Top of aerial tram in Girdwood

One Week Itineraries in Alaska’s Five Regions

One Week Itineraries in Alaska’s Five Regions

Take a walk on the wild side with these regional Alaska itineraries, which promise an immersive journey through the state's captivating landscapes. From the rugged peaks of the Alaska Range to the coastal wonders of the Inside Passage, the following journeys offer glimpses into the diverse ecosystems and cultural richness of the 49th State. 

Unless otherwise noted, all starting and ending locations are serviced by commercial flights. Fairbanks, Juneau, and Anchorage are all connected by air to the Lower 48. 

Southcentral Alaska Itinerary

Well-connected by scenic highways, Southcentral Alaska is a great region for renting a car. You’ll begin your adventure in Anchorage, the state's largest city, where you can wander the Alaska Native Heritage Center to gain insights into Alaska’s many Indigenous cultures. The world-class Anchorage Museum, with its Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, is also an important stop. Choose from a myriad of restaurants offering locally grown - and caught - cuisine. 

On day two, drive south to the enchanting Kenai Peninsula, which in true Alaska sizing standards has the same area as Belgium. Stay in picturesque Seward, which sits at the tip of Kenai Fjords National Park where icy blue glaciers meet lush coastal forests. Spend a day hiking around the renowned Exit Glacier or take a wildlife cruise to witness the majesty of orcas, humpback whales, and towering seabird colonies in Resurrection Bay. 

Seward small boat harbor
Seward small boat harbor on the shores of Resurrrection Bay

The next day you’ll traverse the Kenai Peninsula to the historic hamlet of Homer, perched on the shores of Kachemak Bay. Here you’ll find panoramic views of the Kenai Mountains and the glaciers that adorn the bay, and an artsy community known for its vibrant galleries and unique boutiques. Be sure to wander the Homer Spit, stopping for freshly caught seafood. 

Head back north on day four and turn east towards Whittier. You’ll drive through the nation’s longest dual-use tunnel (2.6 miles), and emerge into tiny Whitter, where most of the residents live in one building. Hike across a verdant saddle to view Portage Glacier kissing the lake below it.

Have extra time? Consider driving onto the Alaska Ferry to spend time in Cordova at the head of the Copper River Valley. Otherwise, trace your steps back to the Seward Highway and spend an afternoon in Girdwood. This cozy ski town is nestled in a rainforest and ringed by more than half a dozen glaciers. Take the tram up to the Bore Tide Deli or Seven Glaciers restaurant for a meal paired with stunning views of Turnagain Arm. From here it’s a 45-minute drive back to Anchorage. 

Top of Alyeska Tram in Girdwood
Top of Alyeska Tram in Girdwood


Inside Passage Alaska Itinerary

Alaska’s panhandle (also known as the Inside Passage) harbors a series of lush, forested towns interconnected by the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry system. No roads link this long labyrinth of islands and bays. This itinerary has you taking flights between the towns serviced by jets, but if you have more time we recommend traveling by ferry for a leg or two. 

Begin in the southernmost town, Ketchikan, where you can relive the Prohibition Era on a walking tour of Creek Street. You’ll see where rumrunners delivered bootleg booze under the town’s boardwalk via the tidal creek, as well as visit an old brothel turned museum, Dolly’s House.

On your second day fly to Sitka and base yourself for two nights. This town is perched on the western edge of Baranof Island and has a vibrant Tlingit history. It was also a part of Russia until 1867 when the US purchased it and made it Alaska’s first capital city. There’s a vibrant art scene and plenty of outdoor activities to keep you occupied for a week: fishing, kayaking, and hiking are just a few. Be sure to visit the Sitka National Historical Park, where you can view original Tlingit totem poles. The Sheldon Jackson Museum also has an extensive collection of Alaska Native artifacts. 

Sitka National Historical Park
Sitka National Historical Park

On day four, catch a flight to Juneau, Alaska’s capital (and the only US capital inaccessible by road), where you’ll base yourself for two nights. The city’s steep streets and verdant backdrop make for a gorgeous in-town wander. Farther afield is Mendenhall Glacier, where you can see glowing icebergs bobbing in the lake in front of it. Numerous buses and tours will take you there and back.

