Aerial view of Fairbanks, Alaska skyline during summer.

8 Most Charming Cities in Alaska

Alaska is among the less visited destinations in the world for its freezing reputation, but it is also one of the most charming and peaceful places on Earth. Romantic, memorable, adventurous, or spiritually awakening, your trip to Alaska can be whatever you plan it to be. Each city in Alaska offers a completely different experience, with only a few shared elements: beauty, clean air, and low population density. While these suggested cities are not everyone's ideal travel destination, these most charming cities in Alaska are full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and sceneries.


Aerial view of Juneau, Alaska Downtown.
Juneau, Alaska downtown.

The capital city of the last frontier, Juneau, is the second largest city in Alaska by area, located along the Gastineau Channel. It is home to some of the largest wilderness tourist attractions overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Alaska's third most populous city is a land of hiking trails, fishing trips, and rainforest adventures. Juneau is the destination of most cruise ships visiting Alaska. The city's main attractions include seeing the northern lights and enjoying unique calming sessions of whale watching. At the same time, natural fascinations include the Mendenhall Glacier, the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area, and a surrounding landscape of green ash trees and glacial valleys.


Anchorage Skyline with snow-capped mountains in the background
Downtown, Anchorage Alaska skyline. 

A trip to Alaska isn’t complete without visiting one of the most popular destinations in the country. Anchorage is known for its nature trails, glaciers, and perfect city and wildlife scenery balance. Home to 40% of the Alaskan population, the city offers many lakes that add to its beauty and natural aesthetic. Some of the most popular lakes in Anchorage include Jewel, Symphony, Eklutna, and Carmen Lake. While some are slightly far from the heart of the city, others span Anchorage’s downtown area and add a relaxing aura to the busy city center surrounded by the Chugach mountain skyline.


Shops along the dock in Seward Harbor in Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska
Seward Harbor in Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska. Image credit Raisa Nastukova via Shutterstock

Seward is one of the most visited cities in Alaska thanks to its rich wildlife of seals, puffins, whales, and more. Seward is famous for being home to the original beginning of the Iditarod sled trail that links historic destinations often crossed by mushing. Northern breed dogs such as the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute are native trailblazers of the Iditarod trail, used to transport goods and link communities by mushing them across snow trails. 

Located on the southern coast of Alaska, Seward is part of the Kenai Peninsula and one of the oldest Alaskan cities, founded in 1903. Situated right on the Pacific Ocean, Seward enjoys an amazing spacious harbor and has water streams that lead all the way to Bear Creek, following in the direction of Seward's Highway 9.


Boats at dock in the Ketchikan Marina, Alaska, United States
Ketchikan Marina, Alaska.

A popular stop for everyone entering through the inner north passage, Ketchican gained its nickname of "The first city," not for its history but its position as the first city you approach on the route. Founded as a salmon cannery in 1885, the city lives up to the common Alaskan stereotype of waterfront homes and mountain cabins based on the shore of stunning scenic waterways.

Rich in native culture, Ketchikan is one of the best destinations to get the whole Alaskan experience of rainforest landscapes, waterfalls, totem poles, and snowcapped mountains in a single city. Due to its positioning, Ketchikan is connected by long waterways throughout the city, such as the Tongass Narrows, which is part of the inside Alaskan passage. Additionally, Ketchikan is one of the rainiest cities in Alaska and in the United States.


Planes in the Sitka Alaska Harbor
Sitka, Alaska harbor.

Sitka is Alaska’s oldest city, founded by Russian Settlers in 1799, played a crucial part in global trade for Russia at the time. Today the city is rich in cultural heritage and antique architecture, the most notable being the St. Michael’s church located downtown Stika and the Russian bishop’s house built in 1842. With a population size similar to Ketchikan, around 8,000, the city and borough of Sitka is the largest in the United States, spanning 2,870 square miles.

Sitka enjoys abundant wildlife and is Alaska’s first capital city on glacial carved mountains facing the Pacific Ocean. A diverse city that balances Tlingit Culture and Russian history, known for hosting the transfer ceremony when Alaska became part of the United States in 1867.


Aerial View of Downtown Fairbanks, Alaska during a stormy Summer Sunset
Fairbanks, Alaska during a summer storm.

Fairbanks is one of the best tourist site-seeing destinations, famous for having breathtaking northern light views. Fairbanks sits on the banks of the Chena River, north of the Pacific border between Canada and the United States. Outside of Fairbanks, is one of Alaska’s most famous natural hot springs, the Chena Hot Springs, which sits next to the man-made attraction, The Aurora Ice Museum. The city sits under the Auroral zone, a natural phenomenon ring that belts across the planet’s magnetic poles, manifesting dazzling northern lights.

Fairbanks is a tourist attraction for its nature and wildlife more than anything else, located 14 miles from the town of North Pole. As the second most populated city in Alaska after Anchorage, Fairbanks has a population of over 33,000.


Drone picture of neighborhood, forest, Knik Arm, and mountains
Neighborhood overlooking the Knik Arm.

The quiet city of Knik Fairview is a scenic green town and Alaska’s fourth most populated city, with 20,171 residents ranking after Juneau, Fairbanks, and Anchorage. Knik Fairview is a charming getaway from overpopulated cities and a home for naturalists who admire fresh-air forestry attractions. While the city is primarily residential, Knik Fairview oversees the Knik Arm, a waterway separating the town from the charming city of Anchorage. At the same time, it remains part of the Anchorage Metropolitan Statistical area.

While the quiet town doesn’t offer much besides vast lands of green and surrounding mountains, residents of the city resort to it for its affordability, close proximity to Anchorage, and agriculture purposes.


Aerial View of the Resort Town of Girdwood, Alaska at sunset
Resort town of Girdwood, Alaska.

Finally, Girdwood is a small romantic town of cabins and snowcap skylines. Thanks to its extended ski season, mountaineering, and hiking trails, it's best known for its ski resorts and winter snow trails A trip to Gridwood is an activity-intensive experience for jaw-dropping trails on The North Face, breathtaking summit views on Mount Alyeska and healing rainforest adventures to the Virgin Creek Falls.

The small Alaskan tourist attraction offers numerous zipline experiences and a gold panning quest at Crow Creek River’s gold mine. Girdwood, known as Glacier City, is the go-to destination for the ultimate romantic trip, unique once-in-a-lifetime activities, and a therapeutic escape from your everyday busy life.

Due to Alaska not being a common vacation destination, there are so many places to explore by yourself. Alaskan adventures aren’t appealing to all travelers, but those who appreciate nature and wildlife will find these charming cities chilly paradises.

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