Greenland & Iceland 2008 - Facts and Information
Our Experience
Comments on why we went, how we got there and what we found
Our 2007 trip to West Greenland whetted our appetite and we resolved to get to the east coast in 2008

2008 TRIP

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EAST GREENLAND
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Arrival in Kulusuk
Apusiaajik Glacier
Kap Dan
Kulusuk Village
Arrival in Tasiilaq
Flower Valley
Boat to Ikateq
Tasiilaq - Hills & Dogs
Helicopter from Tasiilaq
East Greenland Flowers

ICELAND
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Reykjávik City
Árbær Museum
Golden Circle
Stöng and Flowers

 


 

OTHER TRIPS
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West Greenland 2007

Faroe & Iceland 2006

 


 

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Background
July 2007 saw us in West Greenland on a trip which we thoroughly enjoyed. While there conversations with guides got us thinking about the east coast of the country which is much wilder and even more sparsely settled than the west. Intrigued by what we had already seen we resolved to go to East Greenland as soon as possible.

Access to the east coast is best achieved from Iceland via Air Iceland's daily flights between Reykjavík and Kulusuk. The most convenient airport for us to fly to Iceland is Manchester which Icelandair serve several times a week. An outline was devised which involved flying to Keflavík, spending a day in Reykjavík before flying on to Greenland for seven nights then having a day and a half in Reykjavík on the way back. To achieve this we used the services of Scantours UK, a company we cannot recommend and which we will never use again. They made serious mistakes (some of them repeatedly) which we fortunately noticed. On a positive note Arctic Adventure, the Danish incoming agent in Greenland, had brilliant local staff.

East Greenland
The east coast is barren, cold and virtually devoid of settlement. The main settlement of Ammassalik where we went has a population of under 4,000. Of these about 1,800 are in the main village of Tasiilaq and the remainder in a few scattered villages of about 200 people such as that at Kulusuk. Kulusuk has an airport with services to Iceland and elsewhere in Greenland and there is a helicopter link to Tasiilaq. Apart from that movement around the area is by sea. The other east coast settlement, Scoresby Sound, is further north and quite a challenging destination by the sound of it.

Kulusuk is small and has one (very nice) hotel about midway between the airport and the village. Village services comprise the store and the post office. There are no paved roads on the island. In terms of tourist activity (and excluding hairy pursuits such as kayaking) there is a boat trip to a nearby glacier, a road trip to the site of the old radar station on a splendid headland and the usual 'city tour'. If you have plenty of money and little concern for the environment you can arrange a helicopter trip to one of the inland glaciers. If you want to be spoon-fed activities then Kulusuk is not for you. We were enchanted by the place and loved its barren emptiness and the peace and quiet.

Tasiilaq, after Kulusuk, felt big with its tarmac roads, school, hospital, two supermarkets, museum, book shop and tourist information centre! It might have been better to go there before Kulusuk but flight schedules (no Sunday helicopters) did not allow us to do that and have the number of nights we wanted in each place. There are excursions available in the shape of guided walks into Flower Valley and up a local mountain as well as a boat trip round the headland to an abandoned settlement. There are two hotels in Tasiilaq, we stopped in Hotel Ammassalik which is owned by the same company as the hotel at Kulusuk and is very comfortable if a little busy.

Weather and other things
The first Greenlandic word you learn in the west is 'immaqa' (maybe), a concept resulting from the unpredictability of the weather and other things. Centuries of separate development has meant that the language in the east is very different and there they say 'upa', which means the same but has a lesser degree of certainty. We had generally dry weather although there was some drizzle in Tasiilaq. Weather conditions can change in a few minutes and in short distances, especially when there is mist about. We found that we could be freezing in mist with a strong wind and then a few minutes later basking in warm sunshine. In early July there was virtually 24 hours daylight.

It is also perhaps worth mentioning that this is a potentially very hostile environment. The hills offer reasonable walking but they are extremely lonely and a sprained ankle may mean that the first being to find you will be one of the polar bears that turn up in the area from time to time rather than another walker.

Place names and spelling
Local place names can be confusing as there are Danish names (now less used) and Greenlandic names. These can refer to geographical features as well as settlemeents. Thus Kukusuk - island and village - is also known as Kap Dan - headland, island and village. Spelling can also vary, for example Ammassalik is often seen as Angmagssalik. Hopefully Greenlanders will forgive any major errors in use of their language in this site.

Iceland
As we were flying to Greenland from Reykjavík we took the opportunity to spend some time exploring the city and surrounding area. Going out we had a morning in the capital and then spent the afternoon at the Arbær Folk Museum and Botanic Gardens. On our return the weather forecast was good so we hired a taxi for the day to do the sights of the Golden Circle which were impressive - especially the geyser at Strokkur - but on the whole not as mindlowing as the places we had seen on our earlier trip to the east of Iceland. As we had an afternoon flight home we had another opportunity to wander in the city before leaving.

 

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