A small note to clarify some things!
The Greenlandic people hunt some
none-threatened whales, seals and
other animals. They do that to get
food to eat, and have long lived a
life in balance with nature.
(mostly from US and
parts of Europe)
sees that as some-
thing they should
though it is US etc.
that has driven
so many animals near
the first place.
Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat, Greenland
When Danes travel, it’s usually to warmer countries in the
summertime (Danish summers are not always that warm) and to cooler
places in the winter (skiing). In 2006 I chose to seek the cold on
my summer holiday and thereby got myself an experience out of the
Besides the will to break old travelling habits, it takes money to
do it. Going to Greenland is pricy. It doesn’t have to be, but if
you don’t know the place or anybody up there, you’ll likely need to
buy a travel package containing hotels, flights between cities in
Greenland is part of the Danish kingdom. For many years, cities in
Greenland had both Greenlandic and Danish names. In respect of the
Greenlandic people, the Danish names are now fading away. Whenever
possible I’ll only use the original Greenlandic names in this text.
My journey began in Copenhagen Airport where not everything went as
planned. It was a very busy day at the airport, and to make thing
worse, the Security Check in the terminal, I was in, was closed, so
everyone had to line up in an other check, placed between two
terminals. That took some time!
Then my plane was late. Very late. It was meant to leave the airport
in early evening. Instead it was in the middle of the night before
Finally I arrived in Greenland. The first stop was Kangerlussuaq.
Maybe not much of a town, but the airfield is large enough to take
larger planes, so most travels to Greenland starts here. Also the
place usually has nice weather (the main reason for placing an
airfield there in the first place) – not this day, though. It’s rare to
see clouds in Kangerlussuaq, but this night it was raining! It
didn’t matter that much to me. My plan was to check in at the hotel,
placed in the same building as the airport, and then go to Nuuk the
Niviarsiaq - national flower of Greenland
Next day I had some time on my own before I could fly to Nuuk. I spend
some of that time on a musk ox safari. The area has a very
large population of musk oxen, but it’s also a very large area, so I
didn’t see any. I wasn’t a great loss, because I did see a lot of
the marvellous Greenlandic nature … and a young polar fox.
I suggested to the guide on the musk ox safari, that we called it a
polar fox safari instead – and a successful one, since we actually
Once again I experienced delay in my travelling plans. This time the
problem was fog in Nuuk. The plane before the one I was supposed to
fly with, had been forced to turn around and come back to
Kangerlussuaq. So when I finally left Kangerlussuaq on a small
propeller plane, I did not know if I would be landing in Nuuk or
have to return.
Luckily the fog was beginning to lift, when we were near Nuuk, so
the pilot dared take the plane down at the airstrip there.
In Nuuk – the capital of Greenland – I had a fantastic dinner at the
restaurant in Hotel Hans Egede, where I also spend the night (at the
hotel, not the restaurant).
Early next day, I went down to the harbour, where I went on board
the ship Sarpik Ittuk, which would take me north, along the western
Unlike my usually stile of travelling, this was pure luxury! My own
cabin, a restaurant onboard with a fine menu and just spending the
time on deck or at the salon, watching the country, the sea and – a
little later – the icebergs. What a life!
Whenever the ship went ashore, I used the opportunity to see the
The first stop was later the same day of my departure from Nuuk. It
was the town Maniitsoq. A pretty little town with a new church
decorated inside by the famous (at least in Greenland) artist Aka
Höegh. The town also has the oldest church made of stone (mostly
they build houses with wood). I didn’t have much time for
sightseeing before the ship took off again.
Next morning we arrived at Kangerlussuaq – yes, the town I landed in
earlier, but this time I visited the town by ship. Because of the
low water level, it wasn’t possible to bring the ship ashore.
Instead we were picked up at sea on a small boat.
I had enough time in Kangerlussuaq to travel to the icecap. To get
there, you’ll have to follow something they call a road. There
aren’t many roads in Greenland – and the first part of the road does
look like something, you could actually drive on with a normal car.
The last part of the road – just before the icecap begins – would
eat an ordinary car. To force that part, a car with big wheels and
four-wheel drive is necessary. The road was build by the motor
company VW, to test their cars in cold climate. At that time, it was
possible to drive right from the road out on the icecap. Few years
ago, VW stopped using the icecap as a test facility, because it was
too expensive to maintain the driving fields on the ice.
In the past few years the global warming has melted so much of the
icecap, it’s no longer possible to drive from the road and out on
the ice. You now have to park the car and then climb down a slope
and walk a bit, before you stand directly on ice!
The ice might look dirty. But it’s just because the wind blows dirt
out on the ice – you don’t have to walk far, before the ice looks
pure as – well – ice.
On our way back to Kangerlussuaq, we made a short stop at a place
where we could grill some whale meat and musk ox (yes, I did see
musk ox this time … on my plate). Wonderful! I also saw some live
musk oxen, but from long distance.
I managed to get on the last boat that could bring me out to the
ship. After that the water level would be so low because of the
tide, that even this boat wouldn’t be able to reach the harbour.
When I flew from Denmark to Kangerlussuaq and from Kangerlussuaq to
Nuuk, I passed the polar circle (artic circle). Then I passed it
again by ship, when I sailed up the fjord to Kangerlussuaq, and then
again sailing out from Kangerlussuaq – and once more when the ship
was at sea again, sailing north. It was the first time, I’ve ever
crossed the polar circle – and I really got to cross it some times.
