It’s as remote and as stunningly beautiful as an American city can be.
Juneau, Alaska lies nestled in the fjords, channels and islands of Alaska’s panhandle, cut off from the rest of the world by rugged mountains and impenetrable glaciers. You can only get to Juneau from the water, or by air, because there are no roads into Alaska’s capital.
When you do arrive in Juneau on your cruise ship, what you will find is a gem of a city, small enough to walk around, cultured enough to offer unique arts and crafts, and enough Alaskan wilderness to give you a variety of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The area was a favorite fishing ground for the local Tlingit Indians, who had lived there for thousands of years. Then, during the Gold Rush in 1880, a miner offered a reward to anyone who could lead him to gold. Two prospectors went out to explore a site along the Gastineau Channel, where they found nuggets “as large as peas and beans”. The men set up a mining camp, which was eventually named after one of the prospectors, Joe Juneau.
Experience Klondike Adventure First Hand
You can still experience the thrill of the Alaskan Gold Rush on your visit to Juneau, by panning for gold in Gold Creek, and exploring a century-old abandoned mine
Today, Juneau’s gold mostly comes from tourism, and its incredible natural setting. No visit to Alaska is complete without taking in the magnificent beauty and power of its glaciers. Juneau is surrounded by them, which is why the city just can’t expand beyond its current size.
The nearby Mendenhall Glacier nearly half a mile wide, and in places the ice is 1,800 feet deep. It is breathtaking in its size, and it is still moving. The Mendenhall is the most visited glacier, but it is just part of the much, much larger Juneau Icefield, which is made up of a number of other equally-massive glaciers, including the Taku, Eagle and Herbert Glaciers.
There are a number of different ways to explore the Icefield. The best view is from the air, on a flightseeing tour that will take you to see many of the ever-changing highlights of the various glaciers. You’ll be able to look down into cavernous crevasses, see new glacial springs carving paths through the ice, and you may even land, and be able to set foot on this ancient, evolving landscape.
You can also get a first-hand look at the Mendenhall Glacier by arranging a shore excursion to go white-water rafting from Mendenhall Lake. It’s suitable for beginners and all ages, and will give you an incredible view of the Glacier, the surrounding forest, and plenty of local wildlife, such as bald eagles, black bears, otters and salmon.
For an even larger look at Alaskan wildlife, sign up for a local whale watching tour; whales are guaranteed! Out in Stevens Passage, you’ll find humpback whales feeding on the rich marine life, pods of Orca speeding through the water, colonies of harbor seals lazing around on buoys, in addition to sea lions, porpoises, and bald eagles.
For everyone visiting America’s northern frontier, Alaska has something to offer. There are sea-kayaking and sportfishing adventures for people who want to experience Alaska’s wilderness first-hand, and there are authentic Alaskan Salmon bakes for those who prefer to sit back and enjoy it over dinner.
Whatever you enjoy doing most, you are guaranteed to strike your own kind of gold on a visit to Juneau, Alaska.