it’s no surprise that this park attracts a wide variety of wildlife, including wolves, Dall sheep, mountain goats, and moose.

My favorite part of the park, however, is Kennicott, a small mining town that was abandoned in 1938. You can still see the old cabins and steam engines, making for a truly surreal experience.

Book your accommodations in Kennicott!

6. You can see North America’s tallest peak: Denali!

At 6,190 meters, Denali gives its name to Denali National Park and is the highest peak in North America. Whether you’re hiking around the park or taking a scenic flight around the mountain (Very few people actually climb it.), this awe-inspiring mountain is not to be missed.

Denali National Park.

It is, however, important to note that due to its height, Denali is very often hidden in the clouds, so if you’re planning to see it, it’s best to be flexible with your dates and wait for clear weather.

Look for a hotel near Denali National Park. And check out these tours and exciting activities in Denali!

7. Alaska is home to some of the world’s best fishing and salmon runs.

Alaska has some of the most productive fisheries in the world, producing more than half of the United States’ annual salmon harvest. Perhaps you hope to catch trophy king salmon or just to feast on trout and halibut. Either way, Alaska is a great place for it!

The Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery, near Valdez, offers the opportunity to see thousands of salmon returning to the hatchery (and also the sea lions trying to catch them!). It is a very impressive sight.

Find a hotel in Valdez.

8. It’s heaven if you love hiking.

With so many breathtaking landscapes to explore, Alaska is a hiker’s paradise. The possibilities range from an easy stroll through the rainforest to a challenging trek over tundra and glaciers. There are endless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors!

Some of my favorite hikes are Mount Marathon and Harding Icefield in Seward and Flattop mountain and Peak O’Malley near Anchorage.

Compare hotels in Anchorage. And here are some things to do in Anchorage.

The Peak O’Malley hike.

9. The Northern Lights!

For nature lovers, there’s nothing quite like seeing the Aurora Borealis dance across the night sky. With a clear view of the northern horizon and dark skies, Fairbanks is one of the best places to experience this amazing natural phenomenon and hop on aurora viewing tours.

Here are some hotels in Fairbanks. You have lots of Aurora Borealis tours to choose from leaving from Fairbanks.

10. It feels raw and authentic.

Alaska is almost as wild and remote today as it was hundreds of years ago. Whether you’re exploring the vast wilderness or experiencing the frontier spirit in a small Alaskan town, it’s clear that this state looks almost frozen in time in many places.

This can be both inspiring and intimidating, but one thing’s for sure: Alaska will never cease to amaze you!

Mount Marathon hike near Seward.

11. The midnight sun

During the summer months, Alaska experiences almost 24 hours of daylight. This is due to the fact that the state lies so far north: as you head further and further into the Arctic Circle in the summer, days get longer and longer.

While it can be hard to sleep on such long days (make sure your hotel has blackout curtains), witnessing the midnight sun is an amazing experience!

12. Swim in the Arctic Ocean.

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not take a plunge into the Arctic Ocean? With water temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s quite an epic experience.

The easiest way to do this is by flying into Barrow as it is the Northernmost town in Alaska and offers direct access to the Arctic Ocean.

Text: 15 great reasons to visit Alaska: summer or winter! Image: a view over a meadow to a view of snow-capped mountains.
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13. It’s an adventure lover’s paradise.

Alaska has endless opportunities for thrill seekers: things like rock climbing, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Go on adventures like paddle rafting in the Nenana River or ice climbing on the Matanuska Glacier.

You might also like this article about ghost towns in California or this 3-day Portland, Oregon itinerary.

14. Small Alaskan towns have rich histories and cultures waiting to be discovered.

From fishing villages along the coastline to gold rush settlements in the interior, small Alaskan towns hold fascinating stories of life in this rugged and remote state. There are countless ways to learn about the history and culture of Alaska. You could, for example, explore an old mining town like Kennicott or visit museums.

Personally, Seward was my favorite! It is a small town on the Kenai Peninsula, home to some of my favorite hikes.

