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Travel Tip For Today

Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes as well as a pair of sandals or Tevas. Before you leave home, break in your new shoes so you're not uncomfortable on the road.

Barrow: The Top of the World

Alaska

Visiting the "Top o' the World" is reason enough for many travelers to wish to go to Barrow, the world's largest Eskimo village, located 330 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the edge of the omnipresent arctic ice pack. The air is the purest in North America. The arctic winds blow away any pollution. For 82 days in the summer, May 11 to August 2, the sun never sets, and activity in town is continuous.

This is truly an exotic place, and not just because of its geography. The modern technological world and the ancient culture of the Eskimo collide here with strange effects. While modern society has made many inroads, the elders continue to pass along their traditional knowledge. The adaptable Eskimos seem to be progressing while maintaining their heritage.

As you stand on the windswept dark sand beach, you know that you are at the edge of the inhabited world-the top of the continent!

Dress warmly and casually when you leave Fairbanks. Wear several layers of clothing. Wear tennis shoes, and carry a spare pair, as the tundra is mucky. Bring a hat and scarf and mabye a candybar or other high-energy snack.

Upon arrival at the airport in Barrow, your tour bus and guide will meet you. You'll bus into town to the Visitors Center where you'll be provided with a parka to wear. (Yes, it's cold: about 35 degrees in the Summer.) The bus will take you first to the bluff for an overlook of the area. Back at the Visitor's Center, you'll see a dance performance, stories and folklore by a group of Eskimos, from the very young to the very old, a demonstration of crafts, an opportunity to buy them, and a traditional blanket toss. You hold the blanket.

The afternoon bus tour will take you to the DEW Line, the northernmost tip of Alaska, by way of Browerville, where you'll stop at Mattie's Cafe for the most unusual doughnut you ever ate, a look at the whalebone collection and a view of the communal village's permafrost ice cellar.

I recommend the one-day tour but, for the avid photographer, an overnight tour, presenting a chance to photograph the full sequence of the sun which never sets, may be irresistible.

Restaurants


  • Pepe's at the Top of the World Hotel
    Top of the World
    in Barrow has some of the best Mexican food in Alaska.
  • Mattie Brower's Cafe
    in Browerville, just across the little bridge, is your best bet for an Eskimo dinner, such as reindeer steak and stew.

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