10-Day Iditarod & Northern Lights Winter Adventure

Trip Highlights

  • See Ceremonial & Re-Start of the Iditarod, The Last Great Race on Earth.
  • Witness the magical spectacle of the Northern Lights as they dance across the sky.
  • View Ice Sculptures in Fairbanks.
  • Learn about dog sledding and mush your own team of dogs.
  • Enjoy a snowmachine tour through the beautiful Alaskan wilderness.
  • Enjoy the thermal waters of Chena Hot Springs.


Iditarod & Northern Lights Tour Itinerary - 10 Days

This tour was featured in the November 2015 issue of Alaska Magazine!

Join us in Alaska for the 2016 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Witness the Iditarod Race Start on Anchorage’s 4th Avenue; or also attend the Musher's Banquet*; visit an Iditarod Sled dog kennel and drive your own team of dogs; fly-out to a remote checkpoint at Rainy Pass*; or extend your visit in Alaska and watch the end of the race in Nome* which is located on the Bering Sea to witness the mushers crossing the finishing line after an exhilarating trip of 1100 Miles. All of this combined with Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis viewing will sure make the perfect Alaskan Winter Adventure!

Day 1: Arrival: Arrive in Anchorage and transfer to hotel via courtesy shuttle. The rest of the day is free to wander around and explore this pleasant city and its shops. The hotel is located only ten minutes from the downtown shopping area. The hotel also offers a health club, pool and whirlpool for your convenience to help you unwind from your long flight up to Alaska.

Day 2: Anchorage: The Start of the "The Last Great Race” the Iditarod: At 8 a.m. you will meet your guide and your fellow travelers in the lobby of the hotel. We will have a pre-trip meeting before heading out. After our meeting we will board our comfortable van and head downtown for the ceremonial start of The Iditarod Race that begins on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage. Mushers can be seen on the trail along the Glenn Highway to Eagle River. The racers then pack up and head to Wasilla for the restart of the race on Sunday, an event which also draws big crowds. Later this afternoon, we will go to the Alaska Native Heritage Center and listen to fascinating stories about Alaska’s native cultures and get an insightful perspective into traditional native ways of life. Programs and exhibits demonstrate how Alaskan Natives fulfill their culture today. The Village Store provides an outlet for authentic Native arts and crafts. After the tour, you will have a free day to enjoy local Fur Rendezvous activities, shopping, or dining in Anchorage. Overnight in Anchorage.

Day 3: Anchorage, Willow & Talkeetna: At 7 a.m. we will board our comfortable van, and travel north to Willow, home of the Iditarod Headquarters and the official re-start of the Iditarod race. Experience the excitement of cheering for your favorite mushers as they set out for a 1050 mile race to Nome. From here, we continue north through the Chugach State Park to Talkeetna, a classic Alaskan small town with lots of history and tales about mountaineers and bush pilots. You will arrive this afternoon in Talkeetna. Accommodations feature complete bathroom and shower facilities, kitchenette, dining area and living area. From here, you can gaze at the sunset or enjoy an evening coffee. This evening we will have a family style dinner at the famous Talkeetna Roadhouse. The Roadhouse, built between 1914-17, is one of the oldest establishments still in operation on Main Street in "Beautiful Downtown Talkeetna." (D)
Day 4: Talkeetna: In Talkeetna, you will find unimaginable trails, powder-filled meadows, slopes, backcountry access via frozen rivers, bald mountain tops, and all manner of excellent and exciting snowmobile opportunities. Talkeetna and the surrounding area provides backcountry thrills and exhilarating landscapes to explore. Best of all, snowmobiles allow for the quickest and easiest access to distant locations, especially higher elevations, where one can look out over the world, relax with a hot drink, and marvel at the Alaska Range and surrounding Talkeetna Mountains. The snowmachine tour run along the Chulitna River bluff, or into the Petersville mountains, or up into the Talkeetna mountains to Bald Mountain. Tonight, go outside and scan the sky for the Northern Lights. (L)
Day 5: Talkeetna: After breakfast we visit Vern Halter’s Dream a Dream Premier Iditarod Kennel. Vern Halter is an accomplished musher who presents his story of Alaska and the Iditarod in a provocative fashion that captures the essence of the Iditarod. Vern weaves in the history of sleddogs from early native use, gold rush use, the famous Serum run to Nome during the 1925 diphtheria epidemic-the focus is on the husky. The uniqueness of the Iditarod from the standpoint of length, diversity of competition and the “no help” rule are highlights. Training and care of Iditarod dogs is demonstrated. The logistics of the race and fooddrops, checkpoints, veterinarian care, the Iditarod Air Force and trail conditions inspire questions. Race strategy and the changes to the Iditarod Race Vern has seen in his twenty five years of racing elicit more dialogue. Clothing and survival gear along with sleds and equipment are topics that are backed up with demonstrations. Drive your own dog team with guided supervision! You will have an excellent opportunity to learn about the Iditarod Race and Mushing Basics combined with the exhilaration of a sleddog ride and driving a dog team. You can also choose to ride on the sled if you do not want to mush your own team of dogs. The Iditarod presentation is inspiring and educational. The mushing 101 course focuses on the equipment, sleds harnessing, commands and what to expect from our sleddogs. Bring your Camera! We provide winter clothing: parkas, bibs, suits, boots, gloves/mittens, mukluks - all that you need!

