Alaska

Alaska, the 49th state, the Last Frontier. Wild, rugged, stark, mysterious and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. With no shortage of wild mountain landscapes, beautiful glaciers, and abundant wildlife Alaska will pull you in with its beauty and refuse to let you go from its icy grip. In this complete guide we share absolutely everything that you need to know for your trip to Alaska.

Language

English is the official language in Alaska. While English is Alaska’s most common language, in 2014, 20 Native languages were also declared official state languages, they include: Aleut, Alutiiq, Central Yup’ik, St Lawrence Island Yu’pik, Inupiaq, Tlingit, Ahtna, Dena’ina, Deg Xinag, Holikachuk, Upper Kuskokwim, Koyukon, Lower Tanana, Tanacross, Upper Tanana, Gwich’in, Han, Haida, and Tsimshian.Sadly, some of the languages have very few speakers left, and even one, Eyak has gone extinct.

Currency
The official currency is the US Dollar (USD), which is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards are widely accepted. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
  • ATMs: In Alaska ATMs are everywhere: at banks, gas stations, supermarkets, airports and even some visitor centres. At most ATMs you can use a credit card (Visa, MasterCard, etc), a debit card or an ATM card that is linked to the Plus or Cirrus ATM networks. There is generally a fee ($1 to $3) for withdrawing cash from an ATM, but the exchange rate on transactions is usually as good if not better than what you’ll get anywhere else.

  • Cash: Hard cash still works. It may not be the safest way to carry funds, but nobody will hassle you when you purchase something with US dollars. Most businesses along the Alcan in Canada will also take US dollars.

  • Credit Cards: Like in the rest of the USA, Alaskan merchants are ready and willing to accept just about all major credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards, but American Express and Discovery are also widely used.Places that accept Visa and MasterCard are also likely to accept debit cards. If you are an overseas visitor, check with your bank at home to confirm that your debit card will be accepted in the USA.

  • Bargaining: Alaska, like the rest of the US, doesn't really have much of a bargaining culture, except perhaps in small markets or at some indigenous craft stalls.

  • Tipping:Tipping in Alaska, like in the rest of the USA, is expected.



Accommodation:

You have a few options in way of accommodation in Alaska including hotels, lodges, boat houses etc. These places are starting to spring up more and more, but expect to only see them in larger cities like Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Homer, and Seward. Visit our website for more booking options.

Top 10 places to visit
As Alaska is big, so too is its beauty. A vast, uninhabited wilderness overwhelms the comparatively small cities in the state, such as commercial-minded Anchorage, with its many things to do, and tucked-away Juneau (a curious state capital with no road access). This natural beauty can be enjoyed while hiking, paddling, and fishing in the great outdoors, especially as the state and national parks here are some of the largest in the United States.Though there are a number of museums and other tourist attractions in the major centres, towns are perhaps more accurately used as jumping-off points for exploring the Alaskan wilds, such as Denali and Kenai Fjords national parks. But wherever your sightseeing may take you, the scale of Alaska is sure to impress.

  • Denali National Park: In the northern part of the Alaska Range, Denali National Park is the one of the largest in the United States and encompasses North America's highest mountain. Denali is the 20,320-foot peak's traditional name, but modern explorers dubbed it Mount McKinley. The name is a strong point of local contention. But names aside, the six million acres of wide river valleys, tundra, high alpine ranges, and glacier-draped mountains are purely spectacular. A single road leads into the park, and only park-approved buses are permitted to travel beyond Savage River. Views of Denali can be enjoyed from the park road, weather permitting.Located midway between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Denali is the home of grizzly bears, wolves, reindeer, elk, and other animals. More than 167 species of birds have been recorded in the park. Another favourite among the park's many things to do are the Sled Dog Kennels, which offer demonstrations and are home to dozens of energetic huskies.

