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“Loved the Arctic Circle Tour”
Review of 1st Alaska Tours

1st Alaska Tours
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Northern Lights Viewing including Dinner and 1-Hour Dog Sledding
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: 1st Alaska Tours is a Fairbanks based touring and sightseeing company that operates year round. Explore the tundra on an Arctic Circle or Arctic Ocean/Prudhoe Bay tour and receive a certificate to commemorate your journey. Relax in the famous Chena Hot Springs or take a Fairbanks City Tour to learn about the Golden Heart City. Enjoy the Northern Lights on one of our many Aurora Viewing Tours.Dog Mushing is the Alaskan State sport and is incredibly fun. Visit our Iditarod racing Dog Musher, Sven Haltmann of Arctic Winter Adventures, for a 1 hour Dog Sledding/Dog Mushing highlight. Summer or winter, we have an Alaskan adventure for everyone! We speak English, Mandarin & German.
Reviewed August 21, 2012

My friend and I traveled to Alask at the end of June and stayed through July 13, 2012. We booked a tour with 1st Alaska Outdoor School driving up the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle -- My expectations was a long trip that would be relatively boring But I was pleasantly surprised! Althoguh the trip was long, it was fascinating. We had a great guide - Bill Gill, an Alaskan homesteader who regaled us with true stories of his Alaskan experiences and taught us so much about the Tundra and the pipeline. We had wonderful food at a truck stop that resembled a dive. So wasn't I surprised to find curry dill salmon soup on the menu -- to die for!! We traveled in a van with our driver and five other people -- The scenery was beautiful and the weather superb -- Sunny and hot!! 80 degrees at the Arctic Circle! Stopped at a tiny gift store on the Yukon River Climbed down the bank to touch the water So the drive was long but the guide terrific, the food wonderful and the company great -- Scenery much different than I expected -- I highly recommend this tour very "down to earth" and real!! Be sure to book this one a "Don't Miss" experience. Obviously I higlty recommend it!

Baltimore MD

2  Thank Seashine21230
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"arctic circle tour"
in 57 reviews
"chena hot springs"
in 80 reviews
"dalton highway"
in 46 reviews
"northern lights"
in 98 reviews
"aurora viewing"
in 38 reviews
"ice museum"
in 42 reviews
"photo workshop"
in 10 reviews
"yukon river"
in 27 reviews
"driver guide"
in 11 reviews
"van ride"
in 5 reviews
"murphy dome"
in 13 reviews
"road conditions"
in 8 reviews
"dog sledding"
in 26 reviews
"long drive"
in 13 reviews
"ice road truckers"
in 9 reviews
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in 11 reviews
"highly recommend this company"
in 6 reviews

422 - 426 of 466 reviews

Reviewed August 19, 2012

I wasn't sure what to expect when I signed up for the 3-day Arctic Ocean Prudhoe Bay tour. I knew we'd be driving on the Dalton Highway and spending a lot of time in a van, but I didn't know how much fun one could have getting muddy on vacation!

There were 5 of us in a 9-person van, which was quite comfortable. If the van had been full, it would have been very uncomfortable because you are basically sitting in a van for 3 days. Our trip guide, Bill Gill, was one of the most knowledgeable and personable tour guides I've ever had (I've been traveling for over 30 years). When we immediately hit bad weather after leaving the Hilltop Truck Stop, I wondered what I was getting into. But Bill just made our trip so enjoyable in every way. He told us about life in the bush in Alaska (he's a homesteader), and I was simply captivated. He was knowledgable about so many aspects of life in Alaska that an "outsider" wouldn't know about. Our trip would have been compeletely different with a different tour guide.

Our first stop was at the Yukon River. It was really amazing, but we had our first encounter with mosquitos. BRING BUG SPRAY -- I recommend 100% deet since it will last 10 hours before you have to reapply it. I also wore a bug-repellent shirt, bug-repellent pants, and bug-repellent socks. I had a bug-repellent hat with a net, which I wore when necessary.

The best part of this trip was that Bill never rushed us (unlike most other tours). He never told us "be back in 5 minutes" -- he just waited until everyone was ready to leave. It was such a personalized tour.

