Alaska is the largest state in the USA, a vast landmass in the northwest of the country that’s separated from the rest of the states by Canada, and icy waterways.
Alaska is remote, it’s isolated and it’s utterly stunning. While the cities, such as Anchorage and Juneau, have a lot to offer visitors, the best places to visit in Alaska are found in the wilderness.
You can hike through spectacular national parks in summer, fly over epic mountain peaks such as Denali and land on dramatic glaciers.
You can learn about the indigenous people of Alaska, or get seriously remote with a trip to the Aleutian Islands.
There’s so much to do, and to inspire your adventure, here are the best places to visit in Alaska!
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Alaska (Regional Guide)
15 Best Places to Visit in Alaska
Juneau is the understated state capital, and it’s one of the best places to visit in Alaska.
This might be the state capital but it’s really just a small town, and having no road connections, it’s also one of the most isolated places in the USA.
But Juneau has a lot to offer, including some excellent museums and cultural centers delving into both the indigenous and the European history of Alaska.
Like anywhere in the state though, the best sights are found in the outdoors. Visit the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier on the edge of the city, take boat tours through the Fjords in search of wildlife, whales, and dolphins, and ride the Aerial Tramway to the summit of Mount Roberts for the beat vistas in Juneau.
Whale watching and visiting the Mendenhall Glacier are two of the most popular activities around Juneau.
Check them both off your list on this half-day combo tour that includes flexible departure times and round-trip transportation from Mt. Roberts Tramway.
It might not be the capital, but Anchorage is easily Alaska’s best-known city. Anchorage is the largest city in the state and it’s much better connected than Juneau, the capital.
You can explore the city’s best museums, restaurants, cafes, and bars in Downtown, but save plenty of time to travel into the wilderness.
From Anchorage, you’re a short flightseeing trip away from epic mountains and glaciers, while along the coast you can enjoy hiking and cycling trails, or take a boat along the Fjords.
Anchorage is where the city meets the wilds, and there are few other places in the USA where you’ll find moose and bears casually strolling through the streets!
Get to know Anchorage on this 3-hour guided tour that takes you around the city’s top sites, including the port, Earthquake Park, Lake Hood, and Bootleggers Cove.
Gain further insight into Alaska’s indigenous cultures with an upgrade to visit the renowned Alaska Native Heritage Center.
Fairbanks is one of the most remote places in the USA. The small city is found in the wild interior of the state, and it’s one of the best places to visit in Alaska.
Fairbanks is a long way from anywhere, but it’s the largest city away from the coast, and the second-largest city in Alaska after Anchorage.
This is the hub for the region and if you’re looking to explore the real wilds of Alaska then Fairbanks makes the perfect base.
In winter, you can spot the Northern Lights from the city, or marvel at ice sculptures across the city.
In summer you can hike and search for wildlife, and all year round you can visit the excellent Fairbanks Museum of the North.
Get to know Alaska’s past and present on this 5.5-hour tour in Fairbanks led by an informative guide.
Enjoy the Museum of the North’s story of Alaska’s natural and cultural heritage, and admire the art installations at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center.
4. Denali National Park
One of the best places to visit in Alaska is the legendary Denali National Park.
Named for Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America, this is the most famous national Park in Alaska.
While you might not be climbing the mountain, which rises to almost 7000 meters in height, you can enjoy hiking in summer and snow sports in winter.
You can reach Denali in 5 hours by car from Anchorage, but the best way to travel here is to take the train or to join a flightseeing tour that flies over the park and around the mountain. You might even be able to land on a glacier.
Let someone else take care of planning and driving on this Denali backcountry excursion.
A driver and guide take you sightseeing along the full 92.5 miles (150 kilometers) of the Denali National Park Road to the Backcountry Lodge.
After lunch there, choose between gold panning, a naturalist-guided hike, or a botany walk. For convenience, you’re picked up directly from major hotels near Denali.
5. Chugach State Park
Even closer to Anchorage, you can find one of the best places to visit in Alaska. Chugach State Park quite literally begins where the boundaries of the city end.
This beautiful state park is home to a huge variety of wildlife, and you’ll quickly spot the likes of bears and moose, classic Alaskan animals, in their natural habitat.
Get out of the city and deeper into the Alaskan wilderness than is typical, on this great sightseeing tour.
This small-group tour takes you to Chugach National Forest, Beluga Point, Portage Glacier, and more to spot brown bears, wolves, bison, and belugas.
6. Lake Clark National Park
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Alaska is Lake Clark National Park.
Located just 100 miles away from Anchorage it’s also incredibly accessible. Lake Clark is a huge, jaw-dropping lake that glistens in glorious shades of blue and turquoise in the sunshine.
As well as lakes and rivers though, the national park is well known for its steaming volcanic peaks, and wildlife.
The waterways are home to huge populations of salmon, and the salmon attract plenty of bears in the spring and summer.
7. Gates of the Arctic National Park
Head to the far north of the state to explore one of the most remote, yet one of the best places to visit in Alaska.
