Tag Archives: Greenland

Greenland-Sisimiut-Boat-Safari-suit.jpg

Greenland – Sisimiut Sea Safari

I was on my third cup of tea over breakfast at the Hotel Sisimiut when Jan from Sisimiut Private Boat Safari called.  Yes, it was unbelievably foggy outside, but some of the calmest waters occur after a heavy fog lifts he told me – so could I be ready in 15 minutes?

Absolutely!

bacon, eggs and coffee for breakfast at the Hotel Sisimiut, West Greenland

I loved the breakfasts at the Hotel Sisimiut!

We’d been waiting a couple of days for the waters to be calm enough to set out on a “Sea Safari” around Sisimiut.  As the name suggests, the goal is to spot and observe the marine animals that are so plentiful in the fjords and off the coast of Greenland.  Seals and whales in particular are very common but, as with any safari, there are no guarantees…

Down at the harbour I once again donned the freezer suit that I’d worn on the trip to the abandoned settlement of Assaqutaq the day before, and off we set.

Me in a freezer suit on the boat with Jan - Sisimiut - West Greenland

I was rugged up – nice and warm!

Heading out of Sisimiut you pass several small islands which are used by locals as “holiday islands” for their Greenlandic sled dogs.  The name stems from the fact that the dogs are free to roam the island as they please, a welcome change from being chained up all summer!

Pack of 5 Greenlandic Sled Dogs on and island off Sisimiut, West Greenland

Greenlandic Sled Dogs racing down the island to say “aluu” to us

It was stunningly beautiful out on the almost mirror-like water as we set about looking for wildlife.

Jan with binoculars scanning the ocean for wildlife from his boat - Sisimiut - West Greenland

Jan on the lookout for marine mammals

Though I was also captivated by the low fog that lay across the water, at times completely obscuring the horizon line.

Image of fog over water where it difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins - Sisimiut Sea Safari - West Greenland

Fog and water – where does one end and the other begin?

Unfortunately, despite the calm seas and our best efforts – there were simply no animals to be seen!  The chatter on the radio told us we weren’t the only ones having problems.  The local hunters were checking in with each other and reporting their unanimous bad luck in Greenlandic.  In almost 4 hours on the water, we managed to spot only a handful of individual seals that promptly disappeared as soon as we approached.

head of a seal poking out of the ocean - Sisimiut - West Greenland

Hello! One of the handful of lone seals we saw

That was it.

Well, apart from the sea birds that is 😊

The two main types of sea birds we saw on the safari out of Sisimiut, West Greenland

The two main types of sea birds we saw on the Sea Safari

Although this was disappointing, it is the nature of animal safaris the world over.  Sometimes you are unlucky when the animals don’t play the game!

We decided to abandon the search for animals for a while and Jan took me over to Nipisat Island – home to one of the most well-studied archaeological sites in this part of Greenland.  Extensively excavated between 1989 and 1994, the dig uncovered more than 70,000 bone fragments and 1,000 artefacts (including 314 tools) from the Saqqaq culture (~2500 – 1500BC).  If you are keen to learn more – you can read the full report by Anne Birgitte Gotfredsen and Tinna Møbjerg online 😊 

What remains now is a low, rectangular stone wall, partially covered in vegetation, that stands watch over the sea.

Two views of what remains of the Saqqaq Culture archaeological site on Nipisat Island near Sisimiut, West Greenland

Views of the archaeological remains left by the Saqqaq culture on Nipisat Island

After hiking up to the top of the island for an amazing view

Panorama from the top of Nipisat Island near Sisimiut in West Greenland

[move mouse over image to see the full panorama]

it was back in the boat for more tea

my gloved hand holding a cup of hot tea on the boat - Sisimiut - West Greenland

Hot tea was a very welcome part of our Sea Safari

while we made out way around to a beautiful white shell beach

 
View of the white shell beach near Sisimiut, West Greenland

The white shell beach was very isolated and hidden

and past the abandoned settlement of Uummannaarsuk, where Jan used to have a summer home.

Derelict buildings in the abandoned settlement of Uummannaarsuk near Sisimiut, West Greenland

The abandoned settlement of Uummannaarsuk

Unfortunately, we still had no luck with the animals on the way back to Sisimiut, though Jan never stopped searching!

