Experience True Nature Alaska Wilderness Adventure Tours beyond Imagination



 

Alaska Fall Rail Tour | Autumn Colours & Aurora Viewing (NL#09)

Fall Foliage in Alaska provides equally brilliant symphony of yellows, orange and red fall colors which usually peak in late August and during the first two weeks of September. The Alaska Autumn offers special beautiful landscapes. Travelers will be rewarded with glorious views of the Alaska Range, snowcapped Mt. McKinley, broad alpine valleys with ground-hugging plant life, arctic tundra - impressive views around Broad Pass on the Parks Highway to Denali , excellent wildlife viewing for moose and roaming grizzly bears, as well as fascinating Northern Lights viewing opportunities north of Fairbanks.
 

  • Tour Itinerary

  • Dates | Rates

  • Options | Extensions

  • Rail Tour Info

  • Aurora Borealis FAQ

  • Self Drive FAQ

Anchorage

Upon arrival in Anchorage transfer to your hotel in a prime downtown location. Get ready for Alaska vacation of a lifetime. Anchorage features dozens of parks and 122 miles of paved bike paths. Warmed by a maritime climate, you can spend the day with salmon fishing on downtown's Ship Creek, hiking the nearby mountains, photographing glaciers and dining at a four-star restaurant. Within a 15-minute drive from downtown on the Hillside is the tree-lined trailhead of Anchorage’s most popular hike, Flattop Mountain. A short floatplane ride opens up the possibility of almost any type adventure. That’s one reason why Anchorage’s Lake Hood is the world’s busiest floatplane base. Try some fresh Alaska seafood (Salmon, Halibut) for dinner in one of the many excellent restaurants around the hotel. Afterwards enjoy a stroll along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail with sweeping views over the inlet to Mt. McKinley and Mt. Susitna aka: "Sleeping Lady". Overnight: Anchorage


Anchorage - Denali National Park | Rail Tour

This morning board the Alaska Railroad in Anchorage. Choose between the standard rail car or the glass-domed compartments with large panorama windows ensuring unobstructed views of the pristine scenery. Get the camera ready as the train crosses Hurricane Gulch Bridge, 300 feet above the creek. Arrival at Denali Village at 4 pm and transfer to your hotel. Remaining day at leisure or join outdoor activities. Optional: Visit Jeff King’s Sled Dog Kennel - Join an intimate group for a personal tour with four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King at his Husky Homestead Kennel. Widely heralded as the most authentic and entertaining look into “bush Alaska” lifestyles, your visit includes holding Husky puppies, greeting more than sixty world-class sled dogs, and sharing twenty-five years of Alaskan tales of the trail. Enjoy the compelling stories and check out arctic survival gear, racing sleds and equipment used to traverse the 1100 mile long "Last Great Race on Earth".


Denali National Park
 

Denali National Park offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities and spectacular sceneries. In the morning transfer to the Visitor Center where your wildlife tour begins. Pick up your pre-reserved tickets and explore the center if time allows. Board the bus, sit back and watch out for grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolf and fox moving along the ridges and river beds or observe one of the 150 different bird species which inherit the park area. Your driver informs you about the history of Denali National Park, its diverse wildlife and flora. Once a bear, caribou or another animal has been spotted the bus will stop that everyone can watch and take pictures. Your tour turns around at Eielson Visitor Center - a four hour drive. We can extend the bus tour to Wonder Lake or Kantishna Roadhouse. You can get off the bus anytime you wish and take a stroll, go hiking and enjoy the landscape. Return to the Denali Park entrance anytime during the day. Overnight: Denali National Park


Denali National Park - Fairbanks | Rail Tour
 

Morning at leisure: visit a park ranger sled dog introduction, raft or float on the Nenana River or take a scenic flightseeing tour around the magnificent three - Mt. Denali 20.320 ft, Mt. Foraker 17.400 ft and Mt. Hunter 14.573 ft. Transfer to the Denali Rail Depot. Depart Denali at 4:00 pm for the scenic rail journey north towards Nenana - known for the Alaska Ice Classics - and further on to Fairbanks, known as the Golden Heart City, Fairbanks is the gateway to the interior with almost 24 hours of daylight during the summer months. Tucked away into miles of unexplored wilderness and only 120-miles below the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks offers excellent year-round outdoor recreational opportunities.  During 1902, Felix Pedro found gold in the region and thousands of prospectors swarmed to the area in search of the “Mother lode.” Nearly a century later, Fairbanks is the trade center for Interior and Far North Alaska. Overnight: Fairbanks


Fairbanks (Chena Resort Aurora Viewing)
 

Explore the Alaska University Museum with the best natural history collection statewide, Alaskaland or take an authentic sternwheeler cruise for a scenic 20-mile roundtrip on the Chena and Tanana Rivers. You will be picked up at around 5:00 pm for a guided tour to Chena Hot Springs Resort. View the amazing Northern Lights and soak in the Hot Springs! Your local guide will answer any questions as we travel the 60 miles to Chena, discovered and used by natives and early miners. Join a guided tour of the Aurora Ice Museum which features a gallery that includes sculptures, chandeliers, and a bar hand carved of ice. Afterwards it is time to soak in the hot springs pool. The natural outdoor setting of the rock lake is a perfect place while waiting for the Northern Lights to appear. After midnight we meet in the heated activity center. Your guide will show you the best viewing spots. Return to Fairbanks around 3 am.


