Travel Greenland; My 7 Day Greenland Itinerary
After finishing visiting 197/197 countries, I delved a little deeper into how many countries there are in the world, and it got even more confusing. I came up with a safer list, to make sure I had the whole world covered and that reached 215 countries (including places like the Faroe Islands, Abkhazia, South Ossetia etc.) but, the giant, ice-elephant in the room was that huge part of the globe stuck between Northern Europe and Canada. It haunted me every day when I looked at maps. It was, of course, gorgeous Greenland, I just HAD to travel Greenland!
So I whacked it on the itinerary, asked my buddy Anthony to join me, created a 7 day Greenland Itinerary, and we were good to go. First, though, where is Greenland and how do you even travel to Greenland?!
Where is Greenland?
It’s kind of near Iceland, but it’s bigger, icier, and runs all the way to the Canadian border, and almost as north as the North Pole (in fact, the landscape in Greenland reminded me a lot of the time I ran a marathon at the North Pole!). Check out the google map below to see where it is on a globe.
Is Greenland A Country?
No, Greenland isn’t a country. Greenland is, however, the world’s largest island! It does, in fact, belong to Denmark. But it does retain autonomous status from Denmark. There are 57,000 people who live in Greenland. And in 2009 expanded Self Rule was inaugurated, giving Greenland even more power.
88% of the people in Greenland are Inuit, the other 12% are of European descent. The majority of people speak both ‘Greenlandic’ and Danish (and English!), and they don’t refer to themselves as Danish. People from Greenland do carry Danish passports though.
How to Travel to Greenland
There are no ferries there, not from Denmark, from Iceland or anywhere else in the world. Some super-high-end expedition cruises sometimes take passengers there on a crazy, but wonderful, a boat trip through the Arctic circle but costs are often $10k+.
So unless you’re rich, that leaves you with one option – to fly. You can only fly to Greenland from either Iceland or from Denmark (to which Greenland belongs). There are 2 airlines that fly to Greenland – Air Iceland who naturally fly from Iceland (but watch out, that’s still different from Icelandair!) and Air Greenland who fly predominantly from Copenhagen, but in the summer they have a few flights from Iceland too.
Expect to pay around $1000 to $1500 for return flights from Iceland or Denmark.
Travel Greenland; My 7 Day Greenland Itinerary
Greenland is HUGE. And much of it is inaccessible apart from by Polar Expedition. That means, as an intrepid tourist, you’ll want to explore the part of Greenland that IS accessible by normal transport. That means the West Coast. I checked out 3 places during my 6 days, and I’d recommend you guys do the same thing – Kangerlussuaq, Ilulissat, and Nuuk (the Capital City). It works well with flights too, you fly from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, Kangerlussuaq to Ilulissat, Ilulissat to Nuuk, then Nuuk back to Copenhagen. Perfect.
DAY 1: Kangerlussuaq
Fly from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq (a 4 hour 40-minute flight leaving at 11 am from Copenhagen, and because of the time difference, landing just before midday in Kangerlussuaq). That gives you the afternoon to explore Kangerlussuaq. Incidentally, give yourself AT LEAST 1 day in Copenhagen, it’s a beautiful city.
Kangerlussuaq is the proud home of the only road to the Greenland Ice Sheet, and though it is a bit bumpy around the edges, it delivers you literally to the ice edge. Stepping off of the solid ground and onto ice that moves undetected beneath your feet will give you a new appreciation for the natural environment. But that can wait until tomorrow, as it generally takes a tour to get there.
So today, you can climb the mountain (Mount Hassel) just behind the town, you don’t need a guide and it’s a leisurely couple of hours with epic views of the Arctic Desert. Back to town, go for pizza and beers at the Nordlyset Pizzeria Thai Grillhouse (yup, really!). The population of Kangerlussuaq is just 499 people though, so don’t expect a lot of variety. We stayed at the Polar lodge during our time here ($150 for a twin, so $75 each), basic but fine and only 100m from the airport so you can walk. We also organised our tours last minute at the hotel reception. WiFi i available by paid-voucher at reception.
DAY 2: Kangerlussuaq
If it’s your last day in Kangerlussuaq, then that means the main event. Skip past the lakes, mountains and glaciers and actually get onto the ice cap itself. Of the 50,000 people who call Greenland home, 90+% live on the southeastern coast, where we were. The rest of the island (the largest non-continental island on the planet!) is pretty much one giant ice block. So the icecap we hiked on today goes on and on as far as the eye can see, all the way to both the north and the east of Greenland, where the Polar Bears live.
It’s amazing that the Greenlandic community have built a life for themselves here. Humans are an amazing species, we get a little lost along the way, but when we put our minds to it, nothing can stop us. A tour to the icecap costs around 995DKK, about $150USD. Hiking on the ice, crampons and walking poles are advised, but it’s just beautiful. Nothingness, depressing and refreshing at the same time. Spectacular no matter what way you look at it!
If you have a third day, I’d suggest checking out Russel Glacier. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the inland ice sheet is one of Greenland’s biggest attractions. Known as the Greenland Ice Sheet, it covers 80% of the island’s surface and is second in size to the world’s only other ice sheet in Antarctic. The glacier is similar to the gorgeous ice fronts in New Zealand’s South Island, and in Patagonia BUT… you have it 100% to yourself. We were literally the only people there. In the days of Instagram, Blogs and YouTube, Greenland is a rarity indeed. The tour includes a barbeque at the glacier, so wrap up warm!
