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Monumental scenery surrounds you in this remote corner of the world, where glaciers calve and whales cruise through inky waters, before an immense mountain backdrop. Almost totally submerged by the colossal landscapes around it, Seward – and the wonders of Kenai Fjords National Park – offer some of astonishing Alaska’s most thrilling scenery. Located in a deep gash in the Kenai Peninsula, Seward is a place to immerse yourself in nature’s majesty. View less
Fjords carve into the landscape, while the Harding Icefield – which caps Kenai Fjords National Park – reaches out its icy fingers, with glaciers spilling down between mountain peaks. Head to Holgate Glacier, to come face to face with a breathtaking stack of intense blue and white ice. Get up close in a kayak or boat ride, to slalom through the discarded confetti of ice chunks, and perhaps even witness the powerful spectacle of an ice ledge creaking and groaning, before plunging to the waters below. The city of Anchorage is easily within reach from here, offering an incongruous contrast to the wild wonders of Alaska. A place where deep-sea fishermen bump shoulders with businesspeople on the 9-5, it’s a fascinating, remote city. Home to almost half of the Alaskan population, Anchorage and its humble skyline is dwarfed by the snowy peaks of the wilderness beyond. Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique culture, traditions and heritage of the First Nation people of these lands too.
Hubbard Glacier, off the coast of Yakutat, Alaska, is the largest glacier in North America, with a calving front that is more than six miles wide. One of the main sources for Hubbard Glacier originates 76 mi inland. It has been a very active glacier, experiencing two major surges in the past 30 years. This glacier was named after Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a U.S. lawyer, financier, and philanthropist. He was the first president of the National Geographic Society.
Extraordinary adventures amid nature’s wildest staging await at Juneau. The majestic Mendenhall Glacier sprawls down from Juneau Icefield, which provides an icy cap to the area’s rip-roaring scenery. State capitals simply don’t get more dramatic than this isolated, remote city lost amid the Alaskan wilds. Even the roads eventually peter out, absorbed by forests and viewpoints, firmly underlining the isolated location, hidden behind an impenetrable wall of rigid mountains. Rise up to Mount Roberts Tramway’s viewpoint, to see the city swallowed by this most colossal backdrop. View less
This is glacier country, and no fewer than 38 ice flows branch off from the main Juneau Icefield, slowly carving out valleys in their wakes. Taku Glacier cuts deep into the mountain, forming a colossal sculpture that is one of the world’s thickest – almost a mile deep. Mendenhall Glacier cascades down, just 12 miles away from downtown, terminating in its own lake and visitor centre. With 1,500 square miles of ice field to explore, one of the best ways to take in the magnitude and majesty of this epic ice sculpture is to hold on tight on as the propeller whirs, and you soar into the skies on an exhilarating sightseeing flight. Cruising up above the icy world that fills in these serrated mountain peaks is a once in a lifetime experience. The animals that inhabit the Southeast Alaskan wilds are just as inspiring as the landscapes – families of bears patrol the riverbanks, bald eagles survey the surroundings watchfully, and Pacific humpbacks migrate from Hawaii’s waters to feast on the krill rich, icy waters. Fish for huge catches, power across the ice in a snow-sledge, or kayak just below glaciers. However you choose to immerse yourself in it, Juneau’s incredible outdoor adventures never disappoint.
Wild, raw, and unrestrained, Haines is Alaska at its most intoxicating. Crisp white snow crowns charcoal-coloured mountains, while seas of impenetrable pine forest flow down to swathes of scenic coastline in this magical setting. Explore a rejuvenating Alaskan escape of temperate rainforests and glaciers, as you dig into Chilkat Tlingit culture, and explore a landscape of frayed waterways, alive with Alaska’s renowned wildlife. View less
Sat at the head of the lengthy Lynn Canal – deep within the Inside Passage – Haines is a place where whale tales flick, bald eagles call, and juicy trout leap on to fishing rods. Get your hands dirty, and immerse yourself in all of nature’s wonders – whether you want to slide out onto the still waters in a kayak, trek narrow trails on a bike, or rise up to grandstand views while hiking. Surrounded by watery inlets, get up close to the magnificent wildlife – whether it’s brown bears wading out into the river to wrestle with huge fish, or walruses and sea lions reclining lazily on the banks. Autumn brings a swell of fierce bald eagles to the area, and Haines welcomes the world’s biggest concentration of the powerful birds. Fort Seward is a site of important gold rush history, as a former US military fort, turned heritage museum, and it’s adorned with totem poles and masks. The area’s native culture is kept alive through extraordinary Chilkat weaving, and the indigenous people create elaborate, richly decorated robes. Don’t leave before tasting smoke-cured salmon, fresh from the surrounding rivers.
Sitka began as a major Tlingit Indian village and was called “Shee Atika,” which translates roughly as “settlement on the outside of Shee.” “Shee” is the Tlingit name of Baranof Island.
In 1799, Alexander Baranof, the general manager of the Russian American Company, decided to move his base of operations from Kodiak and set up camp at what is now called Old Sitka, 7.5 miles north of the present-day town. He called the settlement St. Archangel Michael. The Tlingit Indians of the area resisted the occupation and, in 1802, with Baranof away, burned the fort and massacred the Russian settlers. Two years later, Baranof returned and besieged the Indian fort. The Tlingits withdrew and the area was once again in Russian hands. This time, the Russians built the new city on a different site and called it New Archangel.