Fairbanks (Aurora Viewing)
 

A day for individual sightseeing activities. Evening transfer to a prime aurora viewing lodge, located in the hills about 20 miles north of Fairbanks – far away from any city lights (included). Enjoy spectacular 270-degree aurora displays through large picture windows from the comfort of the lodge or outside. Optional: Exchange to Arctic Circle Aurora Tour: Travel in a comfortable van on the Dalton Highway along the Trans Alaska Pipeline to the Arctic Circle and learn about the gold mining in the region. Don't forget to take your camera as you will see magnificent mountain scenery as well as the vast colorful Arctic Tundra during fall. Experience how the Gwich'in Athabascan Natives live in "Bush" Alaska. When we cross the Arctic Circle your guide will award you the Arctic Circle Certificate. After photographs at the Arctic Circle sign, we begin the return journey and take time to view the amazing Northern Lights! Return to Fairbanks around 3 AM. The tour is also available as a fly/drive.


Fairbanks
 

Morning at leisure. Fairbanks offers a variety of excellent gift shops and art galleries such as the "Roseberry Art Gallery" with some tasteful items for your friends at home. Stroll through downtown before returning to the airport for your individual return flight. Optional: Join our Fairbanks City & Area Sightseeing Tour or enjoy a Bush Mail Plane flight to rural Alaska villages. Fly over hundreds of miles of beautiful Alaskan wilderness and land at villages accessible only by airplane. Meet the residents and travel as they do, over the roadless Alaska interior.  


 



NL#09 Alaska Fall Rail Tour | Superior Hotels
Rates in US $ / per Person Single      Double      Triple      Quad     
August 18 - August 31 $ 1899.00 $ 1240.00 $ 1070.00 $ 999.00

September 01 - September 15 $ 1780.00 $ 1170.00 $ 990.00 $ 890.00

Upgrade to Panorama Dome Train $ 135.00 $ 135.00 $ 135.00 $ 135.00

 

NL#09 Alaska Fall Rail Tour | First Class Hotels
Rates in US $ / per Person Single      Double      Triple      Quad     
August 18 - August 31 $ 2380.00 $ 1560.00 $ 1330.00 $ 1210.00

September 01 - September 15 $ 2120.00 $ 1420.00 $ 1230.00 $ 1140.00

 

Departure Days
Daily Departures from August 18 - September 12

 

Services included
  • 7 Nights Superior or First Class Hotel Accommodation
  • Hotel & State Tax
  • Railroad Transportation Anchorage - Denali
  • Railroad Transportation Denali - Fairbanks
  • Reserved Seats in Standard Rail Cars or Upper Level Domed Cars (First Class)
  • Priority Check-in & Boarding (First Class)
  • Use of Private Outdoor Viewing Deck (First Class)
  • Priority Dining Room Seating (First Class)
  • Enhanced & Rotating Reclining Seats (First Class)
  • Fairbanks Aurora Viewing Tour 22:00 h – 02:30 h
  • Chena Hot Springs Resort Tour Including: Ice Museum Tour, Hot Springs Pool Pass, Transportation
  • Denali Shuttle Bus Ticket to Eielson Visitor Center
  • Denali National Park Fee
  • Airport & Railroad Station Transfers
  • Sightseeing Information
  • Tour Documentation



Flexible Tour Options - Upgrades & Sightseeing
Rates in US $ | per Person Adult
Exchange Shuttle Bus to 8-Hour Denali Wilderness Tour  $ 95.00

Fairbanks: Arctic Circle Tour & Aurora Viewing by Van (2 PM - 4 AM) $ 225.00

Fairbanks: Arctic Circle & Aurora Viewing Fly & Drive   $ 449.00

Fairbanks: 5 hr Arctic Circle Flightseeing Tour
(Departure at 7 AM - $449 / Departure at 1 PM - $529 / Departure at 7 PM - $439 )
from $439

Fairbanks: 3 hr Riverboat Discovery Sternwheeler Cruise $ 65.00

 

Additional Nights - Anchorage
Rates in US $ | per Person Hotel Category      Single      Double      Triple      Quad      Child     
August 15 - August 31 Superior Hotel $150.00 $80.00 $55.00 $45.00 $10.00
September 01 - September 15 Superior Hotel $135.00 $68.00 $49.00 $40.00 $10.00

August 15 - August 31 First Class Hotel $220.00 $110.00 $80.00 $60.00 $10.00
September 01 - September 15 First Class Hotel $170.00 $85.00 $65.00 $55.00 $10.00

 

Alaska Sightseeing Destinations

Anchorage

Fairbanks

Juneau

McCarthy

Homer

Seward

Cooper Landing

Talkeetna



Alaska Rail Tour Services

Regular Seating and Private Dome Car Choices
Our Alaska Rail Tours are available with the following classes of service: Denali Star & Coastal Classic Regular Service | Many people prefer the standard class for its single level stability, generous seating and the ability to easily walk between different cars on the train. Gold Star Dome Cars | Are the newest first-class rail cars in Alaska with large picture windows and fine dining options. Upper level dome car 360-degree viewing seating, priority check in, outdoor viewing deck. The lower level provides a restaurant, bar and gift shop. Midnight Sun Express Dome Cars | These 2-story dome cars with large multiple outside viewing platforms are operated by a private company. Enjoy the full-time 360-degree view dome seating with plenty of leg – and storage room. Additional features are: GPS assisted monitors, restaurant, bar and gift shop. The 1950’s Vintage Cars | The 1950's-era vintage railcars built by the well known Budd Company were some of the last reminders of the Golden Age of rail. A private company began acquiring Budd dome cars for passenger service on the McKinley Explorer train in Alaska. The seven cars the: Matanuska 508, Chena 509, Chulitna 510, Tanana 512, Talkeetna 513, Kashwitna 553 and Eklutna 554 were purchased and completely refurbished. These railcars were to become the most historic and elegant way to travel through America's Last Frontier. Mc.Kinley Explorer Dome Cars | Are the largest domed cars ever build with plenty of legroom, wide isles and additional luggage storage space. The seats are on the upper level – with restaurant, gift shop and bar downstairs - providing a 360-degree view through the glass windows around and the glass dome above you. All seats are wired so you may listen to music and recorded narration. GPS assisted monitors in each car are tracking the exact location. The covered outside viewing platform is a great feature for a breath of fresh air. All Alaska Rail Tours are including a pre-confirmed and assigned seat as well as on-board narration services. MAP – Modified American Plan (Breakfast & Dinner) is available upon request.

Children Rate
We provide a reduced tour rate for children up to 11 years. Please refer to each individual tour for more information. Children will be accommodated in parents room.

Dining
The Midnight Sun Express, the McKinley Explorer and the Alaska Railroad Gold Star Dome Cars are offering full service breakfast, lunch and dinner options (all custom made to order) at the on-board restaurants. You will have the opportunity to visit the dining room and order freshly prepared food from the menu. Since all of our dishes are prepared to order we will do our best to accommodate all dietary concerns. Please notify us of any special dietary requirements at the time of reservation.

Gratuities
Recommended gratuities to the on-board train staff and host guides are $3.00 to $5.00 per person and day. Gratuities for meal and bar service are entirely discretionary, but 15% is customary in most Alaskan restaurants. All tipping is a matter of your individual preference and is of course - always voluntary.

Hotel Accommodation
For additional information and addresses on hotels, lodges and resorts included in your railroad tour package, please check our „Info Center“ area.

Luggage Transfer & Access
Passengers are limited to two pieces of checked baggage, not to exceed 50 pounds, that must be checked with the Alaska Railroad without charge. Each passenger may also take one carry on, not to exceed 2 ” by 14” by 17 ”, which will stored under your seat on the viewing level. Please pack any medications, cameras, binoculars or valuables in your carry-on.

Pets
Are not allowed onboard (except assistance dogs)

Smoking
Is not permitted on-board the trains. Smoking is allowed outside on the platforms. Ashtrays are available on the outside viewing platform.

Sightseeing Tours
Most of our tours are including scheduled sightseeing trips. For more information please refer to each individual tour package. In addition to these scheduled tours we also provide a variety of exciting optional sightseeing trips with a great value. Please Note: Optional sightseeing tours are only available in connection with a confirmed rail tour package reservation.

Tickets & Travel Documents
You’ll receive your boarding passes, travel documents and additional tour information on the departure day at the rail station. Ticketless travel options are available upon request.

Transfers
Most scheduled transfers indicated within the itinerary are included in our rail tour packages. Optional pre/post hotel tour accommodation are including transfers from/to the airport. Private limousine and/or group coach transfers are available for an additional charge.

Wheelchair Access
Each train has at least one rail car that this fully accessible to wheelchairs. A specially designed lift makes getting on and off the train easy and safe. There are also accessible restrooms on each of the accessible rail cars.

