There’s nothing in Alaska you won’t love, which is why an Alaska vacation is quickly becoming an Aussie favourite – especially for cruisers.
In addition to its amazing wildlife and gorgeous scenery, Alaska is also home to a Hammer Museum, it holds the record for the second largest earthquake in history and it’s the United States’ northernmost, westernmost and easternmost state!
Adventure cruiser and writer Roderick Eime shared his Alaskan experience in the latest issue of Cruise Passenger magazine, which is out on newsstand today.
Here’s a list of other facts Roderick says you might not know about the exquisite destination.
What’s in a name?
Alaska’s name comes from the Eskimo word Alakshak meaning “great lands” or “peninsula”.
The Kenai Peninsula is a popular landform in the state. It extends over 240 km southwest from the Chugach Mountains. It is separated from the mainland on the east by Prince William Sound and on the west by the Cook Inlet.
Alaska is how big?
With a total land area of 1,723,337 square kilometres, Alaska is the largest state in the US.
It is more than twice the size of Texas, the next largest US state, yet is home to fewer than 800,000 people.
The state is the only non-contiguous state (does not share a border or not connected) on continental North America.
Alaska and Russia are less than five kilometres apart at their closest point – between Russia’s Big Diomede Island and Alaska’s Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait.
Perhaps you are thinking about visiting Russia while you are in Alaska? Well, it is possible to cross borders legally but it should be done outside of a port of call.
Planning your trip is crucial because you have to officially arrive in a Russian port. The nearest official port to the Bering Strait is Providencia, which is in the Far East.
Take note that you can’t take this itinerary on a whim as you need to receive a permission from the Russian government before you can land on Providencia. The process usually takes at least a year.
Don’t plan a road trip
Only 20 percent of Alaska is accessible by road. Despite a landmass of 1.5 million square kilometres, the state has only 12 numbered highways.
Thanks to the TV show Ice Road Truckers, the Dalton Highway became a popular road in Alaska.
The road is a 667-km stretch of dirt and gravel, which originates from the town of Livengood and ends in Prudhoe Bay.
Driving on this road will show the remote wilderness of Alaska, but it is often dangerous even in the summer months.
There are no gas stations, hotels, rest areas, or restaurants along the way.
The highway was built in the 1970s to bring supplies to the oilfield industry in Deadhorse.
If you really want to see Alaska’s wilderness, a safer option is to take the Alaska Railroad, which provides a year-round rail trip throughout Interior and Southcentral Alaska.
More than 500,000 tourists each year take this railroad trip.
Nighttime light shows almost all year-round
One of the hallmarks of an Alaska travel is witnessing the Aurora Borealis.
Also known as the northern lights, this natural spectacle made Fairbanks, Alaska a popular tourist attraction.
The Aurora Borealis is initially caused by the solar wind.
Millions of kilometers away from the Earth’s atmosphere, huge explosions of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) beam charges particles in the sky.
The solar wind penetrates the Earth where they cause the stunning lights that are best seen in Alaska.
There’s no need to plan so much on your time to visit because the northern lights can be seen an average of 243 days a year.
The northern lights can happen any time of the year but are only visible if it’s dark. Thanks to the limited sunlight in Alaska, the lights are visible all year round.
However, nights when there is a full moon is not the best time to witness the northern lights, and there are designated tourist spots in Fairbanks that are perfect because they are away from artificial lights.
The Aurora Borealis is listed among the Seven Natural Wonders of the World alongside Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls, Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Mt. Everest, and the Grand Canyon.
Don’t wake the bear
Bear viewing is a very popular attraction in Alaska.
You can indulge in this magical experience in Denali National Park, but you may also visit Katmai National Park, Wolverine Creek, and Brooks River Falls.
Just be careful as it is illegal in Alaska to wake a sleeping bear for the purpose of taking a photograph. It is also illegal to whisper in someone’s ear while they are moose hunting.