Big, wild, beautiful. The 49th state is a rare treat of grandeur and breathtaking beauty. Far from barefoot chic, this is boot up and clip on territory – a home of snowy summits and icy titans that will render you speechless. Alaska, however, is the experienced traveller’s ultimate conundrum – how will you possibly make the most of everything this exceptional place has to offer? Fear not; we’ve travelled high and low and scoured the great outdoor expanse to ensure you’ve got the local lowdown and know-how to tick all the boxes on your wish list. Don’t sit back and relax – get ready to pack your bags.
Lay Anchor in Alaska
Anchorage is the political and economic heart of Alaska, and the USA’s northernmost city. A mere 30 minute drive from the Alaskan wilderness but with all the comforts of a modern city, Anchorage hosts some of the most diverse and unique attractions you’ll come across.
Perhaps best-loved by locals is the Fur Rendezvous festival in February; known as ‘The Rondy’, it’s a 77-year tradition which began as a 3-day sports tournament in 1935. It ends with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the longest sled dog race in the world at a casual 1100 miles. This annual festival is a testament to this wintery city’s active lifestyle and the options for involvement are endless and exhilarating; take on last year’s winners at the costumed Frostbite footrace; peruse the life-size sculptures of the International Ice Carving Competition; or take part in Yukigassen, which can only be described as fiercely competitive snow dodgeball. Yep, seriously.Read more
Don’t think it’s just an urban jungle though – as with the rest of the state, Anchorage’s wildlife is prolific and involves adventure. Moose mosey outside bars at dusk, black and grizzly bears cruise the streets for fodder, and if you’re lucky you’ll find pure white belugas fishing in the mouths of rivers and streams of the Turnagain Arm. As if that wasn’t enough, the state is also home to caribou, lynx, wolves and a veritable zoo of other animals. Snap-happy photographer? Get the macro lens out…
Anchorage’s eclectic culture and bountiful offerings extend beyond the city; just a short drive from the centre and you’ll find yourself, once again, spoilt for choice. Looming before you, in bold and breathtaking isolation are the Chugach Mountains (the nation’s third largest Naitonal Park) The Kenai, Talkeetnas, Tordrillos and the Aleutians, where the adrenaline junkie inside you will weep with joy at the plethora of pulse-raising activities available – hiking, climbing, snowboarding, skiing, telemark skiing… the list is exhaustive.
FULLY FRESH FISH
Time to stock up on your yearly dose of Omega 3. There’s no better place to start than Alaska. You might expect to get used to the bountiful seafood on option here but its freshness and unmatched flavour will be a revelation every time, and is a source of national pride. As the state’s largest private sector employer the seafood industry is paramount, and it’s also the only state with sustainable fishing as a constitutional mandate. With shellfish we’ve never heard of and more salmon species than you can shake a fishing rod at, we’d recommend you season your freshly caught bounty like a local with chilli and lemon, and a side of spicy ratatouille. Bon Appétit.
No trip to Anchorage would be complete without visiting local favourite Moose’s Tooth Pub, with homemade brew on tap and a homey atmosphere. Always busy, be prepared to wait, but also to leave with a full belly and a growler under your arm (that’s half a gallon of home brew, not the local wildlife, in case you were wondering). Panoramic views overlooking Mount Susitna and the Alaska Range are typical of Anchorage restaurants, and you’ll need to have a healthy appetite and your wits about you as you decide between plump, cold-water Kachemak Bay oysters, Alaska king crab, fresh-caught halibut or wild Alaska salmon. Needless to say it’s culinary heaven.
And the rest…
Far from being an arctic wilderness, the rest of the state boasts awe-inspiring national parks, serene coastal towns, pristine mountain lodges and scene-stealing scenery to fuel your daydreams for a lifetime. Feel the spirit of adventure as you chopper out to untouched ice plains, bask under the magnetic prowess of the northern lights, canoe up the chilly meanders of the Yukon to an Inuit settlement, or scale alpine tundra on your way to the top of North America’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley.
So, what are you waiting for?