Alaska Rail Tour Travel Destinations
Anchorage to Talkeetna | Anchorage is headquarters to the Alaska Railroad and the journey to Fairbanks begins here. Several miles into the trip, the heavy birch forests of Eagle River and Chugiak lead to the Knik and Matanuska Rivers.The expansive watershed harbors wildlife like moose, bear, the occasional wolf and abundant waterfowl. About 40 miles from Anchorage comes the Matanuska Valley, Alaska's agricultural center and home to the towns of Palmer and Wasilla. Just south of Talkeetna, 70 miles further, the first view emerges of Mt. McKinley, North America's highest peak. The train takes its first stop in Talkeetna, a small town with a mining history and now, a popular takeoff point for climbers to Mt. McKinley. Talkeetna to Denali | From Talkeetna, the track follows the serpentine banks of the Susitna River. On clear days, more views of Mt. McKinley emerge across the river presenting many chances for photos. Black and brown bear frequent the sandbars and scuttle into the brush as the train approaches. Next, the Indian River Canyon is home to many beavers and beaver lodges can be seen in the ponds along the way. The track climbs toward tree line, first crossing Hurricane Gulch, the longest bridge on the railroad just over 914 feet and 296 feet above Hurricane Creek. The train moves into Broad Pass, at 2,363 feet it's the highest point on the railroad, and where caribou migrate through during the fall. Thousands of travelers visit Denali National Park and Preserve to see wildlife like wolves, caribou, Dall sheep, moose and bear, and, of course, Mt. McKinley. Denali to Fairbanks | The coal-mining town of Healy follows after a 10-mile jaunt through Healy canyon, where the surging waters of the Nenana River cuts through the steep-sided cliffs. As the track levels out, Nenana comes into view. It is home to one of the remaining original Alaska Railroad Depots, now a museum and gift shop. The track cuts through the northern boreal forests of interior Alaska. Birch, aspen and willow fill this landscape where gold miners first came to seek their fortunes. Fifty-eight miles from Nenana, Fairbanks, the "Golden Heart City" signals the end of the line - but just the beginning for more adventure, culture and history in the Last Frontier.


Seward to Anchorage | Your journey starts in Seward, the southern terminus of the railroad. It quickly begins its climb through primeval forests of Sitka spruce. After crossing Snowy River, Kenai Lake comes into view, set off with its stunning aqua color and surrounded by soaring mountains. Moose Pass - Thirty miles into the trip, the track winds through Moose Pass, a former railroad construction camp on the shores of Trail Lake. As the rail ascends into the Kenai Mountains, it leaves behind the forests and reveals mountain meadows and streams of gin-clear glacial waters. Trail Glacier appears on the right and soon after, the summit of Grandview at 1,063 feet and the historic Loop District - named for a complex series of trestles built to handle the steep grade in the age of steam engines. In the same stretch, Bartlett Glacier crowds the track just 800 feet away. Placer River Valley - After passing through a series of short tunnels, the track descends to the Placer River Valley near Spencer Glacier. Moose, bear and wolves populate the valley among the willow and alder trees. Trumpeter swans migrate through in spring and fall and arctic terns hover above the ponds and river looking for small fish and insects. Twelve miles later Turnagain Arm appears, where 40-foot tides rush into the narrow confines of the Chugach Mountains. Beluga whales pursue salmon and other schooling fish. Next comes Girdwood, home to Alaska's premier ski resort, a 40-mile commute from Anchorage. Chugach National Forest - The Chugach National Forest borders Turnagain Arm, some six million acres, the second largest in the U.S. Bald eagles cruise the thermals above and Dall Sheep come to feed on the low plants growing on the cliffs bordering the track. Next comes Potter Marsh in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. Anchorage is the final stop, 114 miles out of Seward.





▶ Northern Lights Viewing in Alaska | Canada

Ideal viewing time is approximately from 7 days prior to New Moon and until 7 days after New Moon. While some people may be concerned that a full moon is a problem,  only weak aurora may be obstructed by the light of the moon, but in Alaska the aurora is frequently strong enough that aurora viewing is still possible on a moonlit night.  As far as aurora photography goes, the aurora above a moonlit landscape actually tends to have a pleasing effect.  On the whole, when participating in an aurora tour, one doesn’t need to be worried about the moon.The moon does not influence the aurora activity, the sky is just darker. You can therefore travel any time of the month. 

New Moon Dates:
2017 - January 28, February 26, March 28, April 26, August 22, September 20, October 20, November 18, December 18
2018 - January 17, February 16, March 17, April 16, September 09, October 09, November 07, December 07
2019 - January 06, February 05, March 06, April 05, August 30, September 28, October 28, November 26, December 26

Aurora Photography:
When you do your research for shooting the aurora, you’ll find pluses and minuses for going when a full moon is present.  On the minus side is if the lights that night are somewhat faint, the brightness of the moon’s reflection of the sun can fade them out.  On the other hand, a full moon can be used to illuminate objects in the foreground.  Many aurora shots include buildings with lights on inside to provide an interesting foreground subject.  Depending on your shooting location, this feature might not be available.  However, a full moon will help light up anything you have in front of you, no matter where you are.  Because shots are done for at least six to eight seconds and up to fifteen seconds or more (depending on your shutter and ISO settings), the full moon will do a great job of making what would otherwise be a silhouette into a well-lit subject.  Conversely, if you choose to go when there isn’t a full moon, a strong flash can be helpful in popping light onto a foreground subject.


