11 incredible adventures you can only have in Greenland
By Claire Volkman
August 07, 2018, 11:06:02 AM EDT
With charms that range from 400-person hunting villages, the sprawling Scoresbysund’s complex glacier systems, and the world’s largest National Park, it’s no surprise Greenland is surging with popularity.
However, traveling here isn’t easy—the prices are steep, there are relatively few flights and reliable roads, and the desirable seasons are short. Which means every trip needs to come with a well-planned itinerary that allows you to soak up the once-in-a-lifetime adventures that only this country can offer, from kayaking through million-year-old icefields to tasting whale and polar bear meat to taking a bone-chilling dip in the Arctic Ocean.
Whatever you do, this country and its offerings won’t be a secret much longer, so quickly book your trip before it becomes the next Iceland.
1. Kayak Through Icefields
Not a feat for the faint of heart (or those who have watched Titanic a few too many times), kayaking is actually the best way to see Southern Greenland’s icy geography. The primary mode of transportation along Greenland’s weaving waterways, kayaking is arguably one of the biggest cultural symbols of the country. As a result, you can find rental companies in almost all the major cities from Nuuk to Ilulissat. With the ability to maneuver closer to hundred-year-old glaciers and floating chunks of ice, you’ll have the chance to both experience the magnitude of these icebergs and marvel in their iridescent color—a mix of shimmering blue, stark white, and even black.
Narsarsuaq, the main town in the South, serves as a great homebase for kayaking adventures around the iceberg bay. For a chance to explore even more remote icefields around Greenland, Hurtigruten’s 16-day Arctic Cruise gives guests the chance to kayak through untouched splendors around the eastern coast and provides guides and dry suits. Although local residents kayak 365 days a year, the best time to hit the water is from May through September when the wildlife is out in full force and the temperatures aren’t as icy.
2. Visit Quaint and Quiet Towns
Even the largest city in Greenland, Nuuk, has only 17,000 permanent residents. But despite the small size, it still offers all the charms of a larger capital, with everything from art museums to hiking trails. Outside of Nuuk, the villages are considerably smaller, most home to less than 100 permanent residents. Ilulissat is a must-visit to catch a glimpse of the famous icefjord.
The city sprawls along the coast of western Greenland with cobalt, red, yellow, and green homes quietly dotting the shore. Other villages that deserve a visit (if only for the photography opportunities) are Sisimiut, the second-largest city in the country, and Aasiaat, whose buildings tower and flow down the hills and mountainside. Many of the villages aren’t accessible by road, so the only way to visit is via boat, helicopter, or snowmobile. To see a traditional fishing and hunting village, some expedition cruise lines take guests to Ittoqqortoormiit, a settlement of around 400 people in the Sermersooq municipality, where you’ll have free reign to explore the town, visit local hunters, and take in the rocky and expansive landscape.
3. See Incredible Wildlife
The wild geography of Greenland isn’t just home to spectacular scenery—it’s home to an impressive array of endemic species as well. That includes polar bears, walruses, musk ox, caribou, arctic foxes, whales, hares, eagles, lemmings, and the rare Arctic wolf. So how do you spot these creatures in their natural habitat? Take a small expedition cruise for the chance to watch the humpback whales breach 40 feet into the air and pods of orcas zip by. On land, a hike will likely bring sightings of polar bears, arctic foxes, and wolves, but be sure to keep your distance. A visit to Greenland National Park will introduce you to the Musk Oxen, or Ummimak. Territorial and nearly 400 pounds, it’s best to hike with a guide so you can tread through their natural habitat carefully, as they’re easily camouflaged in the native brush.
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