Alaska map & highlights

A holiday to Alaska is not a thing to be hurried; you’ll need at least a week, if not two. This state is vast and barely populated. There are some roads, but many places are only accessible by boat or small plane. You could explore Glacier Bay on a small ship cruise, fly into Lake Clark to track brown bears, or camp in Denali National Park. Alaska holidays are synonymous with adventure, so get yourself on board a guided small group tour that’ll navigate the maze of transport, national parks and wilderness accommodation for you.
Alaska Range

1. Alaska Range

Denali and Kenai national parks are the most accessible bits of the Alaska Range, but really the whole sweep of mountains from the Aleutian Islands to the Canadian border is a tour de force of stellar mountain views and larger-than-life animals. Caribou herds graze the plains, bears root around the forests and bald eagles dive for metre-long, 50-kilo king salmon.

2. Anchorage

It’s easy to shrug off Anchorage as just a starting point. After all, you’re here for the wilderness, not the wild nights out, right? Right – but you won’t really understand Alaska without tackling its human history. The Alaska Native Heritage Centre timelines Alaska’s 11 native groups, and Earthquake Park teaches you about the devastating 1967 earthquake. It’s all finished off with a frontier feel – boisterous brewhouses included.
Denali National Park

3. Denali National Park

Denali means ‘high one’ or ‘great one’ in Athabaskan – a fitting name for the park’s (and USA’s) tallest peak, at 6,194m. It’s also home to wildlife greats such as grizzlies, caribou and wolves. Go in search of the wilderness’ wonders by dog sledding, rafting or hiking its myriad trails. Camping here is supreme; you don’t get nights under as many stars as this in many places in the world.
Frederick Sound

4. Frederick Sound

Shoehorned between the snowy Coast Mountains and an archipelago, Frederick Sound is made for salty sailors and kayakers alike. Just to sweeten the pot, around 1,000 humpback whales migrate here to feast on an all-you-can-eat buffet of krill and herring every summer. The skipper of a small boat cruise will sneak you into the corners that the bigger cruise ships can’t reach.

5. Juneau

Goldrush-era Juneau is the capital of Alaska, having weathered many a push from Anchorage to steal its crown. A boundary of glaciers, mountains and ocean means that there’s no road in; you’ll have to fly or sail. Read all about the city’s goldrush and Russian history in the Alaska State Museum. Massive Mendenhall Glacier does some impressive looming on its doorstep, too.
Kachemak Bay

6. Kachemak Bay

The map of this 64km-long section of Cook Inlet Bay twists and turns so much, it looks like it’s been put through crimpers. Which is why kayakers and campers love it, always finding cosy hideaways. Designated a State Wilderness Park, it’s only accessible by boat or plane. Or by swimming, if you’re one of the prolific population of sea otters, seals, porpoise and whales. Homer is the main hub.
Katmai National Park

7. Katmai National Park

Only accessible by plane or boat, Katmai National Park will blow your mind. And given that it has 18 volcanoes (the park is named after its centrepiece Mount Katmai), seven of which are active, Katmai has explosive capacity. Another very active aspect is its bear population, coming out in droves to feast on migratory salmon. Nearby Kodiak Island is also an incredible spot for ogling grizzlies.
Kenai Fjords National Park

8. Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park is a coastal arcadia of fjords, whales, glaciers and icebergs. One of the most sought after experiences is the challenging hike to the Harding Icefield – an eight-hour trek to catch views of Narnia-like nunataks (Inuit for ‘lonely peak’). Or just chill on a wildlife sailing cruise and take in all the animal magic.

9. Petersburg

Norwegian fishermen founded Petersburg in the 1800s. It started as a fishing town and it’s still a fishing town, with the original cannery still earning its keep. Do as Alaskans do and fish for halibut in Petersburg Creek or wander along the mountain-backed wooden waterfront. Eagle and raven totem poles remind you of the surrounding Tlingit communities who came to work in the cannery.

10. Seward

The pretty fishing village of Seward is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s gone from a railway port, to a goldrush town, to a WWII military base, to a haven for outdoorsy types. Head downtown, where weatherboard shops and saloons are picturesque when not drowned in cruise crowds. Wide-open Resurrection Bay lies before you, though; seek out the company of sea lions and orcas instead.

11. Valdez

With a dark history (wiped out by an earthquake in 1964 and revived by the controversial Trans-Alaska Pipeline in the 1970s), Valdez is actually one of the most uplifting places to visit in Alaska. Tucked into the heart of Prince William Sound, and enveloped by vast coastal mountains, kayaking out to the foot of Shoup or Columbia Glacier is the way to watch Alaska’s fragility in action.
Wrangell-St Elias National Park

12. Wrangell-St Elias National Park

This magnificent Alaskan expanse is the largest of all the USA national parks. With 150 glaciers, all enveloped by the coastal mountain range, you certainly will get high on this trip. Walk along glaciers or take on one of the snow peaked mammoths that overlook this frozen fantasia. Take some time to learn about the mining history here too. And hope that it stays history.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Alaska, USA or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Alaska suggested itineraries

Glacier Bay small ship cruise (8 days):
Sitka > Saginaw Bay and Kake > Petersburg > Frederick Sound > Tracy Arm Fjord > Orca Point Lodge > Glacier Bay > Juneau

Denali National Park holiday (12 days):
Anchorage > Denali National Park > Maclaren Glacier > Wrangell-St Elias National Park > Valdez > Matanuska Glacier > Church Mountains > Anchorage

Brown bear photography holiday (6 days):
Anchorage > Lake Clark > Tanalian Trail > Anchorage

Inside Passage small ship cruise (15 days):
Seattle > Olympic National Park > San Juan Islands > Salish Sea > Canada’s Inside Passage > Great Bear Rainforest > Ketchikan > Misty Fjords National Monument > Behm Canal > Ernest Sound > Petersburg > Frederick Sound > Chatham Strait > Chichagof Island > Glacier Bay National Park > Icy Strait Point > Haines > Juneau

Alaska travel times

The following times will give you a rough idea of (often ambitious) travel times across Alaska.

    Anchorage to Denali National Park: 5hrs by car Anchorage to Seward: 4hrs 20 mins by train (May to September only) Anchorage to Lake Clark: 1hr 15 mins by small plane Petersburg to Kake: 4hrs 45 mins by ferry
Photo credits: [Page banner: Paxson Woelber] [Alaska Range: Paxson Woelber] [Anchorage: Frank K.] [Denali National Park: Wall Boat] [Frederick Sound: David Minty] [Juneau: juneau] [Kachemak Bay: Mandy Lindeberg] [Katmai National Park: Paxson Woelber] [Kenai Fjords National Park: Balazs Barnucz] [Petersburg: Mike Colvin] [Seward: Amy Meredith] [Valdez: lwtt93] [Wrangell-St Elias National Park: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve] [Alaska travel times: Bureau of Land Management]