The Beauty of the Alaskan Wilderness

If Alaska is on your “bucket list”, then you’re not alone – thousands flock to this state every year between spring and fall to see the breathtaking natural landscapes and impromptu encounters with a myriad of wildlife.

Often referred to as “The Last Frontier”, Alaska was admitted into the union as the 49th state, but it certainly jumps close to #1 in terms of its amazing beauty. This state is an outdoor mecca for anyone looking to experience some of the most beautiful, untouched land in all the world.

I visited Alaska last month and can attest that this is one spectacular state. It is definitely worth a second trip.

Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.  -John Ruskin

Alaska is the biggest, wildest state in the U.S. It’s rugged, stark, mysterious and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. With no shortage of wild mountain landscapes, beautiful glaciers, and abundant wildlife Alaska will pull you in with its beauty and refuse to let you go from its icy grip.

Take a look at a map and the first thing that jumps out are the vast tracts of wilderness and the complete lack of roads. Alaska has millions of acres of untouched nature and some of the largest national parks in the country.

Since it was my first time visiting, I thought it would be fun to tour Alaska by cruising through the Inside Passage on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. We began our “7-Night Alaska Glacier” adventure in Seattle and then sailed north with stops in Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, and Victoria, BC. We also visited Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier. 

First port of call…Seattle

Seattle, my embarkation port, is more than cloudy weather and the iconic Starbucks coffee. It’s a young, vibrant city. There are hip, trendy neighborhoods and old and historic landmarks. There’s plenty more to the Emerald City than you’ve heard about. 

My first stop was Pikes Place Market the oldest farmers market in the country. It was buzzing with shoppers weaving in and out of the stalls, picking up fresh produce and tasting local specialties. Talk about a “foodie” city…I tasted many of their specialties and they were so delicious!

There were rows of brightly colored fresh flowers that blanketed the corridors. Many shoppers had a bouquet or two bundled with white paper…a perfect gift for someone special since it was Mother’s Day weekend.

I also stopped by the seafood counter so I could witness the classic scene of fish tossing and chanting after one of the customers bought the latest catch. Yes, the tradition lives on!!

My visit to Seattle wasn’t complete until I visited a few other iconic spots …the original Starbucks, the Gum Wall, the Troll in the Fremont neighborhood, the Great Seattle Wheel, the Space Needle, Pier 57, Discovery Park, my aunt and uncle and my longtime friend Mary and her daughter Charlotte.  

It was a whirlwind of a weekend! I am excited to go back to visit some of the museums and other hot spots that I missed.

And now for the main attraction…my Alaskan cruise!

Next up…Ketchikan

After leaving Seattle, we sailed north toward the Inside Passage to Ketchikan.

Ketchikan is the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage – a network of waterways that snake through some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful wilderness in the world. It’s home to abundant wildlife including black bears, wolves, and bald eagles.

Ketchikan is Alaska’s rainiest town and the weather changes rapidly, adding a forever chill in the air with sudden cold winds and fog blanketing the hilly town. The fresh air from the mountains and the surrounding Misty Fiords, makes it an unbelievable once in a lifetime experience.

Did you know that Ketchikan is known as the “Salmon Capital of the World”? That’s a pretty big title and rightly so. From September through December, this place is the breeding ground for salmon.

As I walked through the town, I came upon a “fish ladder”, a structure that helps to facilitate the natural migration as well as movements of the fish. I’m sure it would be interesting to watch the salmon “climb” the ladder! One of the locals told me it’s quite smelly during spawning season! 

A Stop in Sitka

Sitka, our second port of call, is located on Baranof Island, on the outer coast of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Like most Southeast Alaska communities, Sitka is accessible only by air and by sea. Its small-town appeal stems from a unique blend of Russian, Tlingit Indian and American history.

We met up with a native who took us on a historical tour of the city. He was proud to share that his brother was commissioned to build the totem pole that is now standing in front of the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor’s Center. 

