PRIBILOF ISLANDS, Alaska, USA
GOOD FOR: Native American culture and a bevy of birds
Flung out into the Bering Sea, around 320km off the coast of Alaska, the Pribilof archipelago consists of four specks of wild, craggy, treeless tundra. Sounds unpromising, but no – Pribilof is a wildlife haven, with a fascinating history.
The islands were uninhabited when the Russians arrived in the late 18th century and forcibly relocated Native American Aleut people to hunt the archipelago’s fur seals. Today, the two main islands, St Paul and St George, are home to the world’s largest community of Aleut; visitors typically stay on the larger, St Paul, where a small town numbering some 450 thrives. The richly decorated Russian Orthodox church still recalls the islands’ turbulent past.
However, the main draw of the Pribilof Islands is the wildlife. More than 2.5 million seabirds – puffins, murres, auklets, fulmars – nest on the cliffs, coming together in a cacophony of feathered chaos. Meanwhile, summer sees up to one million northern fur seals (around 70% of the world’s population) lollop onto the black sands to breed, along with Steller sea lions, walruses and sea otters. Rough roads and hiking trails will help you explore.
GETTING THERE: Penair (penair.com) runs a scheduled service from Anchorage to St Paul and St George; flights take 3.5 hours.