Search Results for: "south greenland"

Qooroq Ice Fjord – South Greenland

My final excursion in South Greenland was a boat trip out to the Qooroq Ice Fjord to see the calving glacier.  Unfortunately, I was the only one going on this particular day, so it was a small, fast boat out, and a rather solitary experience 🙁

Qooroq Ice Fjord boat tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Just me and the captain!

On the way across to the glacier, however, we did swing by some of the larger icebergs in the Tunulliarfik Fjord for a closer look.   Although I’ve see a lot of icebergs in the past couple of years both in Patagonia and Antarctica, I never get tired of them.

Large icebergs - Qooroq Ice Fjord Boat Tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Then it was on to the glacier itself.  Apparently, we got a lot closer than what most trips get (having a smaller boat and all), but we were still 6km away! 

Qooroq Glacier - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

As close as you go. And we got closer than most!

I had expected to get right up to it like you do with the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, so I have to admit I was a little disappointed.  Thank goodness for zoom lenses!

Qooroq Glacier - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

But, just because I was the only passenger didn’t mean that I missed out on my cocktail with a chunk of million-year-old ice in it.   I initially opted for water, but then thought “stuff it” and had a very small sip of the proffered pre-mixed martini.   Hmmm… I don’t think I’ll be ordering one of those anytime soon … I admit, most of it got tipped overboard!

Million-year-old ice in a drink - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

After enjoying the peace and quiet for a little while, it was back to Narsarsuaq to get ready for my flight to Nuuk.

Qooroq Ice Fjord Boat Tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Goodbye South Greenland.  It has been a lot of fun!

Time: ~1.5 hours (though if you have other people, you get a bigger boat and it can take up to 3.5hrs)

Notes:  You don’t really get that close to the glacier.  If you have the chance – I’d suggest doing the boat trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentinian Patagonia.  It is infinitely more spectacular.

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

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Sillisit – South Greenland

Leaving Igaliku turned out to be quite difficult, thanks to the bad weather that had kicked up the day before on my return from the Waterfall hike.    There were 6 of us scheduled to leave, and although we hiked over the King’s Road to be at the dock at Itilleq at the appointed time, they ended up taking us back to the Igaliku Country Hotel, as the boat had been delayed due to the wind and they weren’t sure how long it would be.

We eventually left 3 hours later, but the wind was too strong to drop me at Sillisit – the sheep farm I was meant to be staying at for 2 nights, which is located just across the Tunulliarfik Fjord

Rough seas - South Greenland

Rough seas!

So I ended up back in Narsarsuaq, where I was greeted very enthusiastically by David and the 2 German couples who happened to be having beers in the Blue Ice Café.

It was determined that I would stay the night in the Narsarsuaq Hostel (another awesome, awesome hostel and another dorm room to myself) and, hopefully, the wind would die down overnight so I could be dropped at Sillisit the next morning.    In the end, I had a great night with the gang having dinner at the Hotel Narsarsuaq, so I wasn’t too bummed about missing a night across the fjord 😊

Reunion of friends - Hotel Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Next day dawned clear-ish and not too windy, so was dropped at Sillisit at 10am and shown to the Sillisit Hostel.  Yet another room to myself – I’m scoring well with these rooms!   Sat out on the front deck – which has the most amazing view over the fjord across to Itilleq – and just couldn’t bring myself to move from that spot.  

View from Silisit Hostel - South Greenland

Grabbed a chick-lit book I’d just started reading, and stayed put for the whole day.  Heaven!

Also talked for ages with a girl from Spain who was working at the farm.  We switched to Spanish pretty quickly and it was awesome to be able to have a long conversation and realize that I haven’t lost too much of my ability to speak that language, even though it’s been 5 months!

We both also had dinner with the owner of the sheep farm, Elna, and her family – amaaaaazing roast lamb with couscous salad and pasta, finished off by banana cake!   I think I ate more in that one meal than I’ve eaten in the past 3 days!  It was absolutely delicious though.

And sunset (at around 11pm) wasn’t too bad either!

Sunset views from Silisit Hostel - South Greenland

Sometimes you need a rest day 🙂

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

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Igaliku – South Greenland

“Don’t walk on the grass!”

This is the first thing you are told when you arrive in Igaliku, and it is an anathema to an Australian who loves walking on grass.  Of course, there is a valid reason for this directive – Igaliku is a sheep farming town and the grass is fodder for the sheep.  But they could have at least made a narrow path between the Igaliku Country Hotel (the local hang-out joint and where I had to check-in) and the Gardar Hostel (where I am staying), rather than having to always walk the long way around a very big paddock that sits right in the middle of town.

Igaliku - South Greenland

View of Igaliku and fjord. You can see the circular area in the middle of town with no buildings? That’s for sheep!

I’d arrived in Igaliku having caught my boat transfer up the fjord from Narsaq

Blue Ice boat transfers - South Greenland

This is how you get from place to place in South Greenland – boat transfers. The boats are very nice actually!

and after having walked the 4kms along the very pebbly “Kings Road” that links the dock at Itilleq (located in the same fjord as other key centres in the area) to Igaliku (which lies in a different fjord). 

The dock at Itilleq which provides access to Igaliku. Two of the red and white Blue Ice transfer boats are visible as is a private yacht

The red and white boats are those owned by Blue Ice, and were how I got around in South Greenland when not hiking.

Fortunately, luggage transfer is included in my trip so I only had to carry my day pack 😊

Hiking across King's Road to Igaliku - South Greenland

Views from King’s Road on the way to Igaliku

Igaliku was one of the most important sites in Greenland during the Norse era, having been settled by Einer (Eric the Red’s best friend) in ~985AD.  The parliament and court were located here, and, once Christianity arrived, the Episcopal residence was also located in Igaliku.  The ruins of this residence, the cathedral and associated buildings (including barns that would fit 100 cattle) are located right in town, and apparently there are other Norse ruins scattered all around the area.

