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Sitka

It’s not always easy to uncover reminders of Alaska's 135-year-long dalliance with the Russian Empire – until you dock in Sitka. This sparkling gem of a city, which kisses the Pacific Ocean on Baranof Island’s west shore, is one of the oldest non-native settlements in the state and the former capital of Russian Alaska (when it was known as New Archangel).

The bonus for visitors is that Sitka mixes wonderfully preserved history with outstanding natural beauty. Looming on the horizon, across Sitka Sound, is impressive Mt Edgecumbe, an extinct volcano with a graceful cone similar to Japan’s Mt Fuji. Closer in, myriad small, forested islands turn into beautiful ragged silhouettes at sunset, competing for attention with the snowcapped mountains and sharp granite peaks flanking Sitka to the east. And in town picturesque remnants of Sitka’s Russian heritage are tucked around every corner. It’s like Skagway but with less tourists.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Sitka.