We haven’t been everywhere, but K and I were going to Iceland so we figured we were about as close to Greenland as we’ll ever get. So why not incorporate a detour to Greenland in the same trip?
The planning immediately followed and it soon became obvious why I’ve never met anyone who’s been to the world’s largest island. Greenland ain’t so easy to get to (i.e., the flights are very limited) and once you get there, it’s a pain to get around (i.e., there are basically no roads there and hardly any signs).
If you’re determined to visit, however, don’t let that stop you because you’ll be rewarded with one of the most uh-mazing experiences ever. In fact, our trip here was K’s absolute favorite even edging out our Icelandic adventure for her.
To get there, we bought a packaged “tour” from Air Iceland that included R/T flights from Reykjavik, R/T helicopter transfer from Kulusuk Airport to Ammassalik, 2 nights at the Ammassalik hotel (the main hotel in town), and all meals.
When we landed in Kulusuk, we were taken aback by how breathtaking our first glimpse of this country was (and we were only at the airport!). Looming mountains covered in snow surrounded us. There was not another building in sight. It wasn’t as cold as we thought, but we could see the wind blowing across the plateau. The place felt so isolated and yet its beauty so raw and untouched at the same time. Have you ever heard of that quote, “Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away”? This was what they were talking about.
It just got better from there.
Ammassalik was even more stunning with its town of 2,000 residents – small by our standards but big by Greenland standards (Really. This is like the city you want to move to if you’re Inuit). Tiny green, yellow, red, and blue houses (they totally looked like monopoly houses!) dotted the dramatic landscape which not only was surrounded on all sides by a dramatic mountainscape, but also enjoyed the privilege of being on the Tasiilaq fjord (quite important because that’s how they get their food shipments…which by the way, when we were there, they hadn’t had a food shipment in 6 months! Ships can’t dock when the fjord is frozen.). When we hiked to one of the mountaintops, we could see the village to our left, the icebergs floating in the fjord ahead of us, and hear the faint waterfall in the background. How unbelievable is that?! K thought it was one of the most surreal and peaceful views she’s ever seen, and I have to agree. It is impossible to have a care in the world when you’re looking out at that view.
During our few days, we explored the village, talked to the locals (they are so so friendly!), battled the melting ice as we hiked to the valley of the flowers (which had no flowers this early in summer), and took a cruise around the fjord to view the icebergs in all of their natural glory. It was literally one of the most insane experiences I’ve ever had — we’re 65 miles south of the Arctic Circle, cruising around a fjord of icebergs. The remoteness of the whole thing definitely made it feel like a something out of National Geographic.
When it was time to leave, K was really sad. She actually contemplated moving here – that’s how much she fell in love with this place (something about the crispness of the air, the serenity of the views, and the half Danish/half Inuit men really hit home with her).
We agreed that it’s a shame more people don’t visit (Greenland only gets ~50,000 tourists a year)… but honestly, that’s probably what made our trip there so refreshing – to be somewhere few go, to experience the remoteness and isolation, to interact with friendly locals, and to be privy to observing a culture so different from our own (even if only for a few days) – we appreciated every second of it.
Here are some quick tips if you’re planning to go (and I hope you do!):
When to go:
We went in Summer (May/June to August/September) but you can go in winter for a completely different experience. It’s also a great place to see the northern lights.
Getting to Greenland:
Direct flights to Greenland are only offered from Canada, Iceland, and Denmark. Be prepared to pay a pretty penny for the tickets (they can charge a lot seeing as though you don’t have many options).
We went in June and the weather was surprisingly pleasant and mild (think: 40’s – 50’s Fahrenheit). It was way colder in Iceland (and to remind you, Icelandic winters aren’t even as cold as Midwest winters so the point being it’s not as cold as you’d think). Incidentally, the winters can dip below 0F, but it won’t feel as cold because of the dry air.
No luxury lodging here! Greenland is definitely more of an adventure travel destination so be prepared for basic room and board. Also, Internet connection could be limited (or non-existent in some parts).
Leave the high heels at home. This country is covered in ice and snow and most of the exploring there is to do involves a lot of walking. Also, bring sunglasses. The white glare of the snow is harsh on your eyes without shades.
Things to know before you go:
- Since the villages are small, mostly everyone knows everyone else. As a result, there may not be signs for any of the shops, grocery stores, or even the tourist office. Just ask for directions (or do what we did and just open random doors to buildings we thought were shops).
- Cities in Greenland often go by more than one name. For instance, Ammassalik (the Danish name) is also known as Tasiilaq (the Inuit name). Everyone will use both names interchangeably so get to know the names of where you’re going.
- The weather is known to change unexpectedly and could result in flights being cancelled (even for days). As a result, plan ahead to make sure you won’t be screwed if this happens to you.
Here are some more pictures from our Greenland trip although they really don’t do the place justice: