As you probably already know (or not….), Alaska’s capital is not Anchorage but Juneau, a town with 30 thousand residents in Southeast Alaska. Juneau is the capital for historic reasons. During the gold rush, Juneau was an important center on the gold prospectors’ route to Alaska’s interior.
Since then a lot of water has passed through Juneau’s gutters, Anchorage has taken the role of Alaska’s leading commercial center, and today the local economy is based on a healthy combination of tourists in summer and politicians in winter. That doesn’t mean Juneau is not a great place.
Can I drive there?
The town is situated on the shore of an impressive fjord, under a steep range and a big ice field. This is also the reason why Juneau is the only capital in the Us that cannot be reached by car – there simply isn’t a road connecting it (in recent years there’s more and more talk about paving a road from Skagway along the coast, to connect Juneau to the rest of the world, but that’s probably not gonna happen any time soon).
The city’s location makes it ideal for tourism. From here you can go on countless tours of the area: whale-watching cruises (large amount of whales in the region), flights to a glacier overlooking the town, flights to a glacier combined with dog sledding, electric-car tours of the rain forest… in other words, it’s one big amusement park.
The cruise companies have adopted Juneau as their base, and almost every cruise ship between Vancouver and Alaska stops in Juneau and pays its dues to the local economy.
If you’re in Juneau as part of a cruise, take advantage of what you can, it’s a beautiful place. If you’re in Alaska independently, Juneau is a convenient base from which to proceed to quieter, less touristic places, where you can experience Alaska at your leisure, without being surrounded by thousands.
- Mendenhall Glacier
- Mount Roberts
- The Locals Tip
Juneau’s resident glacier, right next to the town itself. You can easily go there by taxi or bus and take the trails along the lake at the front of the glacier. There’s also an interesting visitors center.