If there is adventure in your blood and you have the itch to travel there are few places on the planet as splendid and grand as Sitka, Alaska. Situated on the Alaskan panhandle, Sitka is, by area, the largest city-borough in the country although its total population doesn’t reach 5 digits. Settled thousands of years ago by Tlingit Indians, Sitka is a beautiful sea-side city that offers a wealth of rich experiences that will appeal to adventurers of all kinds.
If you prefer to stay close to town rather than romping around in the wilderness, you will still find plenty of things to do in Sitka. You can spend the day touring historical and cultural sites or get a feel for what it was like when Russians controlled this part of North America. Even if hiking or kayaking isn’t your thing, there is always something interesting to do or see in Sitka. Here are some of the most popular attractions to help you plan your stay.
Baran of Castle Hill
Located in downtown Sitka, this is one of the most historically significant places in all of Alaska. It was here, in 1867, that the Russians officially transferred Alaska to the United States. Take a stroll up the walkway to learn more about the site’s history and to get the best views of downtown Sitka and the waterfront.
Russian Bishop’s House
Although it is part of the Sitka National Historical Park, The Russian Bishop’s House is set apart and located a couple of blocks from the park itself. The Russian Bishop’s House offers a glimpse back in time to when Russian’s ruled this part of North America. Carefully preserved, the house is one of three surviving structures that provide examples of Russian colonization on the North American continent. Visitors can view the Bishop’s living quarters, Chapel of the Annunciation, and other exhibits that tell the story of Russian America.
Sheldon Jackson Museum
The Sheldon Jackson Museum is the oldest museum in the state and its collections include a wide range of artifacts reflecting the history and original peoples of Alaska. It includes objects and information from each of Alaska’s native groups although some Native tribes are represented more heavily than others. In an effort to expand its collection to be more representative, the museum is actively searching for additional artifacts to add to its amazing collection. It is considered the best collection by others such as the Smithsonian because it is the oldest collection.
Sitka Historical Museum
Focused on the history of Sitka and southeastern Alaska, this museum offers a look back through time at the different cultures and people who claimed this land. It provides exhibits, artifacts, and photographs relating to the transfer of this region from Russia to America, the battles between the native inhabitants and the Russians, and the history of the native Tlingit people. And, it has a fascinating diorama of the Russian fort.
St. Michael’s Cathedral
Until a tragic fire in 1966, St. Michael’s Cathedral was the oldest church in Alaska. Originally built of logs and clapboard siding, the cathedral featured the metal domes most commonly associated with Russian orthodox churches. This is because the original cathedral was built in the 1840’s when this part of Alaska belonged to the Russian empire. After the fire, the church was rebuilt and features many pieces of the original cathedral that were rescued and restored after the original fire like the royal doors that separate the nave from the sanctuary and the iconic chandelier. It still houses the original Russian golden icons and coupled with the Russian Bishops House’s chapel’s icons, the largest collection left in the world of Russian golden icons is said to be in Sitka. Most of the icons in Russian were destroyed during the revolution.