Kotzebue Travel Guide

Discover the wonders of Kotzebue, Alaska with our ultimate travel guide. From natural attractions to cultural landmarks, hiking routes to food and drink scene, find everything you need to know.

Introduction to Kotzebue

Kotzebue, located in Arctic Alaska in the United States, is a must-see destination for travelers looking for a unique and unforgettable experience. With its remote location and diverse range of natural and cultural attractions, visitors can explore the stunning beauty of the Arctic region alongside the rich history of the Iñupiaq people.

List of Places to Visit in Kotzebue

When visiting Kotzebue, there are a number of places you won’t want to miss. Here is a list of some of our top picks:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • NANA Museum of the Arctic: Learn about the history and culture of the Iñupiaq people at this fantastic museum. With exhibits on language, art and craft, subsistence, and more, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of life in the Arctic.
  • Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation: Stop by the KIC for locally-made crafts and a chance to talk with locals about their culture and lifestyle.
  • Kotzebue Catholic Church: Visit this historic church, which was built in the early 20th century, to see a unique blend of Western and Inupiat influences in the architecture and decoration.

Natural Attractions of Kotzebue: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Cape Blossom Trail: Hike this stunning trail to enjoy spectacular views of the wilderness and coastline.
  • Kotzebue Sound: Take a boat tour to spot wildlife such as whales, seals, and polar bears in the beautiful Kotzebue Sound.
  • Kiana River State Recreation Site: Enjoy fishing, hunting, and hiking in this state recreation area on the banks of the Kiana River.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Kotzebue

For those who love the outdoors, Kotzebue offers a variety of hiking and biking routes to explore. Here are some top picks:

  • Kotzebue Pursuit Loop: This 7.7-mile trail is perfect for hiking or biking and offers stunning views of the surrounding lakes and hills.
  • Ikayuaq River Trail: This 9.6-mile trail is a great option for those looking for a more challenging hike, with steep inclines and stunning wilderness views.
  • Qagruq Mountain Trails: These trails offer a variety of options for hikers, with options for all skill levels and distances.

Best Things to Do in Kotzebue: Activities and Tours

In addition to hiking and exploring natural attractions, there are plenty of other things to do in Kotzebue. Here are some top picks:

  • Iñupiat Heritage Center: Take a guided tour of this cultural center to learn about traditional arts and crafts, dance and music performances, and other aspects of Iñupiaq culture.
  • Northern Lights Tour: Kotzebue is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, and a guided tour will take you to the best spots to view this stunning natural phenomenon.
  • Sled Dog Tour: Experience the traditional mode of transportation in the Arctic by taking a sled dog tour with a local musher.

Week-Long Itinerary for Kotzebue

If you’re planning a longer stay in Kotzebue, here’s a suggested itinerary to make the most of your trip:

Day Activities
Day 1 Explore downtown Kotzebue, including the Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation, NANA Museum of the Arctic, and Kotzebue Catholic Church.
Day 2 Hike the Cape Blossom Trail and enjoy a boat tour of Kotzebue Sound.
Day 3 Experience the Northern Lights on a tour and learn about the indigenous history of the region at the Iñupiat Heritage Center.
Day 4 Take a tour of the area by sled dog and then visit the Qagruq Mountain Trails for a hike or bike ride.
Day 5 Relax and enjoy a day of fishing and hunting at the Kiana River State Recreation Site.
Day 6 Attend a local festival or event, such as the Niggivikput Festival or the Deer Festival.
Day 7 Visit the Arctic Circle and take in the breathtaking sights of the wilderness in this remote region.

Food and Drink Scene of Kotzebue

When it comes to food and drink in Kotzebue, you’ll find a unique blend of traditional Iñupiaq dishes and Western cuisine. Here are some must-try dishes and local beverages:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Akutuq: Also called “Eskimo ice cream,” is made from whipped fat, sugar, berries, and fish.

  • Muktuk: Served raw or boiled, this traditional Iñupiaq delicacy is made from whale skin and blubber. It is an acquired taste, but an essential experience in Northern Alaska.

  • Caribou Stew: Slow-cooked with vegetables and herbs, this hearty stew is packed with delicious flavor.

Local Beverages

  • Birch Syrup: Made from the sap of birch trees, this local sweetener is often used in teas and other beverages.

  • Katuq: Sometimes spelled catu, is a traditional Iñupiaq beverage made from fermented fish, berries, and water. It is a drink that can only be found within native communities in Alaska.

  • Arctic Brewing: Try some of the local micro-brews such as Salmonberry Ale, Wild Rose IPA or the Midnight Sun Coffee Stout.

Where to Stay in Kotzebue: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

With Kotzebue being a remote and seasonal destination there are few places to stay, but options do exist to accommodate for all types of travelers, from luxury hotels to guesthouses. Here are some of our top picks:

  • Nullagvik Hotel: This premier hotel offers spacious accommodations, fine dining, and awe-inspiring views of the Arctic Ocean.

  • Utuqqanaaq Hostel: This unique hostel offers affordable bunk beds in a cozy atmosphere, perfect for backpackers or budget travelers.

  • Kotzebue Guest House: For a more personalized experience, consider booking one of the comfortable suites at the Kotzebue Guest House.

