Alaska

The US state of Alaska is known for gorgeous winter landscapes, sled dogs, jaw-dropping mountaintops, and ice-blue lakes. However, visitors often misjudge the chilly state on the Canadian border.

Alaska: a surprising place

When tourists set foot in Alaska for the first time, they are often taken aback. What people expect on the edge of civilization is unbearable cold, endless snowstorms, and a population of tight-lipped misfits.

Yet there is a fair amount of sunshine, and the inhabitants of Alaska ("Alaskans") are talkative and friendly. But at least one of the many Alaskan clichés is true: you're pretty far out here, and it's hard to get from A to B - and that even holds true for bigger cities.

Alaska facts

Capital Juneau
Area 1,717,854 km²
Population about 730,000
Location Northwest of the USA on the Canadian border
Nickname The Last Frontier
State animal Moose, Willow Ptarmigan
Time zone UTC-9 (AKST)

Alaska: Location & Population

Alaska is the largest state in the USA and is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean, far above the rest of the US landmass. If you want to drive from the northern US states of Washington or Montana to Alaska, you first have to cross Canada.

The 15 % native inhabitants ("Native Alaskans") mainly populate the north and west. In Alaska, besides the names "Aleuts," "Inupiat," "Sugpiaq," as well as "Yupik," some indigenous tribes even prefer the old terms "Eskimo" and "Indians."

About 15 % of Alaska's inhabitants are of German descent, closely followed by Irish (11 %) and English (8 %). The proportion of Asians (primarily Filipinos) is also comparatively high in Alaska.

Although English is the official language, more than 15 % of Alaskans speak another language - especially indigenous languages are dominant here.

The biggest cities in Alaska

What is considered a big city in thinly populated Alaska would be more like a village in states like New York or California. The largest cities in Alaska are:

City Population
Anchorage 290,000
Juneau 32,000
Fairbanks 31.000
College 13,000
Sitka 8,500
Ketchikan 8,000

Juneau, the state capital, has no road access to the rest of the state, making it the only capital in the United States accessible only by boat or plane

Climate and nature

Surprise: Alaska doesn't just consist of ice and snow but has warm and dry summers with over 20 °C! However, it can get frosty in winter. In the south and east, it is often wet and stormy. The more you move inland, the drier it gets:

Region of Alaska Weather Max. temp Min. temp
Southeast much rain 15 °C -10 °C
South much rain and storm 20 °C -17 °C
Southwest much rain and storm 13 °C -10 °C
Central Alaska dry 30 °C -50 °C
North dry 5 °C -30 °C

If you want to enjoy Alaska's nature, you can choose between colossal mountains, rugged coastal regions with polar bears and whales, or the endless forests of the taiga, where you can meet bears and moose. You can see the magical Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights - dancing in the sky on many cold nights.

The best time to visit Alaska

For "normal" Alaskan tourists, it is recommended to travel from the end of June to the end of August. However, the high season is comfortable and sunny but expensive. Therefore, many visitors switch to the time between May and June or September.

Outside the high season, though, you will (especially in September) have to expect a lot of snow, little daylight, and often closed national parks in the bad weather zones.

Alaska in the summer

Many hours of sunshine and pleasant temperatures make Alaskan summer a great time for long road trips, boat rides, and hikes through nature. Only now the roads are passable, and you can enjoy "The Last Frontier" with its breathtaking national parks to the fullest.

Alaska in fall and winter

After a short but beautiful "Indian Summer," it gets really cold in Alaska. Now, there is too much snow for a nice tour through the state. However, winter in Alaska is the time of the northern lights, dog sleds, and snowmobiles.

How to get to Alaska

Flights to Alaska are not cheap, and you have to expect two or more stops on your way. Therefore, you may be on the move between 20 and 40 hours.

Our tip is to spend a few days in Washington (it's worth it!) and fly from Seattle to Alaska at your leisure. The most important airports in Alaska are:

  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
  • Fairbanks International Airport
  • Juneau International Airport

Alaska entry permit

You are coming to Alaska without a Green Card and are also not a US citizen? Then you need an ESTA travel authorization or a US visa for your trip.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Alaska airport transfer

Your transfer options after landing in Alaska are amazingly diverse. In Fairbanks and Juneau, there is even an artificial lake for the take-off and landing of air cabs.

Cab

Alaska is large and sparsely populated. Therefore, the most you will want to do is to take a cab from the airport to the nearest railroad station. Long distances to remote areas can also be covered by seaplane. But be careful: The prices are steep and start at about $100!

