Destination: Alaska, “The Last Frontier”

In Alaska you can enjoy beautiful landscapes of blue seas and snow-capped glaciers illuminated by the midnight sun – when you can read the newspaper at 10 p.m. with natural light. [Photo: Provided by Georgina Cruz]

By: Georgina Cruz

Alaska.  “The Great Land,” as the native peoples of the region called it, is a spectacular place when it comes to dimensions and almost mythical proportions –a place, that once visited is worthy of being placed on a prominent “shelf” of our memories and imagination.

It has an ocean of superlatives. Its size is 586,000 square miles (Alaska’s area is the equivalent of a fifth of the 48 contiguous states of the U.S.). Alaska boasts more than 3,000,000 lakes bigger than 20 acres, 39 mountain chairs with 17 of the 20 highest peaks in North America, more than 3,000 rívers, 1,800 islands, 100,000 glaciers and 33,904 miles of coastline. So everyone may enjoy its many charms, Alaska has designated eight national parks –that can be enjoyed until late in the day in the summer with its “midnight sun.” And in the autumn and Winter there are opportunities to see the Aurora Borealis with its ineffable lights.

“The light in Alaska in particular is so beautiful,” Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado once observed. “So beautiful! An incredible light.”

A good way to visit Alaska may be on a trip that combines a cruise, to enjoy the views of the coasts and its picturesque towns and cities, along with a land extension. That way travelers enjoy views of the sea and glaciers lit up by the midnight sun –when you can read the newspaper at 10 p.m. with the natural light – as well as enjoy views of forests, mountains, fauna and totem poles in quaint towns and cities in the interior.

Beautiful views on the cruise portion include the Inside Passage, a marine highway bordered by forests and more forests, mountains with snowy peaks and more mountains with snowy peaks, and glaciers and more glaciers.

The ports on the cruise may include Ketchikan, where visitors may see artisans in cultural centers working on traditional totem poles, or ride in canoes, rafts or excursion boats in places where Nature reigns in all its splendor. Other excursions available in Ketchikan include programs to go zip-lining in the forests of the region to experience them like a bird in flight.

Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is another stop on typical itineraries. Here visitors can arrange, through the cruise ship or independently, to explore via airplane, helicopter or excursión boat the Juneau Ice Field. Also, whale watching excursions and bear watching tours are available as well as the Gold Creek Salmon Bake, a feast of salmon grilled outdoors.

Another fun opportunity to explore is to take the Mt. Roberts Tramway to the top of the mountain to enjoy views of the city, a presentation about the native peoples of the area and buy souvenirs. There is a restaurant at the top that serves lunch, dinner and snacks. The tramway station is steps away from Juneau’s cruise ship pier.

Sitka and Skagway are among other stop son many itineraries. Among the attractions in Skagway is a ride on the White Pass Railway with spectacular views and visits to huskies camps for sled rides. Both in Sitka and Skagway there are opportunities to go on bear-, whale- and dolphin-watching tours.

A big highlight on some itineraries is a visit to Glacier Bay National Park. This national park, established in 1980, has 1,045 glaciers, and in addition to those beautiful panoramas offers opportunities to spot whales and other marine life as well as bears strolling along its shores.

A variety of cruise lines offer packages to continue exploring Alaska on land, using trains and tour buses. These packages can be added to their seven-day cruise itineraries to create a nine to 13-day vacation. The land programs offer a variety of stops that may include Denali National Park with its spectacular mountain, Mt. McKinley, that at 20,322 feet high is the highest mountain in North America; quaint towns like Talkeetna and Alyeska, and cities like Fairbanks and Anchorage.

Info: For more information about Alaska, visit Travel Alaska – Official State of Alaska Vacation & Travel Information. Among cruise lines that have scheduled Alaska programs this summer are Celebrity Cruises (, Holland America Line (, Norwegian Cruise Line ( and Royal Caribbean International (