For over six decades, New Archangel was the capital of the Russian empire in Alaska. By 1867, the Alaska colony had become too much of a financial burden to Russia. William Seward, U.S. Secretary of State, negotiated with the Russian Czar to purchase the Territory of Alaska for $7.2 million. The American press scoffed at Seward and the U.S. government for purchasing what they called “Seward’s Folly,” “Seward’s Icebox,” and “Walrussia.”
On October 18, 1867, the Russian flag was lowered at New Archangel and the Stars and Stripes were raised over newly renamed Sitka. The name comes from the Tlingit word “Sheetkah,” which means “in this place.” All Russian citizens living in the former colony were given the opportunity to become American citizens. Many went home, although a few stayed or migrated to California.
Sitka remained the capital of the Territory of Alaska from 1867 to 1906, when it was moved to Juneau. The move was a direct result of the gold rush. In plain terms, Sitka did not have any and Juneau did.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Sitka became a full-scale naval base. At one time during the war, Sitka had a total population of 37,000. With the end of World War II, however, the city settled into a quieter existence. The biggest boom in modern days for Sitka came in 1959 when the Alaska Lumber and Pulp Company built a pulp mill at Silver Bay, near the city.
Today, picturesque Sitka is known for its fishing and of course its many historic attractions.
Watch salmon leaping and bears pouncing, as Alaska’s majestic natural spectacles play out before you in Wrangell. Seeing the bears pawing meaty salmon from the pure, gushing water is one of Alaska’s most prized shows, and there are few better places to witness it than Wrangell – a town set amid the fractured lands of the legendary Inside Passage. Having experienced three gold rushes in its history, the immense scenery and thrilling wildlife is an enduring treasure for visitors. View less
The mighty Stikine River has been the lifeblood to this region for centuries, cutting through pine-cloaked valleys for 400 miles before unloading into the frigid ocean. Explore via jet-boat and head out to the abundant waters of Anan Creek, an ancient fishing site of the Tlingit people. Visit waters thick with lithe salmon – a bounty that tempts black and brown bears from the confines of their forest shelters. The Anan Wildlife Observatory provides the ultimate viewing point to watch the salmon leaping from the cascading water. Look out from the cover for bears, salmon and bald eagles. Try your own luck fishing in Wrangell’s waters, which are teeming with a rich bounty. Clomp through rich forests – beside waterfalls and waterways – on hair-raising hikes, which open out to glorious waterfront vistas. The aptly named Petroglyph Beach is the place to see amazing petroglyph artworks carved into the rocks. Or tour Shakes Island’s Tribal House, where you can see a replica of a Tinglit community house. The house is surrounded by fascinating, original totem poles, and a wooden footbridge conveniently links the island with Wrangell’s harbour.
From the name alone, you know what to expect when setting sail for Pine Island – a South Pacific refuge decorated with an elegant gathering of tall, thin New Caledonian pine trees. What you can’t prepare for is the sheer beauty of it all – a mesmerising drop of paradise in the crystalline waters, accented by the rocketing pine trees. Powdery white sand beaches fringe glorious bays, and the southern lagoon glows rich turquoise. View less
The intensity of colours at alcoves like Kanamera Bay is utterly mesmerising – breathe in deep to appreciate the pine fragrances mingling with purest sea air. The island was given its name by James Cook, after he fell under the spell of the spindly trees, on landing here in 1774. One of the blissful islands of the French oversea collectivity of New Caledonia, enjoy the uncomplicated pleasure of lying back on the bed of a brilliant beach and soaking in the sunshine. Once used as a French penal colony, these days Pine Island is an indulgent escape, but you can still seek out the mossy ruins that hint at the more macabre past. The island harbours some of the world’s most beautiful bays, sprinkled with powder-soft sand. Edging onto the New Caledonia Barrier Reef – the world’s third-biggest barrier reef – the diving is exceptional, as you move between swirls of colourful fish and gliding turtles and rays. N’ga Peak rises gently over it all, rewarding with a great vantage point, following the jungled climb to its summit.
Boasting mountains, sea, culture, art and so much more, many cities claim to have it all, but few can back it up like Vancouver. Famously livable, just visiting this highrise city – surrounded by staggering natural beauty – is a thrill. Offering all of the creature comforts of an ultra-modern, worldly metropolis – even downtown has a hint of mountain-freshness to its air – and part of Vancouver’s appeal is how easily you can swap the skyscrapers for whale-filled oceans and mountain-punctured skies. View less
Head up to the Vancouver Lookout Tower for the ultimate 360-degree views of the city glistening, amid the beautiful embrace of the beckoning wilderness beyond. But what to see first? Art lovers might choose the Vancouver Art Gallery or the Contemporary Art Gallery. Nature lovers might rush for the ferry to visit Vancouver Island – where they can encounter grizzly bears, whales and orcas. Culture vultures, on the other hand, will probably head for the sights and sounds of Canada’s biggest Chinatown. From steaming dim sum for lunch to Chinese apothecaries offering herbs to soothe any illness, it’s all here thanks to the migrant workers of the 19th century. The one-of-a-kind treasure of Stanley Park brings wild wonder and natural beauty to this cosmopolitan city’s doorstep, and the pine-tree clad park offers isolated trails and amazing views. Wander the Seawall that encircles it – a 20-mile coastal path, full of joggers, whizzing skaters and wandering couples. Grab a bike and cycle between Coal Harbour and Kitsilano Beach. You can top up your tan on the shore, as you soak in the glorious views of the mountains and cityscape from the sands.
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