Recommendation

One of the best ways to get close views of marine animals is on a sea safari in a small boat.  Unfortunately, I was very unlucky on this occasion (apparently there were seals everywhere 2 days later!) but it was still an amazing experience to be out on the water for an extended period of time. 

The freezer suit that Jan provides kept me warm for the whole 4 hours (and trust me, I feel the cold!) so you just have to make sure you have a good beanie, gloves and warm shoes to guarantee your comfort.

Cost:  Depends on the amount of time spent.  Have a look at the Sisimiut Private Boat Safari website for details.

Time: 4 hours

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:

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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Hiking Greenland – Abandoned Settlement of Assaqutaq

When you start researching things to do around Sisimiut you very quickly come across excursions to Assaqutaq – an abandoned settlement about 10km away.  The Hotel Sisimiut offers a boat tour to and from the settlement, but what I really wanted to do was take a boat out and then hike back.  I contacted Jan from Sisimiut Private Boat Safari to arrange and, with instructions to bring gloves and a beanie, was down at the harbour at the agreed meeting time.

The ramp down to where Jan's boat was docked in Sisimiut Harbour - West Greenland

The ramp down to where Jan’s boat was docked in Sisimiut Harbour

Jan’s boat is small – equipped to carry only 4 people at a time.  It is also open which means we were bundled up in freezer suits to combat the chill in the air (gloves and beanie not included). 

My friend and I in freezer suits ready for out boat outing - Sisimiut, West Greenland

All rugged up!

Jan, made of sturdier stuff, just wore a normal jacket and beanie!

My friend in a freezer suit sitting in front of Jan with just a normal jacket on - Sisimiut Boat Safari - West Greenland

Tyson in a freezer suit and Jan … not

As we made our way around to the entrance of the Amerloq fjord in which Assaqutaq is located, we had wonderful views of the colourful buildings of Sisimiut.  This, despite the very low cloud that didn’t look like it would be clearing off anytime soon 🙁

The colourful houses of Sisimiut as seen from the water - West Greenland

The colourful houses of Sisimiut as seen from the water

Jan kept a keen eye out for whales, seals and other wildlife as we motored along but, unfortunately on this day, the waters were very quiet.  We did see some fishermen with a lot of winged friends

Fisherman being swarmed by seagulls as he attempts to check his nets from his boat - near Sisimiut - West Greenland

and Jan made a brief stop at an historical site with the remains of round stone houses

stone ruins of old houses on the way to Assaqutaq

Ruins of old stone houses on the way to Assaqutaq

before arriving at Assaqutaq half an hour after setting out.

front of the boat with the buildings of Assaqutaq in front of us - Sisimiut - West Greenland

Arriving in Assaqutaq

The settlement is an interesting mix of derelict buildings and ones that have been refurbished to accommodate primarily school and scout groups.  Jan explained that hunters, fishermen and other people who follow more traditional Greenlandic practices are often brought in to teach the kids some of these skills and about their heritage – an awesome idea if ever there was one! 

As we tied up to the dock, we were greeted by 5 kids on a school camp.  While 4 of them endeavoured to manipulate a canoe and catch fish (no supervision at all, they had to figure it all out for themselves), the 5th one started peppering us with questions in very good English!  “I’m feeling lazy”, he sighed when we asked him why he wasn’t in the canoe.  And his response when we asked him where he learned his English: “YouTube”!

School kids fishing and maneuvering a canoe in Assaqutaq near Sisimiut, West Greenland

Being a native English speaker, I’ve often lamented that it is much easier for a motivated person to learn English from anywhere in the world than to learn any another language – simply because English is so ubiquitous and so dominant in popular culture.  Certainly, many of the people I’ve met who have learned English have cited YouTube or TV or Hollywood movies as one of their key reference sources.  The other: having the opportunity to talk to English-speaking tourists they encounter – something that is very much put into practice in Uzbekistan.  And while I acknowledge that most languages have a web presence these days, try teaching yourself Greenlandic via YouTube … it is not so easy to find material, nor is it easy to find a Greenlander outside of Greenland and Denmark (yes, I’ve started learning a little Greenlandic – thanks Memrise)!

