How Many Days You Need
You can have an epic Alaska adventure in a long weekend—many of our friends and guests do. But of course, the longer you stay, the more you can explore and really get to know this state. A week or two gives you the chance to discover small roadside communities and off-the-beaten-path parks. Two to four weeks is not too long....even if you saw a million acres a day, it would take you more than a year to see all of Alaska!
Here’s what you can expect to do if you have:
Fly into Anchorage, Fairbanks or a town in Southeast Alaska like Juneau. Rent a car so you don't have to wait on train or bus schedules. You can easily do 2-3 excursions per day—for example:
- Fish & Flightsee: Go fishing in the morning and flightsee over magnificent mountains in the afternoon.
- Cruise: Take a half-day cruise (you'll see more glaciers and marine wildlife than most people see on a week-long conventional cruise), then enjoy a fresh seafood dinner that evening.
- Try a Soft Adventure: Hike, river raft, sea kayak, dogsled, zipline, experience native culture...all these and more lie within a 2-hour drive from Anchorage.
- Take a 2-Hour Drive: Meet the locals and experience life in a unique small town—Seward, Talkeetna, or Glacier View—and spend a night (or two). If you start your trip around the Inside Passage, hop an inter-island ferry or small commuter flight to experience smaller towns.
Take a week and you’ll have enough time for one relaxed land tour or cruise that take you to some of Alaska’s most popular spots. This includes most group tours as well as flexible land packages (self-drive or by rail/coach). Here are some options.
- Get the Best of Land and Sea: Combine the glaciers and marine wildlife of Kenai Fjords with the interior wildlife, mountains, and tundra of Denali National Park. Catch the culture and nightlife scene in Anchorage and experience small town Alaska in Talkeetna. See an itinerary for this trip.
- Take a 7-Day Cruise: Sail round-trip from Seattle or Vancouver, or go one way across the Gulf of Alaska, ending near Anchorage. Better yet, fly to Alaska and take a 4- to 7-day small-ship cruise. You’ll spend all your time in Alaska and explore smaller ports and wildlife hot spots where the big ships can’t go.
- Drive off the Beaten Path: Rent a car and drive the gorgeous Glenn Highway, then continue to McCarthy-Kennicott. Spend 2–3 nights there while exploring Wrangell St. Elias. It’s North America’s biggest national park, yet it has absolutely no crowds…this is the Alaska you came to see! See an itinerary for this trip.
- Have Wilderness Lodge Experiences: Spend 2–3 nights at both a coastal lodge and a lodge in the interior. On the coast, you can walk the beach, kayak to a glacier, and hike mountain trails while looking for whales, eagles, coastal bears, and sea otters. Inland, go to a bear-viewing lodge or enjoy hiking from a lodge in a wilderness area like Denali or the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. See a small group itinerary of this trip.
This is a very popular vacation length, and no wonder: 10 days is enough time to combine a cruise with a land tour and experience both sides of Alaska. Trips of this length usually include a whirlwind tour of some of Alaska’s popular interior and Southcentral destinations, plus a 7-day cruise. Here are some things to consider.
- Take a Small Ship: An alternative to the large-ship cruise and land tour would be to fly into Anchorage and combine an independent land tour with a small-ship cruise in Prince William Sound. Get a similar experience with a small ship and lodge package in Southeast Alaska.
- Go All Mainland: Fly round-trip to Alaska and spend all your time in the Southcentral and Interior region. A 7-day trip may allow adequate time to visit 2 national parks, but a 10-day vacation allows you to immerse yourself in those destinations. Along with parks like Denali and Kenai Fjords, you can spend 2–3 nights at wilderness lodge in either location. Or combine 2 or 3 wilderness lodges and spend your entire vacation immersed in the Alaskan wilderness.
- Get Off the Beaten Path: Another option is to choose one region (like Southcentral) and take the extra time to explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations. Stay at intimate roadside adventure lodges, where you'll meet local Alaskans and fellow travelers. On a 10-day self-drive tour, you could combine 3–4 different roadside adventure lodges: one emphasizing glaciers, another fishing and hiking, and another history and culture.
- Take a Relaxed Group or Alaska Railroad Tour: See the highlights without rushing. You can incorporate more railroad travel into your itinerary (the Alaska Railroad operates on a set schedule and takes 1–3 hours more than driving). If you don't mind traveling at someone else’s pace, the views can be rewarding and you don't have to worry about navigating.
- See the Railbelt, Fairbanks, and the Arctic: With 10 days, you can comfortably include Fairbanks in your itinerary. And from there, you can take a 1- or 2-night overnight with Northern Alaska Tour Company to any number of Arctic destinations where you'll visit an Alaska bush community for an in-depth experience of Alaska history and native culture.
Spend more time and you’ll not only see more but have more varied experiences. And two full weeks is enough to slip into an “Alaska state of mind.” You'll slow down, relax, and appreciate each experience more, because you won't be worried about rushing to squeeze everything in. Here are some options.
- Do a Cruise and Land Tour: This is another popular length of time for cruise plus land tours. Instead of the whirlwind land tour you get on a 10-day trip, you'll have more time to explore all the highlights of land and sea.
- Go Small Ship + Railbelt: Explore less-visited towns, glaciers, and wildlife attractions on an Inside Passage small-ship cruise. Then fly to Anchorage and join a small-group land tour that will take you to wilderness lodges.
- Stay on the Mainland: Fly into Anchorage and spend 2 full weeks experiencing all that Southcentral and Interior Alaska have to offer. You could easily spend a week on the Kenai Peninsula in the coastal towns of Seward and Homer going fishing, taking day cruises, and staying at roadside adventure lodges or remote wilderness lodges. Then head north, where you’ll have plenty of time to see Denali National Park and the small town of Talkeetna. Next, visit Fairbanks and take a tour of the Arctic; or, instead of Fairbanks, head east towards Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
This is a chance to really get to know Alaska. Spending a month is popular with overseas visitors who have flown a long way and want to see two or three of Alaska’s regions, along with the Yukon or Canadian Rockies.
- Combine The Most Popular Itineraries: This is the perfect length of time to take a 7–day cruise, a 10–12 day land tour covering the entire Railbelt, see the Arctic, and visit two wilderness lodges.
Something magical happens when you commit this much of your life to Alaska—she gives back in ways you could never foresee and you can have the expedition of a lifetime. Read about one traveler we worked with to plan an 8-week trip.