  • Tracy Arm Fjord: A fjord edged with glaciers, Tracy Arm is located south of Juneau and is a popular destination for cruise ships and boat tours. Waterfalls tumble down the sharp rock walls and glaciers calve, creating small icebergs. The scenic setting lies within the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness of the Tongass National Forest. At the head of the fjord sit the twin Sawyer Glaciers. Wildlife sightings are common on tours, whether it's a brown bear or moose on land, or the whales and seals that inhabit these waters. Tracy Arm offers just a small slice of glacier viewing in Alaska.

  • Kenai Fjords National Park: Protecting much of the fjord-riddled coastline of the Kenai Peninsula (south of Anchorage), this national park offers some of the best sightseeing in Alaska. Not only do panoramas take in the many glaciers of the 700-square-mile Harding Icefield and an uninhabited coastline, but the national park is home to monstrously large brown bears that feed on the fat-rich salmon.

  • Katmai National Park: In Southwestern Alaska is the Katmai National Park, a scenic retreat close to both Homer and Kodiak Island. At the heart of the park is the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, an enormous ash flow that remained after the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano. Also, in the Katmai National Park are incredible opportunities to get up close and personal with the local wildlife. In particular, you can spot brown bears who feed on the local salmon. Fishing is also a popular pastime thanks to the abundance of rainbow trout and salmon.

  • Mendenhall Glacier: Just a short drive from the city of Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, an enormous glacier that is calving, or separating, into its own adjacent lake. There are a number of different ways to experience the glacier, ranging from a simple shuttle ride to see it up close or a helicopter ride to truly appreciate the sheer size of the glacier.

  • Glacier Bay National Park: Located just west of Juneau, this park is another fine example of the state’s wild, majestic beauty. By staying at Glacier Park Lodge, you’ll have access to the best of it, with the chance to hike across the land or explore the waters via kayak. It’s a popular place for fishing, with the opportunity to fish the rivers for halibut and rainbow trout, and a variety of wildlife can be seen as well, including mountain goats and black bears. Margerie Glacier, a tidewater glacier which starts on land and stretches out to the sea, has been retreating, so you’ll want to see it before its gone. The 21-mile-long and one-mile-wide glacier can only be accessed by air or water, but your reward is a pristine glacier with jewel-like blue ice – and, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to witness calving. This incredible natural phenomenon is accompanied by the booming sound of ice cracking and crashing into the water below.

  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park: Alaska’s largest national park at 13 million acres. It sits at the confluence of the mighty Copper River and the Chitina River, overshadowed by 16,390-foot-high Mount Blackburn. After its mine closed in the late 1930s, it was all but abandoned, but in 1980, with the creation of the park it began serving as the main gateway for visitors who embark on McCarthy Road, which winds 60 miles east into the heart of the park. With habitats ranging from temperate rain forest to tundra, you’ll find an incredible diversity of animals as well, including moose which are often seen near willow bogs and lakes. Other species of large mammals include mountain goats, caribou, wolves, bison, black bears and brown bears.Truly get back to nature, with the time to admire the northern lights and discover glaciers, by staying at Ultima Thule Lodge – 100 miles from the nearest road, there is no cell service or Internet, but you can spend your time gazing at some of the most jaw-dropping wilderness on Earth.

  • Kodiak Island: Kodiak Island is famous for its fishing and its bears. A renowned fishing destination, it offers the chance to catch trout, halibut and five species of salmon. At the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, which protects a diverse 2,812-square-mile area with everything from alpine meadows and wetlands to rugged mountains, offers the chance to view bears. There are some 3,500 bears that live here, with some of the males weighing over 1,500 pounds and standing over 10 feet tall. As there are no roads in the refuge, visitors view the bears via air charters or an excursion from one of the many wilderness lodges.

  • Inside Passage: One of the most beautiful ways to explore the last frontier in luxury is through sails to Alaska’s Inside Passage. This complex ice maze of fjords, bays, and lush green islands is home to a variety of wildlife. Expect to see orca, mountain goats, bald eagles, bears, puffins, sea otters and much more during your time here. It’s not just the glaciers that are awe-inspiring, the mountains are carpeted with majestic forests that are home to Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Indians known for their towering totem poles.