Norse ruins - Igaliku - South Greenland

Also, and unlike elsewhere in Greenland, many of the houses in Igaliku are constructed from the same sandstone that the Norse used 1000 years ago (literally – they raided the ruins).  Though more modern buildings, built after the introduction of the Preservation Act for Greenland in 1937, are constructed of wood.

Stone houses - Igaliku - South Greenland

Gardar Hostel is fantastic (I even have a dorm room to myself 😊), and I found packets of stew (designed for hikers – you literally put the closed packet in boiling water for 10 minutes to heat the contents up) in the Pilersuisoq (grocery store chain) here. 

Guess what is for dinner for the next 3 nights?!

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

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From Iceland to Narsarsuaq – South Greenland

After 25 years of waiting to visit, I seemed determined not to make it to Greenland!   For the second time in as many days, my brain was an hour out on timing and I went very, very close to missing my flight from Iceland to Greenland!

The first occasion was in Tehran, where I was sitting one gate over from where my flight was departing and was engrossed in writing emails.  Fortunately, it was ridiculously early in the morning and ours was the only flight leaving from that part of the terminal, so the nice Ethiad Airways man came over and asked me if I was on the Ethiad flight – and if so – well, they were going to offload me!  I was completely stricken (and must have looked so) and I pleaded with him not to do that as I had 4 interconnecting flights.  His response, “Well, you are going to miss all of them”…  But then he let me on the plane 😊

This second occasion, I had decided to catch the local bus from the Smart Hostel (fantastic hostel and dorms if you want to stay near the airport in Keflavik) so decided on a departure time in order to make it with plenty of time to spare.   Then, when I was waiting at the bus stop, I looked at my watch and suddenly had a heart-attack with the realization that it was only an hour before my flight took off!   Panic ensued, and I ended up waving down a passing car and offering them 2000ISK (~AUD$30) to take me to the airport immediately.  Fortunately, it was a lovely young lady and she did just that.  Ran into the check-in area and the lady didn’t seem anywhere near as stressed-out as I was as she tagged my bag and handed me my boarding pass.

In all my years of travelling, I’ve only gone close to missing a flight once (when they changed the gate on me and I was again distracted working on the computer) – now twice in 2 days??!!   Pay attention Lisa!

Once I was actually on the plane, the flight from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq in South Greenland was uneventful.  The bonus was that the plane was less than ½ full so we each had a window seat 🙂  Fortunately, the clouds cleared as we approached our destination (the weather was really crappy in Iceland) and the views were incredible!   So much ice!

Views flying from Iceland to South Greenland

Middle-right picture – can you tell what is ice/snow and what is cloud?

Then, suddenly, the uninterrupted ice and snow was replaced with a glacier and mountains that lined our approach to our landing destination: Narsarsuaq.

Approach to Narsarsuaq Airport - South Greenland

The Narsarsuaq airport actually has an interesting history.  It was originally code-named Bluie West One, and was built in 1941 (along with many of the buildings in Narsarsuaq) to as a key base of operations for US aircraft on supply missions between America and Europe during WWII.   These days, it is the second-longest runway in Greenland and so several international flights (from Denmark and Iceland) land here in the high season for tourism.

Narsarsuaq Airport - South Greenland

I met the lady from Blue Ice Explorer at the airport, took possession of my book of vouchers and information for the next 14 days and headed off to the harbor to catch my boat to Narsaq.

My voucher book and brief information brochures from Blue Ice Explorer

You have to be comfortable traveling independently with only this much information!

There were 6 of us heading there and, given the weather was stunning, I decided to sit out on the back of the boat as we made our way down the fjord.  It did get a tad chilly, but was totally worth it for the views.

Up the fjord to Narsaq from Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Our boat (top left) and some of the views heading up the fjord from Narsarsuaq to Narsaq

Arrived in Narsaq and was picked up at the port and taken to the Hotel Narsaq – it turns out I’d been upgraded 😊   Time for an early night (even though it is still broad daylight outside at 9:30pm) to see if I can catch up on some of the sleep I missed while travelling from Iran.  Time to start hiking tomorrow!

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
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Trekking Iceland – Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík – Hornstrandir

When you are a little nervous about something, it always makes you feel better when the sun is shining 🙂   

boats in Ísafjörður harbour
Glorious morning!

I arrived early at the Borea Adventures dock to catch my boat transfer from Ísafjörður to Veiðileysufjörður and was beginning to think I may have been the only passenger.  However, with 5 minutes to go, 2 guys from the US (Sean and Daniel) and a group of about 15 people on a day tour showed up and we set out on the ~1 hour journey to Hornstrandir.

Views from the Borea Adventures boat transfer from Ísafjörður to Veiðileysufjörður - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Great journey, but unfortunately no whales

Boat transfer to Veiðileysufjörður

It was a very calm crossing in glorious weather, so I sat on the back deck enjoying the views and chatting with some of the other passengers.  We dropped the group of day-hikers off as we entered the Veiðileysufjörður inlet, and then continued on to a triangular structure (which turned out to be a pit toilet) that identifies the locations of campgrounds in Hornstrandir.

The crew launched the small zodiac off the back of the boat to deposit myself, Sean and Daniel on dry land, and then headed back to Ísafjörður.  There was no turning back now and I had 8 days to get to my pickup point in Hesteyri.

Images of the zodiac transfer to Veiðileysufjörður campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Lowering the zodiac (top-left), en route to Veiðileysufjörður campsite (top-right), and there is no turning back now! (bottom)

It turns out Sean is an award-winning professional wildlife photographer (a give-away being the enormous lens that was permanently attached to his camera) who had come to Hornstrandir to photograph a personal project on Arctic Foxes.  He and Daniel (also an amazing wildlife photographer) had met the year before in Alaska and were spending the next 5 days in the Hornvík area (my destination for the day) to capture the images.  Given we were heading the same direction and had similar interests we decided to hike together. 

