Are you thinking of traveling to Alaska and maybe you’re wondering…
“What’s the best way to see Alaska?”
You’ve come to the right spot. Alaska is not the most visited state in the United States because it’s harder to get to and it can be expensive.
But don’t fret! This blog will help you see if a land or sea cruise is the right option for you and find out when the best time to see Alaska will be for you.
Seeing Alaska is worth the long journey because you can’t find another state like it – the hikes, the glaciers, the wildlife. An amazing experience that will be even better if planned correctly.
Let’s get straight into it.
Is The Best Way To See Alaska…By Land?
Yes, it is *IF* you are more of an independent traveler that doesn’t shy away from planning, organizing and managing your own trip.
This plays a big part in seeing Alaska by land because you simply rent a car – and decide your own journey. Matthew and I would definitely do it by land because we like to have a private vehicle, take control of our activities and the amount we spend.
And if planning is not your thing but you still want to see Alaska by land, you can always get a custom trip itinerary planned out for you based on your needs and wants.
TIP: Download the TURO app: a car-sharing marketplace that could be more cost-effective.
Traveling Alaska by land also doesn’t just mean renting a car. There are a lot of cool options to try! You can take the Alaska Railroad all the way from Anchorage to Seward which is an experience in and of itself. You can rent a campervan or RV which is perfect for those that love camping or prefer to have your stay and transport all in one place!
If you love to take road trips, then the best way to see Alaska is by land. The drives are honestly some of the best in the world plus you have easy access to plenty of land excursions and packages.
Love off-the-beaten-path destinations? Then the best way to see Alaska is by land because you can do as many hikes (which are hard to access if you’re on a cruise) and you can get more of a local’s perspective if you stay in Airbnbs. A car just makes these types of destinations so much more possible.
Visiting Talkeetna while in Alaska? Don’t miss these 6 stops while driving from Anchorage to Talkeetna.
Why Traveling By Land Might NOT Be The Best Way to See Alaska
Are you a person that enjoys being by the water and doing activities close to the shore? Then traveling by land might not be the best way to see Alaska. If you take a cruise, you have more chances to stay out at sea, see more glaciers and even visit destinations only reachable by boat or plane.
Is The Best Way To See Alaska…By Sea (Cruise)?
A popular way to see Alaska is by cruise. In fact – most tourists DO cruise from Canada or Seattle and make their way through Alaska.
And it’s popular for a reason – you get to stop at cool towns that are usually only accessible by boat/cruise or plane. If you take a cruise it’s one of the best ways to see Alaska’s mountains, glaciers, marine and wildlife.
If you really want to get up close and personal to wildlife and glaciers – you want to make sure your cruise ship isn’t gigantic! This could prevent you from going to smaller ports and bays.
The more obvious reason is that some people just love to take cruises! Your itinerary is taken care of, your activities are planned out, your food onboard is sorted, and you just hop on and off.
Easy and comfortable right?!
Are you traveling with your family? The best way to see Alaska might be a cruise because there’s something for every age. You don’t need to wait till your retirement to visit Alaska – cruises are a great way to visit Alaska now!
The top cruise companies cruising through Alaska are:
Depending on the cruise you choose, the shore excursions are endless! There are plenty of fun activities in some cruise itineraries like dog sledding, glacier tours, and visiting cool towns only accessible by boat or plane. And if you’re like you might spot some humpback whales!
Why Traveling By Sea (Cruise) Might NOT Be The Best Way to See Alaska
A lot of the cost will be upfront. If you don’t have the cash flow to pay a big chunk of cash for a 7 day or 10 day Alaska cruise then a cruise might not be the best way for you to see Alaska. Traveling by land means you only pay for the flight, accommodation and rental car ahead of time then you have full control of your meal prices, your activities and anything else.
Seeing Alaska by cruise ships won’t be great for you if you don’t like being with a huge crowd of people everywhere you go. Traveling by land means it’s just you and your family and you can take care of yourselves. You can be free to create your own Alaska itinerary 10 days trip and see all the things YOU’RE interested in!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Alaska?
A very under-rated question but an important one!
The timing of your trip can either make it or break it. Why?
Traveling to Alaska for the summer or the winter both has its upsides and downsides – you just have to decide which one suits you better and what will make the trip more memorable for you!
Is Summer The Best Time To Visit Alaska?
I’ll warn you now – summer is our favorite season. As Matt and I both grew up in tropical weather, we love the sun and the heat…so this may be a bit biased (but for good reason ;)).
If you want to experience the Midnight Sun, summer is your only chance!
What is the midnight sun?
Because of Alaska’s location in the world, during May, June, July and August, the sun goes down after midnight. Trust me – it’s wild.
Imagine driving to the coast of Anchorage and watching the sunset at 11:30pm. This is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Summertime is such an attractive time to visit because…
…more daylight = more time for activities.
Some local Alaskans spend their nights doing activities like fishing or biking the coastal trail – even as late as 10pm because the sun doesn’t go down till midnight!
Here are some popular summer activities:
- Hike National Parks like the famous Denali National Park
- Visit Seward and Exit Glacier
- Take Land Tours
- Bike the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
The only thing is – summertime is peak season in Alaska meaning… tons of tourists/crowds around which is something to keep in mind.
Can’t stand the cold? Well…you haven’t even felt an Alaskan winter! There are cool things to do in the wintertime but it can be hard at times because you’re literally freezing all the time! Temperatures can drop to below -30 F in the wintertime.
Is Winter The Best Time To Visit Alaska?
Why would you ever visit Alaska in the winter?
Two words: Northern Lights.
And maybe also a couple more reasons:
- Dog sledding
- Glacier hiking
- Hot Springs Dip
- Fewer crowds
- Visit National Parks
While the darkness is around for longer during the winter (18+ hours/day), you can see there are still tons to do in Alaska during the winter.
For some, chasing the Northern Lights is reason enough to visit Alaska in the winter. Compared to countries like Norway and Finland it’s also often more cost-effective to see the lights in Alaska.
Another benefit of seeing Alaska in the winter is you have fewer crowds around. Most of the tourists visit during the summer and during winter it feels like you get it to yourself!
So…What’s The Best Way To See Alaska?
The Alaskan experience is totally unmatched and incomparable to anywhere else in the world. A visit to the land of the Midnight Sun is a must on the travel bucketlist.
And the best way to see Alaska is by land – at least for us. All of this depends on your style of travel. If you can, try to do both! Once you get to Alaska, trust us – you’ll want to go back and experience the magic!
Whichever way you choose to see Alaska, you’ll have the trip of a lifetime in the beautiful and impressive 49th state.
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We want to hear from you…
How do you like to see Alaska? We prefer driving through because it’s so scenic anywhere you go. Comment your response below! We read every response.