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Holland America Cruise Tours  Sitka, Alaska

RICH IN RUSSIAN CULTURE

Sitka is easily one of the most beautiful seaside towns in Alaska, and it's is most certainly the biggest. Encircling 4,710 square miles on Baranof Island, this former Russian enclave covers more land than any other single city in America.

Sitka's Russian heritage and magnificent setting make it an enchanting destination. The city features a harbor studded with islands, a backdrop of mountains and spectacular Mt. Edgecumbe, a volcano often compared to Japan's Mt. Fuji. Sitka displays its past in such attractions as St. Michael's Cathedral with its striking onion-shaped dome, the Russian Blockhouse, and world famous New Archangel Dancers.Sitka, Alaska You can visit the Historic Park, with a ruined Indian fort, where Tlingit Indians battled Russian settlers in 1804.

Sitka is known for its seven National Historical Landmarks, so you might want to admire them all. Stop in at the Alaskan Native Brotherhood building, a registered National Historic Landmark built in 1914 or visit the cemetery and pay your respects to Princess Maksoutoff's grave, the wife of Alaska's last Russian Governor. You can visit the Isabel Miller Museum, which through informative and attractive displays describes the lives and histories of the people who have lived in Sitka. Visitors can view some of the finest Alaskan Native artifacts at the Sheldon Jackson Museum or peak into the Sitka Lutheran Church, the oldest Lutheran Church on the West Coast of North America.


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Sitka Attractions

Castle Hill
History enthusiasts will want to visit Castle Hill, once the site of a two-story log mansion known as Baranof's Castle, which overlooked Sitka Sound during the town's fur trading days. Today, only the stone walls and mounted cannons remain as reminders of Russia's bloody battles against the native Tlingit people. The Sitka National Historical Park offers a wealth of information and artifacts relating to the Tlingits, including totem poles that chronicle early life on and around this fertile ground.

This is the spot that, on October 18, 1867, Alaska was handed over to the United States and where the first 49-star U.S. flag was flown on January 3, 1959. History aside, it is also one of the best views in town. Climb a lengthy flight of stairs from the western end of Lincoln Street, and your reward will be a panoramic view of downtown Sitka.

New Archangel Dancers
This dance troupe is a very energetic group of all women dancers. They play all the required parts including those of bearded men if the story requires it. The troupe was organized in 1969 with much ridicule and pooh-poohing from the male population who said the idea would never work. By the time the men of the town realized that it could work and that they maybe would join after all, the women decided that they didn't need the men and kept the show all female.
Sitka, Alaska

Birds of prey in Sitka, Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center
Learn about the program that captures, rehabilitates injured birds of prey and releases American Bald Eagles back to the wild. The facility caters to rare wildlife that is recovering from injuries incurred in the wild. Once they've been nursed back to health, the animals are released back into the wilderness, which you can also enjoy via numerous trails. Among the more popular routes are the Indian River Trail, which parallels a salmon-spawning stream, and the three-mile-long Gaven Hill Trail.

Russian Bishop's House
One of the few remaining Russian log structures in Alaska, this house was built in 1842, and today is completely restored using original Russian furnishings and artifacts. A portion of the house's interior has been peeled away to expose 19th-century construction techniques.

Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center
Exhibits and audiovisual programs of Native and Russian artifacts give an overview of Southeast Alaska cultures. Native artists give demonstrations and interpretations of traditional crafts of the Tlingit people. Some of the crafts that may be demonstrated are weaving, basketry and silversmithing. You can also take a forest trail leading to the site of the Tlingit Fort. On this trail you will pass by exquisite carved totem poles some of which date back almost a century.

St. Michael's Cathedral
Although the United States took control of Sitka in 1867, descendants of the Russians who once owned the land still live there today. No symbol shows their influence more than the landmark St. Michael's Cathedral.

Built in 1848, the original structure burned in 1966, only to be replaced by a replica a decade later. Sitkans, whether Russian Orthodox or not, formed a human chain and rescued many of the cathedral's precious icons, paintings, vestments, and jeweled crowns from the flames.

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Sitka Wildlife

Fishing
Grab your tackle because Sitka boasts the highest saltwater sport-fishing catch rate for King Salmon in the nation. Novice or expert, you can be guaranteed a first-class fish story! Once on board your chartered fishing boat, your captain can point out the delightful puffins at St. Lazaria Island or follow massive humpback whales and mischievous sea otters in Sitka's harbor. Fishing is at its very best June through August and the most commonly hooked fish are King Salmon, Silver Salmon, Pink Salmon, Halibut and Ling Cod.

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