April 25, 2019

Four day summer adventure in Ilulissat, Greenland

by Águsta Björg Þorsteinsdóttir
Travel tips
Four day summer adventure in Ilulissat, Greenland

Have you ever dreamed of travelling to Greenland? When the opportunity to travel to Greenland presented itself, I was excited but a bit hesitant. Although I had assisted many travellers in going to Greenland, I didn’t really know what to expect when I was preparing for my own trip. And that’s the reason for this blog – to help you prepare for an adventure of a lifetime or to at least to tickle your inner wanderlust!

Even though Greenland is geographically right next to Iceland, Icelanders generally don’t know much about daily life over there, and since most of the stories you hear are about eating seal fat. Believe me, the thought of bringing my own food with me did cross my mind. However, in the end, I decided to welcome the unknown in Greenlandic cuisine and only brought a pack of biscuits and some cherry tomatoes, something that always comes in handy as a back-up snack.

Day 1 – Illulissat and Sermermiut

After a nearly 3 hour flight from Reykjavik with Air Iceland Connect via Reykjavik’s domestic airport, we landed in Ilulissat, a small town located on the west coast of Greenland, 250 km north of the Arctic Circle. Ilulissat is the third largest town in Greenland with approximately 4500 residents and has four surrounding villages and 3500 sled dogs (wow!). Ilulissat, meaning iceberg in Greenlandic, is located by the Icefjord, which was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The Icefjord is 40 km long, filled with enormous icebergs from the world’s most active glacier, Sermeq Kujalleq.

The town is very beautiful and the sea view is always changing as the icebergs float by. One fun fact: the houses in this area are built on top of rocks because the ground is frozen year-round.

On my first day in Ilulissat I had a Settlement walk to Sermemiut on my agenda for the afternoon. I planned all my tours through Iceland Travel via World of Greenland and they were wonderful to work with—very professional and friendly. They picked me up at Hotel Arctic where I stayed for the first 2 nights and we drove through the town until we were close to the dog park where most of the sled dogs of Ilulissat are kept. From there we started our walk, which was only about 1,5 km each way, to the old settlement Sermermiut where different Inuit cultures lived for 4000 years. You can still see many remains from the original settlement and when we got to the viewpoint at Nakkaavik the view was the breathtakingly beautiful icefjord.

Day 2 – Ilulissat and Eqi Glacier

After a delicious breakfast at the Arctic Hotel, I decided to walk from the hotel to the World of Greenland office, which is located downtown Ilulissat. It took about 20 minutes with photo stops every few steps since the town is incredibly picturesque. You can also get a hotel pick-up but I wanted the morning walk before a day out on the sea. From World of Greenland, I was escorted to the boat and commenced my day tour of the famous Eqi Glacier.

My anticipation was building as we boated towards Eqi Glacier, located in a fjord 80 kilometres north of Ilulissat. The tour took about 9 hours in total with plenty of time to take in the fragile beauty of the glacier. The boat got close to the massive glacier, but little could I tell we were still about a kilometre away from it for safety reasons as falling ice crashes into the water with enormous thunder-like sounds. The experience of seeing this glacier will remain in my memory forever and I would highly recommend it to everyone traveling to Ilulissat. It’s also possible to book an overnight accommodation in a lodge overlooking the Eqi Glacier.

Day 3 – Illimanaq

On day three it was time to head to one of the most remote places I’ve ever been to (this says a lot, as I’ve camped in the Namib desert and deep in the Okavango Delta in Botswana) and sail to the village of Ilimanaq with a population of 53 habitants. The boat ride was supposed to take about 30 minutes, but after having only sailed 10 minutes, our captain spotted a humpback whale close to a huge iceberg. So we stopped and watched the whale swim around and “wave” to us in incredible surroundings.

After this great and totally unexpected stop between the icebergs, we continued our ride to the quaint village. Like many other places in Greenland, Ilimanaq can only be reached by boat or helicopter and when the water freezes during winter, helicopter is the only option.

Upon arrival in Ilimanaq, I checked in to my gorgeous private cabin with an amazing view, and then had a lunch platter with Greenlandic delicacies at the restaurant. If I’m to be honest, I can’t say that I liked everything on the platter, but it was interesting to taste and the dinner that followed that evening was so good that I (almost) forgot about the lunch. The 15 well-designed lodges in Ilimanaq are brand new and opened 15. June 2017. In the afternoon, there was a scheduled settlement walk where we learned interesting facts about the area and heard stories about life there.

With no internet connectivity at the cabin, my stay was very peaceful and it was really good to get a digital detox and be completely disconnected from the world for 24 hours. I highly recommend it. Pro-tip: If you are a solo traveller like I was, I do not recommend bringing a crime novel that begins with the murder of a girl who was all alone in the middle of nowhere! Needless to say, I did get a bit spooked.

Day 4 – Back to Illulissat

On my last day in Greenland I took the earliest boat back to Ilulissat and it was unbelievable to see how much different the ride was from the day before as the icebergs had shifted and the sea was filled with slushy ice almost the whole way back.

Since I had a little time to kill before my flight home from Ilulissat, I took a stroll to the local cemetery, which I found to be fascinating and a little different compared to your average western European cemetery.

On the flight back to Iceland, the weather was great and we had an incredibly scenic flight over the whole Icefjord. It was an amazing ending to my Greenland summer adventure.

Here is my recommended (mini) packing list for your Greenland summer adventure:

• The best way to be prepared for all weather conditions is to dress layer on layer, and the outer layer should be wind- and waterproof.
• Warm sweater
• Wool inner layer
• Long underwear
• Hiking boots
• Cap, gloves and warm socks.
• Sunscreen and sunglasses
• Insect repellent (the mosquitos are not that welcoming)
• Camera and binoculars
• A good book for evening reading

Do you need help planning your ultimate Greenland adventure? We can help

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