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Woman and lighthouse in Juneau

Best of Alaska: Two Week Itinerary from the Inside Passage to the Arctic by Plane

Best of Alaska: Two Week Itinerary from the Inside Passage to the Arctic by Plane

Alaska is worth the time for a longer visit, and we recommend ten days to two weeks as a good length of stay. With an area more than double the size of Texas, fewer than a million residents, eight national parks, and rich and varied Indigenous cultures, you could spend months exploring its peaks, valleys, towns, and cities. We’ve compiled some “Best of Alaska” itineraries, each taking about two weeks and covering a couple of regions. You can add on or mix and match to your delight; they’re meant to be flexible.

This itinerary combines two very different regions: the deep, misty, rainforested islands and fjords of the Southeast’s Inside Passage and the wide-open tundra of the Arctic. Traveling by commercial flights from south to north, this ambitious itinerary covers some of the most beautiful and culturally significant areas of the state. The most popular way to travel through the Inside Passage is by cruise ship, allowing you to stop at more ports of call along the way. This itinerary caters to those who prefer independent travel and want more time to spend in each destination.

Days 1 & 2: Ketchikan
Start your trip in Ketchikan, also known as “Alaska’s First City” due to its location on the southern tip of the Inside Passage. An important salmon fishing port with a Gold Rush and Prohibition history, the town is also an important stop for cruise ships. Consider a flightseeing trip, kayaking tour, or day cruise of Misty Fjords National Monument - which is as beautiful as its name indicates. In town, learn about local Tlingit and Haida culture, enjoy freshly-caught seafood, and walk along colorful Creek Street. Spend two nights in Ketchikan.

Creek Street in Ketchikan
Colorful Creek Street in Ketchikan

Days 3 & 4: Sitka
Hop on a one-hour direct flight from Ketchikan to Sitka, a lovely town situated between mountains and sea with a strong Tlingit culture. It was also once a part of Russia, and the centrally located St. Michael’s Cathedral is a striking remnant of that time. Learn about the battle between the two cultures at Sitka National Historical Park and see many cultural artifacts at the Sheldon Jackson Museum. Hike one of the many trails that are easily-accessible from town, go on a fishing trip, visit the Raptor Center and Fortress of the Bear, or peruse the local artist galleries downtown – you’ll find plenty to do here. Spend two nights in Sitka.

Sitka National Historic Park Totem Trail
Totem Trail in Sitka National Historical Park

Days 6 & 7: Juneau
A 45-minute direct flight from Sitka takes you to Juneau, the only US capital inaccessible by road. A blend of government buildings, houses, hotels, restaurants, and shops nestled against verdant mountains, Juneau is a good place to base yourself for a couple of nights. For some culture, visit the city’s excellent museums and cultural centers, including the Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Alaska State Museum. Explore Juneau’s culinary scene on a culinary tour, or check out the excellent restaurants, food trucks, breweries, and distilleries on your own. For outdoor adventure, take a tour to the Mendenhall Glacier, go hiking, ride the Goldbelt Tram, or go on a whale watching cruise. Overnight in Juneau for two nights.

Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau
Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau

Days 7 & 8: Gustavus & Glacier Bay National Park
You’ll now head to the town of Gustavus, gateway to beautiful Glacier Bay National Park. Hop on a 40-minute direct flight, or if you’d like to travel by water, the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry has scheduled sailings from Juneau to Gustavus that take about a half a day. Even though Glacier Bay National Park is the most visited national park in Alaska, most visitors arrive on cruise ship and don’t disembark in the park. Therefore, the quaint village of Gustavus will feel more off-the-beaten-track and less busy than your destinations so far. Plan for two nights at a cozy lodge or B&B in town, or settle in at the Glacier Bay Lodge, the only lodging within Glacier Bay National Park. On your full day in Gustavus, board a day cruise that will take you deep into Glacier Bay National Park to view wondrous calving glaciers and spectacular wildlife. Make sure to visit the Xunaa Shuká Hít -  the Huna Tribal House to learn about Tlingit culture, art, and traditions.

Day Cruise in Glacier Bay National Park from Gustavus
Day Cruise in Glacier Bay National Park

Days 9 & 10: Anchorage
You’ll now start making your way north towards the next leg of your journey: the Arctic. Alaska is a big state and traveling between these two regions takes time, so we suggest breaking it up with some time in Anchorage, Alaska's biggest city. Fly from Gustavus to Anchorage through Juneau and spend two nights here. On your full day in Anchorage, explore the city’s extensive trail system on foot or bike, go on a flightseeing tour, take a hike in Chugach State Park, visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center or the Anchorage Museum, and make sure to enjoy some fresh Alaska seafood at one of the city’s excellent restaurants.

Flightseeing trip from Anchorage
Flightseeing trip departing from Lake Hook in Anchorage

Days 11 & 12: Utqiaġvik or Nome
Now is your chance to explore the culture and history of one of Alaska’s most unique regions: the Arctic. From Anchorage, you can catch a direct flight to either Nome or Utqiaġvik. Both communities are located in the far north and offer opportunities to learn about Iñupiaq culture, Alaska history, and view Arctic landscapes and wildlife. Choose your adventure from one of these two destinations and stay for two nights:

Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), is the US’s most northern city. In this Iñupiat town you can learn about local culture at the Iñupiat Heritage Center. Visit the famous Whale Bone Arch and gaze out at the Arctic Ocean. Take a guided tour to view unique wildlife and visit historical sites in town. Soak up the midnight sun from May 10 to August 2 – a period of almost three months where the sun doesn’t set.  

Whale Bone Arch in Utqiagvik
Whale Bone Arch in Utqiaġvik. Photo Credit: istockphoto, mtnmichelle

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Nome is the end of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in March, as well as a former Gold Rush town. It’s also a great Arctic community to visit in summer thanks to its historical sights and summer tours and activities like hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, photography, ATV tours, birding, horse back riding, gold panning, and flightseeing. Visit the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum and attached Katirvik Cultural Center to learn about Nome’s history and the local Iñupiaq culture.

Musk oxen in Nome Alaska
Musk oxen outside of Nome.

Day 13: Fly back to Anchorage to start your journey home after an amazing adventure.

Want more trip ideas? Check out our Two Week Itinerary from Anchorage to Kodiak by Road & Ferry and Two Week Southcentral & Interior Road Trip.

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