Although there was a sign pointing in the direction of Hornvík, there was no obvious trail to follow.  So we simply set out across country in the general direction of the waterfall that we could see at the end of the inlet – the direction we should head according to the map. 

Veiðileysufjörður campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Veiðileysufjörður campsite. The pyramid-shaped building is the dry toilet

From Veiðileysufjörður to Hafnarskard Pass

After wading through knee-high shrubbery for much of it (very reminiscent of several of the hikes I did in South Greenland last year), we arrived at the waterfall, and found our first marker and the trail.

Views heading from Veiðileysufjörður campsite to the waterfall - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Bush bashing towards the waterfall from Veiðileysufjörður campsite

From there, the route to the Hafnarskard Pass was obvious and marked by large stone cairns stretching off into the distance.  It was also clear to us looking ahead that there was going to be snow in our very near future!

Large stone cairn - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Nice and obvious cairn, finally

As we climbed higher, the views behind us down to the inlet became more and more spectacular

Cairn and view back down to Veiðileysufjörður - Hornstrandir - Iceland

and indeed, we started to hit patches of snow that we had to cross.  This wasn’t entirely unexpected given how early it was in the season (the boats had only start running a couple of weeks earlier at the beginning of June), and this was one of the things I’d read about online that was adding to my concerns about hiking alone.  However, we weren’t the first people to pass this way and there were boot prints that seemed to be a few days old marking the trail across each of the snowy patches.

Following other people's bootprints in snow drifts - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Daniel leading the way through the snow, following in the boot prints of others

The fun really started towards the top of the pass, where we could see we would have to conquer a very steep snow slope to gain our destination.  

View of bootprints in the snow we would have to conquer leading up to Hafnarskard Pass - Hornstrandir - Iceland
A trail of boot prints leads to Hafnarskard Pass – it was going to be quite a climb

It was every bit as steep as it looked and, given I was in the lead, I ended up having to kick snow-stairs into the slope with my boots in order to make progress.  Good thing that I’d seen Maxime do this last year in East Greenland!  It seemed that trekkers coming from the other direction had had much more fun – bum-sliding down the slope rather than hiking it!

bum trail and bootprints in the snow leading to the pass - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Boot prints and what I took to be the imprint of a bum-slide on the climb to the pass

But I made it eventually

Me at Hafnarskard pass looking back towards Veiðileysufjörður - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Me at Hafnarskard pass looking back towards Veiðileysufjörður

and watched as the others struggled their way up.  I had no idea how Sean was going to manage carrying that enormous lens of his, but he eventually joined us and explained that he basically used it as a trekking pole all the way up!

Trekking companions making their way up to Hafnarskard pass through the snow - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Daniel (top) and Sean (bottom) struggling up the snow towards Hafnarskard pass

The view back to Veiðileysufjörður was amazing of course

View of Veiðileysufjörður from Hafnarskard pass - Hornstrandir-Iceland
Final view of Veiðileysufjörður from Hafnarskard pass

but it was also very exciting to see what lay ahead of us.  No surprises – it was another beautiful vista!

Me looking towards Hornvik from Hafnarsgard Pass - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Looking towards Hornvík, our destination, from Hafnasgard Pass

Hafnarskard Pass to Hornvík

We tucked ourselves behind a rocky ridge out of the wind to eat lunch, relax, soak up the sunshine (after all, it’s not often you get weather like this in Iceland!) and admire the views.  Then it was time to continue on to Hornvík through the snow that lay on the northern side of the pass.

Trekking companions heading across the snow in the direction of Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Daniel and Sean leading the way to Hornvík through the snow

My guess is that we were walking in snow for about 1/4 of the hike from Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík.  It wasn’t terribly deep for the most part but it was a little slushy, and again I’m very happy with my Lowa boots that kept my feet blissfully dry and warm 🙂

slushy snow and great hiking boots
So happy with my waterproof boots!

We stopped for another rest much further down the slope, though really it was just an excuse to get the packs off and lie in the sun for a while.

Taking a break on the way to Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Taking a break on the way to Hornvík

Not too long after, we reached a steep drop-off that revealed the river valley leading down to Hornvík.

Amazing view of the bright green  river delta at Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Amazingly green!

Wow!  We were not expecting such a verdantly green reveal, made even more so by the bright sunshine and blue skies!  Being photographers, we had a great time here playing with the composition of the river and small lakes as they punctuated this vibrancy.  

Water patterns in the green of the Hornvík river delta - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Nature is an artist

We could also see our home for the night – the Hornvík campsite – which was located just past the yellow house on the edge of the inlet.

View of Hornvík campsite and the Horn - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The campsite is located just past the yellow house

The path became a little boggy as we descended into the valley, but we finally arrived.

Path and signs on the final stretch to Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The final stretch…

Hornvík Campsite

Given that Hornvík is the most popular destination in Hornstrandir, the campground is large and really well set up.  There is a bright orange emergency shelter (you don’t want to have to go hunting for it in an emergency), a sink, flush toilets, and a permanent Ranger station. When the Icelandic flag is flying, the Ranger is in 🙂  

Images of infrastructure at Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The rangers station with flush toilets (top), fresh water (bottom-left) and the emergency shelter (bottom-right) at Hornvík campsite

It was here that I met the extremely helpful and lovely Vésteinn Már Rúnarsson and talked him through my hiking plan for the next week.  He gave me updates on the status of the trails (especially pertaining to bogginess) and made several suggestions given I was wearing hiking boots and not gumboots 😀   He also had the latest best guess as to what the weather would do tomorrow…

Ranger at the rangers station at Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The ranger is in!

