8 Lesser-Known Towns in Alaska to Consider on Anchorage
Alaska is a wish-list destination for adventurers; its magnificent mountain peaks, abundant wildlife and remote, untouched beauty attract millions of discerning visitors each year to explore this wild and isolated state. Among its most famous cities, Anchorage is a top contender attracting tourists to experience its trails, wildlife and glaciers, as well as the cultural soul of the state – especially in the form of the arts; Anchorage is home to more artists and musicians than any other place in Alaska.
So while Anchorage, or for that matter Alaska itself, is a common vacation destination for all of the above reasons, the state’s smaller and lesser-known towns and villages are only visited by those who stray from the beaten path. But what are these worthy hidden Alaskan gems and where can they be found? It’s simple, and there are many; just keep reading to find out which ones to add to the itinerary.
Valdez east of Anchorage is in Prince William Sound near a deep fjord and right next to the Chugach National Forest. Travelers to Valdez can reach it by car or by sea, however, by driving it via the Adventure Corridor – considered one of America’s most scenic drives – is unquestionably the most breathtaking choice to get to the city. Although it is a place of production and important commercial and industrial exchanges, Valdez indeed manages to maintain itself as a beautiful city in Alaska full of outdoor recreation, such as hiking in the backcountry, fishing, rafting and ice climbing.
Plus, like many parts of Alaska, Valdez guarantees a wealth of wilderness to discover year-round; from lush rainforests and tidal glaciers to scenic hiking trails and majestic mountains, Valdez has it all. Those not so inclined outdoors will also find peace in the city; whether it’s culture, shopping, history or dining, whatever experience is in mind, it’s on Valdez’s menu.
Ketchikan sits at the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s Inside Passage and is only an hour and a half flight from Seattle. Its position amidst a network of islands and coves near British Columbia makes it accessible only by air or sea, but those who put in the effort will be fully rewarded; Ketchikan is well known for fishing and hiking through its stunning scenery, giving visitors a glimpse of the authentic Alaskan way – part of which is also visible through its proud history of native inhabitants who shaped traditions. and culture of the city to make it what it is today.
Raw and distant, it is nonetheless very civilized; Throughout Ketchikan there are various parks, shopping areas and cultural experiences, but most notable of all is at the Totem Heritage Center – home to what is collectively the largest collection of totem poles in the world.
Homer is a pretty little town 200 miles south of Anchorage, located at the end of a peninsula on Kachemak Bay. Historically, the city has functioned as a coal mining hub, as well as a prolific commercial and sport fishing location – the latter making it the halibut fishing capital of the world. Indeed, Homer attracts anglers for its salmon and halibut fishing, but it’s the Alaskan way of life and beauty that keeps people here.
It is also a place of retreat and experience; from art galleries and fine dining to quaint beachfront accommodations, Homer offers everything one would need for a break from the crowds. And thanks to its convenient waterfront location, visitors can enjoy plenty of other water activities, including boat rides to the Seldovia Artists’ Colony and paddling around Kachemak Bay. Additionally, the city offers aerial access to some of the world’s best bear viewing areas in Katmai National Park.
Head a little south of Alaska’s capital, Juneau, and you’ll find Sitka beautifully situated on Baranof Island. Like most of the region’s southeast islands, visitors can only access it by sea or air, so getting there is part of the adventure. Once an undiscovered ghost town, fully walkable Sitka has earned its place on the map with its rich history, abundant artifacts and fascinating museums.
The town also has many charming local shops and restaurants, and its proximity to the wilderness provides plenty of entertainment for outdoor enthusiasts, in addition to incredible wildlife viewing opportunities – eagles and bears. Additionally, the idyllic setting of the cities by the Pacific Ocean and close to freshwater rivers and lakes means that water activities are also popular and plentiful here.
Seward is flanked by majestic mountains and a shimmering ocean due to its ideal location on the Gulf of Alaska, offering mesmerizing views at almost every turn. Easily accessible by car from Anchorage, this small town has only about 2,600 residents and was actually only settled in 1903 after being originally influenced by Russian fur traders who built a post there. trading in the 18th century. With such a history, modern-day Seward offers all the charms of Alaska, and as one of Alaska’s oldest communities, it’s no surprise visitors speak highly of its historic district. from downtown – where art galleries, restaurants, shops and tastings of the quintessential Alaskan culture can be enjoyed by all.
Not far from Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward guests can also experience the abundant flora and fauna that call the state home, while indulging in tons of adventurous activities in and around town, such as hiking. , dog sledding, fishing, zip line. , kayaking, air tours and many more. And if one has the time, visiting the Alaska Sealife Center promises an interesting day of close encounters with Alaskan animals, including myriads of underwater marine species, puffins and sea lions for to name a few.
Known as the Golden Heart City, Fairbanks sits on the eastern border and is home to Denali National Park and its great outdoor getaways. It’s also a famous destination for viewing the Northern Lights, as well as a great place to become one with Alaska’s intense arts culture. As if it couldn’t already be a more idyllic small town, Fairbanks also hosts a list of activities that continue late into the night during the enchanting Midnight Sun period – and one of them is the famous Midnight Sun. Fun Run, a 10 km race starting in the early evening and venturing until the wee hours of the morning. Once summer is over, guests can extend their stay into winter to tick off an exciting list of snow adventures; think ice skating, dog sledding, and many other cold Alaskan pastimes.
Located on the southern side of the Seward Peninsula on the Bering Sea coast, the small town of Nome is another hidden gem accessible only by boat or plane. As for the past, it’s famous for its gold rush history and unique Inupiat Eskimo culture, but today it’s best known as the finish line of the Iditarod sled dog race. 1,049 mile long trail.
It may be remote, but it’s not underdeveloped; explorers can experience the entirety of Nome by traversing its 350 miles of roads that span diverse terrain, with mountains, green-covered expanses, and coastal plains all stealing the show. These roads also connect the city to a number of others, opening up even more shopping experiences, wine and restaurant delights, and nature-laden places to discover.
The heart of the Inside Passage is home to one of Alaska’s oldest towns – Wrangell. It’s very easy to get there by plane or car, with the latter offering an epic chance to reach the city from the Alaska Marine Highway System. As for the place itself, it is visibly historical and cultural with what appears to be dozens of totem poles on display throughout the city. Birdwatchers will also enjoy searching for eagles here, which are said to be abundant in the region and fascinating to watch.
Plus, history is showcased at nearby Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park, where the highest concentration of Native American petroglyphs in the Southeast Alaska region are seen, along with impressive primitive rock carvings 1,000 years old. Finally, wildlife lovers in Wrangell can find solace on a day trip to the Anan Wildlife Observatory – home to many species offering a natural display of fascinating behavior; bears catching salmon, seals frolicking, bald eagles flying and more – don’t forget to bring a camera.
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