▶ Aurora Viewing | Prime Viewing Dates

Q: When is the best time of the year to see the Aurora
A: In northern regions such as Alaska, the Yukon Territory, Northern British Columbia and the Northwest Territories - the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) are seen from late August to mid April. Furthermore, during the autumn and spring, the weather is rather unstable and has a lower percentage of clear skies. Therefore, we have determined the best viewing seasons to be from mid-August to the end of September and from mid-November to mid-April. In This time of the year offers the best trade off between mild weather and dark skies. During the summer months, night skies are not dark enough to view the Aurora Borealis and in midwinter temperatures in the – 40 degree range make outdoor aurora viewing somewhat unpleasant. In other locations farther from the average aurora oval, the main consideration is the level of geomagnetic activity, which varies rather unpredictably through the year.

Q: When is the best time of the day
A: Within the most active regions of Alaska and prime viewing areas the Aurora oval typically becomes visible around local midnight. Note: this is an astronomical midnight - which may be an hour or two different from the civil or the “ wall clock “ midnight due to daylight savings time and/or peculiarities in your time zone. Spectacular Aurora displays due to geomagnetic disturbance may be seen at any time when the sky is dark, but they are relatively unpredictable. Under average conditions, observations around local midnight are most likely to yield results.

Q: What are the Temperatures in the Northern Regions
A: The average daily temperatures in February/March are approximately +20/-30 - equivalent to –8/-33 degrees Celsius.

Q: How to observe the Aurora
A: If you follow our recommendations you should be able to enjoy some pleasant Aurora viewing.

  • A: Ensure - that you be there when the action begins. Because more often than not, the show picks up very quickly and also fades out as quickly as it started! Most of the auroras are out only about 2 to max 10 minutes at ones.
  • A: Be Patient - this is maybe the most important thing in aurora viewing. If the show starts, it's always worth. Seeing a full-blown aurora show is just an indescribable experience.
  • A: Experience - this is maybe the second most important (human) factor in aurora viewing. If you are first patient and then successful in seeing auroras, the direct consequence is that you will gain of course - experience. After a while you will begin to recognize what the aurora is doing, in which phase it is and so on. And the most important thing - You will learn how a weak aurora looks like!!! Because, even that we are hoping to see a bright "eruption phase " aurora, the aurora isn't all the time bright. So the experience will help you to see and determine if there is a weak aurora, which could get brighter in the future! I
  • A: Light Conditions - the primary reason for not seeing an aurora are any city light obstruction or a bright twilight. Our destinations are far away from a city or other light obstruction and therefore should guarantee the best viewing conditions possible.
  • A: Weather - don't think overcast weather prevent you from Aurora viewing. Although often clouds do ruin everything, but at times...you can also get lucky breaks! Another example, during a major aurora storm in 2001 the forecasts and satellite pictures showed that it should be overcast, but it was not. We could see the stars and the aurora through the thin clouds! So, give it a try anyway...it could be worth it!

Q: What causes the Aurora
A: Energetic charged particles from the magnetosphere. These particles are electrons and protons that are energized in the near geo-space environment. This energization process draws its energy from the interaction of the Earth's magnetosphere with the solar wind. The magnetosphere is a volume of space that surrounds the Earth. We have this magnetosphere because of Earth's internal magnetic field. This field extends to space until it is balanced by the solar wind.

Q: What is the altitude of the Aurora Borealis
A: The bottom edge is typically at 100 km (about 60 miles) altitude. The aurora extends over a very large altitude range. The altitude where the emission comes from depends on the energy of the energetic electrons that make the aurora. The more energy the bigger the punch, and the deeper the electron get into the atmosphere. Very intense aurora from high-energy electrons can be as low as 80 km (50 miles). The top of the visible aurora peters out at about 2-300 km (120-200 miles), sometimes high altitude aurora can be seen as high as 600 km (350 miles). This is about the altitude at which the space shuttle usually flies.