After hot tea and biscuits at the dock, Tyson and I set off to explore the crumbling structures of Assaqutaq. 

My friend looking in the window of one of the derelict buildings at Assaqutaq near Sisimiut, West Greenland

It was absolutely beautiful! 

The faded paint that is slowly being stripped off the walls by the harsh Greenlandic weather,

Several photos of the faded exterior of derelict houses in Assaqutaq near Sisimiut, West Greenland

the almost empty, half-collapsed but still brightly painted interiors,

Several images of the interiors of the abandoned houses in Assaqutaq near Sisimiut, West Greenland

the overgrown cemetery,

Wooden crosses and paling fences around the graves at Assaqutaq cemetery near Sisimiut - West Greenland

Assaqutaq cemetery

and the complete silence

Panorama over Assaqutaq from one of the highest points on the island - Sisimiut - West Greenland

[move mouse over image to see the full panorama]

made for a fascinating, if slightly eerie exploration of this settlement that was abandoned in 1968.  In fact, Jan’s wife was the second-last child born in the settlement – her family home now slowly falling into ruin.

Derelict porch of a house in Assaqutaq near Sisimiut - West Greenland

The derelict remnants of the house that Jan’s wife grew up in.

We poked our heads into the refurbished building the school group was occupying, walked through the old fish processing plant, and checked out the church as well (you can get married here if you wish!)

Images of the exterior and interior of the refurbished church at Assaqutaq near Sisimiut, West Greenland

before Jan pointed us in the direction of where to start the hike and gave us some instructions on how to find the trail.

Assaqutaq is actually located on an island, separated from the mainland by a narrow stretch of water.  There is now a bridge spanning the gap, and it is one of the coolest bridges I’ve ever crossed!

My friend making his way across the footbridge with Assaqutaq in the background, near Sisimiut, West Greenland

Tyson braving the footbridge

It is made of wooden planks tied together and to the bridge supports by rope, but there appears to be some missing and the experience of crossing this bridge can be described as “unstable” at best.  It was so much fun – we did it twice!

detail of the wooden planks and ropes tying the footbridge from Assaqutaq to the mainland together - near Sisimiut, West Greenland

The wooden planks of the footbridge are tied together with rope

The next obstacle was a scramble up an almost vertical cliff

My friend climbing the almost vertical slope to get to the trail - Assaqutaq, West Greenland

and then some bush-bashing until we finally stumbled upon the foot-width trail heading towards Sisimiut.  The views back over Assaqutaq were stunning!

View from on high back down over the abandoned settlement of Assaqutaq - near Sisimiut, West Greenland

View of Assaqutaq from the trail

and the trail, once found, was pretty obvious through to unmissable – especially once the red-or-blue-paint-on-rocks trail markers began.  I later found out that the trail markers had just been renewed the previous weekend.

Images of the trail leading from Assaqutaq to Sisimiut, West Greenland

The trail and its red markers (painted on the rocks) were usually very visible.

After about a kilometre, we came across a grave that was the most obvious visible sign of the old whaler’s station of Qerrortusoq,

Old grave at the site of Qerrortusoq - on the trail from Assaqutaq to Sisimiut, West Greenland

and a little further along, a group of students and teachers from Arctic DTU camped by the trail.  They invited us to have tea and explained how in their program (which is focused on construction engineering in Arctic environments), the Danish and Greenlandic students spend their first 3 semesters in Sisimiut, and then finish their studies in Denmark.  We had come across the group during the very first activity at the start of their commencing semester, where they get to know each other by spending 3 days camping near Sisimiut working on a project together. 

The awesome footbridge we’d just crossed was a project from 2 years ago (apparently the wooden planks were originally evenly spaced, but the knots holding everything in place had moved), and for the past two years, students have been working on building a small cabin for their own use when they need a break from study.  They were more than enthusiastic to show us around and explain what they were doing and, after waiting a couple of minutes for the finishing touches to go on, I even got to be the first person to walk up the newly constructed stairs to the hut 😊

Images of the hut being fitted out by the students of DTU

The hut being built by the students from DTU. I love the use of the shape of Greenland to secure the large windows (middle), and in the bottom left image we are learning about the special stove they are installing which also provides hot water.

