Why visit Alaska? 13 Reasons to Visit Alaska
Why you should visit Alaska? Alaska is famous for many things. Alaska is a land of extremes. It is the northernmost, westernmost, and easternmost state in the United States and has more coastline than all the other states combined.
When you think of yourself enjoying a vacation, Alaska may not be the first destination to come to mind. However, I wholeheartedly believe that it should be!
With the possibility of up-close encounters with the wildlife, the absolutely breathtaking landscapes, and the endless list of activities to keep you entertained, Alaska should hold a place at the top of your travel bucket list!
Most people only think of snow, cold, more snow, and maybe bears when they think of Alaska, but in reality, it is one of the best places that I have ever been.
Visiting Alaska is an unforgettable experience. You can experience the state’s rich history, enjoy impressive mountain views, stand in awe before a glacier, or get up close and personal with the wildlife. Plus, there is so much more!
Here are my top 13 reasons to visit Alaska.
13 Reasons to Visit Alaska
1. Fantastic Scenery
The vast breadth of the scenery in Alaska will astound you. By land, sea, or air, there is more to see than your eyes can take in: sizable national parks, unspoiled nature, waterfalls, stately mountains, crystal clear lakes, glaciers, fjords, and picturesque villages.
There are things to see even along Alaska’s nearly endless highways. (Alaska’s so big that even if you slice it in half, it would make Texas the third-largest state!) Take a road trip on the Denali Park Road or Seward Highway, and you have a chance of spotting bears, moose, whales, and eagles from your car!
For a different experience, you can take the train. The Coastal Classic or Denali Star routes will give you nonstop views. Or, If you want to see the seashore in Skagway, you can take the Yukon Route or White Pass Railroad.
2. Wondrous Wildlife
There is no shortage of wildlife in Alaska – eagles, bears, caribou, moose, otters, and more! One of the best places to see them is in Denali National Park. You can drive your vehicle right up to the first 15 miles of the park, wherein after you have to walk, take a shuttle or bus, or ride a bike to explore the rest of the park.
However, during the summer months, the park runs the Denali Road Lottery, which will allow you to drive your vehicle on the park’s roads. You can find the big five here in Denali National Park – bears, Dall sheep, wolves, moose, and caribou.
If you want to see the coastal wildlife, you can drop by the Kenai Fjords National Park, where you can see eagles, orca, sea lions, sea birds, otters, and more.
But you may not even need to leave your lodging to catch a glimpse of the local fauna. While renting a condo in Anchorage, I saw beluga whales, a brown bear, and a moose all from the comfort of my balcony!
3. History and Native Culture
Alaska’s Native cultures heavily influence the way of life in the state, from the architecture and art in the cities to the names of communities, mountains, and rivers. According to the 2019 United States Census, of the 730,000+ residents in Alaska, 15.6% identify as Native.
There are five groups of Alaskan Natives in the different regions of the State: the Tlingit, Eyak, Tsimshian, and Haida in the Inside Passage and Southeast Alaska, Sugpiaq (Alutiiq), Unangax̂, Cup’ik, and Yup’ik in the Southwest, Athabascan in Interior Alaska and Southcentral, and the St. Lawrence Island Yup’ik and Iñupiat in the Arctic.
If you want to learn more about the different Alaskan Native groups, the best place to start is the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, which has programs and exhibits on the cultural groups.
4. Stunning Glaciers
A glacier forms from rock debris, ice, and snow that move from higher elevations to form layers of packed snow. According to the Alaska Almanac, there are about 100,000 glaciers in the State with the most popular one to visit being the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.
Many Alaskan cruises include a tour into Glacier Bay National Park, where you can see the calving of the glaciers. Calving is when chunks from the end of a glacier break off. The incredible sight and thundering sound are something you won’t ever forget.
Don’t miss my list of the best glaciers in Alaska.
5. Unique Adventures
You can do so many outdoor activities in Alaska if you want to explore nature, no matter what time of the year you visit— although weatherwise, summer would be the best time for a visit.
You can book a chartered flight to do some sightseeing up high, kayak among the icebergs, explore ice caves, and cruise among the glaciers. Then there is also sport fishing, river rafting, glacier hiking, and ice climbing!
Perhaps you want something more laid back? Why not explore the different seaside towns in Alaska for an opportunity to mingle with the locals?
Going for a visit during the summer season means you have more than the usual number of daylight hours to check off all these activities you desire.
Should you decide to visit Alaska in the wintertime, you can more easily see the Northern Lights, go dog sledding, heli-skiing, ice fishing, or have hot springs dipping.
And if you go to Alaska during the fall, you can enjoy the bright purple, yellow, red, and gold hues that blanket the landscape. Whatever time of the year you visit, Alaska is always ready to give you the adventure you seek.
6. Dazzling Northern Lights
Should you decide to visit Alaska between August and April when the sun sets earlier, and the skies are darker, you can get a chance to see the Northern Lights!
The best places to view the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are in Fairbanks or Barrow, the northernmost town of Alaska. The best time to go would be between 10PM and 2AM.
Plan on spending at least three nights to best get a chance to view the orange, green, pink, blue, and yellow streaks of color in the dark skies.