What to Buy in Kotzebue: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Visitors to Kotzebue should get souvenirs and authentic products as a reminder of their trip and also to support local economies. Here are some local products to consider bringing home:

  • Walrus and whalebone carvings: Traditional Inupiaq art pieces that make excellent decorative items.

  • Fur-lined parkas: Warm, comfortable, and stylish parkas made with traditional fur lining. You can buy some in the local stores in downtown Kotzebue.

  • Ivory jewelry: Earrings, necklaces and bracelets made of walrus ivory will make a unique accessory or gift that can’t be found elsewhere.

Local Culture and Customs of Kotzebue

Kotzebue’s culture is deeply intertwined with the Iñupiaq way of life. Visitors should be mindful and respectful of local customs and traditions. Here are some commonly observed customs in the region:

  • Respect for Elders: Elders in the community are highly respected and honored, and visitors should show deference to them through their behavior and communications.

  • Sharing Food: In indigenous culture, sharing food with guests and members of the community is a way of showing hospitality and generosity.

  • Language: Many residents speak and use Inupiaq language, which you may hear on radios and announcements.

Best Time to Visit Kotzebue

The best time to visit Kotzebue is from May to September when the weather is milder and more favorable for outdoor activities. Bear in mind, however, that the sun does not set during the months of June and July, which means visitors can enjoy 24-hour daylight! Winter, on the other hand, is a great time to see the Northern Lights; however, due to extremely low temperatures and snow, many of the outdoor activities and tours, including the town’s airport, are intermittently closed.

Do’s and Don’ts of Kotzebue

When visiting Kotzebue, visitors should be aware of the following customs and practices:


  • Respect Local Traditions: Learn about and respect the local customs and traditions, such as honoring elders and sharing food.

  • Dress for the Weather: Kotzebue experiences extreme temperatures, so be sure to pack warm clothing including parkas, gloves, and hats.

  • Take Binoculars: When taking on any outdoor activities, carry binoculars to closely watch the movement of animals without interfering with their habitat.


  • Hunt or Fish Without Permission: Local regulations require licenses and permits for hunting and fishing in the area.

  • Dispose of Trash Improperly: Being environmentally conscious and responsible is essential, please dispose of your trash in designated waste receptacles.

  • Interrupt Private Residences: Traditional Inupiaq homes often have unique ownership structures and should not be visited without permission.

Safety and Health

While Kotzebue is generally a safe and welcoming place, visitors should be aware of the following tips to ensure a safe and healthy visit:

Safety in Kotzebue

  • Be Mindful of Wildlife: Wild animals like bears roam around the region, and encounters with them are possible outside the town. Bear sprays are highly recommended. Follow the instructions of local guides if you are heading out in the wilderness.

  • Take Caution When Driving: The roads in the area can be perilous due to ice and snow, so cautious driving is essential.

  • Wear Appropriate Attire: Dress appropriately, and wear comfortable, sturdy footwear when heading out on hikes or nature tours.

Health in Kotzebue

  • Consult a Doctor Before Traveling: Kotzebue is in a remote location, so it’s essential to check in with your doctor before traveling to ensure that you are up to date with all necessary vaccinations.

  • Apply Insect Repellent: Biting insects such as mosquitoes are widespread in the region during the summer months.

  • Stay Hydrated: The climate in Kotzebue can be extremely dry, so it’s essential to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.

Getting to Kotzebue: Transportation Options and Logistics

Kotzebue is only accessible by air or river, with limited road access, making planning your journey vital to ensure a safe and comfortable trip. Here are some transportation options and logistics to consider:

Airports Near Kotzebue

  • Ralph Wien Memorial Airport: Located only two miles east of downtown Kotzebue and a gateway point to the region.

Bus Stations Near Kotzebue

  • No bus services available.

Other Options

  • Boats and Tours: River tours are an option to reach Kotzebue, departing from nearby communities such as Nome or Utqiagvik during the summer months.

  • Chartered Flights: Visitors can book private charters from Anchorage or Fairbanks to Kotzebue.

How to Get Around in Kotzebue

Kotzebue is a small town where the main attractions and points of interest are within walking distance. Visitors can also use local cab companies for longer trips. Car rental is an option, but due to the harsh conditions of the roads, it is not always recommended.

Where to Go Next from Kotzebue: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Kotzebue is a gateway to the wider Arctic and presents the opportunity to discover stunning natural beauty and cultural landmarks. Here are some nearby destinations and excursions:

  • Arctic Circle: Located just 150 miles away, a trip to the Arctic Circle can give you the opportunity to see surprising wildlife such as wolves, musk oxen, and caribou.

  • Nome: Only a couple of hours away by plane, Nome is an Alaskan coastal town renowned for its gold rush history and the Iditarod dog race.

  • Utqiagvik: Known also with the historical name Barrow, it is the only town in the North American continent that is located beyond the Arctic Circle and a place where visitors can learn about local traditions and visit the local native museum.


Kotzebue, Alaska, offers visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the stunning natural beauty and unique culture of the Arctic. With a range of attractions, activities and excursions, every traveler can create an unforgettable experience in one of the most remote locations in the United States.