10 Best Places to Visit in Alaska
Everyone wants to know the best places to visit in Alaska, but there’s no best answer. Alaska is a vast wilderness that’s steeped in history and dotted with rustic outposts. It’s an incredible place, a true bucket-list destination from the shimmering glaciers to Denali, the Great One. It all depends on what you want to see.
Here are some of our favorite Alaska cruise stops and sights, in no particular order from our nearly 75 years of experience in the Great Land. If you’re already convinced, learn more about our Alaska cruises.
Visiting Alaska’s Best Cruise Stops
1. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
Out of all the Alaska cruise stops, Glacier Bay is unbeatable. There are glaciers, fjords, streams, rivers, and animals enjoying it all. Holland America Line is an authorized concessioner of Glacier Bay and has more options for cruising Glacier Bay than any other cruise line. We have won Best in Alaska Awards from Cruise Critic, TravelAge West, AFAR Traveler's choice and many more because we know the region so well and our ships are perfectly sized for a more personal experience.
Park Rangers board the ship to give insights. John Hopkins and the lengthy Margerie Glacier name some of many sights within this natural wonderland. Find Glacier Bay cruises.
Juneau is unbelievably scenic, snuggled between pristine waters and snow-capped peaks. Home to 30,000 residents, Juneau makes the list of best places to visit in Alaska because it is quite unusual for a state capital. It’s only accessible by airplane and boats, has its very own 85-mile-long icefield, outdoor activities galore, and it’s teeming with wildlife. How many state capitals can say that? Plus, it is a fantastic base for exploring Southeast Alaska and holds a lot of history and Tlingit cultural influence. Experience Holland America’s "Best of Juneau" Shore Excursion to decide for yourself.
3. Denali National Park
No best places in Alaska list would be complete without a mention of the Great One, the shining jewel of Alaska’s interior. Haloed in clouds and covered in thick ice, Denali is the continent’s highest peak and a breathtaking sight, especially when it is pink with Alpenglow. But this sometimes-shy mountain isn’t the only reason to visit Denali National Park—there are miles of pristine rivers and tundra, plus caribou, moose, grizzlies, and wolves at its base.
Check out Alaska Land+Sea Journey cruise tours to Denali to explore this best Alaska cruise stop.
Ketchikan is stilted on the banks of the Tongass Narrows and nicknamed Alaska’s "First City" because it’s often the first cruise stop to explore before the scenic Inside Passage. A mere three miles long and only three blocks wide, a bustling waterfront, hiking trails spidering into the forest, and incredible fishing make Ketchikan one of the best Alaska cruise stops.
Onion-domed cathedrals as vestiges from Russian influence and views of Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano make Sitka one of the best places to visit in Alaska. Situated on Baranof Island, Sitka is surrounded by Alaska’s lush forests and crystal waters. But as the former capital of Russian America and home of the Tlingit people, Sitka is one of the best cruise stops in Alaska to get to know the state’s history.
Best Alaska Glaciers to Visit
Glaciers made the Alaska we know and love today. Whether they’re retreating, “galloping,” or feeding a fjord with ice floes, glaciers are a must-see on every Alaska cruise. Though it’s a hard choice, as every glacier has its merits, here are a few of the most popular:
6. Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard Glacier is massive, stunning deep blue, and the longest tidewater glacier in North America. Beauty and size alone would make it worthy of a “best places in Alaska” list, but it has another distinction—unlike most other Alaska glaciers, it’s growing. It is nicknamed the “Galloping Glacier” because of its fast advancing ice margin—up to seven feet in one day.
7. Harvard Glacier
Cruising College Fjord brings the famous 1899 Harriman expedition to life. The glacier-filled waters amazed the scientists and naturalists on the expedition. But the Harvard Glacier, the second-largest tidewater glacier in the Prince William Sound has perhaps the most dramatic face at one-and-a-half miles wide.
8. Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau offers plenty of activities and a great, easily accessible visitor’s center. This one makes the best places list because it’s so darn charismatic and approachable. Look at those deep crevasses! Hike or bike nearby trails to this river of ice or even dog sled on it.
Best Alaska Scenic Cruising
9. Tracy Arm Inlet
The beauty of Tracy Arm Inlet is difficult to capture with words. As you cruise the emerald waters of this narrow passage, you’re flanked by glacier-covered mountains and surrounded by coastal temperate rainforest. Twin Sawyer Glaciers at the terminus fill the inlet with ice chunks, a favorite resting spot for sea otters and chubby seals. Learn more about seeing the best of the Tracy Arm Wilderness Area.
10. Inside Passage
Widely considered one of the best cruising routes in the world, the calm waters of the Inside Passage feature stunning landscapes, artic-blue glaciers, Misty Fjords National Monument and Alaska's iconic wildlife. This expansive network of waterways is hundreds of miles long and encompasses many of our favorite ports and Alaska cruise stops. It is definitely a best place to visit in Alaska!