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As international travel restarts, it's time for big ideas and grand journeys to make up for lost time – and few journeys are as grand as bucket-list Alaska. Here mountains and supersized glaciers collide with convoluted coastlines and thousands of islands. And unless you have the endurance of a rugged explorer, cruises – like the #1 in Alaska, Holland America Line – are among the best ways to see it.
Thinking about making the journey to The Last Frontier? Here are a few items you mustn't miss.
Alaska's glacier landscapes are dynamic and dramatic in equal measure. Photo: Getty Images/Image Source
The northern section of any Alaskan itinerary is all about glaciers. Scenic cruising will take you into College Fjord whose multiple glaciers are named for American colleges. Harvard Glacier alone is two-and-a-half kilometres wide and known for sudden calving. Huge chunks of ice might break off in dramatic spumes of spray as you're watch.
Meanwhile Glacier Bay National Park also gets you close to multiple glaciers. This is a landscape dynamic with change.
Retreating ice has revealed fjords and new shorelines, but plenty of glaciers and snowy mountain peaks remain to dazzle spectators. A national-park ranger and local Huna tribe member come on board to uncover the stories behind these stunning landscapes. From a ship's deck, you'll spot seals, sea otters, puffins and humpback whales.
Charming towns to explore
Experience whale watching and other wildlife marvels Photo: Getty Images
A first port of call is Skagway, squeezed at the end of a spectacular mountain-ringed inlet. The town emerged almost overnight in 1897 when gold was discovered in the Klondike, and retains its picturesque pioneer architecture and wooden sidewalks.
Fascinating little museums, art galleries, curio shops and old saloons make for an entertaining visit, while a ride on the White Pass steam train takes you into a landscape of waterfalls and sawblade mountains.
At Juneau, Alaska's capital, an impressive range of excursions tempt you into the great outdoors. Among options are wildlife tours to spot bears, scenic flights over the glacier-encrusted Juneau Icefield, whale watching in Auke Bay, or an exhilarating husky-sled ride across the ice at Mendenhall Glacier.
Cruise the Inside Passage
Enjoy the culture and curiosities of Ketchikan. Photo: Getty Images
A sheltered, navigable route down southern Alaska's panhandle, the Inside Passage is a sight to be seen. At its southern end, pretty Ketchikan is the quintessential Alaskan lumber and fishing town, partly built over a creek.
This rugged port has a delightful frontier feel and is dotted with the wonderful totem poles of the Haida and Tlingit people. Saxman Village showcases totem carving, native dance and other aspects of Tlingit culture.
A healthy dose of culture
Holland America Line is the only cruise line that explores Canadian Yukon. Photo: Getty
Some cruises also call at Sitka, which preserves Alaska's Russian heritage. Alaska was controlled by Russia for a century until sold to the USA in 1867, and former capital Sitka is graced with old fortifications, wooden buildings and an onion-dome cathedral. A ranger-guided tour is a good way to appreciate this quirky aspect of Alaskan history.
You can get to know Alaska even better on an immersive 14-day Holland-America voyage with rare calls in ports such as Kodiak and Anchorage, or on cruisetours that combine land and sea in perfect comfort and ease. There are over 15 itineraries of various lengths, some that take you into the rugged Canadian Yukon – Holland America Line is the only cruise line that takes you there.
Postcard perfect sights
Delight in wilderness adventures at Denali National Park. Photo: Getty
The top reason to book a cruisetour is Denali National Park, the dazzling king of Alaska's interior, centred on the snow-capped majesty North America's the highest mountain Denali, formerly Mt McKinley.
Every Alaska cruisetour with Holland America Line includes at least one night in Denali at McKinley Chalet Resort, which has you immersed in the wilderness, with excursions into the tundra to spot moose, caribou, grizzly bears and wolves – plus the chance to fly fish, river raft and dog sled. It's a magnificent adventure to crown a magnificent cruise of a lifetime.
With a plethora of dream destinations to explore, and world-class onboard experiences to be had, a Holland America Line cruise should be top of your bucket list in 2022. For more on Holland America Line cruises and cruisetours to Alaska, contact your travel advisor, call 1300 987 322 or see hollandamerica.com