Wondering how folks up here deal with Alaska’s long winter days? It’s easy when the inky night sky comes alive with an amazing light show like the aurora borealis. Braving the cold is nothing if you get a chance to see the lights dancing and waving overhead. Combine your aurora viewing trip with a few other highlights planned out by Salmon Berry Tours, and you’ll experience the best of winter in Alaska.
How to See the Aurora
It takes a mixture of planning and luck to see the Northern Lights. The planning is covered by Salmon Berry Tours, folks who’ve put a lot of thought into just what makes an Alaska vacation satisfying. And the luck? You’ve got a good start by coming in winter. The rest depends on Mother Nature and how long you can stay (a longer stay means more chances for clear skies combined with an active aurora).
Northern Lights Overnight
Salmon Berry’s All-Inclusive Northern Lights Overnight takes you outside Anchorage’s brightly-lit environs to the picturesque town of Talkeetna.
Arriving close to dinnertime, you’ll tuck in at the Historic Talkeetna Roadhouse (featured on the Travel Channel and Food Network), and then head out for your aurora adventure. Start off with an entertaining and educational meeting with the “Star Lady,” who will help you understand the ins and outs of our amazing night sky. A walk or snowshoe down to the river puts you in the best place to catch the dancing aurora. Later you’ll return to the Roadhouse, where you can rest your head and wake up to the smell of freshly-baked pastries wafting from the kitchen below.
Be sure and fill up on those Roadhouse breakfast specials so you have energy for your next adventure: getting a taste of the musher’s life at the kennels of Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey. Learn how the dogs are handled and check out Dallas’ trophies and Iditarod memorabilia. Find out for yourself what it really takes to run the dogs when you take your shot on the runners too. You’ll navigate Seavey’s own training trails Alaskan-style: wind in your face with mountains all around (and lots of layers to keep you toasty). Our Northern Lights tours begin with Anchorage pickup where they head to Matsu for dog sledding.
5-Day Northern Lights Getaways
There are two versions of this roughly five-day trip: one departs out of Anchorage, and the other departs out of Fairbanks, and ends in Anchorage. Both itineraries combine the experiences of the overnight trip with extended time in Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs, and even a trip above the Arctic Circle. Ninety percent of those who visit the Fairbanks area during winter for at least three days see the Northern Lights. Here is what each itinerary covers:
The Anchorage Itinerary
- Day 1: Sled dog adventure at Seavey kennels in Matanuska Valley; dinner at Talkeetna Roadhouse and aurora viewing with the “Star Lady.”
- Day 2: Hop on the Alaska Railroad for a relaxing and scenic ride to Fairbanks. Check in at the downtown Fairbanks Hotel, and let the clerk know you’d like a complimentary “aurora” wake-up call if they are spotted!
- Day 3: Take advantage of the hotel shuttle to see a bit more of Fairbanks. Ideas include the Museum of the North or the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. In the afternoon, the Arctic Circle Aurora Adventure will take you north to see the Trans-Alaska pipeline, the Yukon River and to officially enter the Arctic Circle! Arrive back to the Fairbanks Hotel at 4 a.m. after more aurora viewing.
- Day 4: Free morning and afternoon. Pack your swimsuit this evening for a trip to Chena Hot Springs. You can soak in the soothing mineral hot springs, tour the ice museum and watch for the Northern Lights again. Arrive back at Fairbanks Hotel at 4 a.m.
- Day 5: Say goodbye to Fairbanks and fly back to Anchorage (or customize and fly directly home.)
The Fairbanks Itinerary
- Day 1: Arrive at your Fairbanks hotel. Let the front desk know if you’d like a complimentary “aurora” wake-up call during the night.
- Day 2: After a free morning, take the scenic flight to Coldfoot, then a ground shuttle back to Fairbanks, crossing the Arctic Circle and stopping along the Dalton Highway and the Yukon River to see auroras.
- Day 3: After a free morning, take the shuttle to Chena Hot Springs, where you’ll tour the Ice Hotel and take a dip in the springs. After more aurora-viewing, you’ll be back in Fairbanks at about 4 am.
- Day 4: Ride the Alaska Railroad south to Talkeetna, where you can explore the town and check in for the night at the famed Talkeetna Roadhouse. After dinner there, you’ll walk or snowshoe to the river, visit with a local aurora expert, and watch for more Northern Lights.
- Day 5: After breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, you’ll embark on a two-hour dog-sledding tour—riding the runners, exploring trails and meeting the four-legged athletes. Next, you’ll transfer to Anchorage to spend the night.
- Day 6: Explore Anchorage’s Alaska Native Heritage Center—featuring six authentic life-sized Native dwellings—followed by a film presentation and traditional tea. Next stop: the Anchorage airport.
Iditarod Aurora in Denali
This 12-day itinerary, only offered once a year, is an intimate (12 guests max) way to experience Alaska in winter. Guests get to participate in the excitement surrounding the historic Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the magnificent aurora borealis, and the peace found in exploring Denali National Park in the winter -- something few travelers get to check off their lists!