Grand Tour

Rail & Natural Wonders of Alaska

1 to 15 July
USA

As the Aleutian Islands cross over the 180 degree longitude line, Alaska is in fact the westernmost, northernmost, and easternmost state.

It is rugged and wild with glaciers, countless rivers and lakes, majestic mountain peaks, some active volcanoes, and nearly 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline. North America’s highest peak at 20,320 ft, Mt. McKinley (or Denali), is located in Alaska.

Our tour is designed to cover all of the fascinating railways in Alaska – a sort of “clear Alaska” – including the legendary Alaska Railroad and the White Pass & Yukon Railroad (WP&YR). Along the way in addition to amazing scenery we should see some extraordinary wildlife including bears, eagles and whales.

Price includes
  • Rail and road travel and activities as outlined in the itinerary. The 3 wildlife addons are extra as above.
  • Good quality hotel accommodation
  • Gold star upgrade on Denali Star and Coastal Classic trains
  • Services of our Tour Manager (tour is escorted from Vancouver to Whitehorse)

On the Denali Star and Coastal Classic trains we will travel ‘GoldStar’, which includes:

  • Confirmed seat in the upper-level observation car
  • Complimentary coffee, soda, or tea served at your seat
  • Priority seating in the lower-level dining room showcasing original Alaska artwork
  • Meals
  • Private outdoor upper lever viewing deck – the only one of its kind!

Tour Manager: Phil   phil@ptg.co.uk

Sunday 1st July 2018   We depart London in the mid-morning for the long flight to Vancouver where we will clear Canadian customs. We then take the very good ‘Sound Transit’ light rail direct from SeaTac Airport to downtown Vancouver to check into our hotel. We have free time in the early evening; maybe take the frequent ‘Seabus’ for a fifteen minute trip over the water to relax in a café or visit the large new real ale pub and enjoy the views of this lovely city.

Monday 2nd July   It’s an early start to catch the Amtrak Cascades Talgo train direct to Seattle, a very attractive four hour journey. There is an opportunity to take breakfast or refreshments in the café coach during the journey before we arrive in Seattle mid-morning. After check in to our hotel we have free time. Take a walk along the Piers and see all the huge cruise ships in town, or take a trip out on one of the many local ferries for the afternoon.

Tuesday 3rd July  There is a free morning in Seattle to further explore the city. We then take the local ‘Skytrain’ system for the journey to the airport and check in for the Alaska Airlines flight north to Fairbanks. We normally chase the setting sun on this flight so enjoy the views. A bus will meet us at the airport and drive us into town, where we check in to our hotel for two nights. There is an option to join the tour today.

Wednesday 4th July  Today is a free day for acclimatisation and your own exploration of Fairbanks. Its central location makes it the focal point for the tiny villages scattered throughout the surrounding wilderness, and Fairbanks is a staging point for North Slope villages such as Barrow and the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay. Yet it still retains its down-home “frontier” feel. Fairbanks is called “the Golden Heart of Alaska”, a reference to the character of her people as much as to the location in Alaska’s interior, or to the discovery of gold in 1902. Because it is just 188 miles south of the Arctic Circle (above which the sun neither sets during the summer solstice, nor rises during the winter solstice) during our stay the night will be very short indeed. You may feel up to a visit of the Pioneer Park, a heritage theme park where there are museums, an old ship and an old-time saloon. We should also be able to ride the narrow gauge Tanana Valley Railroad in the park with the historic (built 1899) ‘H.K. Porter’ steam loco which is normally in action on 4 July!

Thursday 5th July   We have a morning departure on the Denali Star, the premier train of the Alaska Railroad. We travel south all the way to Anchorage. The train is an excellent way to travel in sheer luxury in ‘GoldStar’ accommodation. A large upper deck open-air balcony allows great photo opportunities and is an extremely popular part of this tremendous journey, and the time will fly by despite the long journey. As we head south on our way to Anchorage, we hope for a nice sunny day with the chance to clearly see Mount McKinley, America’s highest mountain, during the afternoon.

Friday 6th July  Today we make a round trip to Seward on the Coastal Classic. The Coastal Classic train is a local favourite that winds through the stretch of wilderness between Anchorage and Seward. A string of massive glaciers visible from the track enriches the journey and then the fantastic climb up Moose Pass offering superb views. This train travels to the shores of Resurrection Bay for convenient connection to Kenai Fjords National Park where whale watching, sea kayaking, tidewater glacier viewing, fishing, and dog sled rides take place. On arrival we join a Kenai Fjords catamaran tour for a few hours and hope for some really close encounters with the local wildlife!

