A Beginner's Guide to Alaska

With 586,412 square miles of glorious land to explore, Alaska offers plenty of opportunities for enthusiastic travelers to delve into new worlds. Aside from its masses of glaciers, thousands of freshwater salmon and towering national parks, it’s also home to some of America’s best attractions. If you’re yet to explore this infrequently considered travel gem, here’s your beginner’s guide to Alaska.

What can you do in Alaska?

Thanks to Alaska’s size, a lot of visitors prefer to explore it by cruise ship. Cruises in the area are exceedingly popular, as they give you the chance to move between multiple cities and attractions at a greater pace than when you travel by road.

Whether you’re choosing to cruise or drive, it’s worth visiting Alaska’s Glacier National Park. As the home of the Grand Pacific Glacier, its naturally formed icy spectacles are breathtaking. It’s also the perfect place to watch out for penguins, whales and brown bears fishing for salmon.

If you’re ready to brace yourself for a little cold weather in the name of catching your own fish, head to Kodiak Island. Worldwide, people know Kodiak Island for its challenging weather conditions, fresh crab and tasty salmon. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll catch any fish while there, you can check out everything else it has to offer. For example, if you’ve ever dreamed of adorning your front room with a fossil, you can visit Fossil Beach to see what you can find.

No beginner’s guide to Alaska would be complete without discussing walking trails. Hiking opportunities are plentiful throughout Alaska. It’s advisable that you invest in some serious cold weather gear before trying them, especially if you’re exploring one between August and February. If you don’t mind dedicating a day to the pursuit, try Lost Lake. Some of the shorter trials last for 14 miles, which means you may want to ask a tour guide to collect you at the end.

For something a lot shorter head to Portage Pass, which features both crisp waterfalls and towering glaciers. The stretch between the top of the pass and its beach is just half a mile, making it excellent for a quick stroll followed by a picnic.

When is the best time to visit Alaska?

If you want to save money on hotels, it’s worth heading to Alaska outside of the summer season. The peak season runs between mid-June to mid-August. The months surrounding this period usually come with the benefit of hotels that are 10-25% cheaper. If you choose to head there in either May or September, you still stand a chance of enjoying reasonable weather.

Overall, those who want to visit Alaska as part of a cruise should try the mid-May to mid-September months. Sailing conditions are a lot more favorable during these times compared to the harsh winters. It’s also during these periods that tour guides are operating consistently and the weather remains stable enough to travel in and out of the state.

Where in Alaska should you stay?

If you’re reading a beginner’s guide to Alaska it’s probably because you’re visiting the state for the first time. Therefore, you might want to try staying in some of the regions that are popular with travellers.

As Alaska’s capital city, Anchorage is perfect for blending urban exploration with natural spectacles. The Lakefront Anchorage provides spectacular views and rests against a mountainous backdrop. Once inside, you’ll feel as though you’re staying in a secluded country lodge. Outdoors there is a private dock belonging to the hotel that guests can use for fishing.

If you would rather skip the urban stuff and surround yourself with lakes and trails, try Seward. As the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, it’s an excellent location for gazing at the stars and enjoying exhilarating biking trails.

No matter what time of year you visit Alaska, reading a beginner’s guide is only the start of planning your adventure. Before heading there, list the activities you’d love to do, book some tours, and immerse yourself in the state’s cold and rugged environment.

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