Tour operator unveils 'best of' series

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska Heritage Tours here introduced several soft-adventure and destination-specific packages for independent travelers.

A new series of "best of" programs are available to Denali, Seward and Valdez, visiting Mount McKinley/Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound.

Kim Olson, the company's tour director, is touting its Best of Denali program, priced from $569 to $1,165 during peak season.

The package begins with a rail journey from Anchorage to Talkeetna, where clients experience an airplane sightseeing tour of Mount McKinley and spend the night at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, which looks out on the south face of the mountain.

"To go to Talkeetna, fly the mountain and stay overnight is an experience no one will be disappointed with," Olson said.

Clients continue north by rail the second day to Denali, spending that night at a hotel near the park entrance and the following two nights deep inside the park at Kantishna Roadhouse.

Most visitors to Denali, she said, stay at the park entrance and take a motorcoach in and out of the park the same day.

"If you want to experience Denali, [staying at Kantishna Roadhouse] is the only way to go," she said. "You take a shuttle in, and they have mountain bikes and fishing gear there. It is truly the ultimate Denali experience."

The return trip to Anchorage is by motorcoach.

Each of Alaska Heritage Tours' new adventure plans includes at least a half day's outing, featuring activities such as kayaking, dog sledding or river rafting, with an experienced guide.

Adventure programs include kayaking in Prince William Sound on a two-night plan or Resurrection Bay on the three-night Seward Adventure, which also features a ride in a wheeled dog sled and hiking to Exit Glacier, the only glacier accessible by foot in Kenai Fjords.

Short and affordable enough to be added to other packages, the three-night Seward Adventure starts at $745, and the

two-night Prince William Sound Adventure at $517.

Both tours are available June to September.

For the high-end traveler, Olson suggested the Grand Explorer program, the company's most popular, which offers the option to upgrade to dome rail car seating and to suites at half of the hotels.

"In Alaska, there's not a lot of upgrading available," Olson acknowledged. "In Denali National Park, there are limitations [to luxury]."

The Grand Explorer ranges from $1,357 during value season (May and September) to $1,923 peak (June, July and August).

All prices are per person, double, and do not include tax. Commission is 10%.

For more information or reservations, contact Alaska Heritage Tours at (877) 258-6877; e-mail [email protected]; or visit the company's Web site at www.ahtours.com.

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