Book your accommodations in Kennicott or Seward.

Kennicott.

15. The skiing and snowboarding are fantastic.

If you love the snow, you’ll be thrilled by Alaska’s winter activities. From heli-skiing to backcountry skiing and cross-country skiing, the great white north has a lot to offer.

Alyeska Resort, in Girdwood, is a great place to start and offers fantastic slopes for all skill levels. Also, throughout the year the resort hosts events like the Blueberry Festival and Oktoberfest.

Phew! As you can see, there are lots of wonderful reasons to visit Alaska. Does it make you want to make Alaska your next travel destination?

If traveling the far north is your thing, this 3-week Iceland itinerary might come in handy.

Frequently asked questions about travel to Alaska

Now that you know everything that makes this state so special, you can keep reading for important information about planning a trip there.

Lake in Columbia Glacier

When is the best time to visit Alaska?

The best time for visiting Alaska depends mainly on what you wish to do there.

If you’re coming for the Northern Lights, it’s important to visit Alaska between November and January, as winter in Alaska is the darkest time of the year. This makes it more likely that you’ll see the aurora.

However, if you’re more interested in doing tons of hiking, camping, and exploring small Alaskan towns and their rich histories and cultures, then summer (July to August) is probably your best bet. With long days and warm weather perfect for exploring on foot or by bike, there’s no better time to visit Alaska than the summer months.

Seward’s marina.

How long should I stay in Alaska?

There is no right answer to this question, as it depends on what you plan to do while in Alaska and how much time you have. My honest advice would be to stay as long as you can, but that’s usually not a possibility for most visitors.

If you’re a nature lover looking for amazing outdoor adventures, then spending at least a couple of weeks in Alaska would be ideal so that you can visit different parts of the state and explore all that it has to offer.

However, if your main goal is simply to see the Northern Lights or see one town or another, then perhaps a short weekend trip or even a cruise would be sufficient.

Is it worth taking a cruise to Alaska?

As I mentioned above, a cruise is a great way to experience Alaska if you’re short on time or just want an easy and relaxing way to travel to this amazing state. Many stop at Seward and some go right into Glacier Bay National Park.

If you have the time, though, I would recommend skipping the cruise and spending as much time as possible exploring the different regions of Alaska and immersing yourself in its rich history, culture, and breathtaking scenery.

Text: Thinking of Alaska? 15 great reasons to visit (and the Rachel's Ruminations logo). Image: above, abandoned buildings at Kennicott; below, a view in Denali National Park.

Wrap-up: 15 wonderful reasons to travel to Alaska this year

That’s a wrap! Alaska is truly a special place and I hope I have convinced you to give it a chance. Personally, I hope to return many times in the future because there is just so much to see!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Whether you’re planning a trip or just thinking about it, I’m here to help. Happy travels!

About the author: Camila Neves is a solo traveler from Brazil who spent a year traveling around the US and Canada and has now recently moved to the South of France. Traveling and writing are among her favorite things and she shares her adventures on her blog, Travel Cami.

My travel recommendations

Planning travel

  • Booking.com is the company I use most for finding accommodations. If you prefer, Expedia offers more or less the same.
  • Rentalcars.com offers an easy way to compare prices from all of the major car-rental companies in one place.
  • Use GetYourGuide to find walking tours, day tours, airport pickups, city cards, tickets and whatever else you need at your destination.
  • Bookmundi is great when you’re looking for a longer tour of a few days to a few weeks, private or with a group, pretty much anywhere in the world. Lots of different tour companies list their tours here, so you can comparison shop.
  • Get a Priority Pass if you fly a lot so that you can use airport lounges while you wait for flights. Plan your visits around meals and/or drink times and it’s definitely worth the investment!
  • I’m a fan of SCOTTeVEST’s jackets and vests because when I wear one, I don’t have to carry a handbag. I feel like all my stuff is safer when I travel because it’s in inside pockets close to my body.
  • Wordery isn’t specifically about travel; it’s a bookstore, but they do carry all of the most popular travel guidebooks.

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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments! Read more…

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