North America's northernmost settlement, Barrow, Alaska, lies on the state's northern coast 750 mi/1,207 km north of Anchorage, 500 mi/800 km north of Fairbanks, 320 mi/515 km north of the Arctic Circle and overlooking the Arctic Ocean.
Barrow has the country's longest day (starting around 10 May, the sun is visible for nearly three months) and longest night (nearly three months of darkness starting around 18 November). Visitors to Barrow have remarked that the sky is permanently gray, the roads are muddy and the architecture is plain.
Most visitors to Barrow take a quick day tour from Anchorage or Fairbanks—it allows them to say that they crossed the Arctic Circle. We prefer an overnight trip (though food and lodging are expensive).
Most tours include a chance to watch Inupiat dancing, drumming and singing, followed by a perfunctory blanket toss. Be sure to go to the Inupiat Heritage Center and Museum, which provides a historical and cultural perspective on the people of this area. It is a state-of-the-art facility with thoughtful exhibits on whaling, subsistence activities and more. Native subsistence living plays a large part in the town's native community and includes whaling, fishing and hunting.
There isn't much else to do in Barrow, but a walk around town gives you a chance to see the remains of old whalebone-and-sod houses, whalebone arches, treeless tundra and Arctic Ocean shore ice. And be on the lookout for polar bears wandering through town.
If you go in winter, take your warmest outerwear. Barrow is technically a desert, but it gets about 15 in/38 cm of snow each year. The "warm" desert weather means 30-40 degrees F/-1 to -4 C. Winter temperatures drop to -50 F/-45 C. Adventurous travelers who don't mind the cold will find Barrow a pleasant place to visit.
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