We spent quite a while chatting about the unique features of the hut and how to construct a cabin that is completely isolated from everything, before wishing them well in their studies and heading further along the trail.

Despite the less-than-spectacular weather, with the fjord on one side and the mountains (their tops admittedly lost in cloud) on the other, it was a really stunning hike.  We stopped to enjoy the mist and light playing out over the fjord

Light playing on the fog and fjord between Assaqutaq and Sisimiut, West Greenland

I love abstract scenes!

while keeping a wary eye on how low the cloud was reaching on the mountains.  Although the trail was well marked, we didn’t want to be walking in fog.

My friend hiking towards a mountain obscured in the fog between Assaqutaq and Sisimiut - West Greenland

Keeping a wary eye…

In fact, the only time we temporarily “lost” the trail was when it descended into a mini-forest of Dwarf Arctic Birch that had managed to grow as tall as Tyson!  It is amazing what can happen with abundant water and a sheltered position.

My friend almost completely covered by the dwarf Arctic Birch forest between Assaqutaq and Sisimiut - West Greenland

For reference, Tyson is around 2m tall

Yes, there are boulder fields to negotiate, and rocks to scramble over and climb, but the hike between Assaqutaq and Sisimiut is not overly technical and these kinds of obstacles just make it even more fun and interesting 😊

Images of some of the trickier parts of the trail between Assaqutaq and Sisimiut, West Greenland

There were quite a few rocky obstacles to overcome between Assaqutaq and Sismiut

We were almost all the way back to Sisimiut when the cloud started to lift and the sun finally put in an appearance.

Images of the final parts of the trail between Assaqutaq and Sisimiut - once the sun had come out. West Greenland

Blue skies!

When this happened, the whole feeling of the hike was transformed from one of mystery to one of joy and I look forward to returning one day to hike the whole thing under blue skies. 

I’m super-keen to see what those mountains look like from the trail!

Recommendation

If you like hiking, I highly recommend taking a boat transfer from Sisimiut to Assaqutaq and then walking back to town.  It is stunning to experience the area from both the sea and the land, and the trail is only moderately difficult with quite a few boulder scrambles and small rock climbs.

Cost: Have a look at the Sisimiut Boat Safari website for details.

Time:

  • Boat transfer: ~1/2 hour (though it depends on how much wildlife is around)
  • Assaqutaq: as long as you like. We spent about an hour here but could easily have spent longer
  • Hike back to Sisimiut: 3-4 hours

Hiking Information

Distance = 9.8km

Time taken = 4 hours 30 minutes (includes stopping and chatting with DTI students for almost an hour)

Map

Basic Map the hike from Assaqutaq to Sisimiut - from Movescount

Altitude Profile

Basic altitude profile of the hike from Assaqutaq to Sisimiut - from Strava

Download trail as .gpx or .kml

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:

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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Hiking Greenland – Russell Glacier

It was quite difficult to tell how many days I should allocate to exploring the area around Kangerlussuaq before starting the Arctic Circle Trail trek.  There seemed to be a fair few options for things to do – the Russell Glacier, visiting the Greenland Ice Sheet at Point 660, Sugarloaf Mountain, Garnet Rock, a wildlife safari – and in the end, I decided on 2 days at the beginning and 2 days at the end.  Unfortunately, this was curtailed to 1 day at the beginning (thanks to Air Iceland Connect dropping their direct Reykjavik-Kangerlussuaq route) and no days at the end (thanks to being stranded in Sisimiut due to bad weather) – so the only activity I managed was a trip out to Russell Glacier with Kang Mini Tours.

Our guide, Tommy, arrived at Old Camp to pick me up at the agreed time, and off we headed up the gravel road.  Running approximately 53km from Kellyville to the Icesheet, it is the longest road in Greenland and accounts for around 1/3 of the road infrastructure (outside of the settlements) in the country! 

Our 4x4 jeep on the road to the Russell Glacier

It was originally constructed to give access to the icesheet so that Volkswagon could test their cars under extreme cold and almost zero traction conditions.  However, this activity no longer takes place and it now provides inexpensive access for scientists studying the ice as well as for tourists wanting to visit the world’s second largest icefield and the Russell Glacier.

