Hi all travel enthusiasts!
I visited Alaska, one of my dream destinations on the long weekend with my husband. We had only 5 full days, so a lot of planning and reading went into what was possible in that time frame. Ideally, 7-8 days is what most travel packages included. But we didn't have that luxury to take time off work and so we planned by ourselves. At the end of the trip, we achieved a lot, drove 1500 miles and hence had luxury to halt where we wanted, visited loads of places, did a bus tour through Denali,saw beautiful wildlife and glaciers, managed a day long cruise and also Kayaked through the ocean. Here is what we did:
June 29th, 2011
- Drove from Portland(4pm) to Seattle. Parked car at the airport and flew from Seattle to ANC (flight 9 pm to 12:30 am ANC time)
- Rented a car at ANC and stayed overnight at "Extended Stay Deluxe" near the airport. It was a pretty neat place to stay. No views but had decent facilities along with complimentary breakfast
June 30th, 2011
- 1st day of the trip. We ate breakfast and drove(started at 10 am) through the beautiful road from Anchorage to Denali National Park. We halted a couple beautiful sights in between for 5-10 minutes. We reached Denali at around 3:30 pm.
- We then visited the visitor center and attended a presentation of wildlife in Denali. We then ate at the restaurant near the visitor center. It had great food.
- We checked into "Denali Princess lodge". The lodge had breathtaking views of mountains and was completely wooden. It seemed like a real vacation place. It had a gift shop, breakfast place and other great facilities.
- We then did a little hike (Tiaga loop) 1.5 miles approx near the visitor center to get a feel of the ranges of Denali. They were really pretty.
- We thought about catching up with the Riley campground 40 minutes demonstration, but missed that one just by a few minutes
- We then did some grocery shopping to get geared for the next day bus tour and visited some nice gift shops near our hotel. We ate at Lynx Creek Pizza, very nice fresh Pizza.
- That was a chilled out plan. We then slept after the long day to get the much needed rest.
July 1st, 2011
- After the good night's sleep, we got up early, ate some breakfast and grabbed some quick lunch from "Subway" to carry on the bus.
- We took a bus shuttle(7:45 am) into the park to Kantishna (92 miles into the Denali National park). It was kind of rainy and cold that day. But the views were simply breathtaking. We drove through very pretty mountain ranges, some glaciers were still melting, there were melted rivers and beautiful scenery. We also saw some wildlife like hedgedog, birds and doll sheep high on the mountains. the bus then halted in between and we went in for a midway ranger guided hike to a mountain peak. That was an excellent idea because the awesome ranger Katie explained to us in person about the wilderness (animal marks, wildflowers, seasons, animal and their habits) on the trail. The top view at the end of the hike was simply amazing. It was a 2 hour hike - elevation was almost 2000 ft. Was I would say moderate. We got really educated about the different wildflowers, thanks to Katie; also felt permafrost on the mountains as we dug a bit into the soil.
- We then hopped on to another shuttle passing by and drove to wonder lake. It is a great lake in the middle of the park where one can spot wildlife. On our return journey, we got lucky. It got really sunny and warmer, so the fog went off. We saw grizzly bears, fox, moose(crossed the road in front of us), caribous and other interesting wild life. After a successful, tiring day on the bus, we reached the lodge satisfied.
- We then grabbed Thai food on a cart for dinner(not that great). We then just walked around the gift shop area, had some coffee and explored our lodge a little. The days were long in Alaska like almost 18-20 hours, so we just felt like exploring as much as we could. We then slept off by say 11 pm.
July 2nd, 2011
- We started off the day by a great breakfast at "Bear Coffee". It was fantastic as we could get great views while having coffee/tea. Its a must visit shop. We then started the long drive to Seward (7 hours).
- After driving few hours, we felt hungry and we found an awesome Indian place "Bombay Deluxe". We ate traditional north Indian spicy food there and then continued the drive to Seward
- The Seward highway will drive one crazy. Its really pretty. We stopped at various points - Potters Marsh, Beluga point, Bird creek trail, Turnagain arm and a Seward Wildlife center. We also spotted black bears through the binoculars from various points on the mountains. The best was the arm. It had superb views of Glaciers and ocean on one side and mountains on another. We also spotted different birds and animals.
