‘A journey that will stay with me forever’: why you should visit Greenland in 2022

The top three experiences of my life have all happened while traveling: driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas via Yosemite and Death Valley; floating through ancient caves lit by glowworms in New Zealand; and camping on the Greenland Ice Sheet under the Northern Lights in August.

The first two on my list are quite well-known must do activities when visiting those parts of the world. I knew before I embarked on my travels that they would be once-in-a-lifetime moments – but my recent Greenland adventure was an unexpected experience that will stay with me forever.

I will spend the rest of my life urging people to visit Greenland, so this is why you should book a trip to the world’s largest island.

You must visit Greenland if…

…you like adventure

I will strongly emphasize this point. If your idea of ​​a vacation involves 5* hotels and luxury spas, this is definitely not the country for you.

In fact, Greenland’s Official Tourism Office a whole section of their website explain why it is not for everyone.

But if kayaking through fjords and dog sledding across the ice sounds like fun, there’s nowhere as extreme as Greenland.

I was only there for a short visit, but my trip still included a perilous hike on the ice sheet, an extremely memorable trip in a UTV (ultra-terrain vehicle), and being led away from the glacier I was photographing because it at – danger of collapse.

The accommodation where I stayed was a former military barracks, now used occasionally for training, but mainly for scientists on expeditions. All hotels in Greenland are part of the EU Hotel Stars Union, meaning they have one star by European standards. However, most hotels are generally quite basic in terms of amenities.

But if you go to Greenland for a luxurious night’s sleep, you may want to review again.

…you want to see the Northern Lights while camping on a vital ecosystem

There are, of course, many places in the world where you can see the Northern Lights. But where else in the world can you look up at a natural wonder while standing (or lying, in my case) atop an equally stunning natural wonder.

It’s a beautiful landscape that you don’t see anywhere else, but also changes quickly.

The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest body of ice in the world — and it’s imperative. If the entire ice sheet melted, global sea levels would rise by 7.2 meters. This ice is already being lost at a drastic rate as the surrounding glaciers retreat dramatically.

Seeing the Northern Lights was certainly a breathtaking experience, but made all the more memorable by the sheer mass of fragile ice, stretching in all directions beneath my feet.

I camped on the ice sheet at Point 660, a short drive from the town of Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland. This spot is routinely used by climate and Arctic scientists, as it is the most accessible point on the ice sheet.

The camping experience I had, run by Arctic Circle Albatross, is definitely not for the faint of heart. The midnight walk in the freezing cold on a dark ice sheet, followed by pitching our own tents in a raging wind was certainly a test for even the strongest in my group – but I’d do it again if I could.

…are happy without a car

It is worth noting that no two cities in Greenland are connected by road. That sounds like some weird internet conspiracy, like the hoax rumor about gardens are illegal in New Zealandbut I can assure you it is true.

I’ve been on the longest road in Greenland, stretching from Kangerlussuaq to Point 660 – and it’s not long. There are only 150 km of roads in the whole country, of which only 60 km are asphalted.

There are exciting plans to formally link Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut by road, but for now the iconic 160km Arctic Circle route is perfect for walkers, less so for vehicles.

The best way to get around depends on the time of year. In the summer you can travel by boat and when the fjords freeze over in the winter, there are options to travel by dog ​​sled.

In general, all major cities are connected by air, either via domestic flights or helicopters.

…are interested in Inuit culture

As much as Greenland is a place of adventure and outdoor activities, there is also a rich and beautiful culture to be appreciated.

The history of the country goes back about 5000 years, with several waves of Inuit immigration from North America. From art and fashion to architecture and cuisine – Inuit culture is at the heart of Greenlandic life.

Although about 80 percent of the population is Inuit, European colonialism means that modern Greenland is also mixed with Scandinavian cultures and traditions.

This also meant that Greenlandic artifacts were long seen as the property of Denmark, until a repatriation agreement was signed in the 1980s. Now the National Museum of Greenland in the capital, Nuuk has hosted more than 35,000 artifacts, making it a must-visit for anyone looking for some culture while there.

For a more experiential taste of Greenlandic culture, there are a wealth of packages that will give you a better idea of ​​the key traditions. By make a costume nasty see a drum dance – there are plenty of cultural things to do.

…do you want to know more about Viking history

One of the key figures who came up time and again in conversations while I was in Greenland was Erik the Red.

My Viking history was extremely rusty before my trip, but I was fascinated by his story and time in Greenland.

It turns out that Erik the Red is the reason Greenland is (somewhat deceptively) called Greenland. Despite the lack of greenery on the island, he wanted to give the impression of fertility to encourage more people to settle with him.

The Narsarsuaq Museum in southern Greenland has an entire collection devoted to this interesting piece of Norwegian history.

…you want to see the climate crisis in action

My trip to Greenland coincided with one of the few cases of rain on the ice sheet. As an environmental journalist, faced with the sheer magnitude of global warming every day, you’d think this wouldn’t put me off. But seeing how shocked and genuinely upset our Greenlandic guides were at this rain, I (and others) to tears.

i don’t think anyone needs to see the extremes of the climate crisis in person to care, but it was in many ways a truly sobering journey.

On another day I was visiting Russell Glacier and while I was photographing the ice a huge chunk broke and fell into the water. The other journalists with me just stood in silence for quite a while after it fell, taking in the enormity of what we had seen.

Russell Glacier, near Point 660, was a particularly beautiful place to see in person. My guide showed me how big it was five, ten, twenty years ago – and it was really amazing how quickly it melted.

How to travel to Greenland from Europe

If I’ve done enough to convince you to visit Greenland – and I hope I did – you may now be wondering how to travel there.

There are no international ferry connections to Greenland, but there are cruises that sometimes visit parts of the country. However, these cruises are usually part of longer journeys and are not the best way to travel straight.

Currently the best way to travel is via commercial flights from Iceland or Denmark.

From Iceland you can fly with Icelandair from Reykjavik to Kulusuk in eastern Greenland or the capital Nuuk in western Greenland. There are also some seasonal flights available from Iceland, but they vary throughout the year.

From June 2022, Icelandair will open a new route to Narasuaq in southern Greenland.

From Denmark you can fly year-round to Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland, or to Narasuaq in the summer.

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