Cruising through the untamed wilderness and breath-taking scenery of Alaska is a totally unique adventure that’s filled with rich history, raw beauty, undisturbed nature, and spectacular backdrops. The picture perfect scenery, calm and serene atmosphere, and the sheer vastness of the Last Frontier State will have travellers feeling isolated, lost, and totally alone amongst the dramatic landscape.
Alaska really is a place of contrasts in many aspects. In terms of terrain and setting, visitors to this majestic part of the world will find themselves wandering between snow-capped mountains, glistening glaciers, crystal clear waterfalls, and striding through the busy and bustling metropolitan cities. This diverse blend equates to what is perhaps the perfect landscape for travellers looking for a mix of big city action and a placid, tranquil environment that lends itself as easily to relaxation as it does to adventure.
Alaska’s sheer size is somewhat difficult to comprehend. The coastline consists of around 47,000 miles of natural beauty, with an additional 3,000 rivers and a whopping 3 million lakes. The inland areas contain 39 different mountain ranges, comprising of 17 of the highest peaks in North America, including the country’s highest summit - Mount McKinley, in Denali. Alaska is, of course, known for its ample uninhabited land, with the state holding the record for the least densely populated land in the United States at just 1.264 inhabitants per square mile, compared to the most densely populated, New Jersey, with 1,205 inhabitants per square mile.
This expanse of empty land is home to eagles, bison, wolves, and black bears, whilst just off the coastline live humpback and killer whales, sea lions, and all manner of vibrant sea life. Many travellers head to Alaska hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the native wildlife, which is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In contrast to Alaska's empty land, some parts of Alaska are also very urban, with office buildings, skyscrapers, and endless shopping opportunities. Juneau, the state capital, is perfect for getting a glimpse into a more cosmopolitan Alaska. As soon as passengers step off the ship in Juneau, they are greeted with a range of one-of-a-kind shops, selling everything from small trinkets and gifts to literature and photography portraying the state’s vast history.
Alaskan history is both rich and complex, and Sitka is considered to be one of the best cities in the state for discovering and understanding more about Alaskan life, beliefs and tradition. As the former capital of the land, back during the time of Russian ownership, Sitka retains many original buildings from this era, bringing a touch of colonial architecture and a reminder of how much Alaska has evolved since the purchase of the land by the United States in 1867.
The Alaska cruise season tends to run between May and September, due to the wide variety of extreme weather conditions typical of the state’s Arctic climate. The west coast of Alaska is exposed to storms heading east across the Pacific Ocean, so while the late spring and summer months tend to bring quite sunny and clear weather, rain, sleet, snow, and freezing conditions are common during the winter. Some travellers argue that the best time to cruise around Alaska is in the spring, when the snow and ice is just beginning to melt, fuelling the many waterfalls and adding to their beauty.
Spring also brings exceptionally long days, with the famous midnight sun lasting from May to July - a fascinating phenomenon that really has to be seen to be believed. In contrast, however, there’s also something to be said for cruising late in the season. The later months bring with them the unique opportunity to view the magical northern lights, with colours painted across the sky as if it were an artist’s canvas. Alaska is an ice age wilderness, bigger, bolder and more beautiful than you could ever imagine. A cruise to Alaska is sure to take you on a truly surreal journey and voyage of discovery that will stay with you forever.