Traveler Q&A: Exploring Alaska

Traveler Q&A: Exploring Alaska

Travel Expert Jake Messimer shares his favorite moments and insider advice from his recent trip to Alaska.

You’ve traveled to Europe many times before. When did you start dreaming of seeing Alaska?

To be honest, Alaska hadn’t always been at the top of my list; however, that quickly changed when an opportunity to visit presented itself earlier this year. I started researching the state and was intrigued by its many highlights, from rugged landscapes and a rich Native culture to the abundance of wildlife and fresh local seafood.

What were some of the highlights of your trip?

Where to start? First of all, nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming beauty of Alaska’s landscapes. Even in the center of Anchorage, the state’s largest city, huge, snow-covered mountains dominate the horizon in every direction.  The drive between Anchorage and the coastal city of Seward is scenic beyond description, with glaciers, fjords, lakes, and wildlife easily seen from the highway.  A whale-watching cruise on Resurrection Bay was a particular highlight. We spotted a couple humpbacks and a few fin whales (second in size only to the giant blue whale) along with sea lions, otters, and other aquatic life.

I also really enjoyed an insight into the human history of Alaska at the fascinating Anchorage Museum, located in an impressive modern building right downtown.  The tools, weapons, and clothing on display from diverse Native tribes tell the story of how people have thrived in Alaska’s incredibly harsh climate for thousands of years.

Any grizzly bear sightings? 

I saw plenty of moose but was sure to keep my distance, as they’re actually the most dangerous animal in Alaska!  And I did see grizzly bears, but not in the wild; the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage is a wonderful place to check out bears, wolves, and my new favorite, musk oxen.

What advice would you give to those interested in planning a trip?

Timing is important. June through September is an ideal time to visit.  Alaska’s summer tourism season is very short and lots of sightseeing activities – such as cruises to the Kenai Fjords National Park and tours of Denali National Park – aren’t available until mid-May.

Alaska’s summertime temperatures are surprisingly pleasant.  Even so, temperatures vary greatly throughout the day and can be deceiving; it’s a good idea to pack versatile clothing options that can be layered depending on the weather.

When it comes to eating out, bear in mind that Alaska imports most of its food, so be prepared to pay higher prices in restaurants.  This is somewhat less noticeable in Anchorage, but as soon as you get out into smaller towns even simple meals will often be in the $25-$35 range.  With that said, food quality can be quite good, especially if you stick to local seafood options like halibut or crab.

Why should travelers take a guided tour of Alaska?

Here are 3 great reasons why a guided tour is the perfect way to explore Alaska:

1) You’ll enjoy the stunning scenery, even more, when you don’t have to worry about driving.

2) An experienced Alaskan guide can reveal much more history, culture, and wildlife than you might be able to discover yourself.  In addition, Alaska is still a very rugged place, where conditions can change at a moment’s notice.  Traveling with a professional travel director and guide means you’re in expert hands every step of the way.

3) Alaska can be an expensive destination, and a guided tour is a great value compared to trying to do everything on your own. In fact, you can expect to save about 40% on a tour versus traveling independently.

Ready to explore Alaska? Be sure to check out these popular tours:

Jake Messimer

Jake has worked for Grand European Travel since 2013 and has been in the travel industry for 14 years. While traveling he enjoys getting to know cities really well and feeling like a local.

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