Shuttle bus

Anchorage and Juneau have convenient airport shuttle services. You can choose between a shared ride with several people or a private charter.

Public Transportation

Alaska Railroad trains will get you at least some distance within Alaska. There are different routes to the stations in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Denali.

Other options

You can also use the inexpensive cab alternatives of Uber and Lyft in Alaska. In Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Homer, Kodiak, and Sitka, you can get around quickly this way.

However, because of the size and vastness of Alaska, most visitors choose to rent a car. We advise you to have good insurance without deductible because the road conditions are often unpredictable. Also, be sure to get an international driver's license.

The best national parks in Alaska

Whoever comes to Alaska wants to merge with the breathtaking scenery. The best way to do this is to visit the many national parks with their glaciers, mountains, waters, and wildlife. Here are the most beautiful natural wonders in Alaska:

Denali National Park

The highest mountain in Alaska is called Denali and claims its own national park. The views are breathtaking, and you will see moose, eagles, grizzly bears, and many other wild animals. Enjoy your tour of Denali Park on one of the hop-on-hop-off buses and let one of the humorous drivers explain the area to you. Be sure to take enough food for the 12-hour trip!

Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park is full of beautiful waterfalls and mountain scenery. There are also more bears than you can shake a stick at!

Go on a camping expedition or stay at one of the beautiful lodges and see grizzlies, otters, eagles, and seals right on your doorstep. You should allow three days for this enchanting place.

Kenai Fjords National Park

At Kenai Fjords National Park, you'll find glaciers, ice fields, beautiful islands with black beaches, and plenty of whitewater and wildlife.

Take a whale-watching boat trip, a wildlife tour to observe bears, or an ice hike at Exit Glacier.

Here, again and again, a wall of ice will suddenly rise into the sky in front of you. It's hard to believe how beautiful frozen water can be.

Glacier Bay National Park

You've never seen a place as beautiful as Glacier Bay National Park. Here, just looking out the window of your lodge is enough to make you burst into tears.

When the low sun hits the mountains, the icy sea, the bright blue glaciers, and the rainforest, you have reached the finish line of your Alaskan journey. Rent a kayak and enjoy the silence.

Gates of the Arctic National Park

A deserted labyrinth of valleys, glaciers, unexplored mountains, rivers, forests, and tundra invites you to solitary hikes to observe caribou, musk oxen, bears, and wolves in Gates of the Arctic National Park.

The best way to explore this untouched wilderness is by boat or raft on the water. First, though, you have to make it here. There is no direct road access. Therefore, most tourists end up at Gates of the Arctic National Park on planned day trips by plane.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in Alaska

The following places in Alaska are must-sees and should be on your travel list:

  • Mendenhall Glacier
  • Hubbard Glacier
  • Tracy Arm Fjord
  • University of Alaska Museum of the North
  • Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary
  • Misty Fjords National Monument
  • Denali National Park
  • Kenai Fjords Nationalpark
  • Inside Passage

Alaska city trips

Many Alaskan towns are framed by dense forests, mountains, and water, which makes them difficult to access or impossible to reach at all without an airplane. However, the effort is worth it - especially with the following Arctic towns:

Booking.com

City highlights Anchorage

When you leave the wilderness behind and come to Anchorage, you suddenly forget about the Arctic Circle and dive into normal city life. Only the mountains on the horizon and some strange cloud formations remind you that you are in one of the craziest spots in the USA.

These are the places you should see in Anchorage:

  • Lake Hood
  • Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
  • Portage Glacier
  • Anchorage Museum
  • Alaska Native Heritage Center

City highlights Fairbanks

The long-stretched Fairbanks in the middle of Alaska lies on the wide Tanana River near the Chena River State Recreation Area. What makes Fairbanks special is that you'll see the northern lights dancing in the sky here more than 240 days a year.

These are the places you should see in Fairbanks:

  • University of Alaska Museum of the North
  • Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum
  • Pioneer Park
  • Running Reindeer Ranch
  • Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center

City highlights Juneau

The crazy thing about the Alaskan capital Juneau is that it is located in the middle of an area of glaciers in the spectacularly beautiful Inside Passage and is only accessible by plane. Direct flights leave from Seattle or Anchorage. Small charter flights and regional airlines also land daily.