Armed with this information, I found a place to pitch my tent with an awesome view (it wasn’t difficult as there were only 7 people camping here this night), and went for a walk along the beach admiring “The Horn” where I would be heading tomorrow on my hike.

view of the horn from my tent - Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
My view 🙂

Million thanks to Sean and Daniel for hiking with me today!  Loved hanging out with you guys and I hope you have a ton of luck with your Arctic Fox photography!

My trekking companions for the day
Sean (left), Daniel (centre) and myself at Hornvík campsite

Trekking Information

Distance = 9.9km

Time taken = 7 hours and 20 minutes.  But probably 2 hours of that was spent chilling in the sunshine and taking photos 🙂

Map

Basic map of the route from Movescount

Altitude Profile

Altitude profile of the route from Strava

Download track as .gpx

Read more about my solo trek in Hornstrandir

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure in Hornstrandir:

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Greenland – Sisimiut rock and mineral collection at KTI

I talk a lot about the beauty of Greenlandic rocks in my blog posts.  I also keep bemoaning the fact that I didn’t end up studying geology at university (it was either that or astronomy – I chose astronomy) and that I’m not wandering around Greenland with a geologist by my side.  So it should come as no surprise that I had to go check out the rock and mineral collection while in Sisimiut!

Housed in the foyer of the local technical college, KTI (Kalaallit Nunaanni Teknikkimik Ilinniarfik – Greenlandic is an amazing language), this is the largest collection of minerals in Greenland. 

Rock and mineral collection is location in the foyer of the technical college - Sisimiut - West Greenland
Yes, it really is located in the foyer – you just wander in! There were a bunch of students sitting at the other tables while I was visiting

It was established by Bjarne Ljungdahl (a former employee of the college) to display samples he’d collected from all over Greenland during his geological work from 1972-1981

One of the display cabinets featuring rocks and minerals in Sisimiut, West Greenland

and has expanded significantly since its inception.  The 21 display cases now include minerals from all over the world, and there are also 12 low pillars showcasing large rock samples. 

Image of the many display cases at the rock and mineral collection in Sisimiut, West Greenland
You can see the large rock samples on the blue pillars between the display cases

There is one display case specifically dedicated to fossils

Display case of fossils at the rock and mineral collection in Sisimiut, West Greenland

and another to meteorite fragments.  Please tell me Australia didn’t name a meteorite after a chocolate maker!!

Meteorite from Australia on display at the rock and mineral collection in Sisimiut, West Greenland
Cadbury chocolate is the most popular brand in Australia

There is also a special display case set into the wall that shows the fluorescence of several minerals.

Fluorescent minerals at the rock and mineral collection in Sisimiut, West Greenland
Minerals fluorescing under UV light

Given my lack of success in finding Tugtupit while clambouring all over Kvanefjeld in South Greenland last year, I was particularly fascinated by the large sample of this rare mineral on display here.  And equally amazed at the sheer number and diversity of minerals that can be found in Greenland.  No wonder the mining companies are trying to get in!

Greenlandic minerals, including Tugtupit, on display in Sisimiut, West Greenland
So this is what Tugtupit looks like!

The collection is very, very well done with everything labelled (in Danish) and carefully arranged in well-lit display cabinets.  If you are rock/mineral enthusiast, I have no doubt you could spend a couple of hours here.  And even if you only have a passing interest, you’ll still find a short visit worthwhile.

Recommendation

I might be biased, but I really enjoyed this collection.  To find it – enter the main door of KTI (yes, it will feel weird walking into a school but go with it) and veer around to your right.  You can’t miss it.  

Keep in mind that because it is part of a school, it is only open during school hours 🙂  And you’ll have students looking at you wondering why you are so interested in rocks!

Time: 5 mins to 5 hours depending on your interest

Cost:  Free

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences and adventures here on my blog.  

Or, if this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland in general, learn more about this amazing country by:

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Trekking Greenland – Arctic Circle Trail – Kelly Ville to Katiffik

Interesting fact about Greenland:  the landscape is completely different depending on which part of the country you are in.

This is something that became abundantly clear to me last year as I moved from hiking through the rolling green sheep-country between Narsaq and Narsarsuaq in South Greenland

Sheep and green grass along the hike from Sillisit to Qassiarsuk in South Greenland
Sheep, green grass and rolling hills are characteristic of hiking in South Greenland

to hiking through the barren craggy peaks and deep fjords of East Greenland.

Hikers exploring the bare, rocky peaks of East Greenland with the Knud Rasmussen glacier and Karale Fjord in the background
Bare rock, ice and jagged mountains are typical scenery in East Greenland

Given that Kalaallit Nunaat (the Greenlandic name for Greenland) is the largest island in the world (technically Australia is a continent), perhaps this should not have come as a surprise to me.  But somehow it did.  And for this reason I was super-keen to expand my geographical and geological knowledge of my favourite place in the world, and explore part of West Greenland this year.

Map of Greenland showing the delineation between North, East, West and South
Usual delineations of Greenland into North, South, East and West.  Credit: Greenland Travel

The most famous hike in Greenland is undoubtedly the Arctic Circle Trail (ACT).  As the name suggests, this trek basically follows the Arctic Circle (latitude 66° 33′ 39″ N) for 160km from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut, allowing you to walk from the Greenland Icefield (the second largest in the world after Antarctica) to the ocean in under 2 weeks.  It has made several “Top 10” lists over the past couple of years and the number of people doing it has risen dramatically from around 300 per year a few years ago to over 1500 in 2018.   Given my love of remote treks with no people, I figured it was now or never to hike this epic trail.

Schematic of the Arctic Circle Trail Route from Destination Arctic Circle
Outline of the Arctic Circle Trail route by Destination Arctic Circle

We started out as a group of 4.  My friend Tyson, who I’d met on the boat to Antarctica back in 2016 and who had heard me talk non-stop about Greenland for over a year, and Rob and Emilio who I had “met” online in the Lonely Planet forums after my initial efforts to entice my friends to join me failed (Tyson was late to the party). 

