9 Things To Tick Off Your Alaska Bucket List

Nicole Tj
April 4, 2022

Alaska might not be at the top of your vacation list, but it should be. We outline the experiences that simply must be on your bucket list.

The best thing about Alaska is that it is more than just a pretty picture: it is a place for rejuvenation. A trip to this legendary location allows you to experience the abundance of natural beauty and the rich cultural heritage – all in one place. 

In addition to the state's incredible scenery and wildlife, it’s here that you can also catch a glimpse of the magnificent northern lights or observe the wild landscape of ice mountains, humpback whales, and majestic bears. Oh my.

What you need to consider

As always, planning ahead is crucial – Alaska is a big place (like, a really big place), and you want to get the most out of your time there. There are also limited roads, making travelling to popular destinations time-consuming.

Additionally, you’ll need to keep your budget in mind. Remember, Alaska is a remote place, so you will need to pay a bit more for literally everything – but it’s worth it. That's not to say that Alaska can't be done on a budget, but you will need to plan strategically to make the most of your bucks.

Finally, our biggest tip for planning ahead is to visit Alaska in summer. It is the least popular season, meaning deals galore, and you won’t miss out on snow and ice, either. Plus, you’ll conveniently skip the chill of the Alaskan winter. 

Where to go in Alaska

Photo by Austin Human/Unsplash

1. The northern lights

Alaska is one of the few places on Earth to see the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. It makes for the perfect destination to view this natural phenomenon, where it dances across the starry night sky. Plus, it’s here that this stunning display is visible for longer, giving you a greater chance of getting the best possible experience.

2. All-day Bear Glacier kayaking

Hosted by Liquid Adventures, this activity is an incredible heli-kayaking trip that offers a dual experience. View the untouched natural beauty of Alaska from the air, where you’ll then be delivered to a remote location. From here, kayak through lagoons surrounded by monolithic icebergs. 

Note: You must be at least 12 years old to participate.  

Price: $550 per person

Duration: 5.5 hours

Photo by Joris Beugels/Unsplash 

3. Road trip from Anchorage to Seward

A road trip along Alaska's spectacular Seward Highway is a fantastic way to see the breathtaking beauty of this state. Throughout the tour, you'll have the opportunity to marvel at some of the most impressive natural vistas you’ll ever see. The adventure begins in Anchorage, the economic capital of Alaska, and ends in the charming seaside town of Seward.

Price: Free (except for fuel)

Duration: 2 hours

4. Chena Hot Springs

Within a few years of its discovery in 1905, Chena Hot Springs was the most popular place for residents in Fairbanks to soak and get their dose of R&R. While staying here, you can relax in several indoor and outdoor tubs, as well as in an indoor family pool. There’s also the fabulous Rock Lake – a man-made creation with boulders that provide a relaxing vantage point for viewing the northern lights in winter. (Can you tell we love the northern lights?)

Price: Day and overnight packages start from $550 per person.

Duration: As long as you like.

5. Animal spotting

Alaska has more than 50,000 black bears and 35,000 brown bears roaming its untamed wilderness: raising their young, slapping salmon-choked rivers, and lumbering through berry-covered hillsides. 

Bears, however, are not as common as moose along most roads; you'll have to look for them. Fortunately, there are specialised bear-viewing tours like Wild Planet Adventures’ 7-day Glacier Bay Wildlife by Wings to keep you busy (and safe). You’re likely to spot Alaska's other wildlife, including wolves, caribou, Dall sheep and more.

6. Denali

For more than a century, Denali has been the center of adventure and mountaineering in North America. Climbers, pack rafters, skiers, dog mushers, and athletes continue to be drawn to the park, testing themselves against the raw power of a truly wild landscape. 

There are six million acres of wilderness in Denali to explore, bisected by one road. As the route progresses, the relatively low-elevation Taiga Forest gives way to high-altitude tundra and snow-covered mountains, culminating in North America's tallest peak, Denali.

We recommend Denali’s National Park, where wild animals roam, and tranquillity truly takes over.

Price: Entrance fee of $15 for the National Park (valid for 7 days); $45 for an annual pass.

Duration: For as long as your feet can carry you.

7. Flightseeing tours

Did you know one in every 40 Alaskan residents has their pilot's licence? It shows how much they value the view of the majestic wilderness from the air; you need to experience it in all its glory, too. A flightseeing tour in a small plane not much bigger than a car, hundreds of miles from any settlement, above shifting patterns of nature, is a truly humbling experience. 

Price: Starting from $140.

Duration: Ranging from 30 minutes to a full-day experience.

Photo by Jacob W Frank/NPS

8. Visit the Denali sled dog kennels

The most popular shore excursion in Alaska is to go dog sledding. Dog sled tours generally include a helicopter trip into the mountains, with a single ride on a glacier with Alaska’s most energetic pups. 

Want to meet these amazing animals? The only national park where visitors can see sled dogs at work is Denali. The sled dog kennels are located about three miles inside the park at the headquarters, where visitors can meet some of the 30 dogs who live and work in the local area.

Note that the kennels are only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm to 4pm in winter. However, summer means you can see these good doggos between 9:30am and 4:30pm daily.

Price: Denali National Park entry fee of $15.

Duration: As much time as you wish, as long as it’s between opening hours.

9. Whale watching 

Alaska's whale watching opportunities, whether near downtown Anchorage or in the remote northernmost town of Utqiagvik, are the highlight of many visitors' trips to the area. You can't beat the experience of watching these majestic animals spout, fluke, or breach in their natural habitat, with the local mountain ranges or coastlines as the backdrop.

Price: From $89 per person

Duration: From 2.5 hours.

When is the best time to visit Alaska?

  • Alaska's summer season runs from May 10 to September 15, making this period the best time to visit. Enjoy plenty of daylight, average temperatures of 60s to low 70s, leaves and flowers blooming, rushing rivers, and the most incredible wildlife viewing possible.

  • You’ll also be able to snatch up discounts on accommodation and experiences during May (early season) and September (late season), with the peak season running from June to August.

  • There are numerous places to explore, but some of the more popular places to set up base include Anchorage, Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Seward, Girdwood, Talkeetna and Homer.

Plan for your Alaskan adventure with Travis

Looking for inspiration as you prepare to visit the iconic destinations in Alaska? Check out Travis' community of travel enthusiasts for inspiration, feedback and planning essentials.

Plus, you can create a visual mood board, share links, and save important information to gear up in style. Sign up for beta access now.

Main image by Stephen Meyers/Unsplash.

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