Sitka, surrounded by forests and water, wreathed often in mist, and touched by its Russian heritage, is one of southeast Alaska's most popular destinations. St. Michael's Cathedral shows a distinct Slavic flair, and Russian folk dancers put on shows for the public. For a somber but beautiful sight, explore the Russian Cemetery, overgrown and almost primeval.
Though no longer graced with any sort of castle, Castle Hill does provide good views of town and volcanic Mt. Edgecombe. This is the site of the official transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. Interpretive signs explain all about Seward's Folly.
Short, beautiful paths wind through Sitka National Historic Park, just a short walk from the center. The trails pass far under the forest canopy, past totem poles and rocky beaches and a creek where you may spot salmon during spawning season. The lush park is also home to majestic spotted eagles. You can pick from a variety of spectacular but pricey wildlife-watching tours, or take one of the longer hikes leaving from near the center of town.
Luckily, Sitka is not just for cruise-ship passengers -- hostel travelers on a shoe-string budget can enjoy Sitka just as well, though getting there will take some doing. Once evening falls, however, and you have the place to yourself, you'll be glad you made the effort. Staying in a hostel in Sitka puts you close to downtown, where you can walk to the main attractions. Spend some time wandering near the hostel, or in out-of-the-way residential areas, to get a feel for how the locals live on this forested island that's accessible only by air or sea.
Hi, I'm Melinda Brasher,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Sitka hostels. Welcome.