Having spent most of the previous 2 months doing back-to-back long-distance treks in Iceland and East Greenland with Icelandic Mountain Guides, I decided to skip the initial 16km of the hike along the road (I hate walking along roads) and join Rob and Emilio in a transfer out to start of the trail near Kelly Ville.  

Road out to Kelly Ville and concrete plinth that marks the start of the Arctic Circle Trail near Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland
Road to Kelly Ville (top) and the concrete structure (bottom) that marks the start of the Arctic Circle Trail. You can see it heading off into the distance.

We’d passed Tyson on the road (we’d offered him a lift but he wanted to walk “from airport to airport”) and I sat down to wait for him as the others started along the trail.  Fortunately, he’s a fast walker, and it wasn’t too long before we were also heading out into the Greenlandic wilderness.  

Hiker and flowers on the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland

We nattered away to each other catching up on almost 2 years worth of news, as we followed the trail towards Hundesø lake and it’s unofficial shelter consisting of a caravan with various tacked-on structures.  Hmmm…  While it may look kinda cool and funky from the outside, the inside challenged even my low standards of cleanliness and, I have to admit, I’d only stay there in an absolute pinch.  I’d be much more inclined to camp outside.

Hundesø  exterior and interior
Hundesø is the first (unofficial) “hut” you encounter as you leave Kangerlussuaq

The first day of hiking along the Arctic Circle Trail is pretty easy going to be honest.  It is reasonably flat for the most part with innumerable small lakes (mountain tarns really, with no ingress or egress of water) as the main features.

Typical scenery - mountain tarns - on Day 1 of the Arctic Circle Trail, West Greenland
They look like lakes, but are actually mountain tarns

The trail is a foot-width track through Arctic willow, wild blueberries and other low-lying vegetation, and is clearly marked with red semi-circles (a nod to the Greenland flag) painted on stones that are arranged into cairns.  Many of these are adorned with discarded reindeer antlers – something that we would see a lot of over the coming days. In fact, the Arctic Circle Trail could easily be renamed the “Reindeer Antler Trail”!

Reindeer skull sitting atop a stone cairn marked with the red half-circle indicating the Arctic Circle Trail. The trail runs beside.  Near Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland.
A reindeer skull and a stone cairn painted with red semi-circles that mark the route of the Arctic Circle Trail  

The highlight of the day was spotting my first large land animal in Greenland – a reindeer (“tuttu” in Greenlandic)!  I’d never seen one before and, given that we don’t have native deer in Australia, it is always a thrill to see these creatures of Christmas carols and Disney stories.  Although these guys were quite far away, my hope was that it boded well for future wildlife sightings along the trail.  

Reindeer along the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
My first reindeer!

The first official hut of the trail is the small Katiffik shelter at the head of the Amitsorsuaq Lake.  We actually stopped about 3km shy of the hut and set up camp beside one of the small lakes that lined the route.

Our campsite at the end of Day 1 of the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Our first campsite

It was here that we discovered a slight issue…

I had spent the previous day out at the Russell Glacier and had left Rob and Emilio in charge of buying the camping gas for us all for the duration of the hike.  They had bought 4 large canisters (more than enough) but when we actually cracked the plastic seal over the top of the attachment point, they turned out to be “clip-in” canisters rather than “screw-in” canisters. 

Guess what type of stove we all had?!

Fortunately, Emilio had taken a half-full screw-in gas canister from the hostel, which allowed us to have a hot meal at least.  However, given that this paltry amount of gas possibly needed to last the 4 of us for several days, we boiled only enough water to re-hydrate our meals and nothing else.  Tyson and I lamented our lack of hot tea before bed (a simple and basic luxury while long-distance hiking), and I added filtered water to my porridge so that it could cold-soak overnight. 

Ah well.  It could be worse.  And it all adds to the adventure 🙂

Read more about hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure over 8 days on the Arctic Circle Trail:

If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

Trekking Information

Distance = 20.5km

Time taken = 8hr 36mins

GPX File = Arctic-Circle-Trail-Kelly-Ville-Katiffik.gpx

Strava Link = https://www.strava.com/activities/1813015313

Map

Basic map of the route from Kelly Ville to Katiffik Hut along the Arctic Circle Trail - from Strava

Altitude Profile

Altitude profile of the route from Kelly Ville to Katiffik Hut along the Arctic Circle Trail - from Strava
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Thoughts on my second year of full-time travel

I wasn’t going to write a summary post for my second year of full-time travel, but re-reading my summary from last year I realise that a lot has happened, and my life has taken some unexpected turns!   So I changed my mind 🙂

Here is where I ended up going over the past year (you can click and drag the map, best view is with Africa in the middle):

The Silk Road

The year started out with an overland trip across the Silk Road with Madventure: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran.

I have to admit that I found this trip quite challenging.  “Overlanding” is about covering distance rather than really exploring a place, and this contrasts completely with how I usually travel.  To deal with the frustration I felt around this, I had to change my thinking to make it all about the journey, not the destinations.  I placed myself on a “mechanical camel” traversing the Silk Road as they did in the old days, scouting locations that I wanted to return to and explore more fully at a later date.

Staring out the window - Turkmenistan

Me in my “mechanical camel” traveling the Silk Road

And where would that be?  Definitely Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and probably Tajikistan.  Loved these countries!  They were very different to other places I’d traveled (well, except Mongolia many years ago), and there are plenty of hiking and trekking opportunities as well 😉

Other highlights:

  • The weirdness of Turkmenistan
  • Crossing the Caspian Sea from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan (I love being on boats)
  • The Registan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.  It is more impressive than you can possibly imagine 

Registan at night - Samarkand - Uzbekistan

[click and drag to see full panorama]

Greenland

What can I say!  After 20 years of dreaming of visiting this incredible country, I finally went.  I should not have waited so long!  I absolutely LOVE Greenland!  I will return this year for a month and am already working on trying to arrange an extended stay in 2019.