This is the place to travel to if you want to see the Arctic Circle because this national park is found entirely within the Arctic Circle.
In fact, this is the most northerly national park in the United States, and even getting here will be a challenge in itself.
Make the long journey to the Gates of the Arctic National Park, and you’ll be able to explore this icy realm and delve deep into the local communities that have adapted to thrive in this cold part of the world.
Discover the Alaskan wilderness on this 3 or 4-day guided trip from Fairbanks that includes overnight accommodation. Soak up spectacular scenery at the Arctic National Park, perhaps spotting wildlife like grizzlies and sheep.
Enjoy plenty of hikes, including one on the high plateau of Finger Mountain, check out an Alaskan oil field, and learn about the region’s gold-mining history and more.
8. Coldfoot and Wiseman
Coldfoot and Wiseman are two unique villages found in the Arctic. These are two famous pit stops on the road north, home to just a few residents and a couple of bed and breakfasts and camping areas.
They primarily supply and rest stops, but they are much more than this too.
Spend the night on your way north in a truly authentic Arctic community that’s often cut off from the world for many of the long winter months.
9. Chena Hot Springs
The Chena Hot Springs is one of the best places to visit in Alaska, especially if you’re looking to escape the cold.
Take a trip to the Chena Hot Springs, just a quick 50-mile detour from Fairbanks, and you’ll be able to soak up the natural mineral water, warm up in the arctic climate and enjoy some beautiful surroundings.
You can stay at the Chena Hot Springs Resort if you’re looking for a slice of luxury in the wilderness.
Discover Alaska’s natural hot springs and amazing ice sculptures on a full-day tour to Chena Hot Springs.
Enjoy a scenic 60-mile (95-km) drive from your hotel to Chena Hot Springs, where you can soak in the large outdoor pool of this legendary resort.
Tour how Chena Hot Springs makes use of geothermal energy to power the resort, and check out the sculptures in the Aurora Ice Museum.
10. Glacier Bay National Park
Close to the city of Juneau, you can find one of the best places to visit in Alaska.
Glacier Bay National Park, as the name would suggest, is home to some of Alaska’s most impressive glacial landscapes.
Many of the glaciers drop straight into the bay itself, and the best way to see them is to take a boat ride or to kayak in the shadow of these icy behemoths.
11. Kenai Fjords
Kenai Fjords are one of the best places to visit in Alaska. This beautiful, protected national park is located off the Kenai Peninsula where you can find the largest icefield in the USA.
The best way to explore the waterways and glaciers, if of course by taking a boat cruise.
Watch the Alaskan wilderness awaken on this 6-hour morning cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park from Seward. Cruise past alpine and tidewater glaciers among the fjords and take in a bounty of wildlife.
Enjoy a delicious lunch on board, and visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge for great views of seabird rookeries.
12. Katmai National Park
Alaska is home to a huge number of national parks, but one not to miss will always be the Katmai National Park.
The huge national park is centered around an enormous volcano, and this is the best place in the country to see large numbers of brown bears in the wild.
If you’re looking for a destination that’s not just about the landscapes and wildlife then take a trip to the town of Skagway.
Located along the Inside Passage, Skagway was an important hub during the Klondike Gold Rush era and much of the town has been preserved into a historic relic from these boom days.
You can visit Klondike inspired museums and heritage buildings and even ride the old gold rush era steam engines along the railroad.
This is not a run-of-the-mill sled excursion, it packs in several fun activities and concludes with a treat that’s hard not to love.
Follow your guide on a short tour of downtown Skagway, hop on a Unimog for a ride up a mountain, and then take a sled ride with Alaskan huskies through Tongass National Park.
Afterward, get a chance to spend time with husky puppies.
14. Aleutian Islands
The Aleutian Islands are one of the best places to visit in Alaska, but getting there isn’t exactly easy.
These distant islands spread from the mainland, west into the Bering Sea, and they are comprised of a large number of volcanic Islands and atolls, only a few of which are inhabited.
The islands have a unique history and were, in fact, the scene of a fierce battle between invading Japanese forces and defending Allied troops.
A few of the islands were occupied, making this the only part of the USA to be occupied during World War II by the Japanese.
Today you can not only explore unknown battlefields, but you can marvel at the isolation and Remote beauty of the volcanoes and peaks on these dramatic Alaskan islands.
15. Inside Passage
The Inside Passage is one of the most spectacular travel routes in North America and one of the best places to visit in Alaska.
The Inside Passage is the route that’s often taken by cruise ships, and a route that was taken by pioneering colonists and explorers on their way north in the 19th century.
The sheltered and relatively calm Inside Passage takes ships along the Canadian coastline and into Alaska, reaching Juneau.
Along the way the views and the scenery are mesmerizing, and this really is the best way to arrive in the state!
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- 13 UNREAL Things to Do in Juneau, Alaska
- 15 Cannot Miss Things to do in Anchorage
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- 13 Epic Things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska (Besides Northern Lights)
- 5 Best Alaska Road Trip Routes (Ultimate Planning Guide!)
- Alaska National Parks: The Fabulous 8
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