Later, you can take an optional (see optional flight below) scenic flight over the Alaska Range & Denali. This is considered to be the greatest flight on Earth! You’ll talk about this flight forever! This magnificent flight takes you around Denali, the Sheldon Amphitheater, and the Great Gorge. Listen as your pilot describes the natural wonders of Denali National Park. This is an unsurpassed photo opportunity, so make sure you bring plenty of film for your camera. (L)

Day 6: Fairbanks: After breakfast we will journey north to Fairbanks to watch a splendid display of Northern Lights. We will stay at a deluxe waterfront lodge overlooking the Chena River. The resort features spacious rooms with river view, steam room and sauna and a lobby filled with original Alaskan art, slate floor and a two story fireplace. This afternoon, we will travel to view the ice sculptures of the World Ice Art Championship, which is held in Fairbanks every year. While there are other ice sculpting competitions in the northern hemisphere, none are like the World Ice Art Championships. International ice sculptors carve blocks of ice and with the mixture of pure water and cold temperatures, the ice forms quickly and densely, giving it a glacial blue tint. It is so clear that a person can read a newspaper through a four foot block of ice. The sculptors have pronounced Fairbanks’ ice as the best in the world for sculpting. At night, the carvings glow with colored theatrical lights, enticing visitors to come back at 8 or 9 pm to view the carvings a second time. The pass allows re-entry. After viewing the ice sculptures, you will have a free day to enjoy local activities and shopping around Fairbanks.

Day 7: Chena Hot Springs: After breakfast, we will travel approximately 90 minutes outside Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs. Chena Hot Springs offers an Alaskan winter experience and the healing waters of Chena Hot Springs has been compared to mineral waters found in hot springs famous all over Europe. Chena Hot Springs is world renowned for being one of the best places on Earth to see the Northern Lights. It is located under the most active band of Northern Lights and away from the light pollution of the city. The skies over Chena are often clearer than those over Fairbanks, just 60 miles away. Viewing the northern lights, or aurora has been listed as one of the “top 100 things to do before you die” by the Travel Channel and in a survey of Japanese, it was listed as one of the top ten things they want to do before they die (second only to viewing the Pyramids). Locals will tell you that one of the best experiences one can have is sitting in the tranquil environment of the Rock Lake at Chena Hot Springs watching the lights dance above your head while you soak, relax and revitalize your spirit in the soothing mineral water! Enjoy many of the optional outdoor activities at Chena Hot Springs, such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, horse drawn sleigh rides, snowmobile rides, or a splash in the thermal pool and outside hot tub. At night, you will board a snow cat, a large track vehicle that will take you to the top of a remote ridge to get unobstructed views of the Northern Lights. There is a heated yurt for your comfort and we will serve you hot drinks such as tea, cider and hot chocolate!
Day 8: Chena Hot Springs: This morning you will have breakfast at the Lodge. Afterwards, you will have a day to enjoy the many outdoor activities available for you at Chena Hot Springs. Choose from an optional 3 hour dog mushing tour and learn what it takes to have a dog team in Alaska. Learn how to “mush” your own team of dogs on the trail, or you may take a guided snowmobile ride, where you will find pristine trails and beautiful scenery. Later, immerse yourself in the beauty of Chena Hot Springs’ winter wonderland. You can also take a 30 minute excursion aboard a horse-drawn wagon. The sleigh ride moves quietly across the snow covered trails; human sounds are diminished as nature takes center stage. Other activities available for you at Chena Hot Springs are cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, horseback rides and flight seeing. Later this evening, we will visit the Ice Hotel, where you can enjoy a Martini in a genuine "ice glass" Tonight, enjoy the solitude of this area or take a short walk from the Chena Lodge to the Aurorarium, a warm lookout building with large plate-glass windows where you scan the northern sky for the Northern Lights, or simply relax at the comfortable Lodge.

