The USA struck gold - literally and metaphorically - when buying Alaska from Russia in the 19th century. The state was purchased for just $7.2 million back in 1867 and within 50 years the USA had made that back - and some. Latter-day Alaska holidays should be the dream for anyone wanting to heed the call of the wild. This is wilderness on an epic scale, but it's not just the landscapes that are big
- this is also the land of brown bears that make Leonardo Di Caprio's 'Revenant' assailant look like a teddy bear. The bears get so big in part because they can call on 70lbs king salmon (that's about the weight of an 11-year old child) as part of their diet, and offshore it's possible to take a boat trip to see enormous humpback and blue whales as well. On any Alaska holiday you'll want to check out the natural wonders of Denali National Park, including pristine glaciers on Denali (Mount McKinley) itself; admire the Wrangell St. Elias icefields and the clear waters of Prince William Sound. During the summer season spend days kayaking alongside majestic glaciers and colonies of puffins and seals, hiking almost virgin trails, fly-fishing for Alaska king salmon and observing a sloth of bears (possibly our favourite collective noun). And with 20 hours of daylight during the summer, there is plenty of time to pack in the adrenaline pumping activities. Come winter, the Tordrillo Mountains provide prime heli-skiing and boarding terrain. Throughout your trip, follow in the footsteps of the indigenous Inuit people and trace the same trails as prospectors and explorers.
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What you can find in Alaska that you won't find anywhere else?
Highway 3 snakes its way through the southeast corner of Denali National Park, making this one of Alaska's more accessible national parks. Though wilderness aficionados need not fear - the park encompasses 6 million acres of asphalt-free landscapes, home to moose, caribou, wolves and golden eagles.
Further south, the Novarupta Volcano can be found in the Katmai National Park. A violent eruption by Novarupta in 1912 created the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a landscape so barren it was used as a training ground for U.S. moon landings in the 60's. Away from the volcanic fumaroles, the Brooks River in Katmai is a hotspot for Grizzly bears feeding on Sockeye Salmon. Wolves, Caribou and foxes also inhabit the park.
The USA's largest National Park, Wrangell St Elias, is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you'll find towering mountain peaks and some of the largest Glaciers, including Malaspina which encompasses 850 square miles of ice fields and crevasses.
Speaking of glaciers, the Kenai Fjords National Park includes the Harding Icefield and travellers taking to the water can observe imposing glaciers calving icebergs into the still fjord. Sea-kayaking is a popular activity here too, paddling in search of sea lions, puffins and even whales.
For a more leisurely Alaskan experience, a cruise along The Inside Passage offers a glimpse of Alaskan temperate rainforest, glaciers, fjords and mountains, all the while enjoying the comfort of a luxury cruise ship. Whale watching is popular here, while travellers can also explore the Native heritage of Ketchikan, the residual gold-rush development of Skagway and the Russian influence still present in Sitka.
Lastly, given the distances and often-inhospitable terrain, flying is a spectacular way to really get into the wilderness. We work with expert bush pilots who use robust small aircraft fitted with tundra tyres or floats respectively to land on icy glaciers or remote lakes. It's a suitably original way to explore a truly original destination.
Who is Alaska best for?
For the real adventurers, those who want to dive ‘Into the Wild’ (minus the poison berries) and experience one of the last true wildernesses on the planet. For those who want to explore the land of the gold rush and hear the deafening boom of the three thousand rivers that crisscross the territory. For wildlife lovers who want to experience the adrenaline rush of seeing a grizzly in its natural habitat (ideally from a safe distance) and come home saying that they conquered America’s last frontier.
Which experiences is Alaska best for?
Alaska, with its wild and beautiful nature, is a place that encourages humility and a detachment from the modern world you’ve become accustomed to. Step back in time on a visit to the town of Skagway which was once wilder than the Wild West and see unique relics of the gold rush which drew over 40,000 people into the wilderness seeking fame and fortune. Lose yourself in the National Parks, from the six million acres of Denali to the Switzerland sized Wrangell Saint Elias and experience the genuine remoteness on the island of Prince William Sound. Take to the ocean to see blue whales and belugas and cast your eyes to the sky to glimpse magnificent birds of prey.
Special things to do in Alaska :
A holiday in Alaska allows you to experience nature in its purest and rawest form. Head deep into one of the National Parks and spend the day hiking before setting up camp for the night with only a kerosene lamp to light the way. Listen to the sounds of animals and a crackling campfire and inhale the heady fragrance of dry wood and wet leaves. Experience this amazing adventure deep in the wilderness and return home feeling like a true explorer.