The view across the Nuuk Fjord to an iconic mountain from near Café Inuk in Nuuk, Greenland

You only have to talk to me for about 10 minutes before I’ll bring Greenland up in conversation, and the most common question is “why are you so into this place”?

This is a very difficult thing for me to answer, but here are a few thoughts…

It is a fascinating place.  The way life works in Greenland is dictated by its isolation and the logistical difficulties faced when access to and within the country is so restricted by ice.  It has European tendencies (it is part of Denmark), but there is a whole other aspect as well, with hunting and dog sledding (in winter) and other elements of traditional life still present.  I find the dual-nature of Greenland intriguing.

Greenlandic sled dogs in Kulusuk - East Greenland

Greenlandic sled dogs are still a part of life in much of Greenland

It is surprisingly accessible.  Getting around Greenland (in summer at least) is actually quite easy, though definitely not cheap!  Air Greenland flies regularly to most of the larger towns, and boat transfers operate as the main mode of transportation within a local area.  In addition, although Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) is the official language, almost all Greenlanders speak Danish and most of the younger ones also speak extremely good English.  The latter was an unexpected but welcome surprise that allowed me to gain a little insight into Greenlandic life.

Flying or boating are the main methods used to get around Greenland

Flying (aeroplanes and helicopters) or boating are the main methods used to get around Greenland

It is beautiful.  Did you know that there are no trees in Greenland, but a surprising number of wildflowers in the summer?  I only explored part of the South and East of Greenland last year and they were very different to each other.  South Greenland (in the Narsaq/Narsarsuaq area) is basically sheep country – quite green in summer with lots of rolling hills.  East Greenland is much more remote and dramatic, with spectacular craggy mountains and ice-filled fjords.  Both have their charms, though I admit I was more drawn to the mountains of East Greenland.  

Images showing the contrast between South Greenland and East Greenland

The landscapes in South Greenland (top) and East Greenland (bottom) are very different!

There is no-one there.  The world’s largest island has a population of only 56,000 people and hosted 86,000 tourists in 2017, so you don’t have to go far before you are surrounded by wilderness and completely alone.  Land is not privately owned in Greenland and you can wander and camp wherever you wish – unfettered freedom to explore, enjoy the outdoors, and disconnect from the world.  I’ve already talked about how the silence is one of the reasons I love long-distance trekking so much, though it is very difficult to explain its impact unless you have experienced it for yourself.  Silence and being present in nature abounds in Greenland and is another reason I love it there. 

Panorama of the Tasilap Kua valley in East Greenland

[click and drag to see full panorama]

I re-found me.  The person I was while working as an astronomer in Chile was very different to the person I became while working in Melbourne.  It took almost 2 years of travel, but I finally re-claimed the person I want to be while in East Greenland last year.  Would I have found her somewhere else?  Quite possibly.  But the fact that this coincided with my stay in Greenland is part of the reason why this place is so special to me.

Me with my copy of Nanook's Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq CD

Ecuador

After traveling across the Silk Road, fulfilling my dream of visiting Greenland, and visiting great friends in Portugal (with a side trip to the Azores), my plan was always to live in one place for several months in South America and figure out how I was going to continue to fund this lifestyle of a full-time traveler.  I chose Ecuador as my base, as Chile (my home in South America) has become too expensive and I have always loved Quito. 

Panoramic View of the Historic Center of Quito from the Basilica

[click and drag to see full panorama]

I have to admit, the first 6 weeks were pretty rough!  I had a hard time making the transition from travelling around without a care in the world, to staying put and trying to sort my life.  Plus, my head and heart were still in Greenland.

However, after making some great friends through a Spanish conversation group and figuring out that I really liked living in the area just east of Parque La Carolina, I ended up loving my 6 months in Ecuador.  I didn’t do a lot of touristy things (though I did get out for a few hikes), I simply test-run what it was like to live there.  In the end, it was remarkably difficult to leave and, if I decide to go back and live in South America full-time, it will almost certainly be in Ecuador.

View Laguna Caricocha from the summit of Fuya Fuya near Otavalo, Ecuador

Laguna Caricocha and the Cayambe volcano (just to the right of the lake) from my perch at the summit of Fuya Fuya.

Patagonia

It was not part of my plan for the year to end up in Patagonia for a 7th time.  However, one of the joys of full-time travel is that you can decide things as you go, and when my friend Mathilde (who I’d met in East Greenland) said she was going to be there in February – I thought “why not”.

Mathilde and I at the Mirador Cerro Fitz Roy - El Chaltén - Argentina

Mathilde and I at the Mirador Cerro Fitz Roy

I had a fantastic 5 weeks (mostly in Argentinean Patagonia) hiking and hanging out in one of my favourite parts of the world.  I crossed the Southern Patagonian Icefield Expedition off my bucketlist – undertaking this remote and incredible journey with Serac Expeditions and Swoop Patagonia, and really enjoyed hanging out with old friends as well as news ones that I made along the way.

[click and drag to see full panorama]

What did I discover

The general things that I talked about last year under this heading are still very valid.  But in addition:

  • I finally cemented in my mind that outdoor adventure (particularly long-distance trekking) is my thing.  My two favourite experiences from this year were the Unplugged Wilderness Trek in East Greenland with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides, and the Southern Patagonian Icefield Expedition with Serac Expeditions and Swoop Patagonia.
  • That maybe, just maybe, I can make a living as a travel photographer and writer!  This has always been my dream and I have had some early success this year in offering photography/writing services in exchange for experiences with different companies.  I’m focusing on this much more now and seeing where it could ultimately lead.  Very exciting!
  • That I really love living in South America 🙂  I knew this from when I lived in Chile, but spending 6 months living in Ecuador this year has re-confirmed it for me.
  • That I really want to go live in Greenland for a year – to experience the full change of the seasons and more of the culture and place.
  • That I don’t want to live in Australia at the minute.  As much as I have loved coming home and visiting my family and friends, I actually don’t want to live here right now.  The cost of living, the nanny-state restrictions on what you can and cannot do (most of which should just be common sense), and the parochial outlook of many Australians really struck me this trip home.  I love Australia and have no doubt that I will return one day.  But it is not my place right now.