  • Homer: If you’re interested in exploring nature or doing some fishing, then Homer should absolutely be on your Alaskan itinerary. Located on the Kenai Peninsula, Homer is known as the fishing capital of Alaska, and it serves as a gateway to a number of national parks. While you’re in Homer, you can walk along the beach to the iconic Homer Spit, drive up Skyline Drive for fantastic views or spot wildlife in Kachemak Bay State Park, where you’ll find mountain goats, bald eagles, sea lions, humpback whales and black bears. Day-long halibut fishing trips are incredibly popular, and you’re all but guaranteed an impressive haul that local restaurants will happily cook up for your dinner.
Climate

In general, the best season to visit Alaska is summer, from June to August. It's cold along the northern and north-western coast, but at least the temperature is above freezing. It's very cool on the remaining western coasts and on the islands, with a daily average around 10 °C (50 °F).


  • Summer: June-August: The most popular months to visit Alaska as it’s summertime. The weather tends to be warmer and most of the backcountry is easier to access in these months, but it’s also crowded and more expensive.

  • Fall: September-October: Temperatures steadily decrease as fall descends into winter. It’s not uncommon for Alaska to be blanketed in snow by mid-October, and not unheard of to have an occasional snow shower in September. With that said, September is typically a delightful month for a visit. Most of the tourists have headed home, it’s possible to see the Aurora so long as a solar flare heads our way and we have clear nights, the fall colors are making their way down the valleys, and hiking is prime.

  • Winter: November-March: If you love winter sports, this is your time to head to the Last Frontier! Most the state is covered with snow. This is a great time for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling (we call it snowmachining), and ice skating. With the long dark nights this is the best season to catch the Aurora if conditions are right.

  • Spring: April-May: Days are getting longer and the snow’s melting! If you enjoy spring skiing you can usually catch some in the earlier part of April. May can be a great month to visit Alaska- temperatures are getting near summer temperatures, the tourists haven’t quite showed up in full force, and plants are green and coming to life. Temperatures during the shoulder seasons in Spring and Fall can be variable, warm during the day but still cold at night.So, in terms of day-to-day weather, it’s best to plan for a little of everything.
There are some places you need to be ware of such as (Utqiagvik) Barrow and Nome.

  • Barrow: In Barrow, the sun remains below the horizon for a couple of months. Barrow has both the longest and shortest amount of daylight in the state. When the sun rises on May 10, it doesn’t set for nearly three months. When it sets on November 18, Barrow residents do not see the sun again for nearly two months. In late spring and in summer, the sun is seen for a good number of hours, also because of the very long days. However, in this period, in addition to rainy days, sometimes fog can form. A summer trip to Barrow will help you understand why Alaska is known as the Land of the Midnight Sun.

  • Nome: Nome the sun rises even in winter, but the days are short and the sun is rarely seen. In summer, the days are not as long as in Barrow, but approximately from May 18 to July 26, there are the "white nights", that is, when the sunset lights remain even at midnight. However, in summer, both because of the shorter days and the more frequent rains, the sun shines for a lower number of hours than on the north coast.





Food and drink

While Alaska might not be San Francisco or Paris, you’ll find the Last Frontier offers unexpected delight to lovers of food and drink. The near endless daylight combines with rich glacial soils to yield remarkably tasty vegetables and fruits. The pristine North Pacific Ocean produces a bounty of seafood unmatched just about anywhere else in the world. Here’s our list of the foods and libations you should try!