▶ Sun | Solar Wind | Magnetosphere

The solar wind is the outermost atmosphere of our sun. The sun is so hot that it boils off its outer layers, and the result is a constant outward expanding very thin gas. This solar wind consists not of atoms and molecules but of protons and electrons (this is called a plasma). Embedded in this solar wind is the magnetic field of the sun. The density is so low that we may well call it a vacuum. However tenuous it is, when this solar wind encounters a planet, it has to flow around it. When this planet has a magnetic field, the solar wind sees this magnetic field as an obstacle, as protons and electrons cannot move freely across a magnetic field. These charged particles are constrained to move almost always only along the magnetic field. Likewise, when they are forced to move in a specific direction, a magnetic field will move with them or will be bent into the direction of the flow. Whether the magnetic field forces the plasma motion or whether the plasma motion bends the magnetic field depends on the strength of the field and the force of the motion. When the solar wind encounters Earth's magnetic field, it will thus bend the field unless the field gets too strong. The strength of the magnetic field falls off with distance from Earth. The distance at which the solar wind and the magnetic field of the Earth balance each other is about 60,000 km away, or 1/10 of the distance to the moon. The inside of this volume that is bounded by the solar wind is called the magnetosphere. At the interface of the solar wind and the magnetosphere, energy can be transferred into the magnetosphere by a number of processes. Most effective is a process called reconnection. When the magnetic field in the solar wind and the magnetic field of the magnetosphere are anti-parallel, the fields can melt together, and the solar wind can drag the magnetospheres field and plasma along. This is very efficient in energizing magnetospheres plasma. Eventually, the magnetosphere responds by dumping electrons and protons into the high latitude upper atmosphere where the energy of the plasma can be dissipated. This then results in aurora. Here is an animation (1.6Mb) that illustrates this process.


▶ Alaska and Canada Northern Lights Viewing | Photo Support

Q: How do I take the best pictures
A: For the first -time or for seasoned aurora photographer, a 35 mm camera on a tripod equipped with a cable release is a must. Use a wide-angle 24 mm to 50 mm lens and set it to an f-stop which is the fastest – or one slower to avoid distortion of bright star images – usually f/1.4 – f/2.8.

  • Exposures of 5 to 15 seconds work well unless the aurora is faint or mostly stationary, in which case the exposure time should be doubled. People tend to overexpose their photos, causing the aurora to look washed out. If the aurora is bright, moonlight and city lights should not interfere and can offer an interesting foreground. Never use filters because they could cause internal reflections. If it is very dark, a silhouette of a tree of lit cabin will certainly add to the scene. Video cameras are normally not sensitive enough to successfully record the aurora.
  • Because aurora occurs under clear skies, photographers will often be shooting in temperatures well below zero. Since cold saps camera batteries, it is advisable to use an older camera with mechanical shutter instead of one that is fully automatic. Cold makes plastic brittle, so the cable release should be wired mesh vice plastic. At minus 40 Fahrenheit, all cameras will freeze in less than 10 minutes; before taking it inside to warm, place it in a zip-lock plastic bag to reduce condensation.
  • Tape the lens to infinity so that it doesn’t slip and cause your images to be out of focus. Don’t try for a 37th exposure; it might break the film, and it is best to overexpose your first frame on the roll so that the film processor knows where to start cutting your negatives. Wind your finished roll of film slowly so that it doesn’t shatter or cause static buildup – this may appear as scratch. While Kodak film processing mailers are generally reliable, it may be worth the extra cost to have the film processed through a custom photo lab. Going the custom lab route will save the film from being lost in the mail or scratched in an automated process.
  • Slower speed film (print or slide) has better gain resolution; making for a sharper image when enlarged. Thus it may be too slow to record the fine detail structure of the aurora.
  • Medium-speed color film (200 /400 ASA) works as well. Purists insist on slide film. You can try a faster film, but keep in mind that graininess and color quality tend to decrease with increasing film speed. We recommend using 400-speed film is a good compromise between detail and quality of the image.
  • Different films will emphasize different colors of the aurora, so experimentation is advisable. Bracketing your exposures (05 seconds, 10 seconds and 15 seconds) will give you the characteristics of the film. Even in a roll of 36 exposures, there are only a few shots that are acceptable to me.


Q: Can I videotape the Aurora
A: Videotaping the aurora generally takes highly specialized video equipment. Generally – camcorders are not sensitive enough to see the aurora, though a few will record a faint, smoky image given a sufficiently bright aurora. Your best bet for video showing the color and motion of the aurora is to purchase a professionally – recorded tape such as one distributed form the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks. Thus, some home video cameras are capable of picking up bright auroras. In particular, a camera rated at for example: less than one-lux sensitivity has captured – faintly and colorlessly a bright auroral arc. Many cameras which have special features such as digital zoom and / or vibration compensation are much less sensitive and will not show the aurora. The most annoying problem with home video cameras in low-light situations is their inability to focus. If your camera has a focus-lock button, you may be able to focus on a distant, brightly-lit object, and lock the focus then see if you can pick up the moon or perhaps catch a hint of an extremely bright aurora. Just don’t expect much, because home video cameras aren’t designed to do low-light recording.

