Alaska is not just any place, neither among the US states nor in the world. Travelers who go are not looking for the grandeur of New York's skyscrapers or the winding streets of San Francisco, the nostalgic rhythms of New Orleans or the excesses of Las Vegas. If you choose Alaska you know that the great works of man, even the most incredible, will never be able to give the same emotion of a wild territory where the uncontaminated nature.
In Alaska, man still depends on nature and the resources it offers: for this reason the Alaskans have a reverential respect for the animal and plant world in which they feel only guests. The experiences that allow you to feel this relationship between man and nature are innumerable, but I have selected five unforgettable activities among which everyone can find their own ideal experience. To better prepare your trip, I recommend that you integrate this article with the one dedicated to the main things to see in Alaska.
- 1 See the Northern Lights
- 2 Go for a ride on a dog sled
- 3 Fish for salmon with the locals
- 4 Fly over the Bush in an airplane
- 5 Reaching the Magic bus of 'Into the wild'
1 See the Northern Lights
Fear of the extreme cold causes most tourists to travel to Alaska during the summer months. Indeed, summer offers more possibilities for excursions and it is easier to move independently, but only in winter you can enjoy one of the most incredible shows that mother nature puts on: the Northern Lights. The yellow and green lights that intertwine and seem to dance in the northern skies are able to leave even the most experienced travelers speechless, who have seen everything and more around the world. And even those who have already experienced this emotion will realize that each aurora is different from the previous ones. Even the coloring can change considerably: in 1958 for example, the skies of Alaska turned a red and orange so bright that many mistook the aurora for a gigantic fire.
Beyond the Arctic Circle, since the sun does not set in summer, you come across the particular phenomenon of midnight Sun, so during the winter months the darkness is constant and the wait for the next sunrise lasts several weeks. To illuminate the endless winter nights comes this particular atmospheric effect, which gives the landscape a magical aspect. Contrary to popular belief, however, it's not just latitude that matters: The chance to see the Northern Lights does not increase when heading towards the North Pole. IS Fairbanks, in fact, the city that offers the greatest chance to spot the dancing lights across the American continent. Just think that if in the North Pole the average of the Northern Lights is 100 nights a year, in Fairbanks the possibilities increase to 240. If you go to Alaska between September and April, therefore, remember to include a stop in Fairbanks in your itinerary: you will not regret!
- Northern Lights and Chena Hot Springs from Fairbanks
- 3 Day Alaska Northern Lights Tour
2 Go for a ride on a dog sled
Who does not remember the story of Balto, the Siberian husky at the head of the pack that in 1925 brought the antitoxin needed to fight the diphtheria epidemic? One of Alaska's most famous stories could only have the mushing as protagonists. Before airplanes and helicopters arrived, dog sleds were the only way to get around in areas not served by the road network and are still the only option in case of bad weather for some locations.
In almost all the cities of the interior, where the long winter sees the snow as the protagonist, tourists are offered the possibility of take a ride on a dog sled. Whether it's a long drive through the whitewashed woods or a short drive near town, it's one of the most accessible yet engaging activities you can do in Alaska. During the summer, the lack of snow does not completely exclude opportunities: there are those who put wheels on the sleds to make them travel on grass and dirt roads. During the whole year, visit a dog farm allows you to learn about the history and activities of breeders, learn the potential of these unusual pets and have fun playing with the puppies.
- Northern Lights Night Sledding Tour
- 4 hour sledding tour
- Helicopter ride over the glacier plus toboggan tours
- Tobogganing excursion to Skagway
3 Fish for salmon with the locals
Salmon has always been one key resource for Alaskans, who made it one of their main dishes. Smoked or roasted, the meat of this fish is definitely worth tasting on a trip to Alaska. But why be satisfied with ordering it at the restaurant, when it is possible to fish it directly? The wilderness streams are besieged by bears, and challenging a grizzly to a fishing contest is not a wise idea, but you don't have to go far from the cities to grab your fishing rod.