These are the places you should see in Juneau:

  • The Whale Project
  • Glacier Gardens Rainforest Adventure
  • Mendenhall Glacier
  • Tracy Arm Fjord
  • Nugget Falls

City highlights Sitka

Sitka was the capital of Alaska before Juneau and is even more isolated than the current administrative seat: the city is located in the middle of Baranof Island in the Gulf of Alaska. If you actually make it to the island by plane or ferry, you'll be rewarded with a lot of beauty.

These are the places you should see in Sitka:

  • Alaska Raptor Center
  • Totem Park
  • Fortress of the Bear
  • Sheldon Jackson Museum
  • Russian Bishop's House

Road Trip in Alaska

Alaska's roads are asphalted almost everywhere, but nevertheless, many routes are wild and unpredictable. You're constantly dealing with wildlife or way too much snow. A road trip, therefore, only really makes sense from June to mid-September. Then, however, a tour through “The Last Frontier" is beautiful.

Also, the most popular stops on your road trip through Alaska rather speak for a journey in the high season. Once the weather gets worse, many national parks are closed, and you won't get a lodge or a tour.

Attention: Driving on unpaved roads is prohibited in many places in Alaska. You won't get in trouble with the law if you drive into rough terrain, but you will be responsible for the risks. Believe us: You don't want to be alone in the endless wilderness of Alaska with your car broken down.

Instagram hot spots in Alaska

You will still get goosebumps looking at the pictures of your Alaskan vacation ten years from now. This is a beauty you absolutely have to show your friends! Here are our top 5 Instagram hot spots in Alaska:

  • Glacier Bay
  • Wiseman
  • Matanuska Glacier
  • Nelchina Glacier
  • The Whale Project, Juneau

Food highlights in Alaska

Due to its location on the Arctic Ocean, the US state of Alaska naturally has a lot of fish and seafood on the menu. In addition, there are hearty and typical American breakfast habits as well as the usual fast food of the USA.

You might try these typical Alaskan treats - if you dare:

  • Reindeer sausage
  • Salmon stuffed with crab meat
  • Sourdough hotcakes (pancakes made with typical Alaskan sourdough)
  • Indian bread (traditional pan-fried sourdough bread)
  • Moose stew (stew with moose meat)
  • Muktuk (small cut whale skin, which is eaten raw and is an Eskimo specialty)
  • Akutaq (Eskimo ice cream made from seal oil, snow, and wild berries)

Alaska fun facts

Eskimo ice cream made from seal oil, snow, and berries would be enough as a funny story about Alaska. However, we have even more fun facts that you probably don't know yet:

  • Alaska has about one bear for every 21 people.
  • Mosquitoes are the official state bird of Alaska. (That's not true, of course, but that joke is made frequently in Alaska because the state is downright mosquito-infested).
  • In northern Alaska, it doesn't get dark for two months of the year. That's why Alaska is called the land of the midnight sun.
  • Only in Alaska will you find someone walking their pet reindeer downtown or taking them for a ride in the passenger seat of their pick-up truck.
  • Currently, there are more than 70 potentially active volcanoes scattered throughout the state.

How to immigrate to Alaska

Of the millions of USA immigrants from all over the world, about eight percent are drawn to Alaska. The icy beauty did not make it into the top 20 US states mainly due to its remoteness.

Working in Alaska

In Alaska, all aspects of life are planned around the main fishing and hunting season.

15 % of all rural workers are employed in fishing. Alaska produces more than 60 % of the commercial fisheries in the United States. In addition, many Alaskans work in the oil and gas industry, which accounts for nearly 90 % of state revenues. Prudhoe Bay on the northern coast is the largest oil field in North America.

Pilots are also in demand, as are any experts who are skilled in passenger transportation by sea.

Living in Alaska

Alaska made it to No. 1 in the American Well-Being Index a few years ago. So Alaskans are basically satisfied with their lives.

Although everything here is insanely expensive compared to other states, there is a collective sense of financial security. This could be due to the average income of about $72,000.

Alaska is the only state that does not impose an across-the-board sales tax or income tax.

Moving to Alaska with a Green Card

A Green Card is the only US visa that allows you to live and work in the US indefinitely. The easiest way to get the sought-after US immigrant visa is through the annual Green Card Lottery, in which the US government gives away 55,000 Green Cards every year.

You can apply for the lottery in parallel, even if you are already trying to get a Green Card through a job. Due to the large hurdles for US employers in hiring non-Americans, winning the Green Card Lottery is much more likely.

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