Q: Do you have any Aurora Photography Tips
A: When you do your research for shooting the aurora, you’ll find pluses and minuses for going when a full moon is present.  On the minus side is if the lights that night are somewhat faint, the brightness of the moon’s reflection of the sun can fade them out.  On the other hand, a full moon can be used to illuminate objects in the foreground.  Many aurora shots include buildings with lights on inside to provide an interesting foreground subject.  Depending on your shooting location, this feature might not be available.  However, a full moon will help light up anything you have in front of you, no matter where you are.  Because shots are done for at least six to eight seconds and up to fifteen seconds or more (depending on your shutter and ISO settings), the full moon will do a great job of making what would otherwise be a silhouette into a well-lit subject.  Conversely, if you choose to go when there isn’t a full moon, a strong flash can be helpful in popping light onto a foreground subject.


▶ More about Northern Lights Tour Packages

Q: Flights to Alaska
A: Alaska -, Continental -, United -, Delta Airlines and US Airways are providing multiple flight connections daily to Anchorage and Fairbanks from the lower 48's. For current rates please refer to: >> Alaska Airlines or other airlines and any ticket reservation systems of your choice. Sorry, but we do not provide a reservation service for airlines tickets. Accordingly our advertised tour rates do not include any flights to/from Alaska.

Q: Recommended Clothing
A: We recommend fleece or heavy wool sweaters, down jackets or similar cold weather gear with attached hood, gloves, sun glasses, swimsuit, wool shirts, cotton or thermal underwear, mittens, sturdy winter boots, lip balsam, moisturizing cream. Winter gear and clothing may be rented at your local outdoor stores or at REI - Recreational Equipment INC - in Anchorage (please contact the stores directly) >> More Information

Q: Meals
A: Meals are not included in our tours (except as otherwise stated within each "Tour Included" section) The cities of Fairbanks and Anchorage are providing a large number of restaurants in all categories. Our lodges and resorts are providing a dining room or a full service restaurant with a extended food and drink selection.

Q: Sightseeing Tours
A: Sightseeing tours are not included in our tour packages (except as otherwise stated within each "Tour Included" section) Thus, we do offer a variety of optional tours. Please contact us or simply check our websites.

Q: How far in advance should I make a Reservation
A: This is hard to predict but if you travel during: (1) New Moon Dates (2) Public Holidays (3) Long Weekends (4) Alaska Events etc. tours are most likely sold out and it will be virtually impossible to materialize a last minute request. Accordingly it is highly advisable to book as early as possible.




Self Drive Tours Information - FAQ

  Q:
A:
Do you have one-way rental cars or tours between Alaska and the Yukon/Canada?
No - we do not provide any one way rentals between Alaska (USA) and the Yukon Territory (Canada) Certain government and insurance regulations do not permit such rentals.

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I like to spend more time in a certain destination. Can I change the routing?
All of our tours are ”Flex Drives” and we can add, modify or exchange nights in destinations to suit your timetable and preferred routing. Thus, sometimes it will be necessary to observe ferry schedules, national park opening/closing dates etc to match certain dates and/or departures. Please check also each itinerary online.

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I cannot find the list of hotels included?
Each tour includes a choice of pre-reserved superior hotels (*** category) or first class hotels (**** category). If you have any special requirements we can certainly customize any of the advertised tours. Please contact us for advice and applicable rates. Hotel accommodation does not include breakfast or other meals. Please Note: A large number clients and travel agencies are using our pages and travel ideas to plan their “own” customized tours. This is the reason why we do not publish the hotel names for each trip on top of all travel planning information already included on our pages. If you have any particular question about accommodation, please contact us.

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Do you offer bed and breakfast accommodation
Yes, we can substitute our advertised superior hotel category with bed and breakfasts (B&B) accommodation (breakfast included) for any of the advertised itineraries at the published superior hotel rate.

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How about staterooms on cruise ships
Our package rates include two stateroom categories: Superior with/without balcony and First Class with/without balcony. During reservation procedures we confirm the currently best available stateroom/deck – determined by the category booked with us. Upgrades into mini suites, full suites and/or other deluxe categories are available upon request and for an additional fee. If you have any particular requirements you may address these at the time of reservation.

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How about cruise port arrival/departure times
Please refer to the separate section of our FAQ's

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Are Car Rental Charges Included?
Yes, the rental of a compact car (automatic) is always included in our flex drive tour packages. Additional rental days or upgrade details and rates for mid and full size car, passenger vans or a sport utility vehicle (4x4) are available on each self-drive page. All upgrade rates are per car and not per person. Our advertised rates include also local taxes, free mileage, limited insurance coverage, airport concessionaire fees, roadside assistance and a 24-hour emergency support. We also provide vehicle pick up of your choice on most downtown rental stations. Important Note: Canadian citizen are not permitted to drive a US licensed rental car from Alaska/USA to Canada.