Our next stop was the Arctic Circle. We got our Arctic Circle certificates and took pictures. There were several other tour groups there, but everyone had plenty of time to take pictures.

Then we stopped at the Coldfoot Visitor's Center. This is a beautiful visitor's center, and we spent some time looking at the exhbits before we headed to Coldfoot Camp for dinner. This is a truck stop, but the food is quite good. You can get the salad bar or you can get the salad bar + a full dinner.

After dinner we headed to Wiseman, an old gold mining town. This is a tiny town with no services but a lot of character. We stayed at the Arctic Getaway Bed and Breakfast in the Koyukuk cabin (sleeps 6 people -- 1 indoor bathroom). If you want indoor plumbing, make sure to ask about this. The rooms at the Boreal Lodge (also in Wiseman) don't have bathrooms inside the room. We had a wonderful experience at the Arctic B & B. The owners (Bernie & Uda) live their year round and live off the land.

The next morning we had a continental breakfast in the room because we had to leave by 7 am in order to make the 3:00 pm Prudhoe Bay tour. This was a very long day. We got up at 5 am and got home at 1 am, but it was definitely worth the drive. I wasn't all that excited about Prudhoe Bay, but I definitely wanted to dip my foot in the Arctic Ocean.
We arrived at Prudhoe Bay at 1 pm, with plenty of time to spare (there is always a lot of construction on the Dalton Highway, so you have to leave early to compensate for "flagmen/flagwomen"). We stopped in the Prudhoe Bay gift shop (not terribly exciting), and then we boarded the bus for the 3:00 pm tour. The tour doesn't really go anywhere that exciting since 9/11. A security guard drives you to the Arctic Ocean and drops you off for about 20 minutes. They do show you some buildings, and if you're really interested in the pipeline you can get some good information.
Maybe if I were a petroleum engineer, it might have been different. I was a bit disappointed not to see a polar bear. I guess there was a polar bear the week before we came.

After our tour finished (and I dipped my feet in the Arctic Ocean), we ate dinner in a cafeteria used by the oil workers. This was a unique experience -- and the food was really good.

After dinner we had a long drive back to Wiseman. I think we left Prudhoe Bay around 7 pm and got back to Wiseman around 1 am. Everyone and everything was pretty muddy, but we all took it all in stride. The trip to Prudhoe Bay is not for someone who likes a "comfortable" vacation. You might get muddy, and you will not find much in the way of indoor plumbing. We had to use outhouses most of the trip, but in general they were very clean.

We stayed in Wiseman for a second night, and in the morning Bernie made us an excellent breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs. We didn't do any of the hikes in the "official" itinerary, mostly because it was rainy and muddy.
We stopped a few places on the way back to the Fairbanks. The "Hotspot" was uniquely Alaskan. The Yukon Camp had excellent salmon soup. We arrived at Fairbanks around 8 pm.

In summary, this was an excellent tour, but I have to emphasize again that the tour would have been much more mundane and way less interesting if we had had a different tour guide. The tour guide (Bill!) made all the difference in the world. He was more than "well trained." He had lived the life. He was a "real" Alaskan, with real knowledge of Alaskan wildlife, flora and fauna, history, and geology.

I have only one complaint: the tour claims that you will see the Gates of the Arctic National Park. We actually never saw the National Park, and I don't think the tour ever goes there.

Two other suggestions:

1. There should be clearer instructions on what to buy for lunch. We didn't want to bring a cooler with ice (especially since there would be no way to keep the ice cold), and so we ended up buying a whole bunch of food that we didn't need and never ate. Actually, the food at the dinner stops was quite good, and we really didn't need to eat much at all for lunch. I suppose you could bring a peanut butter & jelly sandwich or something (tuna?) in a can. It would be better if there were more guidance. We just didn't know what to bring.

2. The tour should provide water (we had to bring our own). Some tourists don't have a car, and they wouldn't be able to buy and carry enough water for 3 days. We brought our own water, and then one of the other tourists started drinking it because he thought the tour company provided it.

