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    Organizing a trip to Alaska: how to get there, how many days and which areas to choose

    Who I am
    Joel Fulleda
    @joelfulleda
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    If you love adventure and unspoiled nature, Alaska is the place for you. Its majestic natural landscapes and incredible fauna are the main ingredients for a journey destined to remain indelible in the memory. However, do a tour dell’Alaska it is not that simple: just think that in a large part of the territory you cannot count on roads or railways and in some areas you can only get there by ship or short-haul airplanes.

    The poor urbanization of this mammoth state therefore makes it quite difficult to visit without proper organization, and at the same time it is necessary to know the differences between the various areas well in order to choose the most suitable travel methods. Let's try to deepen some of them crucial aspects for organizing a trip to Alaska.



    PS: if you still don't know what this state has to offer, I refer you to my articles on what to see in Alaska, on the most characteristic experiences to do, on the best areas to see wild animals in the Alaskan territory and, finally, I invite you to read my tips on the climate and best time to visit Alaska.

    Index

    • How and where to get to Alaska from Spain?
    • Ship, car or train? The best way for each region
      • Alaska by ship
      • Alaska by train
      • L'Alaska in the car
    • How many days to dedicate to a trip to Alaska?
    • How much does a trip to Alaska cost?
    • Resources for organizing the trip

    How and where to get to Alaska from Spain?

    Is the only way to get to Alaska by plane? Not really. It goes without saying that to reach the American continent the plane is the most logical choice, but it is not so obvious to land on Alaskan soil. First of all, very few flights arrive direct from Europe to Alaska (an example is the Frankfurt am Main - Anchorage route of the Condor company), but above all there is to understand which part of Alaska we are interested in. If you are short on time, you can only focus on one or two regions, so arriving by plane may not be the best choice.



    The main airport of the state is Anchorage, but various flights with a stopover in Seattle, Vancouver, Dallas or other US and Canadian cities allow you to fly to other cities, such as Juneau, Sitka or Fairbanks. With some exceptions, the cheapest flights from Spain are those directed to Anchorage; However, all the smaller airports are connected by internal flights with Anchorage, so if you intend to base there, you can then move to another region with a local flight.

    • Look for a flight to Anchorage

    To understand where to go, it is good divide the state into macro-regions and decide which one, or which ones, you want to visit.

    • Il South East, on the southern border of Canada, is one of the regions most visited by tourism, both for its beauty and for its greater proximity to the rest of the United States. Here theInside Passage winds its way through the islands connecting the capital Juneau to numerous other interesting cities. It is one of the best areas for those looking for whales, glaciers and natural scenery related to the sea, but also for history lovers. The vehicle par excellence here is the ship. You can sail to this region from Seattle or Vancouver, or fly to Sitka Airport or Juneau Airport, and board a local ferry there.
    • Il Prince William Sound it is the region that forms the glue between the southeast block and the Alaskan continental block. It is an indented region, where land and sea seem to be one. It is the ideal place to discover the retreat of the glaciers by kayaking and to admire expanses of wading birds in the marshes. Cordoba and Valdez are the reference cities that can be reached by internal flights. Even here, however, you can arrive by ship from the USA.
    • La Kenai Peninsula we find it moving further west along the southern coast. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions in the state and, fortunately, one of the easiest to reach and explore. Anchorage is located north of the peninsula and from the city, roads and railways branch off to reach the main centers of Kenai.
    • THEAlaska Peninsula and archipelagos of Kodiak and the Aleutians instead they are the most southwestern part of the state and are among the best places for those in search of the unique wildlife that Alaska has to offer. However, many of these places are really difficult to reach. Much of it can be visited by ship, but not with ferries as frequent as in the south-east. In other cases, small airplanes are the only solution. On the other hand, cars are of little use to reach this world made up of islands and islets that extend up to 1600 km from the continent.
    • THEintern dell'Alaska it is the kingdom of bears and wolves. The roads that run through it are among the most scenic in the world and the car is certainly the best way to visit it. The main point of reference is Fairbanks, which is located more or less in the center of the state and can be reached by plane directly from the USA and Canada. However, it can also be reached by train from Anchorage. Rather than renting a car in Fairbanks, the more viable alternative is to drive right there from Anchorage or, even better, Canada.
    • Il bush it is the most unexplored area of ​​Alaska and with this name the whole northern area of ​​the state is indefinitely identified. Few of the already very rare locations in the far north are reached by a road. For the rest, the airplane is the only way to visit these places.