The park was established in 1890 and is the oldest federally designated park in Alaska. It’s home to the authentic Tlingit and Haida Totem Poles that are nestled in a rainforest of giant Sitka spruce trees. The totem poles are unique, colorful and intricate. To give you an idea of the size, I stood next to one of them by the park entrance.

Sitka is also home to “Fortress of the Bear”, a facility that protects and cares for orphaned brown and black bears. The caretakers shared how they rescued the bears and what they are doing to keep them healthy and thriving. Look at how close I was able to get to the brown bears.  :>!

Off to Juneau

Next up…Juneau…the capital of Alaska. Juneau is surrounded by beauty—mountains, rivers, ocean, and ice all collide in a beautiful and wild way. Although Juneau is located on a peninsula, it feels very much like an island, as it’s only accessible by plane or boat.

Juneau was the highlight of my trip…or shall I say Mendenhall Glacier was the highlight! It’s by far the most iconic and popular attraction in Juneau, and for good reason. The glacier is only about 12 miles from downtown Juneau, which makes it one of the most accessible in the entire state. It’s part of the Tongass National Forest and is one of many in the Juneau Icefield, which altogether encompasses a massive 1,500 square miles.

After getting all ‘geared up”, we boarded a helicopter and headed up and over the mountain and on top of the glacier…taking in the views high above Mendenhall Lake! I was surprised by the design of the glacier, layer after layer of flowing ice that created a spectacular jagged but ripple effect.

Once we arrived and climbed out of the helicopter, I stood there in awe at how beautiful and peaceful it was on top of the glacier. Our group walked over to base camp and the guides helped us put on our crampons. Then off we went with the sound of ice crunching beneath our feet.

We meandered past deep crevices and over little hills. Every now and again I would stop to take it all in…the sites and sounds that were before my eyes. It was so peaceful!

At one point I came to a meltwater pool and bent down to fill my water bottle with fresh, icy cold glacier water. It was so tasty and refreshing!

We continued our hike back around the pools until we reached the base camp.  And then we jumped back on the helicopter and flew over another section of the glacier before we headed back to the heliport.

What a WOW factor of an experience and one that I will remember for a long time!

Land really is the best art!  –Andy Warhol

Last Port – Victoria, British Columbia

Our final port was Victoria, British Columbia. I visited the Abkhazi Garden and Tea House. The garden was created in 1946 by Prince and Princess Abkhazi. It is a heritage garden famous for its majestic trees, rocky landscape, colorful flowers, and unique shrubs.

We also enjoyed afternoon tea in the original home. The Teahouse showcases traditional home cooking using fresh local ingredients. The scones and tea sandwiches were very tasty along with the mini desserts. We felt like we were personal friends of the Abkhazis.

It was a perfect way to end our adventure!

Alaska has been on my “bucket list” for as long as I can remember. Now I can see why so many people rave about it and go back time and time again.

If you haven’t visited yet, let’s start planning! There are so many ways to explore this magnificent state by cruising from one port to the next or by exploring on land by car or train through the vast wilderness. The options are endless! Either way…I’m here to craft an amazing journey that’s seamlessly organized just for you. Just go!  You will be glad you did!

And remember the rest of the world is open for travel.  If it’s not Alaska, where would you like to go? How about Italy, Greece, Germany, Scotland, Canada, Africa, Croatia, Costa Rica, or Turks & Caicos! In fact, anywhere sounds amazing to me!! How about you? :>

As your Travel Advisor, I make sure you don’t miss out on extraordinary experiences that you may not be aware of or cannot get on your own, as they are only available through my exclusive global network of travel partners and suppliers.

If WOW is what you’re looking for, let’s get started!

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Hi I'm Lisa, founder of XOOM Tours

And I believe, whole-heartedly, that YOU deserve a travel journey that wows you every step of the way. I’m here to design just that, just for you.


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