In Anchorage itself, the streams overflow with salmon that during the summer they go up the streams and come to lay their eggs even a few meters from the busy roads, unaware of the concrete that invades the mainland. One of the favorite activities of Alaskans to pass their free time is to arm themselves with rod and try their hand at salmon fishing, even during lunch breaks or at the end of a working day, without leaving their city. It could be said that going fishing for salmon in the center is the equivalent of "let's go get a coffee" in Spain.
In Anchorage for example, Ship Creek is besieged by fishermen and there are some areas named precisely Salmon viewing areas. The great ones real salmon (which can reach record sizes of 60kg) and the very special ones Alaskan red salmon, are already a spectacle in themselves when they go up the waterways. Even those who are not a seasoned fisherman can rent the essential equipment and bring home a noteworthy prey without too much difficulty.
- Salmon fishing in the waters of Ketchikan
- Half day trip on the Kenai River
4 Fly over the Bush in an airplane
75% of Alaska's land is inaccessible by car. This means that most of the state is still untouched and nature still offers its most untouched and wild aspect today. At the same time, it means that hiring a car isn't enough to fully explore Alaska at your leisure. Especially the north-west of Alaska is almost devoid of connections and the only means of transport are small airplanes, called bush planes by the locals because they are mainly used to fly over the Bush: all that vast area not accessible by land vehicles. Some planes make a fixed route between the most remote towns, others are available to those who rent them.
A few hours' scenic flight can be very expensive, but admiring mountains, tundra and glaciers from above is an experience that is difficult to forget, as is a take-off and landing on the water (in the case of small seaplanes) or on dirt tracks in the middle of the green. To amortize costs, it is possible to rent as a group the airplanes that can carry a greater number of people. In all cities there are pilots who offer tours of varying lengths on their own vehicles and depending on the area the attractions are different.
- Seaplane tour of Ketchikan
- Juneau excursion with helicopter tour and glacier walk
- Helicopter tour with glacier landing
5 Reaching the Magic bus of 'Into the wild'
Attention! TOupdate June 2020: unfortunately due to the constant requests for help from inexperienced tourists who were trying to reach this place, the bus has been removed definitively by the local authorities. At the time of writing this update, a possible new location has not yet been decided.
With the Sean Penn film Into the wild - Into the wilds, the adventures of the young Chris McCandless, narrated in the homonymous book by Jon Krakauer, have become famous. The young man died in August 1992 in an abandoned bus (the 142 of the Fairbanks City Transit System Bus), left in the taiga by the road builders in 1961 and still standing there rusting in the grass. Called the "Magic bus" in Krakauer's account, the bus that served as home to McCandless's final weeks of life is now a popular excursion destination.
Getting to the famous bus isn't for everyone. Many hikers dream of being able to take a picture sitting with their backs resting on the green and white sheet metal, but few have the skills to reach it. The Stampede Trail, the path inside Denali National Park that allows you to reach the bus, is about forty kilometers long (one way) and it would not in itself be one of the most inaccessible that you can choose, but it presents a great difficulty: thecrossing of two streams.
The Teklanika in particular is almost impossible to cross at any time of the year also due to the unpredictability of its currents. In general, the winter and summer months are definitely not recommended, one because of the excessively cold temperatures, the other because when it gets warmer the glaciers melt, significantly increasing the water level (making you find yourself in the same situation. by Chris McCandless) and the presence of swarms of mosquitoes determined to do everything to make your life impossible.
Therefore, autumn and spring remain not advanced when, theoretically, the layer of ice that forms along the river bed can help the crossing, but on the other hand the temperatures in this period can reach - 20 degrees at night. In addition, rain and bad weather must also be considered, which can affect the level of currents making it impossible to cross even when in theory it would be easier.
Walking the Stampede Trail means remain isolated for a few days in nature: it is therefore essential to be physically prepared and start with the right equipment, but above all always move in a group. The group allows to avoid the attacks of bears and other animals and increases the safety and the chances of reaching the goal unscathed. For those who cannot take a demanding trek into account, there is always the chance to see the bus replica that was used for the film. It is located across from the 49th State Brewery, in the town of Healy, closest to the Stampede Trail.
In the same town you will also find many tours that can take you to visit the area (but not all go as far as the bus) at certainly not cheap prices but which for some may be the only way to venture safely and without too many worries. soul.