For more details, head over to my guide about the best places to see the northern lights in Alaska.
7. The Midnight Sun
The sun does not always set in Alaska. Starting early May until early August, there are places in the state that will have sun all day or nearly all day.
The Arctic Circle, which runs 66.5° north of the equator, marks the lowest latitude the sun will remain above the horizon for 24 hours. Areas such as Fairbanks experience the entire 24-hours of sunlight, and even the southernmost town, Ketchikan, have 17 hours of daylight in June.
Many tour companies can take you to the Arctic Circle during the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Some places, like Fairbanks, hold late-night celebrations and activities such as Midnight Sun golf, a fun run, and a baseball game.
Take advantage of the 24-hour sun and go fishing for salmon, kayak along the 44,000 miles of Alaskan coastline, hike in the forests, go on a tour to see humpback whales breaching, or pan for gold in a mine — all at night!
8. Explore the Roads
One of the best ways to explore Alaska is by going on a road trip! Pretty much everywhere you go, in any direction in Alaska will offer you stunning views.
Alaska has one of the most scenic highways, such as the Denali Park Road or the Seward Highway. You can rent a car or an RV and start exploring.
On your road trip, you may visit Sitka’s Alaska Raptor Center and see the bald eagles up close. Or see the big five in the Denali National Park.
The wildlife scene doesn’t pique your interest? How about visiting the quirky towns of Alaska, such as Talkeetna, on your way to Anchorage from the Denali National Park?
9. Towering Mountains
North America’s tallest mountain, Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), is located in Alaska, and it can be quite a feat for avid hikers!
If you want a more leisurely hike, there are plenty of mountains to choose from that would cater to your preferred hiking level.
If hiking isn’t your cup of tea, but you still want to experience the majesty of Alaska’s mountains, you can take a flightseeing tour! Up in the air, you will get 360-degree aerial views of Alaska’s mountains, along with its glaciers and rivers.
But even if you just hang out in Anchorage, you are surrounded by mountain views. Every time I visit, I am stunned all over again by the beauty of the mountain peaks as far as the eye can see.
10. Remote Wilderness
Alaska is the prime destination for wilderness tourism, with millions of acres designated as protected public lands, three national reserves, and eight national parks.
Alaska can give you the opportunity to spot polar bears on the tundra in the Arctic, go horseback riding in the Chugach Mountains, explore the rainforests in the Tongass National Forest, or kayak with the fjords and glaciers in the Kenai peninsula.
You have the option of going on day tours or spending the night in the Alaskan wilderness on multi-day tours. Getting off the beaten path can sometimes be just what your soul needs.
11. World-Class Fishing
Alaska has more than 6,500 miles of coastline, plus streams, rivers, and lakes, giving you endless options on where to fish.
May is the peak season for halibut and King salmon. However, the best time to go fishing in Alaska is during the summer season – June, July, and August are when the fish are running.
You can still catch the tail end of king salmon season, and these months are the peak times for chum, silver, pink, and red salmon. But if you want to experience ice fishing, wintertime is the best time to go.
Salmon isn’t the only fish in Alaskan waters. There are also rainbow trout, saltwater halibut, Dolly Vardens, rockfish, and many more.
Before you go on your fishing trip, make sure you get a sport fishing license first and have it on hand while fishing. The license can be purchased for 1, 3, 7, and 14-day intervals or for the entire year.
You can buy one at the Alaska Department Fish and Game or at any sporting goods store, and it is definitely not something you can skip. The fines for not having a license can be steep.
12. Skiing and Snowboarding
Alaska is the holy grail for snowboarders and skiers worldwide, and there are plenty of ski resorts where you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding.
For the more adventurous folk, there are backcountry opportunities available as well. Some consider Alaska the best place to snowboard and ski on this earth, with breathtaking views, an impressive terrain, and abundant snow.
It is not just the massive quantity of snow in Alaska, but also the quality of the snow that makes it ideal for steep angle skiing because it is so powdery.
13. The Iditarod Race
If you happen to visit Alaska during the winter season, you can watch dog sledding, Alaska’s state sport!
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race, which starts on the first Saturday of March, is an annual long-distance sled dog race. It runs from Anchorage to Nome, which is roughly 1,000 miles.
The race runs for 8-15 days by mushers and a team of 14 dogs. At least five of these dogs must be on the tow line when they reach the finish line.
There are plenty of activities tied in with the Iditarod Race that you can participate in, such as:
- Kennel tours
- The Musher’s Banquet
- Following the race by air
- Visiting race headquarters in Anchorage
- Riding in one of the sled baskets for the first few miles
- Volunteering to lend a hand at the race
More Than Just the Frozen North
Many think Alaska is just a frozen tundra and only for hardcore mountaineers, but there is so much more to do and see in the state for all visitors.
With lockdowns and quarantine from the pandemic, we’ve all been craving wide-open spaces, nature, and the outdoors. Well, Alaska has plenty of all of those things on offer.
I recommend spending some time in Anchorage and its surroundings and then venturing out to one of the beautiful smaller towns like Sitka or Kodiak, this would make for a well-rounded Alaskan experience.
If you already know Alaska really well and considering living in the state, check out my guide about all the reasons to move to Alaska.