Alaska — Overview
Famously purchased by the US from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million, Alaska was added as the 49th state in 1959. Initially settled during the gold rush era in the 1890’s, Alaska today enjoys growing numbers of visitors who primarily come to admire its spectacular natural beauty.
Teeming with breathtaking peaks, national parks, a myriad of islands, active volcanoes, three million plus lakes and half the globe’s glaciers, this remote wonderland may have a reputation for being pricier than other US states, but its top notch sights rarely fail to impress adventurers. However, due to its vastness and lack of roads, seeing its wonderful natural attractions can be a challenge, with most visitors focusing on one region at a time.
From the interior’s sparkling summit of Mt McKinley, North America’s tallest peak, to the fish-hunting brown bears of Katmai National Park in the south, Alaska is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to get off the beaten path. Head to the capital, Juneau, to witness the jaw-dropping sight of thousand-year old glaciers melting before your very eyes or kayak to the backdrop of icebergs in Prince William Sound. This is also a place for visitors to try their hand at unusual activities such as whale-watching in the southeast or dog sledding through the arctic north’s wilderness.
Accommodations here are notoriously expensive compared to other US states due to the exotic remoteness, but growing tourism and seasonal discounts means travel to Alaska on a budget isn’t out the question, with camping often the most affordable way to see the sights. Accommodation is often non-existent in remote parts, forcing curious explorers to be self-sufficient. Hearty portions are the norm in restaurants, with all the usual American fare, as well as a few uniquely Alaskan items like reindeer sausage and Alaskan king crab legs.
Getting to the country’s largest state situated in the extreme northwest of the continent can be challenging. Cruises from the likes of Seattle and Vancouver often take two or three days and flights are costly. Anchorage, the state’s largest city and the location of its primary international airport, is where half the state’s population resides, with much of the Alaskan interior desolate and inaccessible.
Options for getting between major locations are few and far between, with limited road and rail links, but the few drives and rail trips possible are certainly worthwhile for their magnificent scenery and stunning views Of particular note are train routes such as the Alaska Railroad, the White Pass and Yukon Route, and the scenic Dalton Highway.
- Go sea kayaking amid icebergs, humpback whales and glaciers in Southeast Alaska
- Explore Katmai National Park in Southwest Alaska for brown bears and the spectacular Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
- View the Northern Lights from Interior Alaska
- Drive the Dalton Highway through Arctic Alaska
- Scale Mt McKinley, North America’s tallest peak
- See Juneau for the nearby Mendenhall Glacier
- Take a day cruise in Prince William Sound