“Hmm, I could totally go for a few months in one of the coldest inhabited corners of the globe to do some work online” – said no one ever, and I wouldn’t expect it from myself after spending six months in pure sunshine of New Caledonia. And yet, there I was, googling away for the best accommodation options in Anchorage, because the alternative would be to move in with the wolves and bears and give up my career altogether.
To be honest, even after I’ve spent several months in this enchanting part of the planet, I still claim that not too many sane individuals would forgo the comforts of civilization, such as warmth. And yet, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Maybe that says more about me than the place itself, but in a slew of over-advertised places that are already brimming with nomads, few offer the serenity and untamed beauty of Alaska. So, if you are up for an adventure and you’re fine with letting go of a few commodities, then by all means, this is a journey of a lifetime you will definitely never forget.
Bewildering Anchorage, home sweet home
Although your search engine will flood you with images of mountains, snow, and wildlife as soon as you start doing your homework on Alaska, Anchorage represents one of the most urban spots the country has to offer. Compared to the capital of Juneau, which is only accessible by sea or air, Anchorage really is the Las Vegas of Alaska, but without the desert climate. And the nightlife. However, it’s a dream-come-true for those who are in love with Mother Nature in all its glory, like myself.
Free Wi-Fi in the city is available pretty much everywhere, so you can work in coffee shops and enjoy the view. My personal favorite – Dark Horse, especially with their delicious breakfast pastry. They’ve made my stay all the warmer every time I went over there. Even though it’s a hub of tourists and adventurists who like to venture into the wild, it’s still a quiet little place with laid-back folks.
Don’t miss out on:
- The coastal trail is literally a sight for sore eyes, and a perfect way to add a brisk walk into your schedule as a form of a light outdoor workout – if you’re into that stuff, which you most probably will be after visiting the trail for the first time.
- The Botanical Garden, to get to know the local flora and the unexpected beauty of their natural wealth.
- The Sweet Chalet if you have a sweet tooth like I do. I’d live on those chocolate and candy bites if it were up to me. But it’s not, it’s also up to my liver and immune system, and they are rebels when it comes to sweets. While we’re at it, there’s a massive chocolate waterfall in the Alaska Wild Berry Product Store no one ever tells you about, so, please do feast your eyes.
Meet the enchanting Aurora
When I wasn’t busy blogging and indulging in bagels, I used every free moment to discover the true beauty of Alaska, hidden in some of its most untamed areas. It has been my bucket-list wish to see the northern lights ever since I was a little girl, convinced that it was a magic portal to a parallel universe, preferably one made of chocolate. See, it all goes back to candy.
However, in addition to the many perks of staying in Anchorage, the one flaw is that you need to fly to Yellowknife or other remote spots to see aurora borealis. You can choose among various northern lights packages that will take you into the rugged wilderness of Alaska and Canada, far away from anything resembling your comfort zone, where you can truly unplug for a few days. My own trip to the Blachford Lake was so surreal, I’m still at a loss for words to describe the experience completely – you really have to be there.
A different kind of a hike
You haven’t visited Alaska if you haven’t taken one of their scenic trails into the wild. Consider them a rite of passage of sorts (see what I did there?), one that would make you so much more resilient for any and all upcoming adventures wherever you go. The country is literally a roadmap of hiking trails, kayaking and rafting spots, and cycling areas for all nature enthusiasts. If anything, you’ll burn all those calories from pastry and candy, at least I know I did.
It does mean getting a little out of your way, but you will see some of the most breathtaking scenery that our planet hides. For instance, the Spencer Glacier hike is a full-day tour that includes both trekking on land and kayaking through the glaciers, although it is tricky to get to, since you’ll either drive yourself from Anchorage, or get there with the Glacier Discovery train. Once you do get there, you’ll realize it’s all worth your while.
Get to know the native culture
I love traveling to new places, not just to be pampered with culinary wonders or enjoy the scenery, but also to learn more about the people who live there and who have shaped it into the destination it has become. Unless you’re a huge fan of the Discovery Channel or the National Geographic, you probably haven’t heard much about the indigenous people of Alaska.
Anchorage is an ideal starting place for your curiosity, and I’d recommend going to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where you’re not just a passive observer, but you can take part in some of their incredible workshops. Dena’ina Athabascans are the native people who were once scattered in the territory of Anchorage, so you’ll learn so much about their way of life, including hunting, fishing, and all-natural remedies.
It’s a rather small, close-knit community, and a very welcoming one at that, so in addition to learning, you will feel welcome. You’ll come across so many stunning art pieces inspired by their local culture made by local artisans, such as wooden masks and bone carvings, all of which have a special place in their heritage.
Prep your taste-buds
No, it’s not just fish. It was my biggest fear, too, that I’d be living on seafood for months on end, but learning about their versatile menu has made my stay all the more delicious. However, they do serve some very odd dishes which you won’t find in your regular restaurant’s menu. Try some of the following, and you’ll be even more tempted to come back to Anchorage:
- Reindeer hot dogs – not nearly as gross as it sounds, even though I still haven’t gotten over the fact that I ate Rudolph. It’s damn delicious. Your next stop: the International House of Hotdogs.
- Akutaq – the treat that pretends to be ice-cream. Please make a solemn promise to yourself that you’ll try it even after you learn what it contains. Spoiler alert: it has fish in it, and reindeer grease, mixed with wild berries and snow.
- Salmon in every possible shape and form, and your body will thank you for the reserves of omega-3s.
- Meaty protein – Alaskan people are very big on hunting, so you can expect an unusual level of diversity in your source of protein, ranging from elk, moose, reindeer, all the way to bears. Yes, they are worth trying, since they are truly local specialties.
On a final note
No matter where you come from, Alaska is damn cold, and there is no excuse for not bringing layers to your trip. Even a summer visit means that you’ll often deal with very low temperatures in the evening, and any trip into the glorious outdoors requires plenty of water-proof and wind-proof wearables. All that’s left to pack is your curiosity and a dash of willpower to muscle through some of the gray days if you go in winter.
With a wardrobe that will protect you from the elements and a love for nature, there is nothing that will prevent you from enjoying your trip to Alaska to the fullest.