    Ship, car or train? The best way for each region

    By dividing Alaska into macro-regions, you realize that each has its own characteristics and looking at the road map it is clear that you cannot land in Anchorage and hope with a rental car to go around the state freely. You need to make a choice: which areas do I want to visit in the time I have available?



    Alaska by ship

    If there are few roads in Alaska, this problem is partly solved by a completely unique "highway": theAlaska Marine Highway. This maritime connection runs through 5600 km along the southern coast of the country, connecting the Unalaska Island (in the Aleutians) a Bellingham (the northernmost port in the state of Washington, just north of Seattle). If you decide to focus on the coast, which in itself could offer attractions for many consecutive weeks, the ship is more than enough transportation for a trip to Alaska. Enough fly to Seattle or Vancouver to visit all the most important Alaskan cities by ferries and enjoy some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes the country has to offer.

    THEInside Passage it is certainly the most beautiful area to visit by ship, and it is also the part of the country for which this means of transport is the only possible solution. A cruise in this region it is worth a trip in itself and there are luxurious ones on large ships equipped with every comfort, as well as spartan ones on small local ships. For the more adventurous, you can take advantage of the local ferries to save on the budget and fully immerse yourself in the local culture. There are two non-cruising possibilities to navigate these waters:

    • the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System (the main choice of tourists who do not want to travel on a cruise) that touch the most important ports
    • the so-called day-boat, the minor ferries serving ordinary life, used above all by locals for daily needs

    For those who prefer the cruises here is a instead tour operator with many offers available for Alaska.



    Alaska by train

    Except for the White Pass and Yukon Route (today exclusively tourist and which I have already talked about on this page), in Alaska there is a single railway line of about 750km. A small route, if compared to the greatness of the state, but which deserves to be mentioned as an experience to be lived, as well as a means of transport. The railway starts from Seward, on the southern coast of the Kenai Peninsula and climbs north to Anchorage and various towns until you reach Fairbanks. In winter, due to weather conditions, only the section between Seward and Anchorage is active, with the small branch leading to the port of Whittier. This does not mean that one should consider traveling by train exclusively in summer: the southern section, open all year round, is in fact defined one of the most scenic railways in the world.

    Crossing bridges over rushing streams and tucking into tunnels that crisscross the mountains, the Alaska Railroad train can take you in places impossible to reach by car, because there are no roads that follow the same path. Assuming the arrival by plane in Anchorage, moving by train from the metropolis to the south is an experience to be lived absolutely, but the train is a valid alternative to rental cars or buses also to travel northwards, to go to the Denali National Park or as far as remote Fairbanks. The hours of travel pass without boredom, with his eyes perpetually glued to the window, while the woods and the snow-capped peaks of the mountain range give way to Bush: that territory where bears and wolves rule their wild world undisturbed.

    Here are some train tours to consider:

    • Alaska Crafted Tour and Railroad Adventure
    • Alaska Railroad: da Anchorage a Denali
    • Alaska Railroad: da Anchorage a Seward
    • Alaska Brewery and Railroad Experience

    L'Alaska in the car

    The wilds of Alaska offer spectacular views, in which to lose your gaze for hours. For this, renting a car is one of the best choices that you can do, to explore the most evocative places and stop at any time to take unique photos or simply to sigh satisfied by the beauty of the unspoiled nature that stands out in front of us. In winter many roads are closed and many others are to be avoided for those not used to driving in these climates. However, summer lends itself perfectly to a road trip to Alaska. All that remains is to choose your itinerary and get in the car.

    The most famous street is theAlaska Highway (also known as Alcan), or the state road n.2, which connects Canada with Fairbanks. Flying to Canada, renting a car and heading to central Alaska is an intriguing idea, allowing you to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in North America. From Fairbanks another road starts for those who love adventure and the search for the most unknown places: the Dalton Highway. Following this route north you can cross the country's most desolate moors e reach Prudhoe Bay: the northernmost port in the state.

