Wide tundra, seemingly endless valleys and wild river courses alternate with gigantic mountain ranges, narrow canyons, deep fjords and Nordic rainforest. Alaska is home to more than 3,000 rivers, three million lakes and 17 of the tallest mountains in the United States. Among them is Denali (Mount McKinley), which at 6,194 meters is also the highest mountain in North America. Although there are more than 100,000 glaciers, including many impressive tidewater glaciers that reach the sea, only three percent of the land area is covered with glaciers or ice fields. Two thirds of Alaska are under nature protection, there are 17 National Parklands, more than in any other US state. All this makes Alaska a country of superlatives. Alaska is also the largest US state – twenty times larger than Austria, five times larger than Germany and 35 times larger than Switzerland. Despite its enormous size, only around 740,000 people live here, almost half of them live in Anchorage.
Alaska, this last great wilderness with a unique animal world, which often only exists here in the wild, fascinates with deserted landscapes of enormous dimensions and contrasts.
According to travelationary, Alaska is divided into five regions with very different landscapes and climates: Inside Passage, Southcentral, Southwest, Interior and Far North. In all regions there are national parks and other nature reserves with very different infrastructure. Descendants of the natives, who still maintain traditional ways of life away from the cities and open their settlements to visitors, can also be found everywhere. Fishing is excellent in Alaska, with many varieties of halibut, salmon, trout and other fish species depending on the region.
Location and size
With 1,717,854 km² (of which 1,481,346 km² land mass), Alaska is the largest US state in terms of area and is separated from the rest of the US mainland by Canada.
Mountains: Of the 20 tallest mountains in the United States, 17 are in Alaska. Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) is the highest mountain in North America at 6,194 meters.
Glaciers: Alaska holds the world record for glaciers and ice fields. The largest glacier is the Malaspina Glacier with an area of about 2,200 km².
Water: At over 2000 miles long, the Yukon River is the longest river in the United States. Altogether there are more than 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes in Alaska.
Volcanoes: Over 70 volcanoes are potentially active. The last strong eruption was that of Novarupta in 1912.
Around 40% of Alaska’s 710,000 residents live alone in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. About 30,000 people live in the capital, Juneau.
Anchorage International Airport (ANC) is 4 miles southwest of Anchorage and Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) is 5 miles northwest of Fairbanks.
Alaskan summer temperatures range from 16°C to 27°C. Nights and early mornings are cooler, between 4°C to 10°C. Late August and September temperatures are cooler with fewer hours of sunshine, as autumn begins very early in these latitudes. Alaska’s central region can get very hot in the summer. In Fairbanks, temperatures can reach between 27°C and 32°C.
|Average temperatures in Anchorage in °C|
The general rule for optimal clothing in Alaska is “onion principle”. That means you wear a first layer directly on your body (avoid cotton if possible), a second warming layer (e.g. a fleece jacket or similar) and a jacket as a third layer that protects against wind and rain. When the temperature changes, you can easily put on or take off a layer. For day cruises, such as to Prince William Sound or Kenai Fjords National Park, a scarf, hat and gloves are also recommended, as it can be quite chilly on the boats. For trips to the Arctic (e.g. to Barrow), warm clothing is recommended all year round. For shoes, comfortable (hiking) shoes are recommended.
VUSA tips for your Alaskan trip
On the road by car
Petrol for rental
cars Please fill up your rental car with unleaded petrol (regular unleaded). In addition, you will spend hours driving through the wilderness on some parts of your journey. So don’t forget to fill up with gas before you set off or when you pass a petrol station on the way.
A small specialty are crossings with 4-stop signs in all directions. The following applies here: whoever arrives first may also be the first to drive again after stopping. Watch out for other road users. You should always drive carefully into the intersection. Speed Limit: Look out for speed limit signs. Typically, the speed limit on Alaskan highways is 55 miles per hour. and in Canada 80 km/h.
Note that in Alaska (and the Yukon), road construction work occurs mainly in the summer due to the frost. Road works can delay progress. Road works and/or possible road closures will be announced. Pay attention to all traffic signs and information signs as well as any detours.
Crossing the border into Canada – if you receive a green I-94W form from the US Immigration Officer upon entering the US:
If you are driving from the US to Canada and then later returning to the US, please make sure at the border that the Canadian border officer leaves the green I-94W form in your passport. Make sure the form is taken out at the end of your trip when you leave the US and travel back home. If there is no immigration officer present at departure, you can also give the form to the flight crew of the airline you are leaving the USA with (not for flights within the USA).
Please do not be surprised if your mobile phone does not work, even if you have asked about roaming at home. Although Alaska is part of the USA, there is a special cell phone network in which foreign cell phones (usually) do not work.
Most hotels (lobbies) and airports in Alaska offer free WLAN.
If you wish to make calls from the hotel, local calls in the US/Alaska and Canada are usually free (exceptions apply, please inquire at the front desk). We recommend a phone card for international calls, as otherwise it can be very expensive. These are available, for example, at kiosks, in supermarkets, etc. and work via a toll-free hotline that you dial and enter a pin number.
Alcohol / ID
In Alaska, drinking alcoholic beverages is legal only for those over the age of 21. In bars, when ordering, you may be asked to show ID stating your age.
Alaska Southwest Alaska is the land of bears and salmon between the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Feel the untouched nature, whether on the volcanic islands of the Aleutians stretching far into the Pacific, in the fabulous, moon-like “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes” or on kayak excursions along the coast of the animal paradise Kodiak Island.
Be captivated by a thrilling contrast between civilization and wilderness in South Alaska. Here, the modern metropolis of Anchorage is only a short distance away from picturesque landscapes. The Kenai Fjords National Park is rich in flora and fauna and is home to numerous seabirds, whales, seals and otters.
Alaska Central Alaska captivates with its natural wonders. Here, Denali (Mount McKinley) juts out of the wilderness of Denali National Park. Marvel at the natural spectacle of the hours-long play of colors of the Northern Lights in the night sky. The traces of the Athabasque Indians and the gold diggers point back into history.
North Alaska North
Alaska, home of the Inuit, stretches between the Arctic Circle and the Arctic. Experience pure wilderness full of coniferous forests, wide tundra and ice landscapes with polar bears. In summer, the midnight sun, which never sets, bathes the magnificent flowers in a radiant sea of colour.
The climate in Southeast Alaska is mild, where you can soak up the lush green of the Pacific rainforest. The numerous islands with their crystal-clear fjords surrounded by ice-blue glaciers are lush and home to whales, sea lions and bald eagles. The works of art of the Indian totem poles point the way back into history.