All in all, I highly recommend 1st Alaska Outdoor School. They are definitely not as large as some of the other outfits that run tours to the Arctic Circle, but you will probably get a better tour!

6  Thank puffin19
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 7, 2012

We were on our way home and looked for something to do instead of the prebooked riverboattrip arranged by the cruiseline. Quite a few people had said, that the riverboattrip was kind of a waste of time at the end of a landtour in Alaska, so we wanted to do something different.
We found this trip and booked it online. It was confirmed when we paid by credticard online.
Sam, the driver and guide, a very knowledgeable guy from Fairbanks, picked us up at our hotel. The two of us rode the van with a family of 4 with 2 younger boys. We all enjoyed the day.
He drove us to Chena Hot Springs Resort, 56 mile/90 km. each way, and the road goes through the Chena State Recreation Area, where there is a very good chance to see wildlife, mostly moose.

At the resort we saw the Aurora Ice Museum, which is really neat, and not just another tourist-trap. Then we saw the Power Plant, where they work with reforming the hot springs to heat and electiric power. We also went on a tour of the greenhouse and saw the beautiful gardens. They also have dog sleeding, animals to see and touch and horsebackriding.
We finally took more than 1/2 hour in the outdoor-hotsprings-pool, where people were soaking in the steaming hot water. It is open all year around, and many of the visitors in the pool were locals.
There was also an indoorpool, and possible lodging with a restaturant, who serves meals made on homegrown delicious vegetables.
All admissions were included in the price of the trip.
On our way back driver Sam made is possible for us to watch 5 moose in their natural habitat. It was so great, that we could view wildliffe from the road, and that he took the time to lets us do so. The 2 loved it.

Thank AnniDK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 11, 2012

I must say that this, by far, was one of the better tours we have ever participated in. Our guide, Ralf Dobrovolny, was very informed about everything from life in Alaska to the lives of bears from his experiences of living among the wilderness of Alaska. Our trip began in Fairbanks at around 0700 and we made our first stop at the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline. Ralf spent time explaining much about the structure, construction, and maintenance of the pipeline. We then made our way to the now famed Hilltop Truck Stop, which has been featured in the television series Ice Road Truckers where we had a filling breakfast and enjoyed one another's company before continuing our journey. Throughout the day we visited places along the famed Elliot and Dalton Highways where we "experienced" the Alaska outdoors. To learn about the natural re-vegetation of an area that was swept by wild fires and the regeneration of natural life was incredibly interesting. Ralf, our guide, attended to every question we had and spent a great deal of time sharing his own, personal experience, having lived in the interior of Alaska for many years. The highlight of our trip was the stops at the mighty Yukon River and the Arctic Circle where we were afforded as much time as necessary to get whatever pictures we wanted. Overall, 1st Alaska Outdoor School is a very professional, well-structured organization that ensures success for a family outing. The most notable thanks that are due to Ralf was his accommodation of our family visiting from Germany, who spoke no English. The entire tour was communicated in German and was truly an exceptional opportunity for folks who may or may not be afforded an opportunity to return to the interior of Alaska. Due to Ralf's ability as a tour guide, his professional dialogue with me as a business professional, and the comfort of the tour, we will likely be returning to this organization again for future outings. Well done Ralf...wir danken dir recht herzlich fur ein schoenen tag und dem guten ablauf der tour. :-)

3  Thank DrJerryV
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 10, 2012

I'm in Fairbanks for work for 6 weeks, and I saved this for my last weekend. It was a wonderful experience-the long day is absolutely worth it, and after getting to know Alaskan prices, it's a great deal. Susan was our driver/guide, and she navigated the Dalton Highway with wit and charm. She was graceful, humorous, and knowledgeable about every topic. We had a larger group of 9 so it was difficult to herd everyone up sometimes, but she never rushed us and our time was managed quite well. If you only have a day, it's worth it, but if you can spare more time I would recommend the 3 day tour. The fireweed was in bloom and we had great weather, plus it's just fun to cross the Arctic Circle.

I've camped and done a lot in Alaska the past 6 weeks, and this was one of my highlights. Definitely get a slice of pie "to-go" from Hilltop, though!

Thank SherriAnna
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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