  • Chinook Salmon: The largest species of Pacific salmon and Alaska’s state fish, Chinooks (or kings) can range up to three feet long and weigh 25 to 60 pounds when caught (record is 125 pounds.) They are prized by Alaskans for their size and strong flavour. Alaskans eat kings grilled as fillets or steaks. Cooked over charcoal or open flame is especially satisfying. The oily red flesh has a tender, melt-in-your-mouth quality. A fresh Chinook right off the grill is so rich it might rewire your brain, with Copper River kings almost fudge-like in consistency.Kings return May through July, but are most commonly available in June. Other salmon foods include: Sockeye salmon, Coho salmon, Pink salmon and the Chum salmon.

  • Pacific cod, black cod (sablefish) and lincod: These three groundfish species (only one is a true “cod”) are denizens of the deep ocean off Alaska’s coast. Pacific cod and sablefish will make appearances on restaurant menus, and are usually taken by commercial boats operating far offshore. Lincod—ferocious predators that are fun to catch—are a favorite target by anglers, often while pursuing halibut.They all exhibit a white flesh with a mild flavor. Pacific cod (the true cod) meat is flaky and light, often deep-fried for fish-and-chips—inexpensive and widely available in grocery stores. Sablefish (or blackcod) are more buttery and rich tasting, considered almost exotic, with prices that rival those for halibut. Some dinner-oriented restaurants serve sablefish, and they can be found irregularly in grocery stores and specialty seafood retailers for a premium. Lincod presents similar to halibut, just as tasty if perhaps a bit softer, and is not generally available in stores or restaurants.

  • King crab: Alaska king crabs are an authentic world-class delicacy, not to be missed. They are harvested with pots from the deep waters of the Bering Sea and Southeast Alaska, often with some risk and significant expense. After cleaning, the crabs are steamed and then served broken in half or with the large legs and claws as separate pieces.Dinning can be an adventure! You must open the stiff shells with nutcrackers or mallets, and then dig out the meat with special forks. The meat is tender and sweet, with a hint of brine, with the tastiest morsels found in the claws and legs rather than the body. Dip each bite in melted butter to complete the experience. Other crabs include: Blue King crab, Red King crab, Golden King crab, Dungeness crab and the Snow crab.

  • Side striped shrimp. This deep ocean shrimp is usually harvest by commercial trawlers but is also targeted by Alaskans participating in personal use pot fisheries. Smaller than spot shrimp, but just as sweet when fresh. Often lightly grilled or stir-fried, as well as deep-fried. A great ingredient for a seafood platter.Wild-caught shrimp and scallops, Spot shrimp.

  • Blueberries: Alaskans take berry-picking seriously. Not only do people have to compete with each other for the best spots during the state’s short growing season, but humans also yield to hungry bears, who suck down berries by the hundreds in their quest to bulk up for the winter. If you can’t go berry-picking, look for options like gooseberry pie, wild berry cobbler, and blueberry French toast on menus.

  • Wild Meats: Moose and caribou (and other traditional game meats like black bear, Sitka black-tailed deer, Dall sheep, mountain goat and porcupine) are not harvested for commercial use in Alaska, so you won’t find them on the restaurant menu or in the meat aisle. But if you make friends with an Alaskan who hunts—and this local invites you to dinner—don’t hesitate to slip in a request. Moose, deer, caribou and sheep, in particular, can be superb eating as steak or roasts, with a presentation as tender and rich as organic beef. They can be processed into a variety of cuts, sausages, jerkies and stew meats.

  • Reindeer: This is a must-try Alaska experience! Essentially a domestic caribou, Alaska reindeer are descended from stock imported from Siberia during the 1890s and can only be owned by Alaska Natives. About 18 herders manage about 20,000 animals that forage in western and north-western Alaska, mostly on the Seward Peninsula. Sausage containing reindeer is on the breakfast menu of almost every full-service restaurant in the state. It has a distinctive, meaty taste reminiscent of a high-end link pork sausage. Prepared meats (usually various kinds of sausage) containing reindeer are sold in most grocery stores.

  • Beer: Alaska has a thriving craft beer scene, with more than 35 microbreweries operating in at least 20 communities around the state. These ales, lagers and pilsners are often associated with a specific restaurant or pub. Anchorage, in particular, features several popular venues, some with the brewing tanks visible on the other side of a glass wall!