What’s next

I’ve been home for 2 months now, relaxing, spending time with family and friends, and getting myself sorted for more adventure.   The next 6 months has me visiting friends in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, then trekking pretty solidly for several months through Iceland, Greenland, Nepal and Kenya.

More from the road soon!

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Greenland – Summary Information

I had dreamed of going to Greenland for more than 20 years and finally I made it there!  

Red shed in Narsaq with a sign for Greenland Minerals and Energy and an outline of Greenland

Was it worth the wait?   

ABSOLUTELY!  

Though I really should not have waited and made my first trip years ago 🙁  Oh well, making up for lost time – I have already made plans to go back again next year!

It’s a fascinating place, but I didn’t really go into the day-to-day stuff in any of the blog posts that I’ve written, so thought I’d finish off with some random thoughts/logistics/costs.

Things that struck me about Greenland

  • It’s sort-of European on the one hand … but really, really not on the other.  I don’t know why the European influence surprised me, given it is an autonomous county of Denmark, but it did.
  • Almost everyone under the age of 30 (at least in the major centres) speaks English, most of them extremely well.  This makes it incredibly easy to get around and learn a little about the culture.
  • I loved exploring the Pilersuisoq stores – the big chain of supermarkets in Greenland.  No two were the same – they all stocked different things – and this depended on what had come over in the last shipments, and what had already sold out.  You can buy everything from fresh baked pastries to frozen goods to tinned food to pet food to guns in a Pilersuisoq! In fact, the hardest (and most expensive) things to buy are fresh fruit and vegetables. Remember, everything gets shipped in from Denmark!

A rack of guns in the Pilersuisoq supermarket in Kulusuk, East Greenland

You can buy anything in Pilersuisoq. Photo: Dusan Číčel

  • The vibrantly coloured houses are very typical of Greenland – I imagine to brighten things up a bit during the long months of darkness.

Two brightly painted houses in front of distant mountain

  • South Greenland is very different to East Greenland, and not just in scenery.  Each has their own dialect and South Greenlanders (at least) don’t always understand what East Greenlanders are saying.  I imagine West Greenland will be different again – we’ll find out next year!

Costs in Greenland

Unlike just about everywhere else I travel, Greenland is not cheap!  However, it wasn’t quite as expensive as I thought it would be.  Major expenses:

Getting there

There are only 2 airlines that fly to Greenland:  

  1. Air Greenland – which flies from Reykjavik or Copenhagen
  2. Air Iceland Connect – which flies from Reykjavik

Both are very comfortable airlines, but they don’t fly all the time and the flights are expensive. For example, I paid ~AUD$650 for a one-way ticket from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq (South Greenland) and AUD$630 for a one-way ticket from Kulusuk (East Greenland) to Reykjavik.

Images of planes and helicopters of Air Iceland Connect and Air Greenland

Getting Around

Because of the icecap, there are no roads linking the “major” centres in Greenland so you have to fly or take a boat.  

Air Greenland is the only domestic airline, which means they can charge what they want for the flights – so getting from one area to the next is not cheap!   For example, I paid ~AUD$520 to fly from Narsarsuaq (South Greenland) to Nuuk, and ~AUD$670 to fly from Nuuk to Kulusuk (East Greenland).  It’s like Australia used to be before Virgin arrived.

Boat transfers – I did some boat transfers in South Greenland (via Blue Ice Explorer) and had originally booked boat transfers between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq in East Greenland.   Without getting too specific – it seems as if it averages around AUD$100 per hour in the boat.  More or less. 

The dock at Itilleq which provides access to Igaliku. Two of the red and white Blue Ice transfer boats are visible as is a private yacht

The red and white boats are those owned by Blue Ice. This was how I got around in South Greenland when not hiking.

These boat transfer companies tend to be quite localised (I will use Disko Line when I travel to West Greenland next year), but there is also the Arctic Umiaq Line which runs between the major population centres of the west coast and South Greenland. 

With both the flights and the boats – it’s always good to factor in some leeway with any connections you might have.   Flights can be delayed due to adverse weather (while I was in Kulusuk, the plane didn’t make it from Iceland at all for 2 days running), and boats can be put out of commission depending on the pack ice (I was advised to switch from boat transfers to helicopter transfers because of the pack ice in East Greenland).

Accommodation

Accommodation is also expensive in Greenland, though not hideously so compared to Australia and other Scandinavian countries.

If you are on a budget, I highly recommend staying in the hostels in Greenland.   All the hostels I stayed in were amazing and the average cost for a bed (shared room) was about AUD$60.   Yes.  Ouch.  It’s a lot for a dorm room.   But on par with Iceland, and all the hostels were warm and wonderful with fantastic caretakers.  I stayed at:

In Nuuk, I stayed in a great little self-contained Airbnb about 5 minutes from the centre for about AUD$100/night

If you aren’t up for a hostel, check out the other accommodation options available at Guide to Greenland or Visit Greenland.

Food

As alluded to above, fresh fruit and vegies are crazy expensive in Greenland.  What is there looks 1/2 expired already and it is more expensive even than fresh food in Australia.   For example, I threw caution (well Danish Krone) to the wind and bought an AUD$7 bunch of asparagus one day because I had a keen need for something green after so much cheese and salami and crackers!

