Greenland is that huge block of ice that you’ve stared at on a map for all these years. You know, the big white island on the map just below the North Pole, near Iceland and Canada. I bet you thought nobody lived there or I bet that you never even thought about it. Truth is some 45,000 people live on the world’s largest island.
To visit is somewhat difficult and certainly expensive. The only ways to get to Greenland are by plane from Reykjavik or less frequent flights from Copenhagen. The only other way to get there is by infrequent boats or cruise ships that stop in.
The most convenient way to see a good piece of Greenland for the best price and feel like you’ve seen and done quite a lot is by doing the Air Iceland day trip to Kulusuk from the Reykjavik domestic airport.
It’ll cost you between $500-$1000 depending on the day and availability. I was fortunate and got my friends and I a generous discount from my friends at Air Iceland. So I could not pass up this great opportunity. Plus, the weather couldn’t have been better.
My friends Pete, Brian and I flew out this morning to Kulusuk to explore what it had to offer. I wasn’t expecting too much as it was just a daytrip but I was really surprised and excited about how great the trip turned out to be.
The flight into Kulusuk airport is scenic to say the least. Icebergs and broken off pieces of ice dot the Arctic Ocean below you. Then the mountains move into view and make the views even more spectacular. As you rush to snap photos from the plane, you keep seeing more and more angles and icebergs that catch your attention. The next thing you know you’re on the ground.
Kulusuk Airport was built in the 1950’s by the United States as a Cold War airport for potential use for emergencies, supplies etc. It is a DYE 4 airport. The runway is gravel and the place is pretty desolate although it is the busiest airport in Eastern Greenland with daily flights in summer from Reykjavik and helicopter service to western towns.
From the airport, our guide Johan, led us on a 3km hike to the village of Kulusuk. We stopped along the way to see a native graveyard and some great view from the communication tower for the village.
The views of the village, surrounding mountains and the ice valley below were astonishing. The weather couldn’t have been more idyllic and we had a nice group of 10 or so people to travel with on our day trip.
We then hiked down through the snow to the village and had a look around. The village is very primitive. There is no running water and toilets are in outhouses. There is one store to buy supplies, which had very nice people working. Although it was difficult to pay for the bread and fruit we bought because we didn’t have any Danish Krona. Remember that Greenland is technically part of Denmark. Eventually we figured it out with a combination of currencies and made our way through town to the souvenir store that was run by our guide conveniently.
After dodging rip offs at the souvenir store we made our way to the church, which was locked, and nobody knew how to enter. Apparently the guy with the keys was ill or something. It didn’t faze us and we walked down to the boat dock where some locals were setting out on a seal-hunting trip. It was cool to watch them load up the guns and set out through the broken ice in just a motorboat.
Stunning views were the backdrop for a native dance show that two villagers, a mother and son, put on for us. My friends and I went up to take pictures and she started dancing rather interestingly toward us. It made us laugh and caught us by surprise but it was a lot of fun nonetheless.
After the dance show was the coolest part of the day. We were taken back to the airport in style via dog sled. Now I am not saying we were going to win the Iditarod or anything. In fact, dog sleds are possibly the most unorganized and perhaps cruelest form of animal cruelty.
Our musher couldn’t seem to control the dogs that were pulling every which way. Some were being very stubborn and he proceeded to whip and pick them up and throw them. We were in shock, what can you do? If PETA had an office in Greenland, they would have been up in arms!
Eventually he got the nine dogs squared away and they started pulling our sled that had about 800 pounds of man on it including the musher. I felt bad for the dogs but I have to say it was pretty awesome being on a dog sled.
The only bad thing is that the ice is melting and within two days they said the ice wouldn’t be string enough to hold sleds as the water was popping through the ice. A few times we actually fell through the ice and it scared the hell out of us.
We were literally on top of a frozen inlet where if we did fall through into the water, we’d be dead for sure. There was nowhere to swim to as the ice would keep breaking as you tried to pull yourself up. Thoughts of awful movies kept popping into my head. But alas those little arctic dogs got us back to the airport.
After receiving our passport stamps and a very nice certificate of visitation, we flew back to Reykjavik. We flew over some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. You can see a few shots here in the pictures but it cannot do it justice. The glaciers, icebergs and loose ice were breathtaking from the air. It looked fake-like a Microsoft screensaver.
I am back in Reykjavik now and wishing I could see more of Greenland; which should be called Iceland. The west coast is where the majority of the 45,000 people live. There are options to see that part of the island via plane or by boat too but it is very expensive. That’s the biggest problem with visiting Greenland and much of Scandinavia; the prices are just ridiculous.
However, I completely recommend the day trip to Kulusuk. You get a great feel for Greenland, the people and their everyday lives. It is not a big party place by any means but it is just right. You’ll be happy you went…I know I am!
Day Trip to Greenland
June 5, 2012 by 39 Comments