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27th May, 2020

Five wonders of Southeastern Alaska

Found at the northwest tip of the United States, the state of Alaska has an unbelievable array of magnificent sights just waiting to be explored. With its sheer size, Alaska is a wilderness paradise - a place where the wildlife and the wonders of the natural world are in control.

It’s easy to forget that Alaska is part of the United States. It’s often compared to neighbouring Canada, although it’s far less populated, and far more wild. With more than 85,000 grizzly and black bears roaming the wilderness, along with moose, grey wolves, caribou and other creatures, Alaska is the place to head for those looking to witness some of the planet’s most impressive creatures in their natural habitats.

With such a vast expanse to traverse, many visitors heading to Alaska for the first time choose to explore the Inside Passage - a coastal route heading along the Pacific coastline. If you’re thinking about exploring this nature’s paradise, then we’ve put together some of the highlights of this area to get you inspired.

Ketchikan

Totem Poles in Ketchikan

At the southernmost entrance to the Inside Passage waterways, Ketchikan is a great place to start on your Alaskan adventure. With a strong fishing culture, the city is known for its salmon, and for giving visitors a chance to explore some of the world’s freshest seafood - all backed by idyllic scenery and a strong vein of Alaskan Native culture.

In fact, Native arts feature prominently in Ketchikan, with museum collections and totem parks all offering a chance to explore a mix of ancient and contemporary works. Just wandering about exploring, you’ll come across many eye-catching Native totem poles on display.

Head to nearby Misty Fjords National Monument for a taste of the great Alaskan outdoors, with snow capped mountains, waterfalls and streams abound. Home to wildlife from black bears to bald eagles, there is something impressive to see everywhere you look.

Glacier Bay National Park

Spectacular Glacier Bay

On the theme of the great Alaskan outdoors, Glacier Bay National Park is a must see. This American national park, located west of Juneau, is recognised as the most dramatic large scale glacial retreat in the world - a 3.3 million acre World Heritage Site full of natural wonders and wildlife.

For those looking to marvel at glaciers while in Alaska, you’ve come to the right place on a visit to Glacier Bay. Almost 30% of the park is covered by glaciers, with a recent count placing the number of glaciers in the park at over 1,000 - 50 of which are large enough to be named.

Pair this impressive glacial landscape with pristine coastline, snow capped mountains and wide open expanses, and it's no wonder that you’ll find some amazing plants and wildlife - with a wide variety of marine and terrestrial species calling Glacier Bay home.

Skagway

Historic building fronts in Skagway

Looking to experience a little slice of history? Head to Skagway, the landing point for deep diving into Alaska’s gold rush past. As one of the most popular and interesting towns along the Inside Passage, Skagway has plenty to offer.

Marvel at the gold-rush era buildings along its famous downtown boardwalk, preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Or head inland and set off on one of Skagway’s excellent trails, many of which begin just a few blocks from downtown. With options starting from just one mile, you’ll get to explore alpine lakes, waterfalls, and some of this compact city’s famous sights in one wonderful trek.

Skagway is also great as a stopping point before a journey on the water. The ferry crossing from Skagway to Juneau, for example, is lined with impressive scenery along the entire journey; marvel at the sheer cliffs, mountains and waterfalls as you sail past small islands and rural communities. A great way to explore all that this portion of Alaska has to offer.

Sitka

Sitka is considered one of Alaska's most beautiful seaside town

Found on the outer coast of the Inside Passage, Sitka is a city with a unique vibe. This is in part due to its rich history; it was part of Russia until 1867, and was the site of the transfer ceremony when the US purchased Alaska from the Russians. The Russian heritage is still evident in the city today, paired with hints of the inigenous Tlingit people; Sitka was their ancestral home.

Accessible by air or sea, Sitka has plenty to offer - with the leafy greens of Tongass National Forest paired against the trademark jagged glacier mountain backdrop. The fascinating heritage of the city offers plenty to see, with museums housing rare artefacts and archives - each telling a story. With more than 20 attractions listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s clear to see that this is a city with a story waiting to be explored.

Don’t forget, as with many Alaskan destinations, to make the most of the natural wonders while you’re there, too. As the only Inside Passage community facing the Pacific Ocean, the sea plays a focal role in the local activities. Further inland, head to Mount Edgecumbe, the dormant volcano, explore one of the hiking trails through Tongass National Forest, or visit a rehabilitation and rescue facility for brown bears or injured birds.

Juneau

Discover the beauty of Juneau

Juneau, Alaska’s state capital, is packed full of character. One of Alaska’s oldest cities, it is also one of the most beautiful - as well as being one of the most popular with visitors.

The number of things to see and do in Juneau is vast, meaning that it’s a good idea to have a plan for what you want to see before you arrive. The lively downtown area is a favourite with tourists, and has the benefit of being compact and easy to explore. For cruise visitors, you’ll find plenty of the top landmarks and sights within easy reach of the cruise docks, including several museums, the state capitol building, and the historic South Franklin Street, where you can find shops, restaurants and bars.

Outside of the city, but just a short drive from downtown, you’ll find the Mendenhall Glacier, one of the 38 major glaciers that extend from the Juneau Icefield. The glacier sits within the Tongass National Forest, and represents one of Juneau’s most iconic sites - and the most popular attraction. The area also boasts more than 250 miles of hiking trails, so if you fancy getting up close and personal with the land, then you’ve come to the right place. Or, head out to Admiralty Island during the summer to witness some of the many black bears that call Juneau home; in fact, there’s thought to be a bear for every square mile of the island!

Ready to visit?

If you’re looking for a truly unique adventure to jet off on in 2021, then holidays to this majestic state never disappoint. Take a look at our selection of holidays to Alaska, or get in touch with our friendly team if you’d like more information about our trips to the USA.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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