Those seeking to discover the world in its purest form are lured to Alaska's Inside Passage by tales of glacial beauty and humbling wildlife encounters.
Moulded by the power of ancient glaciers, the Inside Passage is a series of deep fjords and tiny, perfect islands that frame a course filled with superlatives; a trip filled with magnificent moments that will fill you with a deep sense of wonder.
Here is a guide to the once-in-a-lifetime moments you can expect to enjoy on a luxury cruise of the Inside Passage.
The Inside Passage
Embarking in Vancouver after dark means that the next morning you’ll draw back your curtains to the first of many overwhelming views of the Inside Passage. Sail past alluring fjords and miniature islands so beautiful that it seems they’ve been placed for aesthetics’ sake. The first full day at sea allows you to drink in these glories at your leisure.
Alaska’s capital city welcomes you with a small-town feel that is stunningly contrasted with the immense scope of its glacial backdrop. As Juneau can only be accessed by boat or plane, it’s the most geographically isolated state capital in the USA.
With just one day in your pocket, it’s going to be difficult to choose from the wide array of activities on offer. Juneau’s hiking trails are famous and profuse, with some trailheads starting in the picturesque town centre, which hugs the mountainside. Whale watching is another popular choice, with some tours guaranteeing a wildlife sighting.
A little further northwest lays Mendenhall Valley, the gateway to the world-famous Mendenhall Glacier, just one of the hundreds that make up the Juneau Icefield. Helicopter rides, seaplane explorations, kayaking expeditions and trekking adventures are just a few ways you can view the jaw-dropping spectacle of the ancient ice.
Foodies will be thrilled with the divinely fresh seafood, with a walking food tour the ideal way to sample local specialities like crab bisque, halibut nachos and beer-battered fish, washed down with craft beer from a local brewery.
Skagway served as the gateway to the legendary gold fields of the Klondike Gold Rush, and the city has preserved the colonial feel of its downtown areas as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Park. Saunter past saloons, ride the historic railway, join a ghost tour and even enjoy a madam-hosted Bordello Breakfast to truly get into the spirit of things.
If you’re seeking more outdoor adventures then get ready to make some hard decisions. Dog sledding, snowshoeing, gold panning and zip lining are just a few activities you can enjoy amidst the exquisite landscape of Alaska.
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Glacier Bay National Park
Ever heard of glacier calving? This is the term for the moment when a chunk breaks off a glacier. When it’s a tidewater glacier that flows all the way down to the ocean, the chunk plummets into the water, forming an iceberg.
Glacier Bay National park has the highest instance of actively calving tidewater glaciers in the world. It’s also a hotspot for wildlife, with humpback whales, orcas, sea otters and harbour seals a few of the commonly sighted inhabitants.
Eleven glaciers spill in to Glacier Bay, speckling the ocean with a glorious mess of icebergs of varying size, colour and shape. Sailing through this world-famous landscape affords you front row seats to one of Mother Nature’s mightiest shows. The ice splitting from the glacier and tumbling into the ocean is a sight and sound that you’ll never forget. If you’re lucky enough to have a local ranger on hand, he or she will explain exactly how the Earth is changing right before your eyes.
Salmon fishing has long been the mainstay of this picturesque town in the Tongass Narrows, and visitors are often enticed to try their hand at sport fishing. Sampling the local salmon is a must, but Ketchikan also offers insights into the rich cultural heritage of the Native Alaskans.
See intricate carvings at the Totem Heritage Centre and Totem Bight State Park, or visit the nearby Saxman Village to see Tlingit carvers at work and traditional dance performances in the clan house.
Wildlife encounters are also on the to-do list, with bear sightings and bald eagle viewings just a couple of highlights you can expect to see on choice of in-depth eco explorations.