Your full Wanderlust guide to


Alaska’s beautiful landscapes (Shutterstock)

When the USA bought what is now the state of Alaska from Russia for around US$7 million in 1867, it represented probably one of the greatest deals in history. America certainly got more than it bargained for. This is a land of unlimited adventure: larger than the UK, France, Spain and Germany put together yet home to a population of just 733,000 – that’s around five people for every bear!

Alaska’s national parks are the size of small countries, spanning twinkling icefalls, creaking glaciers, endless forests and the highest mountain in North America (Denali; 6,190m). Bears, moose, caribou and wolves roam freely, making guided backcountry hikes both wondrous and thrilling, while small-boat cruises along the Inside Passage or Kenai Fjords gift a glimpse of its frozen wilderness from the water, as humpbacks and orcas glide beneath their hulls. 

On land, the Alaska Railroad (756km) offers a neat way to roll through all this natural majesty, as you rattle past gold-rush-era towns up to Anchorage – a city where the food is so fresh that the salmon on your plate has likely just been fished from the town creek. It is also home to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where you can learn more about the 20 distinct Indigenous cultures who roamed these lands long before its American and European settlers ever dreamt of arriving here.  

Latest Alaska articles

English; around 23 distinct Indigenous languages
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UK nationals don’t require a visa for stays of 90 days or less, but you will need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), which can be applied for online.
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UTC-9 (Apr-Oct UTC-8)
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Type A and Type B
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When to go

The summer months (Jun–mid-Sep) are typically the best time of year to visit, when the warmer weather (up to 19ºC) and longer days make Alaska a delight to explore. By June, the bears are awake, boat trips to see otters, seals, walruses and whales have started, and the trails have begun to thaw. In July, the sockeye salmon are spawning in Katmai, as hordes of bears descend on the river, making for incredible photographs. 

As the weather turns freezing in October, the wildlife disappears and many of the roads in the parks close for winter. During this time, skiing, snowshoeing and dog-sledding take over, with stays in wilderness lodges beneath the glimmer of the northern lights making for an incredible escape. Bear in mind that April sees a lot of the local lodges, tours and restaurants close for the month. 

International airports

The main international airport is Ted Stevens (ANC) in Anchorage, which sees the bulk of international flights arrive. Fairbanks (FAI), Juneau (JNU) and Ketchikan (KTN) welcome services primarily from the US and Canada. There are also hundreds of small airports scattering the state, from which private seaplane and single-propeller flights can be taken. 

Getting around

The size and landscape of Alaska can make getting around difficult, especially if you want to venture into the furthest wilderness areas. 

During the summer, ‘park to park’ motorcoach services operate, linking up Seward, Anchorage, Whittier, Denali National Park and Talkeetna. Alternatively, the Alaska Railroad runs year-round, hitting the tracks between Fairbanks and Seward; this is a great option, and its observation carriages offer incredible views.   

If you’re driving, the Alaska Highway lets you road-trip up from mainland USA and into Alaska. This finishes at Delta Junction; from there you can pick up the local highways, but bear in mind that Alaska’s road network is notoriously small. Rental companies often don’t allow you to travel on specific roads for fear of damage to their vehicles. For the state’s infamous ‘gravel highways’, a 4WD is the best option. 

To reach any of the more remote parts of the state, you’ll need to travel by plane or boat. By water, the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System visits some 35 port communities along the Inside Passage for an affordable price; the alternative is to join an organised cruise, which typically stop in Skagway, Ketchikan and capital Juneau. Cruises of the Kenai Fjords depart from Seward. 

Many of the more remote park locations can only be reached by air; wilderness lodges will typically offer the option to fly in. You can also bag a ticket for a seat on the ‘milk run’ that airlifts in supplies to remote Alaskan communities along the panhandle; this lets you visit a number of cities that are otherwise passed over by visitors.  

Health & safety

Alaska is a safe place to visit, though the usual precautions are required in its larger cities, particularly for women travelling solo. The real danger comes when you get into the wilderness, where a guide is often required if you want to travel deep into remote areas. 

Wildlife attacks can happen when hiking, so it’s wise to make plenty of noise; you don’t want to startle a bear or a moose. If going on multi-day hikes, you should let someone know before setting off, and do not attempt backcountry hikes alone or if inexperienced. The weather can change at a moment’s notice, so being prepared for any eventuality is always advisable.