Greenland is one of the most remote and unknown places of planet Earth, but for those who are brave enough to make it there, Greenland may also be the most beautiful country you will ever see. Greenland, the second biggest island in the world after Australia, is home to only 56000 people, mainly Inuits, who have been living on this iced island for thousands years. Out of these 56000, only 3000 live on the East Coast, while the rest of the population is concentrated on the West and Southern Coasts.
Greenland is pretty unknown to the general travel industry and this is the reason why traveling there requires some adaptability and patience. Here is all you need to know about this unusual destination.
How to get there
There is only one company from Europe that flies to Kulusuk, in East Greenland, and that is Air Iceland, which, from June 1st until the beginning of September, flies twice daily. It takes only two hours to get to Kulusuk from Reykjavik Domestic Airport. Please note flight tickets are quite expensive and they never really get cheap. This is because the flight company has to cover the possible expenses in case of delay or cancellation; something that is likely to happen in a place like Greenland.
When to go
Summer is the best period to visit East Greenland, the weather is usually always sunny and the midnight sun gives you plenty of time to enjoy any kind of activity you want to do. Summer nature is simply majestic, colours are so beautiful that actually seem saturated; temperatures are mild and there is no risk of any close encounters with polar bears, as opposed to winter time when this is very common.
What to do
East Greenland is a place full of life, due to the stunning nature surrounding it. However, you need to keep in mind that it is a very remote place and that its people have not developed a business consciousness at all, they are fishermen or hunters and they live life according to their own space and time rules which are very different from yours. You may have to organise your activities on spot as it is vey difficult to do so in advance.
The local hotel in Kulusuk, (Hotel Kulusuk), organises a couple of tours around the area. One is a one hour and a half boat tour to the local Glacier Apusiasjik, leaving from the dock behind the hotel, and the other is a mountain drive to DYE 4, an old US military radar station 8 kms away from the hotel, situated on top of a mountain with a stunning view of the icebergs and landscape around. The 8 kms long road is also the longest road of east Greenland and if you are on a budget instead, it is also possible to hike it in few hours! It is possible that you are required to be a guest of the hotel to book those tours.
There is also the possibility to book longer boat tours too, and if you have time you should, for example, go hunting with locals, go to Tasiilaq, or visit Knud Rasmussen Glacier. In order to do that you need to book on the spot, either by asking at the hotel or one of the locals at the local harbour in the village. While this last option may be cheaper, you need to keep in mind that most of locals don’t speak English.
What to see
1. Knud Rasmussen Glacier
It’s definitely the highlight of this part of Greenland. It is one of four large glaciers that are part of the Wolstenholme Fjord, called the “ice machine of the planet”. The boat ride to reach it is a journey itself. It lasts 3 hours across some of the most majestic and untouched corners of Greenland and of the Arctic region.
The view, when the glacier appears at your sight, is simply stunning and will leave you speechless. As an advice, bring very warm clothes as the journey is long and the more you get closer to the glaciers the colder it gets. Don’t forget you are in Greenland! Again, ask the local hotel to help you book a tour to get there. They never book in advance as it is subject to weather conditions.
Next on the list is Tasiilaq, often referred to as “the city” by Kulusuk people; it is the biggest town of eastern Greenland, with 2000 inhabitants. The boat ride from Kulusuk to Tasiilaq takes about 1 hour, the town is located in a stunning fjord surrounded by snowy mountains and the Flower Valley just outside town, a perfect location for hiking and exploring.
In the village you can find a shop, a bar, a pizza place, a museum, a souvenir shop and an helicopter station, from where the local company, Greenland copter, has flying tours over the local glaciers. The top viewpoint over the town is the terrace of the Angmassalik Hotel, on top of a hill, from where you can see the entire fjord. In July and August there is a football competition happening in the city centre between all the little settlements of the area.
This year Kulusuk won the competition and it was a big party in the village. The football tournament in Tasiilaq is a great spot for people to observe and get immersed into local life. Try to avoid it the first weekend of the month, as it is when locals get paid and many of them like to spend their money on alcohol. You may find drunk people all over the place during the whole weekend before they go back to work.
3. Kulusuk village
The village and surroundings are the most authentic experience you can have in Greenland. The settlement is home to 200 Inuits who still live a very raw life according to the rules of nature. Most of the inhabitants are hunters, either of seals and whales in summer or of polar bears in winter. They live a very simple life in tiny coloured wooden houses.
In the past, the house colours were practical and indicated the function of each building: police stations were black; the telephone company was green, fish factories were blue, commercial houses were red and nurse and hospitals yellow. Nowadays, it is not like this anymore but Inuits prefer to keep the traditional colours. Most of the houses in Kulusuk have no running water and people use a common building in the middle of the village to wash their clothes and shower. The summer solstice, June 21st, is their national day and they dress in traditional clothes and host parties all over the village where they dance and eat traditional food.
Traditional Greenlandic food
It consists of what nature offers them. Inuits love to eat raw whale meat. When they hunt a whale, they cut the skin in little stripes and eat it fresh. They also eat seal meat, and in winter as a delicacy they eat polar bear as well, this time boiled for hours in water with simple vegetables.
They are some of the most peaceful people in the world and they are the real beauty of this country. They are very shy at the beginning but if you give them a chance and take time to get to know them, you will discover how amazing, kind and wise they are. They will teach you to see the world with their eyes and you will discover a new perspective about our beautiful planet and about life.
So let the journey begin and happy travels!