DAY 3: Ilulissat
If you flew to Kangerlussuaq, then Ilulissat is your next port of call. Ilulissat is kind of Greenland’s most famous destination (Kangerlussuaq, and it’s amazing ice-cap often gets overlooked due to the flight prices, but it’s worth it, I promise!). With a population of 5000 people, Ilulissat is a fully-functional town with cafes, restaurants and established tourist infrastructure and it sits right on the border of the Arctic Circle.
The main attraction here is the UNESCO world heritage site of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord, but the beauty of the whole place is the gorgeous boxy-houses sitting right by a lake filled with icebergs. When you conjure an image of Greenland in your mind, this is it. The city had been around for literally thousands of years and the natural harbour is home to thousands of abandoned icebergs that have come loose from the most active glacier in the world.
Ilulissat Ice Fjord
All-in-all a pretty epic sight, and one you have to include when you hit up Greenland. It’s a 45 minutes flight from both Kangerlussuaq and Nuuk, and the best way to soak it all up is to get a boat tour through icebergs, it’s pretty fun dodgy ice as you nip through the huge bergs. We missed the day tour ($50 or so) due to flight times and booked a private tour for about $140 per person. Loved it!
The tour only takes about 2 hours or so, so with the rest of the day go for a walk around the town (including its two museums). If you’re throwing crazy money around too, you can take amazing flightseeing tours over the Icefjord (we skipped it, I regretted it!), or whale watching or sunset boat tour. This place is full of activities, bring plenty of money! The best place to stay is the Hotel Arctic, they have igloos facing the iceberg-filled lake, unreal. And go for food or coffee at the Hotel Icefiord, we stumbled across it but the views are unreal.
DAY 4: Ilulissat
The big day – taking a day trip to see Eqi Glacier and the Ilulissat Ice Fjord. The tours cost $300 to $400, so it doesn’t come cheap. It takes around 2/3 hours on a boar from Ilulissat, but it’s worth both the money and the time. Icebergs cracking off huge ice-sheets, 200m high ice walls, it’s like something from Game of Thrones.
DAY 5: Ilulissat
Today is a cheaper day thankfully! It’s also a day you could potentially cut if you’re on under serious time constraints. Like I mentioned Ilulissat has a million and one things you can do. So if you haven’t explored the town yet, do that. Here are a few other awesome things to do:
- The flight above the glacier.
- Visit a nearby indigenous settlement by boat
- Kayaking amidst the glaciers
- Sermermiut hike
Personally, I think the Sermermiut hike is the best option. You don’t need a guide, you get to go explore and be free and the views are, like everywhere in Greenland, spectacular. Sermermiut an old settlement which is located at the mouth of the ice fjord. No one lives there today but has been a settlement since 2400 BCE.
The hike itself only takes a couple of hours at a slow pace, just ask a local to point you in the right direction and away you go!
DAY 6: Nuuk
Your time is almost up. Now, this next section is more of a personal choice. The city of Nuuk doesn’t really offer the beauty of Greenland the way Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat do, but I always like to see what the Capital Cities of places look like, so I was quite excited to check Nuuk out. A lot of people fly from Ilulissat and connect straight to their flight back to Denmark (or Iceland), but not me, I wanted to explore. And so we did.
So what is there to see? A couple of Museums (not my scene), and whale watching opportunities. For me though, I love to just walk around a city like this and soak it up. We actually had heard of a local Greenland beer, and the brewery was apparently run by a German ex-pat based here in Nuuk, so we made that our mission of the day.
The local brewery, attached to a bar, was called Godthaab Bryghus. There aren’t official tours per se, but we heard rumours it was possible. So we went in and asked to speak to the Master Brewer. A really friendly, fun, crazy German guy. Fast forward 4 hours, the Master Brewery, Anthony and I had drunk about 10 beers each, and we’re still sitting in the back of the Brewery learning about the processes, swapping crazy travel stories. I had such an amazing last day here, I really can’t recommend it highly enough!
And with that my week was up. We walked back to our hotel and we were ready for bed after all those beers. Nuuk, in all honesty, has a weird vibe. It’s got a reputation for being a little dangerous, and there wasn’t much going on. That being said, our Brewery tour had made it very worthwhile, so no complaints with us.
Day 7: Nuuk to Copenhagen
Wake up, taxi to the airport, leave!
Travel Greenland; Final Thoughts on my Greenland Itinerary & Trip
So how many days do you need in Greenland? You need to visit the Icecap in Kangerlussuaq, the Glacier in Ilulissat, ideally the Russel Glacier in Kangerlussuaq too, and an extra day in Ilulissat for one of a series of available activities. That’s 4 full days of activities if you time your flights right that means you can probably get away with 5 nights/6 days, including arriving on one day and leaving on another. That would be jam-packed though, so I’d recommend making it a week and you have a day to play within Nuuk or elsewhere to soak up the Greenland vibes. With the prices of flights, you probably won’t be back, so make the most of it. It’s truly a privilege to be here.
One of the 3 coolest islands for travel experiences in the world in my opinion, along with Socotra, Yemen and Svalbard, Norway. Right now, it’s still untouched so go sooner rather than later! See you on the road.
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