Day 9: Chena Hot Springs to Fairbanks: This morning we will have breakfast at the Lodge, followed by our departure to Fairbanks. We will visit the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum. Situated on a ridge overlooking Fairbanks and the Alaska Range, UAF has the best view in town! Here you will marvel at the natural and cultural history of Alaska, the science behind the Northern Lights, view a 36,000 year old Steppe bison mummy, see the state’s largest gold display, and also learn about the trans-Alaska pipeline. The afternoon is free to wander and explore this city. Tonight, we will go to the University of Alaska to scan the sky for the Northern Lights.
Day 10: Depart Fairbanks: We will enjoy breakfast together this morning and bid farewell to our trip leader and fellow travelers as we head our separate ways for the journey back home or ride the train back to Anchorage on the Alaska Railroad [optional - see below] (B)

Travel Information

ABOUT THIS TOUR: Adventure travel is exactly is as its name implies, an adventure! Although every attempt is made to adhere to these itineraries, participants need to acknowledge and willingly accept the unexpected route and itinerary changes due to factors beyond our control. About Aurora viewing and moon phases: we run our tours even when there is a full moon, a new moon and at all times in between. During a full moon the foreground is brighter, allowing you to capture the foreground. During a new moon, the sky is darker so the lights may appear slightly brighter. However, since we are in a place where the lights are so bright anyway, this makes very little difference in the quality of viewing. Aurora viewing is subject to weather conditions and solar activity and its not guaranteed. Some activities are subject to change when temperatures are below -30°F. Please note that this tour begins in Anchorage and ends in Fairbanks.

The Iditarod & Northern Lights Tour does not require a high degree of physical fitness. However, we will be exposed to extremely cold weather, often experiencing temperatures well below freezing, which in itself can be physically challenging. We may also have to walk in deep snow. Most nights we will stay up past midnight to look for the northern lights, which typically appear later in the evening.

WHAT IS INCLUDED & WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Transportation, lodging, transfers and baggage handling and meals as indicated on the itinerary. All rates are per person in U.S. dollars based on shared occupancy. Single supplement is $900 for this tour. Chena Hot Springs accommodations are double occupancy. Tour does not include Alaska taxes, air transportation to and from Anchorage or any optional tours, liquor, items of personal nature or purchases made on-board the vessels. Winter clothing rental is available while at Chena Hot Springs. Toasty warm outdoor pants, parka and “bunny” boots are available for a fee. Airfare to Anchorage and from Fairbanks, and the optional flightseeing trip around the Alaska Range & Denali are not included. *Denotes optional activities/tours.

This itinerary is subject to change due to circumstances beyond our control including, weather, trail conditions and possible race start relocation. The last few winters have been particularly difficult for the Iditarod Race with many challenges along the race trail/route due to the warmer climate. The Iditarod Trail Committee could change the race start/restart due to changing or poor weather conditions. The final decision is made by the ITC early February and this could impact our tour itinerary and scheduled planned activities. Participants must be flexible and willing to understand that these changes are beyond our control. In the event that the race is moved north to Fairbanks for the official race start, you will be presented with options for watching the race at that time.

TRAVEL INSURANCE: We strongly suggest purchasing trip cancellation/interruption insurance to protect your travel investment at the time you sign up for one of our trips. This coverage will offset cancellation charges in the event of illness before or during your trip. Trip cancellation/interruption and baggage insurance is available at a supplemental cost. Click Here to purchase travel protection.

WINTER GEAR RENTAL: Anyone visiting Alaska in the winter time should bring a warm hat, gloves, neck scarf, and a heavy coat.  Layering is the best way to keep warm in Alaska.  A light weight thermal with a fleece and a loose fitting jacket is recommended.  Please refer to our "What to Wear Winter Guide" by clicking the link below. In Anchorage, 6th Avenue Outfitters rents insulated snow type pants, parkas with hoods, and boots.  We do not guarantee availability or sizing. There are no reservations on garments and it is first come-first serve. Please call 6th Avenue Outfitters for availability.

2018 Tour Dates

TOUR DATES: Friday, March 2 - March 11, 2018

TOUR COST: $3,995 per person/double occupancy

(B)= Breakfast (L)=Lunch (D)=Dinner

Optional Tour Activities

Helpful Travel Information

2015 Iditarod Race Rules

Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights Guide

How to Photograph the Northern Lights

What to Wear - Winter Guide for Alaska