THE BIG ARCTIC FIVE

Written by root. Posted in FEATURES

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Published on November 01, 2015 with No Comments

There is no doubt nature comes first to mind when thinking about Greenland.

Words GRACE LOOI
Images VISIT GREENLAND

 

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In recent years Greenland has captivated more and more people who have chosen the country as a perfect destination. Which is not surprising. After all, Greenland offers a good story, a beautiful and different nature and a colourful culture. There are its enormous icebergs in the Arctic Circle region, the spectacular green fields and fjords in South Greenland, the whizzing dog-sledding trips in North and East Greenland, and the multi-coloured houses you can see in every town along the coast.

And of course, the imposing silence adds to the charm of the country.

With only 56,000 residents and roughly the same number of annual tourists spread over an area of the size of Western Europe, a Greenland experience can feel very personal. Whether you travel on your own or are on an organised tour, you will never bereft of these moments. Called The Big Arctic Five, these are the signature experiences that will make your visit the envy of many.

First of the five is the rolling, mythical and magical Northern Lights. They will surprise and amaze you; and in the middle of nature in Greenland is the perfect place to experience the phenomenon. Here, where the mountains and the snow are illuminated by the green and red light show, the Northern Lights dance in the night sky, and it is a sight to behold. The phenomenon begins from early spring. Also known as Aurora Borealis, it actually occurs year round but it is not seen in the summer in Greenland because of the midnight sun. It often appears around midnight and is best experienced on a dark, clear night sky from September until the beginning of April. If you are travelling during that period, you can see the Northern Lights throughout the country, but in South Greenland the Northern Lights can already be seen from the end of August.

Another aspect that fascinates visitors is Greenland’s ice sheet. Icebergs are the ice sheet’s unique masterpieces. They come in all imaginable shapes and sizes, and the colours shimmer from white to blue to green with yellowish and reddish tints depending on the light that hits them. For example, from the glow of the midnight sun that shines 24 hours a day north of the Arctic Circle. The further north you go, the longer the period of midnight sun. You can walk on the ice at Kangerlussuaq and sail to glaciers throughout most of Greenland almost all year round. Ilulissat Icefjord is world famous because of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tens of thousands of ice floes as far as the eye can see are the first sign that you are approaching the east coast of Greenland and slowly, but surely, a dramatic mountain landscape is revealed with pristine mountain peaks and glaciers known as the Greenlandic Ice Sheet.

Visitors coming to the country from Denmark sometimes also choose to drive out to the ice at Kangerlussuaq and walk the last bit onto the ice to see it close up. It is a once in a lifetime experience, but it is also possible to do it elsewhere in Greenland if you sail, fly in a helicopter or hike to the ice.

To sail in Greenland is in itself a great experience and it becomes even greater when a whale appears right next to the boat. Humpback, fin and minke whales can be seen along most coastlines and often the whales swim quite close to towns and settlements. The sea around Greenland is ideal for whales, because it contains plenty of nutrition, food and offers great depths that whales can frolic in. In the summer months, whales such as humpbacks, often go close to the shore in search of food.

Qeqertarsuaq, located on Disko Island, is a well-known spot for playful humpbacks in high summer, and many other Greenland whales also visit the site a little earlier the year – typically from May to June. However, the towns of Uummannaq, Aasiaat, Maniitsoq, Nuuk and Sisimiut, and the towns in South and East Greenland are some of the other places to visit when it comes to the sea’s largest mammals.

If you sail with the coastal ship from Arctic Umiaq Line, the regional routes from Disko Line or a cruise with, for example, Hurtigruten, you can almost be sure to see whales during the voyage. One’s first encounter with a whale is unforgettable and if you are lucky enough to be able to follow the whale for a while, don’t forget to lower your camera sometimes to enjoy the view with your naked eyes. It would be such a shame if you see most of it through a lens or the screen on the camera, because the memory of the meeting is certainly special.

Greenland’s other famous experience is dog sledding in winter for a drive out into the endless, snow-covered mountain landscapes. Sled dogs territory is in towns above the Arctic Circle, in Greenland’s west coast, and in all towns in the east coast. The season starts in February and lasts until April. Dog sledding takes place in several countries in the Arctic, including Sweden and Norway, but no other destination can match Greenland when it comes to authenticity: the dog sled and sled dogs are in fact deeply embedded in Greenlandic culture and it is just as much a part of the country’s history as the kayak. The dog sled continues to play an important role today as a means of transport for hunters and fishermen. Visitors can also opt for a hunting excursion that can be anything from a day trip to week-long sled trips with cosy cabins for accommodation.

Finally, no visit to Greenland will be complete without immersing yourself in the local culture. And the best way to do that is to meet its locals. Greenlanders are a welcoming and energetic people, who have lived off nature and in the middle of it for generations. Nature’s greatness instils calmness in the people’s temperament and a respect for the elements that is admirable. In many ways Greenland is a country that has managed to retain its identity as an “original” country with an indigenous people.

On the whole, hospitality in Greenland is the foundation of any home. It rubs off on people’s attitude towards the country’s guests and in many towns there are good opportunities to get close to people. If you want to visit a Greenlandic home, you can come to a “Kaffemik” in many towns and settlements. Kaffemik is a Danish word for coffee get-together. In fact, it is not coffee that is the focus, but being together. The hosts serve homemade cake with coffee and tea, and then you can talk about your daily lives and the local community – an insight that can neither be read about in books nor tourist guides.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies London daily via Dubai for connections to Nuuk.

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