Your best bet is to trawl the freezers (there are a lot of frozen meals available – I had a couple of amazing frozen lamb roasts in South Greenland) and the canned goods 🙂  

Tours in Greenland

For my 5 weeks in Greenland this year I only used 2 companies.  

South Greenland – Blue Ice Explorer

I worked with Blue Ice Explorer to come up with my 14 day excursion in South Greenland for only slightly more money that it would have cost me to arrange it all myself.  The nice thing was that they included luggage transfers with it – so I only ever had to hike with a day pack 🙂

If you aren’t confident traveling independently, then I would probably suggest going with a more formal package tour.   After all – this was all the information I received before being sent off to explore by myself.

My voucher book and brief information brochures from Blue Ice Explorer

You have to be comfortable traveling independently with only this much information!

However, if you are used to traveling alone and figuring things out for yourself – I highly recommend this company!

Cost:  For 14 days, including all accommodation (in hostel dorm rooms), and boat and luggage transfer it cost AUD$1330

East Greenland – Greenland Adventures

The first few days in Kulusuk and Tasiilaq I actually traveled independently, not with a specific company.   

However, if you love long treks in remote places – I can’t recommend Greenland Adventures highly enough (or Icelandic Mountain Guides if you are interested in trekking in Iceland).

You pretty much have to trek with a company if you are exploring these more remote places, and I’ve already sent inquiries to IMG about a few other treks I’d like to do with them next year.  For a couple of my other trekking companions in East Greenland, this was their second trip with IMG, and one of the top-rated New Zealand outdoor adventure companies partner with IMG to run their Arctic Expeditions.

Our trekking guide at a distance standing on a small hill looking up at the mountains towering above him

An Icelandic Mountain Guide in East Greenland

Cost:  Guided hikes in remote places are not cheap – especially in this part of the world!  But totally worth it 🙂 For 12 days of hiking with just a day pack, and with all food and camping gear (minus sleeping bag) included, it cost AUD$4080 for an incredible experience.

Tours in General

Although I traveled Greenland fairly independently, there are some very good tour operators at work there.  Guide to Greenland in particular is an extensive site listing everything from complete package tours to day tours, and is one of the best places to start when looking for what tours are available.

Summary

I absolutely fell in love with Greenland and I can’t encourage you enough to go if you are at all curious about it.  The best places to learn more about visiting this amazing country are the two sites I have mentioned throughout this post: Guide to Greenland and Visit Greenland.  

You won’t regret it!

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Hiking and Trekking Greenland – A Summary from 2017

My long-awaited 5 weeks in Greenland this year were pretty much spent hiking and trekking 🙂  I divided my time between South and East Greenland, which, it turns out, have vastly different scenery!

Trekking group descending towards Karale Fjord with Knud Rasmussen Glacier and mountains in the background

One of my favourite images from East Greenland.  An amazing view over the Knud Rasmussen Glacier taken on Day 3 of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

I know there are plenty of others out there who are as keen as me for outdoor adventure, so the following is a very brief summary of hiking in these areas, and links off to my detailed blog posts for each of the individual hikes.

South Greenland

I spent 14 days in South Greenland this year between 20 June and 3 July. The weather was good for the most part and, with a couple of exceptions, I often found myself hiking in shirt-sleeves.  The flies and mosquitoes that you read so much about were not too bad on most days, though you definitely need to take a head net.  They will drive you crazy if they do find you!

Me with my head net on, protecting me from the flies on Waterfall Hike near Igaliku in South Greenland

Doesn’t matter how daggy it looks – you need a head net if the flies find you in Greenland!  I’m a terrible selfie-taker 🙁

I worked with Blue Ice Explorer to come up with my 14 day excursion in South Greenland for only slightly more money that it would have cost me to arrange it all myself.  The nice thing was that they included luggage transfers with it – so I only ever had to hike with a day pack 🙂

If you aren’t confident travelling independently, then I would probably suggest going with a more formal package tour.   After all – this was all the information I received before being sent off to explore and hike by myself.

My voucher book and brief information brochures from Blue Ice Explorer

However, if you are used to traveling alone and figuring things out for yourself – I highly recommend this company!

The hikes I did in South Greenland were:

East Greenland

I spent 16 days in East Greenland: 8 – 25 July. It was much colder than South Greenland, and the weather more unpredictable, ranging from bright blue skies with loads of sun (you will need your head net here too!), to fog and rain.  You need to be prepared for all temperatures and weather conditions while hiking here!

I spent the first few days travelling independently, but was limited in the hiking I could do because of recent polar bear sightings.

Paper sign pasted on the door as you exit the Red House, warning about leaving town without first discussing with staff

I admit that this gave me some pause

My main reason for visiting East Greenland, however, was the Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures. It turned out to be my favourite thing I did in a year of full-time travel – and I highly recommend Greenland Adventures as a trekking company.

I absolutely love long-distance trekking, but unless you are a super-experienced, backcountry trekker who knows how to use a gun (and have one with you), you pretty much have to trek with a company if you want to explore these more remote areas.

The hikes I did in East Greenland were:

  • Kulusuk to Isikajia – an easy hike across Kulusuk Island
  • The Flower Valley – a very easy and popular day-hike from Tasiilaq
  • Qaqqartivakajik mountain – a more difficult 1/2-day hike from Tasiilaq
  • The 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek 
    • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
    • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
    • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
    • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
    • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
    • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
    • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
    • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
    • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
    • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
    • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
    • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
    • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images

A Note on Accommodation

I highly recommend staying at hostels in Greenland.   All the hostels I stayed in were amazing, and the average cost for a bed (shared room) was about AUD$60.   Yes.  Ouch.  It’s a lot for a dorm room.   But on par with Iceland, and all the hostels were warm and wonderful with fantastic caretakers.  The other advantage is that you can cook for yourself – food is not cheap in Greenland!  I stayed at:

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of hiking and trekking tours at Guide to Greenland.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
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