No, You Really Won't See the Whales and Aurora Borealis

On the difficulties of seeing more challening sites here in Alaska.

Author: Christopher Matthew Cavanaugh

If you could travel to Alaska, what would you want to see? Suppose you had a week to visit.

I know what I would want to see. Whales. Lots of them. Humpbacks, Orcas, Belugas and Blue Whales. I would also want to see starving grizzly bears chomping on massive, flying, sockeyed salmon. I would tell my trip planner—"Throw in a few polar bears, moose, the Northern lights, musk oxen, glaciers, and a totem pole or two. That would be great. I also want to heli-ski, climb Denali, and see the Iditerod. If I could do all that it would be a great trip."

Here's the problem. Although I lived in Alaska for over a year, and almost continually traveled, I still have not seen many of these things, and I tried. I realized that you can't see half of these things without committing a week or more to each individually. Alaska is the size of a large country, and unless you are willing to spend time and money traversing thousands of miles by car, tiny aircraft, or slow boat, you will need to focus on one or two destinations.

Consider that many Alaskans haven't seen the things you would be arriving for. Some experiences are ones you can plan for, but others require luck or extra time.

My experiences below might help you plan a week long trip:

Alaska can provide a mind blowing experience regardless of conditions, as long as your expectations aren't too specific. As long as you are open to all that Alaska has to offer, you will not be disappointed. Choosing a destination with plenty of alternatives is best. Anchorage provides a reliable source of amazing things to do in any conditions. You don't need to go far for adventure. Alaska as a whole is like a pristine national park. Anchorage, my preferred base, provides easy access to state parks that are incredible. Whatever you choose, I would not plan the trip around seeing the whales or the Aurora Borealis. Instead select a solid hub as you destination, and prepare to experience more than you hoped for.