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What if something unexpected goes wrong during the Tour?
We do not anticipate anything but you can contact us, the rental car company or any of the pre-reserved hotels for assistance.

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What type of Identification do I need to enter Canada and Alaska/USA
Information changing frequently. Please check requirements on the appropriate government pages. We are unable to take any responsibility for such information

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Which services are included in your Self Drive Tours
Please refer to the appropriate tour page for a listing of included services. Our service generally includes the rental car, insurance, accommodation, applicable local taxes, ferry trips as scheduled, sightseeing as per itinerary, a detailed tour description, highway or road logs. Not included are: Meals, highway tolls, gasoline, entrance fees, additional sightseeing tours, premium car insurances, airport car rental access fees.

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What is the advantage of Self-Drive Tour -VS- Escorted Tour
This depends on your personal preference. Alaska and the Yukon are providing some good and scenic highway connections and driving is very easy. A rental car with individual pre-reserved hotels are an independent way to discover the beauty of the northern wilderness areas and national parks: You can stop were you want, you have plenty of time for sightseeing off the beaten path and you are very flexible. Escorted tours are usually limited in flexibility because you are traveling with a group and fixed departures and routings.

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When should I book a tour
If you travel during the high season from the middle/end of June until the end of August we recommend to make a  reservation as early as possible to avoid disappointments with sold out situations in highly frequented national parks and destinations - because the northern tour season is very short. The same applies in/around national holidays. Any hotel accommodation, rentals cars and ferry space must be definitely booked well in advance. Thus, tour operator such as our company may still have space on a short notice. Accordingly it is well worth to contact us.

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When should I Travel
June and September are perfect months for a vacation in the Land of the Midnight Sun. The weather is usually stable and sunny with almost 24 hours of daylight. July and August are prime travel months and are obviously very busy.

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When is the best time so see the Northern Lights
Due to the long daylight hours (up to 24-hours) during the summertime, it is impossible to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) from approximately mid May until the first half of September. Northern Lights are occuring mainly during the winter months from October until April. For further information please refer to our winter tour program.

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What’s about sightseeing options during cruises and self-drives
We provide a choice of optional sightseeing adventures and activities such as wildlife viewing, rafting, self drive tours, flightseeing, hiking, rafting and day cruises. If you book these tours with us in advance - instead of onboard the cruise ships or locally - you will save a significant amount of money.

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Should I compare rates & services on the Internet
Yes definitely. You notice sooner or later who actually provides the best services, rates and most affordable or specialized tour program because at these days almost everyone within the industry provides similar statements. Thus, you may also notice that some of the competitors web sites are completely outdated, terms & conditions are not published and that some of these people don’t even know the State – actually they are not even located within the USA or Canada. When you compare rates and services look for hidden charges such as reservation fees or ticketing fees, inclusion of taxes (up to 11 %), the exact service description, hotel categories, rental car standards etc and than make your decision.

  Q:
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Could I organize the same tour package by myself for less money
Probably not - because tour operator and corporate identities with a high volume of clients and revenue receive much lower rates than an individual person or a travel agent with a few reservations per year. In addition be prepared for: (1) a significant amount of time to find and identify the right products and destinations (2) to contact the different suppliers may be multiple times and wait for their response (3) exchanging continuously sensitive personal Information over the phone/internet (4) getting professional assistance and advise for the entire tour package - which usually includes a variety of tour components. Virtually impossible ! You can certainly book your hotels through Travelocity, Expedia or other global players – but this does not guarantee any savings either or the success of your vacation. PS: we do not even markup reservations for sightseeing tours. So you'll get always the current original rate when booking with us.

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How can I get to Alaska or the Yukon Territory
Seattle is a major Alaska Airlines hub with multiple daily flight connections between the lower 48's and Alaska. In addition Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco are alternative gateways with non-stop flights on Alaska Airlines, United, American Airlines and Delta to/from Anchorage and other destinations within Alaska. Clients from Europe may check Condor Airlines with it's non-stop flights between Frankfurt and Whitehorse, Fairbanks or Anchorage. You can fly to the Yukon Territory (Whitehorse) from Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton with Air Canada.

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Do you offer railroad tours between Canada and Alaska
No, because there is no railroad access or any connection between Canada and Alaska.

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How about traveling by ferry
Bellingham (USA) and Prince Rupert (Canada) are the main gateways for Alaska Marine Highway Ferry trips throughout the extremely scenic Inside Passage in southeast Alaska. Port of calls are: Ketchikan, Wrangell, Juneau, Sidka, the Glacier Bay, Skagway and Haines. If you plan to travel to Alaska by ferry please check our website for departures, fares, rates and reservations.

  Q:
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Do you provide transportation between Alaska and the Yukon Territory (Canada)
Unfortunately not, but we offer a limited number of escorted one-way motorcoach and van tours from Anchorage to Whitehorse or -VS- from 07-10 days.



 

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