Spend your fifth and final day appreciating the sea-based culture of the Inside Passage. Take a fishing charter or join a whale watching cruise to experience the beauty of these island waterways and creatures that inhabit them. If you have more time, consider a day tour to Glacier Bay National Park, or a visit to Skagway or Haines

Woman on a boat tour from Juneau
Boat tour from Juneau


Interior Alaska Itinerary

While much of Interior Alaska is remote wilderness, this itinerary allows you to travel by road. On your first day, explore Fairbanks, the largest city in the region. Sitting on the banks of the Chena River and surrounded by the soft rolling White Mountains, the city and surrounds have been home to the Athabascan people for thousands of years. More recently, it was a trading post, then a hub for gold prospectors, and finally a military post before settling into the regional capital it is today. 

Visit the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center for public lands information and park ranger presentations. You can also take a tour across the Arctic Circle to witness a sun that never sets. On day two, take a rental car out to Chena River State Recreation Area for a hike, followed by a soak in Chena Hot Springs. This resort is geothermally powered and is a favorite aurora borealis watching spot in the dark winter months. Sleep in one of the resort’s cabins or yurts. 

A couple at Chena Hot Springs
Chena Hot Springs can be enjoyed year-round

On day three, you’ll trace your steps back through Fairbanks and head south to Denali National Park for two nights. The area known as Denali Park, located near the park’s entrance, has many hotels and shops, making it an excellent basecamp from which to explore the park. After a scenic three- to four-hour drive, consider a half-day rafting excursion on the Nenana River, where swirling chocolate milk water rushes through a canyon. The next day, join a natural history or wildlife tour run by the National Park Service. Repurposed school buses take you along the Park Road, an unpaved route that is only open to bus tours. This is your opportunity to spot brown bears, caribou, and more from your bus window. 

From Denali, on your last day, enjoy an extremely scenic and rural drive back north to Fairbanks via the unpaved Denali Highway (make sure your rental car is permitted to drive this road). You’ll turn east at Cantwell, and pass through wild and rugged territory populated by caribou. Turn north at Paxson onto the paved but equally scenic Richardson Highway. Note it will be a long day (around 8 hours of driving time), but the region’s extremely long summer days mean you’ll always have an awe-inspiring view. 

Dall sheep in Denali National Park
Denali National Park. Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung


Southwest Alaska Itinerary

Southwest Alaska is deeply remote and wild, and is best explored on a several-day ferry ride from Kodiak Island to Unalaska. Alternatives for day trips include private flights to Katmai or Lake Clark National Park. You can start and end with flights to/from Anchorage

On day one on Kodiak Island, the nation’s second largest behind Hawaii’s Big Island, spot its namesake Kodiak brown bear on a road or flight tour. This subspecies of grizzly bear is the largest in the world, with males standing up to 10’ tall! The island also has rich Russian and Alaska Native heritage, with the Sugpiaq peoples populating the region for millennia and the island being the first capital of Russian America. Stop at the Kodiak History Museum and the Alutiiq Museum for to learn more. 

Three people bear viewing on Kodiak Island
Bear viewing on Kodiak Island

Next, embark on the three-day ferry ride to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. This journey lets you see how many locals live and travel. You can rent a private berth, dine on board, and even enjoy some Alaska nightlife in the ferry’s bar. The route stops in several small towns where you can hop off for some quick sights. 

Once in verdant, tree-less Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, spend your final day at the Museum of the Aleutians to learn about the long history of the Unangan people who’ve lived here for thousands of years, the region’s strong Russian influence, and the important role the area played in WWII.



Arctic Alaska Itinerary

Remote and vast, the Arctic region is the least connected of all five. As such, we’ve created an itinerary that has a couple of nights in a few places and requires flights to and from Fairbanks and Anchorage.

Start in Nome, home of the Iditarod finish. Spend your first day exploring the town's gold rush history at the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum and the Nome Nugget Museum. Stroll along the scenic Nome Beach and watch for migratory birds. On day two, embark on a guided tour to the surrounding wilderness, with options for birdwatching, wildlife viewing, or a trip to the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

Reindeer herd outside of Nome
Reindeer herd outside of Nome. Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung

On day three, fly to Fairbanks (you’ll have to connect through Anchorage) and base yourself there for excursions to the north on your remaining days. Cross the Arctic Circle by road on a day tour on the Dalton Highway, and, if you’re there in May, June, or July, witness a sun that never sets. Or consider an overnight tour to Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow) to witness living Iñupiat culture, touch the Arctic Ocean, and spot unique wildlife. 

Dalton Highway
Dalton Highway



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