Saturday 7th July  Today we make a round trip to Whittier on the Glacier Discovery. The Glacier Discovery train travels from Anchorage south along Turnagain Arm. Passengers can visit Whittier for another glacier cruise or head to Spencer Lake for canoe tours, rafting, and hiking. As an option, guests can choose to continue into the alpine regions of the Chugach Mountains for scenic tours of Grandview, the tunnel section, and the historic loop district.

Sunday 8th July  This morning we fly with Alaska Airlines from Anchorage to Juneau, the Alaskan capital city. The flight takes around one hour and forty minutes. We will have a free afternoon in Juneau. Take a trip up the Mount Roberts tramway and enjoy the stunning views from way above Juneau and almost certainly you’ll get to see some of the majestic Bald Eagles flying around this area. Don’t miss the Red Dog bar for dinner in the evening for a real local experience.

Monday 9th July  Today we sail from Juneau to Skagway via Haines. The sailing takes around seven hours and should allow great views of this beautiful part of the world and gives us an afternoon arrival in Skagway. The town will still be busy with tourists off the huge cruise ships before their evening departures. We will stay at the ‘Westmark Inn’ which is right in the centre of town and only a very short walk from the station and the shops. The local ‘Skagway Brewing Company’ does great food and drink, and also try some Thai food at the really popular ‘Starfire’ restaurant, all right in the centre of town.

Tuesday 10th July  We will leave early on train number 1 which runs the full length of the railway from Skagway to Carcross. The line north of Carcross is out of use and unlikely to ever open again. Train 1 is the first train of the day out of Skagway and is generally pulled by one single ‘Alco’ loco. The main station in the town centre is known locally as the “depot”, and the depot is known as the “shops” – all very confusing! As we leave town the steep climb really starts and we pass the small stops at Denver and Glacier where hikers leave and join the train. As we pass through the wooded areas keep your eyes peeled for bears; small cubs can occasionally be seen clinging to the trees as the train passes by. At Gulch we pass the old disused cantilever bridge and then approach the summit which is the US / Canadian border. (The actual customs facilities are further inland as this is such a remote area.) The train then continues over a rocky area past Gateway before arriving at Fraser. Canadian customs will pass through the train during this stop. Train 1 is the only train of the day north of Fraser as it follows a series of lakes before arriving at Bennett. After a break of around forty-five minutes a packed lunch is served on the train. The final section of the journey is alongside more lakes to the small town of Carcross. On arrival here we will have time for an ice cream in Canada and then return to Skagway. We have an early evening arrival back in the town.

Wednesday 11th July   Skagway – Haines culture – details to follow

Thursday 12th July   Option to ride the Skagway steam train – details to follow.

Friday 13th July   Free morning in Skagway and one round trip to summit and then to Whitehorse

Today we have an optional extra ride on the White Pass Summit excursion to sample one of the “big” trains up the hill. This train is normally hauled by two or three ‘GE’ or ‘Alco’ locomotives and is a must for all the diesel fans. If we go on the first of four summit trains to operate today we will be routed via the loop south of Fraser. We arrive back in Skagway around 11:30, and those leaving depart at 12:30 for Fraser and bus connection to Whitehorse.

Saturday 14th July   The final day today and there may be time to visit the Copperbelt Railway where narrow gauge Austrian built locomotives pull tourist trains around the woods. Or possibly ride the diesel powered vintage tram car from Lisbon along the waterfront. A mid-day transfer to Whitehorse airport precedes our return flights back home, via Vancouver.

Sunday 15th July  Arrive London

 

Return via Canada by train option

Wish to travel a considerable amount of the journey home by train? Join the Canadian at Vancouver for the three and a half day journey from Vancouver to Toronto. After a twenty-four hour break (longer possible) it’s a five hour journey to Montreal, and then forward on the Ocean on a twenty-three hour journey to Halifax. Flights from Halifax to UK take under six hours!

Place(s) available
Holiday Prices (per person)
  • 15 day holiday Vancouver to Whitehorse: £3,350
  • Flight costs from/to UK are confirmed at time of booking and are estimated at between £800 and £1,200 depending on how early you book.

Options

  • Single room supplement: £750
  • Wildlife Excursions (2) : £275

Deposit

  • £100 (balance of deposit due 01/01/2018)
Tour Highlights
  • Stunning scenery
  • Amazing wildlife
  • Some of the world’s best rail journeys
  • Goldstar service on Denali Star and the Coastal Classic trains
Online Booking
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Flights

Direct flights from London to Vancouver. Indirect flights from other UK airports.