Alaska by Land or Sea? 5 Reasons why Alaska Overland Makes All the Difference
Alaska conjures up images of towering grizzly bears, snow-cut glaciers and soaring bald eagles. If you are planning an Alaska adventure for your group or organization, it’s easy to select a cruise. Although Alaska cruises have become one of the most popular ways to visit this majestic state, your travelers will likely miss out on an in-depth authentic experience. With a well-planned land journey they can encounter genuine cultural interaction and untouched wilderness found only in America’s last frontier.
photo by Jerry Goffe, NaturePhotoWorks.com
1. See the real Alaska
Cruise ships provide for easy viewing and plentiful dining, but they do not take you to remote areas. Each summer hundreds of ships ply the same waters and visit the same ports, making for a Disney-esque experience. Rather, a well-designed land journey can take you to non-touristy towns and stunning national parks, with a greater chance to see wildlife and have an authentic experience. Ports like Cordova and towns like Talkeetna are small communities that show how people live and work year round.
photo by Debbie Sturdivant Jordan
2. Enjoy small-group camaraderie
One of the many bonus benefits of travel is finding genuine connection and lasting friendships with other members of your group. Mainstream cruise ships accommodate upwards of 4,000 passengers—not the ideal environment for facilitating companionship or closeness among your group members. Land-based programs allow group members to share proximity, experiences and lifelong memories.
3. Wildlife: close encounters
Alaska is the largest, yet least developed and least densely populated state, and for that reason it has remained a haven for the some of the world’s most fascinating wildlife. Whether you’re leading a birding, photography, or natural history group, land-programs offer substantial opportunities to see Alaskan wildlife up-close. The combination of pristine territory and climate conditions make Alaska the preferred habitat for a variety of mammals like: caribou, sea otter, moose, walrus, lynx, wolverine, Kodiak, polar, black and (the coveted) grizzly bear, as well as many species of migratory whales. Explore the inlands of Alaska on hikes with naturalist guides who “use their experience to avoid disturbing wildlife, keep guests safe, and help them gain a better understanding of Alaska,” says Alaskan native and guide, Howard Carbone.
photo by Jason and Kris Carter
4. Opportunity for adventure
If you wish to include adventure activities on your tour, a land-based program is the way to go. It allows for more time to spend on expeditions (rather than transferring to and from the ship each day) as well as greater access to inland parks—highlights include: Childs Glacier, the Copper River Delta, kayaking the Orca Inlet, hiking in Denali State Park and photography almost anywhere.
"Adventure it was! The trip exceeded our expectations - the hiking was majestic, the wildlife viewing exceptional, the trip to and experiences at Childs Glacier were awe inspiring, but the best was last: kayaking amongst icebergs on a glacial lake at the foot of a glacier was MAGICAL!!!!” – Christine Bensley
photo by Jerry Goffe, NaturePhotoWorks.com
5. Stay in Alaska-style lodges in natural settings
One of the best ways to experience Alaska in its entirety and get the most out of your trip is to be immersed for the duration of the program. While cruises cover a lot of area quickly, they provide a broad overview, rather than cultural enrichment and in-depth history that come from actually staying inland. Going to bed and waking up each morning, with the wilderness just footsteps away is one of the benefits of staying in Alaska style-lodges and cabins. Rustic architecture meets modern-day amenities at one of our favorites, The Orca Adventure Lodge, to provide your group the best from both worlds.
“Orca Adventure Lodge was adventurous and unique. The location was breathtaking, our room overlooking the water was perfection, the staff was all friendly, kind, accommodating, and fun… like going out of their way to make sure we saw puffins on our boat excursion. This rated as one of the top 2 trips that we have ever taken... it was the real Alaska experience!” - Steve and Sheryl Pearson
If you decide on a land program for your group, organizing and finding the right outfitter, guides, and lodges is not daunting. In addition to Holbrook Travel’s Alaska program, we also suggest Alaska Wildland Adventures and Premier Alaska Tours.