Traveling to Greenland has to be one of the most extraordinary experiences in the world. This vast wilderness is the largest “island” on earth and is home to ancient icebergs, jaw-dropping glaciers, quirky towns and an abundance of wildlife. I have had the good fortune of spending a total of 10 months in Greenland since 2016 and have loved every minute of it.
Taking adventurous journeys to exotic places has always been part of my life. My mother was the documentarian of our family and she encouraged a boundless curiosity in me, like no one else. She is a woman who rejected gender stereotypes, traveled the world and always chooses kindness.
For some reason, I have always been drawn to the Arctic. I remember when I was very young – perhaps six or so – I first learned about the Aurora Borealis and was transfixed by it. The nature which they illuminated and danced over were a far cry from my Los Angeles roots. I think I just nurtured that dream into my teenage years and then into early adulthood.
My first trip to the Arctic was eight years ago when I spent two months under the Midnight Sun in Tromso, Norway. From then on, I have longed to keep exploring the Arctic. As mentioned, I have spent a total of 10 months in Greenland and have traveled from the Southeast all the way to Uummannaq located 590km north of the Arctic Circle.
For the most part, I have traveled there on my own. Though, I have also found work as an expedition photographer and with Visit Greenland.
My Favorite Place in Greenland
Uummannaq (meaning heart-shaped place) is a destination close to my heart where I am lucky to spend months at a time. It’s a town of just over 1,400 people and they say that when you leave, a piece of your heart remains! I believe that to be true as it gets harder to leave each time.
The landscapes all around Greenland are the most humbling thing I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. Distances are vast and the clarity of the air gives the impression that a mountain 100km away feels only 40km away. Whether it be Uummannaq or any other spot in Greenland, there is a surreality to this autonomous territory that is impossible to shake off.
Best Things To Do in Greenland
I have to say that seeing the Aurora Borealis has got to be the most moving and exquisite event that one can witness in Greenland. One moment you are looking at a sky peppered with millions of stars and suddenly, quite literally out of thin air, this green light starts to dance and take shape.
The bands grow and stretch, sometimes from horizon to horizon, and are completely unpredictable. It will be the coldest and most awestruck you will ever be! Planning your trip to Greenland around this is worthwhile.
My other favorite winter activities in Greenland include dog sledding, ice fishing, going to any frozen lake – when safe to do so – and looking for methane bubbles trapped in the ice! Sometimes, if you lay on the ice, you can hear the echoes of the ice shifting and ricocheting off the lake bed.
For the summertime: you simply have to go hiking! It is important to take serious precautions while hiking anywhere in Greenland but it’s absolutely worth it. Just don’t forget to bring a mosquito headnet and hiking boots.
One of the most important things you can do is to give yourself time. Plan carefully and don’t rush. Greenland has so much to offer and slowing down to give yourself time is one of the best ways to experience the territory.
Unique Greenland Culture
To visit Greenland is to spend time with locals and be immersed in a unique culture. Inuit people are welcoming and possess a strength and humour which knows no bounds. The culture in Greenland is one that is borne out of one of the harshest, most severe environments on the planet.
I can’t say that I’m a particularly patient person but most of the patience I have learned in my adult life is thanks to those I have gotten to know in Greenland. To immerse in the culture – ask questions, be inquisitive and be open to all the things you can learn while traveling through this land.
Flourishing Local Food Scene
The local food scene is flourishing throughout Greenland, with notable young chefs working to put Greenlandic food on the map. ‘Country food’ is quite accessible in all of the territory, as subsistence hunting is still vital in Greenland both for food and to protect and nurture the culture.
One of my favorite places to experience Greenland cuisine is Restaurant Mamartut, Ilulissat. The space is cosy and the walls are adorned with art and furs. The owner loves to introduce Greenlandic cuisine to new, curious individuals. I recommend checking them out when in Ilulissat.
Best Accomodation Options
I have yet to travel to the east coast of Greenland (still on my bucket list) but it is a great option from Iceland and the Ittoqqortoormiit Guesthouse is a perfect spot to rest while taking in the beauty of the eastern regions.
Cherished Memories of Greenland
I have too many memories of Greenland! Traveling across Greenland to Uummananq and seeing faces of those who have become friends is special. One moment which I look back on fondly is from Niaqornat, the smallest settlement in Greenland. The homes are nestled on an isthmus between the Nuussuaq peninsula and a boulder jutting out of the sea.
One night, a friend and I hiked over the hill where the view opens up to the vast valleys of the peninsula to the south and an iceberg filled fjord to the north. We sat there, watching the world at two o’clock in the morning, eating oranges as the sun (never dipping below the horizon) started to climb into a new day. It was one of those experiences that you never forget!
Need to Know Before you Go
Firstly, the weather rules everything. You will most likely be delayed at some point in your travels and that is okay. I have seen travelers get upset by the lack of options but it is important to remember that when traveling through the Arctic, anything can happen and your options will be limited.
Air Greenland (the flag carrier airline) is helpful with assisting people during delays and sometimes an unexpected delay can turn into the best part of your trip. Who knows what experience you will have or who you will meet!
I also think it’s important to support Inuit travel guides and companies. In places like Ilulissat, there are Danish run options – and while they are a good time – I fundamentally believe in supporting local tour guides. You will learn more about the land, culture and perhaps some Inuktitut words!