As we followed the meandering Akuliarusiarsuup Kuua river (more commonly known by its Danish name: Sandflugtdalen), Tommy told us some of the history of Kangerlussuaq, kept a keen eye out of wildlife – particularly Musk Oxen – and also explained a little about the geology and botany of the area.  

Akuliarusiarsuup Kuua (Sandflugtdalen in Danish) is the river that flows from the base of the Russell Glacier to the Kangerlussuaq Fjord

Akuliarusiarsuup Kuua (Sandflugtdalen in Danish) is the impressive river that you follow all the way from Kangerlussuaq to the Russell Glacier

Our jeep ride ended just past the locked boom-gate at the end of Aajuitsup Tasia lake, and we followed a trail up and over the ridge

Aajuitsup Tasia lake as seen from the trail ascending the hill in front of the Russell Glacier, Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland

Looking back down the trail to Aajuitsup Tasia lake

for our first view down onto the Russell Glacier itself.

Looking down on the Russell Glacier from the ridge - Kangerlussuaq - West Greenland

Looking down on the Russell Glacier from the ridge

Words cannot describe the shear magnificence of glaciers, and even though I’ve seen a lot of them in my travels both here in Greenland and also in Patagonia, I never tire of their intricate beauty.

different views of the ice making up the Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuaq in West Greenland

Ice details. I am fascinated by ice, so glaciers are a constant source of wonder for me

One of the incredible things about the Russell Glacier is just how close you can get to its 60m-high face. 

Me standing on rocks looking across the river at the 60m high face of the Russell Glacier

Looking up at the 60m high face of the Russell Glacier

And although you should never approach too closely (you never know when the glacier may calve and send ice falling to either crush you or cause a wave that will sweep you off your feet), there are places where you can literally reach out and touch it.

One such place was right near this waterfall spilling into an ice cave under the glacier.  Just a little further around, the glacier was still directly grinding on the surrounding rocks, buffing them with the smooth sheen that is so typical of Greenlandic geology.

Waterfall and Ice cave at the base of the Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland

Amazing waterfall flowing into an ice cave at the bottom of the glacier

Speaking of which. I’m thinking of creating a coffee-table book of the patterns of Greenlandic rocks.  What do you think of the idea?

views of patterns in the rocks surrounding the Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuaq in West Greenland

Greenland has some of the most beautiful and interesting rocks I’ve ever seen. I absolutely love the “rock art” here

I ended up spending the entire day out at the Russell Glacier, even though the tour was only meant to be ~3 hours long.  When I returned to the jeep at the allocated time and complained that 1.5hrs wasn’t nearly enough time to explore the area, Tommy said that he had to return later in the day to drop off supplies to some locals and that he could pick me up then if I wanted.  Absolutely!

It was an incredible day spent enjoying the peace and solitude of this remarkable site

The purple Niviarsiaq - Greenland's national flower - growing between the rocks in front of the Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland

Niviarsiaq – Greenland’s national flower – is amazingly hardy and can seemingly grow anywhere!

and it struck me that this is what the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina must have been like at some point.   While Russell Glacier is nowhere near as big as Perito Moreno, it is still a spectacular glacier – made all the more so by the lack of infrastructure and the thousands of tourists.  

Panorama of the Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland

[Click and drag to see full panorama]

In fact, I pretty much had the place to myself!  I only saw 3 other people during the entire day – it seems everybody heads out to Point 660 instead!  

Three visitors hiking to the main viewpoint over the Russell Glacier with the sheer wall of the glacier in front of them. Near Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland

The only other people I saw for the entire day I was at the Russell Glacier. Here they are hiking to the main viewpoint over the glacier. I love the scale depicted in this image.

Tommy returned to collect me at the end of the day and we stopped off briefly to explore an old plane that crashed back in the 1960s.

remains of a plane that crashed near Kangerlussuaq in the 1960s - along the road to Russell Glacier

And although we kept a keen eye out for wildlife, the best we saw were a few Musk Oxen down in the river valley, a very long way from where we were driving.  Oh well, perhaps I’ll get luckier as I hike the Arctic Circle Trail.

