Adventure, history awaits in Sitka, Alaska

One of Sitka's beautiful views
One of Sitka's beautiful views

The Last Frontier offers Alaskan cruise passengers a number of opportunities to witness incredible wildlife and giant glaciers. Those lucky enough to embark on this unforgettable journey may want to stop in Sitka, which stands as one of the most eccentric and historical towns on the cruise tour.

Rooted in Russian tradition, Sitka was founded in 1799 by explorer Alexander Baranof and features several museums and buildings that pay homage to the city's heritage. St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral is an impeccable representation of traditional architecture. Built in 1848, the structure contains an extensive collection of orthodox artifacts including manuscripts and correspondence between Russian bishops and pastors. Buildings throughout the city are protected by the National Park Service.

This picturesque city sits just opposite the snow-capped Mount Edgecumbe and provides numerous opportunities to see Alaskan wildlife. Whale Park is a seaside picnic area with many boardwalks perfect for a pleasant afternoon stroll. Cruise passengers should come prepared with a pair of binoculars while they walk along these oceanside promenades in order to catch a glimpse of breaching humpback whales who migrate to these waters during the summer.

Alaska national parks, such as the Sitka Historical Park, are great places for cruise passengers to experience Native American culture. As the oldest national park in the state, this area features amazing coastal trails and massive spruce trees along with totem poles dating back more than 100 years. Located on the western coast of Baranof Island, the nature reserve is home to unique flora and fauna, including a variety of birds and fish. During the spring, bald eagles can be seen with the naked eye on a daily basis.

The world's largest temperate rainforest is located just outside of Sitka. Tongass Rainforest is a remote wilderness, and passengers disembarking for an Alaska shore excursion may want to spend a few hours exploring this dense natural world. Beginning at the Starrigavan Muskeg Trail, hikers will enjoy a gentle climb while learning about the Alaska yellow cedar, lodgepole pine and hemlock trees that line the trails. Starrigavan Creek boasts hundreds of thousands of spawning salmon in the late summer and early fall. Continuing along the trail, visitors will share breathtaking views of the mountains before descending back through the lower-altitude fern plants.

Whether travelers want to experience a different side of Russian culture or see more of Alaska's gorgeous scenery, Sitka is a wonderful place to explore.