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For purity, tranquility and sheer beauty, nothing can surpass Alaska. While summer is peak season, especially for wildlife based tours and activities, spring and early fall can also be exceptional times to visit the last frontier state and many tour companies offer significant discounts on travel in May and September to mark the beginning and end of the main tourist seasons. Whereas many people choose to uncover the mysteries of Alaska while cruising, here are a few land-based options (although there will almost always be a water component) to consider.
Alaska Tour and Travel (tel. 800/208-022; www.alaskatravel.com) features an "Alaska Highlights Trip" (tour number 6400). This nine-day Alaska vacation package features travel by train and motorcoach to the Talkeetna area (South Denali), Fairbanks, Denali Park and Seward. The journey starts in Anchorage where travelers spend one night at the Aspen Hotel, then board the Alaska Railroad for a trip to Talkeetna and take in an awesome Mt. McKinley scenic flight. Stay overnight at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge then head north via the Alaska Railroad late morning to Fairbanks and spend two nights at the River's Edge Resort Cottages. Cruise the Chena and Tanana Rivers on a half-day trip, and pan for gold on the El Dorado Gold Mine tour. Take the train to Denali Park, go whitewater rafting, take a deluxe wildlife bus tour and spend two-nights at the Denali Bluffs Hotel. Travel to Seward by Park Connection motorcoach, cruise from Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park, visit the Alaska SeaLife Center with two nights at the Windsong Lodge before returning to Anchorage by train and another night at the Aspen Hotel. Peak season rate is $1,866 per person, based on double occupancy.
Their "Best of Alaska Trip" (tour number 6460) is an eight-day self-drive package from Anchorage to Denali Park, Fairbanks, the Talkeetna area (South Denali), Girdwood and Seward. Included in the package price is seven nights' accommodations (two at Denali Cedars Lodge, one at the Sophie Station Hotel in Fairbanks, one at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge in South Denali, one at Alyeska Prince Hotel in Girdwood and two at the Windsong Lodge in Seward), rental of a late model mid-size car with unlimited miles, a whitewater rafting trip, a deluxe wildlife bus tour, an El Dorado Gold Mine tour, a cruise on the Chena and Tanana Rivers, a scenic two hour horse drawn wagon ride, a tram ride to the top of Mount Alyeska, a cruise from Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park and a self guided tour of the Alaska SeaLife Center. The peak season rate for this package is $1,416 per person, based on double occupancy.
For those with only a short period of time in Alaska, the "Kenai Fjords Experience" (tour number 6201) is a three day mini Alaska vacation package featuring travel by train and motorcoach to Seward. The journey starts in Anchorage, and then proceeds by bus along the Turnagain Arm to Seward. Stay at the Windsong Lodge in Seward for two nights and enjoy a cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park and a self guided tour of the Alaska SeaLife Center. Return to Anchorage by scenic train. The peak season rate for this package is $469 per person, based on double occupancy. All of these tour packages operate from mid-May to mid-September with significant discounts available for travel in May and September. Taxes are additional.
Alaska Tours (tel. 866/317-3325; www.alaskatours.com) offers a number of different tours including the "Grand Alaska Tour", a ten day/nine night tour starting in Anchorage that includes Valdez and Prince William Sound, Fairbanks, and Denali National Park from $1,566 per person, double occupancy. The "Alaska Highlights" trip from Anchorage is an eight day/seven night escorted tour that includes Denali and Kenai Fjords National Parks, plus transportation by coach and domed rail from $1,788 per person, based on double occupancy. The "Alaska Explorer" is a one-way journey from Fairbanks to Anchorage, for seven days/six nights beginning in Fairbanks and traveling the rail belt through Denali to Anchorage.Â¿This tour is priced from $1,115 per person, double occupancy and the "Discover Denali" trip from Anchorage, is a five day/four night vacation package featuring Denali National Park and a glimpse of Alaska's great interior.Â¿Prices start from $792 per person, double occupancy.
Alaskan native owned and managed Alaska Heritage Tours (tel. 877/777-2805; www.alaskaheritagetours.com) has a six-day "Glaciers and Peaks" tour that starts from Whittier with a cruise to see tidewater glaciers on Prince William Sound, followed by a rafting trip past the icebergs in Spencer Lake before floating the Placer river. Journey north to the historic town of Talkeetna and visit Denali National Park. The tour includes five nights' accommodations (one at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, one at Anchorage Hotel, one at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and two nights near the entrance of Denali National park) and transportation by rail, bus and boat. This tour is priced at $1,365 for double occupancy and $1,195 for triple share. A reverse itinerary is available upon request. Significant discounts are possible in May or September based on availability of accommodations and activities. Prices are stated per person. Taxes and fees are not included.
The eight day "National Park Rail Tour" provides the perfect combination for Railroad enthusiasts and National Park Lovers. Explore the wildlife and glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park, ride the Alaska Railroad through narrow valleys past massive glaciers and jagged mountain peaks. Access Alaska's backcountry by rail and float past icebergs near Spencer Glacier towards the Placer River with a scenic trip through spectacular wilderness. Board the Train in Anchorage and continue north to view the spectacular beauty of Mt. McKinley from the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and escape deep into the heart of Denali National Park where the unspoiled beauty of six million acres surrounds your cabin at the remote Kantishna Roadhouse. Complete the adventure on the Alaska Railroad from Denali to Anchorage. The tour starts in Seward and ends in Anchorage and includes seven nights' accommodations (one at Seward Windsong Lodge, one at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, one at Anchorage Hotel, one at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, two at the entrance to Denali National Park and one at the Kantishna Roadhouse), bus and jetboat tours, bus and train transportation. It is priced from $2,050 double occupancy or $1,825 triple share.
Prices vary greatly for getting to Anchorage, depending on the season. Sample fares for midweek departures during the month of May include:
- From Seattle: $268 on US Airways
- From Los Angeles/San Francisco: $278 on Frontier Airlines
- From Chicago: $308 on Frontier Airlines
- From Boston: $326 on Northwest Airlines
- From New York: $351 on America Airlines