Before I begin, I just want to mention that our living in Anchorage was sorted. We found a guy on Couch Surfing, who was generous to host us at his place. Our host, Joey was very friendly 😇 He gave us a lot of tips to explore the city and neighborhood.
Friday > Night Flight — Reach Alaska by midnight
- Brunch @ Anchorage
- Aerial Tramway + North Face Hike (2000+ ft elevation) @ Alyeska Resort, Girdwood, AK <https://alyeskaresort.com/>
- Dinner at Girwood – I recommend Chair 5 Restaurant. Loved the giant veg pizza, and the prices were decent.
- Drive to Seward with amazing sunset views. Reached Seward by 10 – we slept in a hostel.
- Staying in Hostels is a cost-effective option. I recommend it because you will be staying indoors only for 6-7 hours/day. Most of the time is spent traveling or chasing sunsets/northern lights.
- We went for Kenai Fjords Cruise which was an 8+ hour tour. I highly suggest you do not miss this one. Surprisingly, despite the long duration, we did not feel sea-sick 😵
- We spotted a lot of sea animals, glaciers and islands. Light lunch and dinner are included in the price. <https://www.alaskacollection.com/day-tours/kenai-fjords-tours/northwestern-fjord-tour/>
- While going back to Anchorage, we stopped at Whittier. We went there specially to check out the one-way tunnel. The tunnel is unique as it is shared by both cars and the train. After crossing the tunnel, you feel like you entered a completely new world. It is so peaceful on the other side with tall snowy mountains. On the way out, we stopped at the lake just outside Whittier for stargazing ⭐
- We tried our luck to spot the Northern lights at Glen Alps Trailhead near Anchorage. Sadly, we did not spot it there. [We eventually did get to see it, details later]
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday –
- The next three days were pretty light because my friend and I were working 😌
- While we stayed back in Anchorage, my other two friends drove up to Mccarthy in the east.
- They decided to tour the city because it was featured on a tv show. They stayed at a fancy Airbnb with animal skin hung on the walls. McCarthy is almost at the border of Alaska and Canada, and its population is less than 50 people. My friend also managed to spot a guy from the tv show.
- Later, they took a flight to check out the air views of the Matanuska mountains. The pictures looked amazing, I suggest. It was on the costlier side ($400+ for 2 hours), but worth the experience.
- We explored the bars, shops, parks, and museums in and around Anchorage. Places we explored >>> Anchorage Museum, Alaska Zoo, Uncle Joe’s Pizza, Earthquake Park, Wild Scoop Ice cream, 49th State Brewery, The Broken Blender, Darwin’s Theory, and tons of parks. We explored everything on foot, but you can rent bikes.
- We went for the Matanuska Glacier Hike on this day 🏔
- We drove from Anchorage to Glacier view. It took about 2 hours to reach the location.
- It was a 6-hour hike where we had to walk on the Glacier with big ice shoes, and pointy crampons. It was extremely tedious but enjoyable. <https://www.novalaska.com/trip/matanuska-glacier-adventure-trek/>
- After the hike, we need fooooood 😋 So, we went to this highly-rated food place on the top of the mountain called Eureka. I LOVED IT!!! Please go!!!
- The drive back to Anchorage was beautiful. Stopped on the top of a mountain – talked to some local Alaskans who were hunting for animals – experienced the vast open fields and stunning fall colors of Alaska from the top 🍂
- We had brunch in Anchorage. Later, we started for Denali, which is like a 6-hour drive from Anchorage.
- We made multiple stops, and hence we ended up reaching late at night. (around 10)
- As you move away from Anchorage, Alaska starts showing its true colors 🍂🍁 It is a fascinating state, and you will start to experience the true beauty of the place as you reach Denali. The evenings in Denali are brighter than the mornings, and you can spot rainbows almost every day.
- We had a little campfire at night, and finally finally finally saw the NORTHERN LIGHTS!!!! This trip was officially successful at that moment.
- We had to stay awake until 3 am. Honestly, we had all the pictures taken by 2.30 am, but we sat there just staring at the open sky.
- Just a note here – you can not see Northern Lights with naked eyes. You will see some sort of “whitish” pattern in the sky. The colors will be visible if you point your cameras in that direction. September is the start of the Northern Lights season 💫
- Honestly, I had no sleep because we were awake almost the whole night. We left for the Denali National park tour in the morning 6 pm.
- It was a long 8-hour bus tour, where we spotted grizzly bears, moose, wild sheep, and a lot of caribou. <https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/bus-tours.htm>
- Later in the night, we drove to Fairbanks. It took more than 3 hours to drive from Denali to Fairbanks. Spotted multiple rainbows on the way. It gets brighter and brighter as you travel far north.
- We went to the Cleary Summit and caught Northern Lights again. Two days in a row!!!
- Explored Fairbanks downtown, pretty basic stuff. Had Lunch.
- Alaska’s visit would have been incomplete without going to Chena Hot Springs. The entry fee was $15. It is an hour’s drive from Fairbanks. After the hectic last few days, going to the hot spring was a good break. My body felt relaxed. <https://chenahotsprings.com/>
- We started back for Anchorage. It was a straight 8-hour drive. We only stopped for dinner and light snack breaks. It was mostly cloudy the whole way back.
Monday > Morning Flight — return to SF
I am grateful for the wonderful time I spent in Alaska. This whole itinerary is thanks to my lovely friends who planned everything 🤗 As you must have noticed, there is A LOT OF DRIVING. It takes hours to travel between cities, but each city in Alaska has distinctly beautiful 😄
I wanted to include my write-up about Alaskan people in this post, but this note is already long. I will end it here. Please, do not forget to check out my next blog about the incredible people I met in Alaska. Checkout the post here.