- We then reached Seward. At 8 pm in broad sunshine, we did a hike to the "Exit Glacier". This was awesome. We saw how the Glacier has shifted due to global warming. After another long long day, we drove to our B & B place - "Farm bed and Breakfast". It was located in the woods and we had a cottage room to ourselves. It was an interesting place to stay. We again slept off at a decent time after eating leftovers from lunch and some fruits.
July 3rd, 2011
- We started off by eating breakfast at the B & B place. It was a decent typical American breakfast - Bagels, Orange Juice, Coffee served by nice people.
- We then drove to "Boat Harbor" and parked our car nearby. We then took the "Major Marine Cruise" to the Glaciers(10 am).
- This was some experience. We saw really pretty glaciers and great sea life. We saw whales, dolphins, bald eagles, puffins, sea otters, sea lions, birds, salmons and other fantastic sea creatures. It was a true delight to watch them as we were cruising.
- We cruised through fantastic glaciers, views hard to describe in words. We reached the "Alpine Glacier"(I think that was the name). The captain and ranger were really skillful as they helped all the passengers to spot the animals, described them and they also helped in describing the glaciers.
- We could hear the Glacier melt. The ice and snow on the ocean was a view that I cannot forget. We also had interesting Glacier ice Margarita and interesting deserts on the cruise. We carried our own very old Subway lunch as we are vegetarians and veggie food can sometimes be hard to find.
- It was a fantastic cruise and a "no miss" for everybody who visits Seward. But some people may suffer from sea sickness and should have Ginger Candy before the cruise.
- After the cruise, we ate dinner at "Patty's Wagon" (roadside truck serving interesting veggie burgers) then drove to Homer (3.5 hours approximately)
- We checked into "Driftwood Inn" (great views of spit, beach and glaciers) and slept after a really tiring day again.
July 4th, 2011
- We had a nice start to the day again, refreshed and ate breakfast at "Sisters Bakery". We were amazed to find a no meat American place in a place like Homer, famous for fish and Salmon. It was an overcrowded amazing shop for coffee and breakfast. We were highly impressed.
- We then booked Kayaking tour at "Mako's water Taxi and True North Kayak". We then walked around a bit near the spit and looked at stuff.
- We then jumped on to the water taxi at 11 am. They took us to an island sort of place. We saw sea otters and bald eagles on the way.
- We then reached the place where a group of 6-8 people got ready to kayak. The guide was again very talented and gave us good instructions. He provided us life jackets and other Kayaking gear. Every 1-2 people had a kayak to themselves. The guide also kayaked in his own kayak so that he could help us explore the natural beauty and explain more.
- We saw beautiful Glacier views and sea life while Kayaking, which was in itself an awesome activity. We kayaked through an amazing elephant shaped rock too. Was fun. Again, we carried some lunch picked from the bakery.
- After the tiring, tanning and fun kayak and boat ride adventure, we then drove to the beach. We hung around there for a while and drove back to Anchorage ( 4 hours approximately). On the way, the best experience happened. A black bear crossed the road right in front. It was so close that there was fear and excitement. Lovely creature it was.
- We reached Anchorage and ate dinner again at "Bombay Deluxe" to say goodbye to lovely, unforgettable and cherished memories. We then caught on some 4th July fireworks and drove happily to the ANC airport.
- We flew overnight and reached Seattle in the morning, drove to Portland and got back to work after a great trip to Alaska.
One thing that I would like to mention is that it was definitely a tiring trip as we covered so much in just 5 days and did overnight flying, but we managed to see almost everything in the places that we visited. the only rest that we had was a good 7-9 hours night sleep. I would like to conclude that Alaska is the most beautiful state that I have visited in the US in terms of natural beauty. Its truly a dream destination. The best time to visit is between June to mid August. I hope you find my review useful. Thanks