Like everything else in the state, Alaska’s National Parks are vast. The largest, Wrangell St. Elias National Park is larger than both Denmark and Switzerland. These parks are some of the least visited in the USA and they often don’t have the same infrastructure and facilities as other National Parks. However, the hiking trails are spectacular and well worth the effort. For a more relaxed view, take one of the many guided bus tours.
For many people, the thought of Alaska conjures up the image of bears standing above cascading waters, skilfully catching the salmon that are jumping upstream. Alaska is home to all three American beer types; black, brown (or grizzly) and polar bears. There are plenty of tours that will take you to see these beautiful creatures but you’re just as likely to come across them when you travel independently. But remember to stay at a safe distance.
Alaska offers not one but two of the world’s most spectacular rail journeys – the Alaska Railroad and the White Pass & Yukon Route. The first is a modern rail line stretching from Seward to Fairbanks with popular stops in Anchorage and Denali National Park. The second dates back to the Klondike Gold Rush and runs from Skagway to Fraser in British Columbia. Both lines go where cars can’t reach and offer rugged, breath taking views.
Alaska is one of the best places on earth to see the Northern Lights. You can see the aurora borealis all over the state during winter and the shoulder seasons of early spring and autumn. The best place of all to watch them is Fairbanks, where the Northern Lights play across the sky on average 240 nights of the year. Many Alaska hotels even offer a wake-up call when the lights are out – strictly on request of course.
History and Culture
Alaska has a fascinating history, influenced both by native Inuit cultures and by Russian settlement from the 18th century onwards. You can learn more about the former at the Alaska Native Heritage Centre in Anchorage which features exhibits and performances from all of the state’s native cultures. For Russian heritage, visit one of the onion-domed Orthodox Christian churches in Sitka, Juneau and Kenai with their beautifully painted interiors.