Recommendation

A visit to Russell Glacier is a highlight of any stay in Kangerlussuaq.  Unfortunately I can’t compare it to Point 660, but I loved the solitude of the glacier and the fact I was pretty much the only one there on this occasion.  This certainly wouldn’t have been the case at Point 660 judging by the number of buses I saw heading out there.

The trip with Kang Mini Tours is comfortable and informative and Tommy was happy to stop for photos as often as we wanted.  For most people, 1.5 hours at the glacier would probably be enough, though keep in mind that around half that time is spent walking to the main viewpoint and back.  The hike is not difficult, but it does take some time.

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:

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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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The eternal twilight of Greenland

Greenland during the summer is embraced by an eternal twilight.

Read more about this amazing phenomenon in my latest blog post at Guide to Greenland: “Northern Lights in Greenland – the Midnight Sun“. 

2am sunrise in East Greenland

A 2am sunrise in East Greenland

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:

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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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The Abandoned Bluie East Two Airfield in East Greenland

On Day 5 of the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides, I visited an abandoned WWII airfield code-named Bluie East Two.   

Rusted bits and pieces litter the ground at the abandoned Bluie East Two WWII airstrip

Rusted bits and pieces litter the ground at the abandoned Bluie East Two WWII airstrip

Read more about the history of the site, its current state and its future in my latest blog post at Guide to Greenland: Exploring Bluie East Two – an Abandoned WWII Air Base in East Greenland

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.  There are 14 posts in total for the Unplugged Wilderness Trek – best to start with Day 1 🙂

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

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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:

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 South Patagonia 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 South Patagonia 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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Nanook-1024x300.png

Greenlandic Music – Nanook and Frederik Elsner

Frederik Elsner!

As part of my ongoing fascination/obsession with Greenland (I spent 5 weeks there last year, will spend another 4 weeks this year, and already have plans for 2019), I started listening to music by Greenlandic bands and very quickly came across Nanook.  

Nanook

The band was formed by brothers Christian and Frederik Elsner 10 years ago and is currently one of the most popular in Greenland.  

Nanook official image

Apart from the amazing music, one of the things I love is that although they all speak fluent English (and Danish), they sing in Greenlandic – a language that less than 60,000 people in the world understand.  No – I have no idea what the words are (though I have started learning a little Greenlandic.  Wow!  Tough language!) – but their songs are mostly about Greenland, nature and love, and they publish English translations of their songs on their CD inserts (see their Facebook gallery).  It’s frustrating (because I want to sing along), but beautiful at the same time.  

If you want to hear what I’m raving on about, they’ve just released an awesome single – Aarnuaq (Talisman) – from their new 10 year anniversary album “Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq“.  This song features another of the things I love about their music – a strong acoustic guitar component within a rock song.   

I actually pre-ordered this album from Atlantic Music – Greenland’s everything-to-do-with-music shop and the main distributor for Greenlandic music.  Sooo excited when it turned up in the post last week, signed by the band 🙂  Awesome, awesome album cover (Nanook means polar bear)!

Me with my copy of Nanook's Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq CD

Very excited to receive my signed copy of Nanook’s latest album: Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq. Less than 2 weeks from Greenland to regional Australia! I’m impressed!

I also highly recommend having a listen to their “Best Of” album on Spotify.  Start with #3 Inuinnaagavit (the first two songs are good, but not my favourites) and listen to the rest – AMAZING!


 
 

Frederik Elsner – F

Then, after a week of listening to Nanook on continuous repeat back in January, I was watching a video on Vimeo showing the Kangilleq Glacier (did I mention I am obsessed with Greenland?) and absolutely loved the music. I loved it so much in fact, that I messaged the person who made the video and asked him who it was (Shazam doesn’t recognise Greenlandic music it seems 🙁 ). 

It turns out that Frederik also has a solo album “Katassinnaanngisaq” which, for me, is even more powerful than the already incredible music from Nanook.

Cover for Frederik Elsner's solo album - Katassinnaanngisaq 

A lot of the songs on this album sing directly to my soul – something that I’ve only ever found with a handful of artists (John Denver’s songs, “Cootamundra Wattle” and a few other John Williamson songs, “Vor í Vaglaskógi” by Kaleo).