    If you land in Anchorage, the rental possibilities are not lacking, as well as the itinerary alternatives. For a day trip, drive south on Seeward highway to reach Seward or Homer allows you to admire the rich biodiversity of the Kenai Peninsula, while in the opposite direction the highest peaks of the continent are the backdrop to an itinerary along the Parks Highway, which runs alongside Denali National Park. For detailed routes with stops along the way and overnight tips you can read these 3 itineraries from 7 to 15 days departing from Anchorage. I also point out our guide with all the things to know for rent a car in the United States of America.

    How many days to dedicate to a trip to Alaska?

    It is difficult to define a duration for such a vast state and with such diverse regions. There are many factors to take into account: the most relevant are the times imposed by great distances. For move by car consider that Faibanks, one of the nerve centers for a road trip, is about 10 hours from Whitehorse (the Canadian city where the Alaska Highway begins) and 7 hours from Anchorage. From Fairbanks, an additional 14 hours of driving are required to get to the far north of Prudhoe Bay. All this, without considering the inevitable stops, even just to be entranced by the views offered by these roads.

    As far as the travel by ship, on the other hand, it must be considered that not only do most of the ferries not move several times a day, but the majority do not even travel every day. Unless you take part in one cruise with well-defined stages, moving by ship may mean having to stay overnight in various different towns or, alternatively, not even disembarking there. The airplane, the fastest way to get around the Alaskan skies, has the problem of being expensive. Even if you are traveling in a group, the budget available may not be sufficient to make many trips by air and it is therefore to be taken into consideration only for routes that offer no alternatives.

    The advice is to dedicate at least two weeks on a trip to Alaska. With this timing it is possible to touch two or three macro-regions, seeing different aspects of the country. Unless you are looking for a specific place or are attracted to a particular excursion, for a first trip to Alaska three good options to choose from are:

    1. By ship in the south. Whether on a cruise or on local ferries, moving by sea between the coastal towns allows you to enjoy some of the most beautiful landscapes of the American continent, combining history and nature. The main cities are also concentrated here and the offer of activities (from kayaking to bird watching, from whales to bears) is huge. It is a type of travel that can be easily modulated as times based on the days available.
    2. By car in the center-north. Arriving by car from Canada or landing in Anchorage and hiring a car are two interesting options for exploring the wilderness of the interior. You can touch some of the more isolated cities and it is the ideal trip for those seeking adventure. Also in this case, the itinerary can be tailor-made according to the time available.
    3. Relying on public transport. One of the most scenic railways in the world is flanked by some bus services to allow you to move from Anchorage to locations in the interior. For those with a few days available, the best thing is to reach Anchorage by plane and from there move south for an excursion to the Kenai Peninsula and north to venture into Denali National Park.

    Whichever medium you choose, a good idea can be to book the return flight to Spain from a different airport than the outbound one. To see the coast by ship, take advantage of Anchorage on one side and Seattle or Vancouver on the other, you don't have to waste precious days on the return ferry. If you travel by land, however, an itinerary that has Anchorage as the starting point (or arrival) and Fairbanks or Canada at the other end of the journey, also allows you to move by car, bus or train without having to travel the same road. in both directions.

    Also for the flight search, I refer you to our guide on how to book flights for a trip to the States.

    How much does a trip to Alaska cost?

    A delicate matter! Anyone who wants to embark on this adventure by organizing everything independently knows that, due to the distance and the geography of the territory, Alaska is not exactly a low cost destination. To anyone who wants to get an idea of ​​what the costs for a trip of this type may be, I recommend reading my article how much a trip to Alaska costs, where I try to prepare a quote also providing some low cost tips to try to save something .

    Resources for organizing the trip

    Lastly, it is necessary to take into consideration all the precautions necessary to travel to the United States. First of all the paperwork: the Esta form, which allows you to stay in the USA for 3 months without applying for a visa, and the passport, which is necessary to visit countries outside the European Community.

    A particularly important aspect and not to be underestimated is that ofMedical insurance which, although not required by law, is practically so in practice. Not doing it means risking a lot, which is rather nonsense given the reasonable amounts of the policies. To find out more, I refer you to our guide on how to choose health insurance for the USA.

    Obviously then you will have to book flights, car rental (if your itinerary requires it) and all Lodging. Do not neglect even some essential details, such as the American sim for the phone and credit card, finally check our list of things to pack for the States, some of the accessories indicated simply represent extra comforts, others are practically indispensable. !

    Finally, to book all the travel-related services you can use the application we have specially developed: the Low cost handbook, a tool to compare prices on all the most reliable service providers and consequently save money.

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