By now, you may have seen the news that the Canadian government announced they would not allow cruise ships to dock there until February 2022. This development comes as a blow to major cruise lines required by law to stop in a foreign port on their Alaska itineraries. Over half of the 2 million + annual visitors to Alaska arrive on cruise ships. Luckily, cruising isn’t necessarily the best way to see this incredibly majestic state. Experiencing this majestic state by land is worth the effort!
There isn’t any wrong time to visit Alaska; it all depends on what you want to do. Alaska is impressive any time of year, but most travelers prefer to stay during the warm and bright summer months when Alaska’s tourist attractions and summer excursions are available. These are also the months with nearly 24 hours of sunlight, the warmest temperatures, and the best weather.
Winter is also a fabulous season to see Alaska. From November through March, bright white snow blanketing the landscapes is just as breathtaking! And there are many winter adventures such as alpine and cross-country skiing, snow mobiling (or snow machining as the locals call it), dog sledding, snowshoeing, and ice fishing to keep you busy.
The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, appears on many bucket lists and are worth a trip to Alaska all by itself! They are a sight to behold. If the weather is clear at night, one can see the Northern Lights around Fairbanks and above the Arctic Circle starting at the end of August. The aurora belt in Alaska is among the most active in the world, is typically best seen in late fall and winter/early spring, though they can be seen throughout the winter months on nights with clear skies.
Believe it or not, you will probably see MORE glaciers on a land trip than you would have on a cruise! Did you know there are at least 11 glaciers you can get up close and personal with near Anchorage? Many glaciers are easily viewable from the highway, some hiking trails, and day cruises from Whittier, Seward, and other Alaskan towns. You can check out that list HERE.
If Glacier Bay is a must-see, a well-kept secret is that you can visit it on a day trip from Juneau! Juneau is only accessible by plane or boat, and it’s a great town to stay in for a few days. I recommend spending the night in Juneau, so you aren’t at risk for missing anything in case of weather delays. Those who have visited it on a mass-market cruise know that there is a ton to do in Juneau – Mendenhall Glacier, hiking up Mt Roberts (or taking the tramway up), whale watching, short scenic drives or the Alaska State Museum.
To visit Glacier Bay, you’ll have to fly from Juneau to Barlett Cove, where you will board a 150-passenger catamaran – the only day-tour permitted to operate in Glacier Bay. Imagine seeing and hearing the thunder of a calving glacier up-close from a small vessel instead of much further away on a huge mass-market cruise ship! Campers and Kayakers can get dropped off by the tour boat at designated locations.
Most people like to spend more time exploring, so if that’s you, why not spend the night in Glacier Bay Lodge located IN Glacier National Park? You can also return to Juneau that evening by plane, if that is your preference. This experience isn’t cheap, but it’s also not as extravagant as you would think.
If time does not permit a visit to Glacier Bay, fear not! Plenty of people visit Alaska by land and are blown away by all the other glaciers available and never make it to Glacier Bay.
There’s no end to whale watching and other marine wildlife available even on an Alaska land tour. You’ll have an excellent chance of spotting these fantastic creatures on a day-cruise, and you’ll also see an incredible number of birds, including bald eagles!
Take a bus into the interior of Denali National Park, where you have the best opportunity for a bear sighting. However, the best option is to pay for a flightseeing tour to areas with incredible densities of bear populations.
Take a gentle walk in a gorgeous meadow accessible from the city —guided small group day tours will show you the major sites. Train journeys allow you to sit back and relax while spotting moose and bears along the tracks. If you prefer your wildlife at a safe distance, there are first-class museums, aquariums, and wildlife conservation centers.
If you spent a week in Alaska, you’d barely scratch the surface! Most people who cruise Alaska only take a 3- or 4-day “cruisetour,” the itinerary’s land portion. Many people don’t realize they will waste a full day just GETTING to Denali National Park and not see as much as they would like.
If time is limited, focus on Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula area. Stay in Anchorage for four nights and take a day trip by rail to Seward for the Kenai Fjords Cruise, then a flightseeing tour next day for bear viewing, and then a glacier hike just outside Anchorage. You’ll have a fantastic time, and get an authentic Alaska experience!
Sound like a dream? Contact Premiere Luxury Travel to plan your next adventure to the 49th state. You WON’T be disappointed!
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