Fronting the Pacific Ocean on Baranof Island’s west shore, Sitka is a sparkling gem in a beautiful setting. Looming on the western horizon, across Sitka Sound, is the impressive Mt Edgecumbe, an extinct volcano with a graceful cone similar to Japan’s Mt Fuji. Closer in, a myriad of small, forested islands out in the Sound turns into beautiful ragged silhouettes at sunset, competing for attention with the snowcapped mountains and sharp granite peaks flanking Sitka on the east. And in town, picturesque remnants of Sitka’s Russian heritage are tucked around every corner.
Sitka is the heart of the Russian influence in Southeast Alaska. The Russians may have landed here as early as 1741 and they stayed for more than a century – until 1867, when the Americans arrived after purchasing Alaska from them.
Today Sitka’s Russian history, the main attraction for tourists, is as interesting and as well preserved as the Klondike Gold Rush era is in Skagway. The heart of Sitka’s downtown is St Michael’s Cathedral, the city’s beloved Russian Orthodox church, with Lincoln St serving as Main St. From here you’re within easy walking distance of almost all of Sitka’s attractions, including Sitka National Historical Park that is filled with totems and Russian artifacts.