I have listened to almost nothing else besides Nanook albums and Katassinnaanngisaq in the past 5 months, and am very much hoping that the band and/or Frederik will be playing in Greenland or Iceland while I’m there this year 🙂  

Give them a listen!

Qujanaq Nanook!  Takuliiv!

btw was watching Australian Foreign Correspondent’s Greenland: The Land Of Ice Embracing Climate Change documentary yesterday and guess who provided the majority of music for the segment? 🙂

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 by clicking on the link. 

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

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Why I love long-distance trekking

Karale Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This is my favourite image from my trip to Greenland this year.   

Taken on Day 3 of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides, it (almost) perfectly captures everything I loved about the trek and the reasons why the experience was so special to me.

Many people have asked me about why I love long-distance trekking, given that the thought of trekking for 8 or 10 or 12 days without a shower or many creature comforts is quite a stretch for most.  But for me it’s absolute heaven for the following reasons:

The beauty

Just look at the image.

Those who have been following my travels through the blog have probably figured out that I love mountains, despite the fact that I come from a country that doesn’t really have any “proper” ones.  I’m not a beach girl at all (very un-Australian of me) and am not fond of heat and humidity, though I do love deserts! 

No.  For me, it is the mountains that really give a sense of the grandeur of the World, whether it be looking up at them towering above you, or looking down from a bird’s eye view.  And although there are plenty of mountains that are easily accessible, if you trek for 10 or 12 days, you end up a long way from anyone or anything, and can really experience nature in all its glory.  It doesn’t get any better!

The silence

There is silence in nature – which in turn quiets my own thoughts.

Enjoying the silence of Huayhuash

Enjoying the silence of Huayhuash in Peru

Hiking and high intensity exercise are the only things I’ve found that switch my brain off from its constant chatter about what is happening in my life or what I would like to happen in my life.  The advantage that hiking has over high intensity exercise is that it is relatively easy to sustain for long periods of time, if you go in with a good level of fitness to begin with. 

For example, I love boxing!  It is my favourite type of exercise (apart from hiking).  But even at my fittest (just before I left Australia 18 months ago), an intense 30 minute training session with Charles would wipe me out for the rest of the day!     Another example, one of the things I try to do most mornings while traveling is High Intensity Interval Training.  I use the 12 Minute Athlete App and, if you really commit to the idea and put everything you’ve got into it, 12 minutes is more than enough time to destroy you.  If you don’t believe me – I encourage you to give it a go 🙂

And so back to long-distance trekking.  To me, it is a luxury and the best gift I can give myself to have 12 days of peace and serenity and freedom from thinking about life.  To be completely “in the moment” and disconnected from “real life” allows me to reset my thought patterns and eject things that I may have been obsessing over prior to setting off.  I always come back from a long-distance trek with a much clearer mind.

And for those of you who need a break from technology – we had no phone reception from the moment we left Kulusuk to the moment we returned.  Going cold-turkey for 11 days is a good way to break the cycle!

The simplicity

I’ve always lived a fairly minimalist lifestyle, preferring to spend my money on experiences rather than things.  However, since leaving Australia in February 2016, I’ve taken that a step further and have been traveling with just a 60L bag for the most part (OK, this has extended a little this year because I had to bring all my camping gear with me).  Trust me – you can’t fit much in a 60L bag!  For example, I have 2 pairs of trekking pants and 4 quick-dry shirts, so my daily decision about what to wear comes down to: “does it smell, or can I get away with wearing it for another day?“.   After all – you don’t want to be doing washing every 3rd day!

Trekking for 12 days takes this to an even more extreme – after all, you actually have to carry this stuff!  Decisions about what to eat are minimised – you eat what you have with you.  Decisions about where to sleep are minimised – you pitch your tent wherever you find yourself when you stop hiking.   And decisions about what to do are minimised – you are either hiking, or you entertain yourself with whatever you have with you.   Your options are severely limited when you are in the middle of nowhere, but that makes it all the more special, as you can really appreciate where you are and the people you are with.

Keeping ourselves entertained

Entertaining ourselves on a rainy day in the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut. Reading, sleeping, talking, drinking tea, and innumerable games of UNO.