  • Wine: Alaska’s climate may not be ideal for vineyards, but that hasn’t stopped a few enterprising vintners from creating a few only-in-Alaska varieties using both imported juice and Alaskan wild berries. Check out Bear Creek Winery in Homer for a tour where you can sample blueberry and raspberry wines. Denali Winery in Anchorage specializes in crafting personal wines for special order in their South Anchorage facility.

  • Alaska Coffee: Alaskans love fresh coffee. From hundreds of street-side kiosks to interesting cafes in just about every town and shopping zone, you will never be far from a cup of fresh brew or a fancy, flavored latte to go. Even better, many vendors draw on beans that have been roasted in-state. Here’s a magazine review of several of the most prolific operations. Most of them have their own shops as well as distribution networks into many other venues. Kaladi Brothers Coffee pioneered the Anchorage scene back in the 1990s and their signature brews can be found throughout the state.

Things to do
Whether you visit Alaska by land or by sea, you can see all sorts of fascinating sights even before you arrive in the state. Once you're in Alaska, though, you'll find plenty of things to do for all ages and interests, from taking a cruise to see glaciers and whales to hiking through the pristine wilderness of the state's many parks and nature preserves. While you may want to arrive in a city like Anchorage, Juneau, or Fairbanks, don't miss the chance to explore more remote locations like Whittier, Talkeetna, or Sitka to explore more of the culture of this remarkable state.

  • Skiing & Snowboarding: Winter sport lovers can rejoice! Alaska has no shortage of backcountry options and even a few ski resorts to hit up as well.

  • Cruising: All you have to decide is between which kind- wildlife or glaciers? There are many day cruises daily in summer that will take you to see glaciers calve right before your eyes, or to watch whales as they make their way up to the cold Alaska waters. For those that enjoy cruising you can take an Inside Passage cruise that makes stops along Alaska’s South-eastern Panhandle between Anchorage and Seattle.

  • Glacier Trekking: Alaska has several easy to access and even some roadside glaciers. Ever dream of getting out on one? Here’s your chance!

  • Fishing: Alaska is world renowned for its top-notch fishing. Whether you head out to a luxury fishing lodge, join the anglers on the Kenai casting for salmon, or take a halibut charter out on the open ocean, there’s a perfect adventure here for just about any fisherwoman (or fisherman!).

  • Wildlife Viewing: Alaska’s wildlife is everywhere. Want to see bears, moose, bald eagle, whales, caribou and more? Some of the best places to view wildlife include Denali National Park, Brook’s Falls, and Kenai Fjords National Park. You can also visit the Alaska Wildlife ConservationCentre: you can view wild Alaskan animals that have been rescued and brought here, and it’s conveniently located just south of Anchorage.

  • Kayaking & Whitewater Rafting: From lazy trips into quiet coves to rollercoaster like rapids, Alaska has just about every level of water sports enthusiast covered.

  • Road Tripping: Even though the road system in Alaska is extremely limited the road trip options are bountiful. Get in the car and just drive- sometimes this will lead you to some of the state’s most beautiful places.

  • Hiking & Mountaineering: Home to Denali, North America’s highest peak sitting among some of the continent’s more technical climbs in the Alaska Range. But don’t worry if you’re not a serious mountaineer- Alaska has a hike for just about every physical fitness level.

  • Cycling: Like to spend most of your time on two wheels? Anchorage has a decent network of bike trails around the city that link to the beautiful Coastal Trail that hugs the Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage. For those more serious you can cycle the Haul Road- the Dalton Highway that ends in Prudhoe Bay.

  • Flightseeing: Want a different perspective on Alaska? Get above it! Several companies run small planes and helicopters to some of Alaska’s most scenic of places such as Prince William Sound and Denali National Park. Also note that to visit some of Alaska’s more remote parks you do have to arrange an air taxi (small plane) to take you out there.