Wild, exotic, breathtaking, and expansive are just a few of the words used to describe Alaska, which is, by far, one of the most exciting vacation destinations in the United States.
Home to a variety of wildlife on land and sea, rich in culture, a diverse eco-system, and a year-round list of activities make this a must see destination for travelers of all ages and there is no easier way to explore many different spots than on a Holland America Line Alaskan Cruise.
One great port stop is Sitka, the city is one of Alaska’s oldest dating back an estimated 10,000 years. It was settled in 1799 by Russia and remained a Russian port for 63 years until purchased in 1867 by the United States. It remains in the top 10 as one of the largest cities in population according to the last U.S. Census taken in 2010.
When arriving at the Port of Sitka, be prepared to be mesmerized by the beauty of the state from the snow-covered mountains to the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska.
While sunning on a pristine beach sipping a cool beverage is definitely a nice scene, if adventure, exploration, historical landmarks, and diverse cultures to discover is more in line with vacation plans, Sitka has plenty to offer. Whether it’s hiking, touring, visiting attractions, skiing, sledding, fishing, whale watching, wildlife observation, shopping, or dining, the menu of things to do will satisfy the most ardent and adventurous traveler of any age.
The port area is abuzz with many activities including shops and restaurants all within a short walking distance. Around the harbor districts of Ann Harbor and Crescent Harbor are many of Sitka’s attractions. While sightseeing, enjoy the Russian influence still visible in the architecture of many of the structures.
One of the first stops for nature lovers is the Alaska Raptor Center. A trail from downtown leads the way to the center or take a scenic hike through Sitka National Historical Park where the trail is lined with intricately carved Haida and Tlingit totem poles.
The center is home to falcons, golden eagles, hawks, bald eagles, owls, and more, that have been rehabilitated and make the center their home. Guided tours are available to see the magnificent birds from May through September. From October through April, call ahead for the center’s hours of operation.
Historical landmarks abound in Alaska and Sitka has its fair share. Explore and discover Russia’s historical influence with a visit to the stunningly beautiful St. Michael’s Cathedral built in the late 1800s, and the Russian Bishop’s House built in 1841. Both are on the list of National List of Historic Places. Not far from downtown is the peaceful 200-year-old Russian Cemetery nestled along quiet forested paths amid ferns and moss.
Baranof Castle State Historic Site, also on the National List of Historic Places, is set atop what is known as Castle Hill. Paths lead to the top for panoramic views of the waterfront and downtown. The site is the official location where Alaska was transferred to the Unites States from Russia in 1867.
Additional points of interest and National Register sites include the Cable House and Station, Emmons House, Sitka Pioneers’ Home, Sheldon Jackson School, St. Peter’s Church, and the American Flag Raising site.
Experience Alaska from above with an exhilarating flight seeing tour. Fly high in the sky with an experienced guide who’ll describe the area below from the spectacular alpine glacier ice fields to the Tongass National Forest. See wildlife running free, visit remote backcountry areas, then land in a pristine mountain lake aboard a float plane.
Take to the snow on a sled and glide across the snowy expanse as Alaskan Huskies lead the way, or skiers and snowboarders can take the challenge of Mount Verstovia to test skills and techniques.
Hikers can traverse for miles along forest trails such as Indian River, Mount Verstovia, Mount Edgecumbe and Harbor Mountain. Each trail has its own visual wonders that include scenic mountain ranges, lush forest landscaping, resident wildlife, bird watching, and relaxing waterfalls.
Whatever the reason for selecting Alaska as a vacation destination, the Land of the Midnight Sun and the spectacular light show of the aurora borealis, promises an adventure of a lifetime.