The challenge

For some people, the thought of walking 6 blocks in the middle of a city is too much.   For others, a day hike is more than enough to last them for the next week or month.  But when you walk (and engage in other exercise) as much as I do, these shorter hikes are great, but often don’t provide much of a challenge.   

The exceptions I can think of off the top of my head since I started traveling in 2016 are Volcán Maderas in Nicaragua, Rucu Pichincha in Ecuador, and Laguna 69 in Peru.  These were tough day hikes – Maderas because of the heat, the others because of the altitude.

Laguna 69

Laguna 69 in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru is a tough day hike, mostly because of the altitude

The first long-distance trek I did was the Torres del Paine Circuit in Chile in 2015.  I remember when I signed up that I was a little nervous about walking for 8 days, especially with the osteoarthritis in my toes.  But it was an incredible experience (for all the reasons I’m talking about here), and while there were challenging parts to it, on the whole, it really wasn’t that difficult.

Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

The Torres del Paine Circuit was the first long-distance trek I did. We had pretty ordinary weather but it was an amazing experience

Then, last year, I hiked the 10-day Huayhuash Circuit in Peru, 95% of which is over 4,200m, with several passes over 5,000m.   Having spent quite a lot of time at altitude, I knew I wouldn’t have any problems with altitude sickness, but if you’ve ever been above about 3,000m, you know that doing anything at these altitudes gets very difficult very quickly. 

Highest point on the Huayhuash Trek

The highest point on the Huayhuash Trek at 5,200m.

However, with the slow walking pace set by Eliceo, the  altitude challenge was entirely surmountable (though there were some tough climbs), and the sense of achievement I felt at the end of the 10-days was a kind of euphoria.  It took me several days to come down off the high of that incredible experience.

The 12-day Unplugged Wilderness trek in East Greenland was this year’s challenge.  And although altitude wasn’t a concern, I hadn’t actually done much exercise for the previous 2 months while traveling the Silk Road (I’d also been a bit slack on the High Intensity Interval Training 🙁 ) so wasn’t as fit as I wanted to be.  My other concern was the cold (this is Greenland after all, even if in Summer), something that I feel very keenly, and one of my biggest challenges on the Huayhuash Circuit.  It turned out that this actually wasn’t an issue at all (except for Day 4) and I think this trek is the easiest of the 3 I’ve done so far.  No less spectacular for it though, and 3 months after the fact, my head and heart are still in Greenland!

Sunset bathing the tips of the peaks behind the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut with a golden light. The hut is in the foreground

Another favourite image

So what is my next challenge?

Well, all the treks I’ve done so far have been supported – in other words, I’ve only had to carry a day pack while hiking.  And although my day pack tends to be heavier than most because of my camera gear, it’s still a lot lighter than carrying a full pack.

However, in February 2018, I will be leveling up in my challenges and undertaking the 10-day Patagonian Icecap Expedition from El Chaltén in Argentina.  On this hike, I have to carry a full pack, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very, very nervous about the cold.   Check back in March to see if I survive!

Update:  I survived!  Read my stories from this incredible expedition with Serac Expeditions and Swoop Patagonia.

The new friends

Perhaps I’ve just been lucky.  But I’ve found that the types of people who undertake long-distance treks and actually stick it out, tend to be easy-going, fun, and interesting companions. 

Because you spend so much time together – hiking, eating meals, hanging out – you have tons of time to chat and get to know one another.  And if you really click, it very quickly and easily turns into an ongoing friendship.  I’m still in touch with Max and Nico from the Huayhuash Circuit last year (I am working on convincing them to come to Greenland next year), and I’ll catch up with several of my companions from Unplugged Wilderness again in 2018.   I’m really looking forward to this!

Max and Nico from Huayhuash (top), and the crew from Unplugged Wilderness (bottom)

So there you have it.  If you’ve been curious (or have asked me previously) about why I keep doing these crazy-long treks, I hope that gives a bit more of an idea why I’m so attracted to them.  I really wish I’d discovered this passion earlier in my life, but am making the most of it now that I’ve seen the light 🙂

So who’s in for the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland in August in 2018?

 

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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 – Icelandic Mountain Guides

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 by Icelandic Mountain Guides (IMG) highly enough (or simply 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 by Icelandic Mountain Guides.   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.

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