Very early the next morning, we reached the town Sisimiut. The
harbour was mostly a fishing port, but the town is beautiful.
Later that day, we came to Aasiaat – another nice looking town.
When we sailed further north towards Ilulissat, the first icebergs
began to emerge. From a talk I had with a Greenlandic woman on the
plane from Denmark, I knew that the first icebergs would be small
and nothing to waste a lot of pictures on. But since those were my
first icebergs, I took a picture anyway (not shown here, since the
icebergs I saw later on was much more fantastic).
Late that evening, we came to Ilulissat. As it was my plan to spend
the rest of my holiday in this town, after the boat trip, I didn’t
go ashore this time, but chose instead to sit at the salon on the
ship, with a cup of coffee, watching the busy life at the harbour.
was hard, but somebody had to do it.
(Click see larger image)
After Ilulissat on the way to
Uummannaq, I saw lots and lots of icebergs in lots of different
shapes and colours. I think it may have been there, I lost my heart
to Greenland. Just writing these lines makes my eyes moist.
I also saw whales – on a distance.
Uummannaq is fantastic! The bright coloured houses looks as they
were sprinkled evenly over the rocks. Most towns in Greenland give
that impression, but with Uummannaq, the whole town has that look.
If you ever go there, try to visit the church. It is build with
large granite blocks and extremely nicely done, both outside but
(click to see larger image)
After Uummannaq, the ship turned south. When we once more reached
Ilulissat, my seaside adventure ended, and it was time to seek more
experiences on land.
Ilulissat is centre for tourism (even more than Kangerlussuaq). It
is one of the largest towns in Greenland (but since all towns in
Greenland are small, so it this). Ilulissat has more dogs than
citizens. In all towns above the polar circle, you’ll see lots of
sled dogs. They look so sweet, lying there looking observant at you.
But don’t try to pat them. They are not as domesticated as they might
appear. It’s not just to look nice, they have been tied up. It’s to
prevent the dogs from going rampaging and maybe mistake small
children for a quick snack.
You will see loose dogs, if you visit towns above the polar circle,
but as long as it is the dog that comes to you – and not the other
way round – there’s seldom anything to be nervous about. I padded a
loose dog that came over to me, and I’m still here to talk about it.
A little later the dog wasn’t quite so nice to a boy that came
out from a nearby hotel. Luckily the dog just used the boy as a
plaything, and acted as nice as a semi-wild dog can do. But unless
the dog later on was put on leash by its owner, it probably isn’t
here anymore. Only puppies and dogs with small puppies are allowed
to be without chains.
In Canada they also have sled dogs, but of a different breed – more
In Greenland the only way to get really near the dogs is to be there
together with the owner. To the dogs, the owner is the leader, and
while he or she is there, they won’t see you as a new dog, that
needs to be show where in the pecking order you belong.
While I was in Ilulissat, I stayed at Hotel Hvide Falk. One of the
(at the time) three hotels in the town – as I said: Ilulissat is
centre for tourism. The hotel serves a Greenlandic buffet Monday and
Thursday, where it’s possible to taste some of the specialities from
I got to taste some very delicious, fresh caught fish, and some
seal, whale, musk ox, reindeer, polar beer and mattak.
The fish, musk ox and reindeer always taste good. Whale and seal can
taste good, depending of the cooking. Polar beer tastes odd – and it
wouldn’t be a great loss, if I never ever have to eat that again.
Mattak is a Greenlandic speciality: the skin of a whale. Doesn’t
sound nice to eat, but it still tastes a lot better than polar beer!
While I was in Ilulissat, I had the chance of a helicopter flight
over the ice fjord, containing the most ice producing glacier on the
northern hemisphere. It is believed that the iceberg that sank
Titanic came from the ice fjord at Ilulissat!
I also had the chance to get a closer look at the great icebergs, as
I got the opportunity to see them from a small fishing boat. So
beautiful – and so exceptional cold! I can’t remember when I have
frozen so much as I did on that trip, but it was all worth it. I
also saw another whale, closer this time.
On my last day in Ilulissat, I went on a hike in the area. It’s
amazing how short you have to walk, before it seems like you step on
unknown territory, where no one has gone before. When leaving town,
the roads end at the town border. Most of the time there’s not even
a path to follow. Instead it goes over rocks, cracks and streams.
Because of that, a 7 km hike with only a very short break, took
between four and five hours.
Next day it was time for me to leave. I flew from Ilulissat to
Kangerlussuaq, with a touchdown on a very, very small airstrip at
Aasiaat, where the small propeller plane had to make use of every
bit of the short runway.
After that another plane from Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen, and then:
I’ve exchanged a lot of money for an eventful holiday – something
I don’t regret!
It's possible to use mobile phone in Greenland, but only within town
borders, and only if your phone company has a roaming agreement with
Most places has a rule that dogs older than six month has to be in
chain, and with good reason. Never go near a sled dog in
Besides the trouble you could get, you wouldn't be very popular by
the owner either. If you get bidden by a dog - even a chained one -
the dog will be put down!
"Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild
flora and fauna".
If you buy souvenirs in Greenland, you sometimes need a CITES
certificate, as a proof that the souvenir wasn't made of endangered
You get the certificate the same place, you buy souvenirs.
Almost all people in Greenland speaks Danish. Some also speaks
English. In Ilulissat you'll be able to get assistance in other
languages, like German and French in the tourist agencies.
Greenland is part of Denmark, therefore the currency is Danish