Greenland - Facts and Information
Our Experience
Comments on why we went, how we got there and what we found
Initial ideas were not practical, then the alternatives were uncertain, but the end result was mind-blowing

 

West Greenland 2007 Index
  Ilulissat
  Icefjord from land
  Icefjord by boat
  Oqaatsut
  Dogs
  Sarfaq Ittuk - Day 1
  Sarfaq Ittuk - Day 2
  Sarfaq Ittuk - Day 3
  Sarfaq Ittuk - Day 4
  Narsarsuaq
  Qassiarsuq
  Flower Valley
  From the air

 

Facts & Information Index
  History
  Geography and facts
  Our trip
  External links

 





East Greenland 2008 Index
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Background
In thinking about places we would like to go our liking for high latitudes and emptiness meant Greenland got onto the list. At first it seemed a fairly impossible destination, but a little research soon established that a number of operators could get us there. A little more research showed that to get there we really had to go via Copenhagen and could then choose between staying in one place or an inflexible package that would move us round. We also discovered that, in addition to local ferries, there were two coastal steamer routes on the west coast, but that only one of these was covered by the packages. We set about trying to put together our own itinerary involving both routes but while this was in hand the ferry line was privatised, went bust then eventually sold just one of the two coastal ships back to the Greenland government.

By summer 2006 it was nigh on impossible to find out what was happening and then a leading Danish travel company, Profil Rejser produced firm 2007 dates for packages ex Copenhagen including a one-way journey on the coastal ship. We booked with them by email for a trip from north to south (which gave us an extra night in Greenland), for flights between Manchester and Copenhagen and a hotel in Copenhagen at each end. In Copenhagen Profil chose the Hilton at the Airport for us. Not cheap but just a few minutes' walk to the terminal and a station with frequent trains into the city (we took an extra night there). It was also good and with an excellent, early breakfast - important as our flight was early. We found Profil good to deal with and encountered no language problems, thanks to their command of English.

Ilulissat
The Airbus flight with Air Greenland took about four hours and was pleasant with a reasonable lunch and free drinks. The short connecting flight to Ililissat in a Dash 7 (complete with coffee and biscuits) gave marvellous views of the emptiness that is Greenland.

At Ilulissat we were met by the local representative who took us to the Arctic Hotel where we were to spend three nights. Throughout Greenland accommodation was half-board. The Arctic Hotel was modern with good staff and smallish but adequate rooms with good views. Breakfast buffet was ample if somewhat limited in variety. Dinner was fine but service was excruciatingly slow, still the view was incredible. One night was a Greenlandic buffet - a mixture of hot and cold dishes. The hotel ran an hourly bus service down to the town.

Included in the package was a walking 'city tour' which was interesting. Other optional trips were possible, we took an evening boat trip to the ice fjord, a short day trip by boat to a nearby settlement and went to learn about sled dogs. All were worthwhile. We also spent a day walking on our own.

Sarfaq Ittuk
We then spent three nights on Sarfaq Ittuk on its weekly run to the south. Cabins were pleasant, the small ship was clean and modern and the staff excellent. We were novelties to some extent, very few British go to Greenland. Breakfast was served from the cafeteria and was fine, we got free tea and coffee all day. Dinner, which was excellent and very ample, was served to the nine of us on the package trip at special tables. Apart from the included tours this was the only time we were together as a group. The return trip north was to see nearly 40, too many we suspected both in terms of group size and the presence of so many outsiders on what was essentially local transport.

There was an excellent courier on board. She was Greenlandic and an academic at Copenhagen University specialising in Eskimology. We had inclusive city tours with her at three of the stops, one of which was a bus trip around Nuuk. Other stops were of short duration which allowed a chance for a quick look round. Much of the journey was on open sea which on our trip was flat calm all the way. We were very lucky, most trips before in the season had seen quite a bit of motion.

Narsarsuaq
We spent two nights at the Narsarsuaq Hotel. The building is a little soulless but our room was large, comfortable and with an excellent shower room. The buffet at breakfast was ample and served in a clean but rather dark cafeteria reminiscent of a better class transport caff. Dinner was upstairs in a rather grand dining room and was excellent, one night was a very good Greenlandic buffet.

There was a local representative who took us on the inclusive boat trip across the fjord to Qassiarsuq, the site of the original Norse settlement where we went to the reconstructed house and church, a good trip. Otherwise there were a number of optional excursions available, but we chose to spend our time walking on our own. Return to Denmark was by Air Greenland 757.

Our impressions
Overall this was a quite remarkable trip which we would like to have lasted longer. Greenland was incredible in terms of scenery, lifestyle and the way local attitudes to things like hunting and sled dogs challenged our own experiences and prejudices. It is quite simply a very different way of life. In fact we were so impressed that we are planning a trip to the east coast via Iceland for 2008.

We were in Greenland in early July. We had left Europe cold and flooded to arrive there in hot sun. The weather was generally good, although there were some misty days. Knowing what it might be like we had taken plenty of warm clothing and did need it all on a few occasions when it was very cold. We saw no rain.

Greenland is not just expensive, it is very expensive. The towns, though the standard of living is good, are nonetheless very much 'on the edge' and have a distinct frontier feeling. Places are small and distances immense. It is a place for boots and looking, not strolling and shopping.

The galleries (links at the top of the column on the left) include further comments about Greenland and our trip.

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