During the summer months, glaciers disperse chunky icebergs that choke Greenland’s cold-water bays. Point a camera in any direction and snap to your battery blinks. With 80 percent of its surface covered in ice, Greenland is a spectacle to behold.
Here you’ll find Arctic wildlife (Polar Bears sometimes show up in towns), mountains domed by snow and the glow of the Midnight Sun and an authentic Inuit culture. Dine on reindeer, or at Nuuk’s modern Hotel Hans Egede sample muskox beer.
This is a land of contrasts. In one Greenlander’s home, CNN aired on a large flat-panel television (every Greenlander seems to own one), while the large living-room window looked out on a landscape that hasn’t changed since the Vikings were here a millennia ago.
No roads connect the villages in this self-governing Danish province. But flying isn’t the only way to travel from village to village. You can travel by ship — on Hurtigruten’s Fram, built specifically for cruising Greenland. Expeditions from eight to 15 days are offered May through September.
Check out my Live Voyage Report: Silver Explorer: Greenland
Last summer, I cruised Greenland on Voyages of Discovery’s mv Discovery. The star of the show was Greenland itself, and though our feet were ashore fewer than 10 hours during the six full days we were on board Discovery, the trip was one that imprinted indelible images of icebergs and rugged coastal landscapes.
Our trip took us from South Greenland, a place that in fact is green during summer, to above the Arctic Circle, where we experienced the wonder of Disko Bay. In Prins Christiansund, we cruised the 67-mile long channel at the southernmost tip of the world’s largest island, and after a couple of hours of sailing inland, we passed a village, a handful of houses really, where the dentist comes once annually. Greenland is a place that is still a wild and untamed, certainly much less tame than the Alaska that cruise passengers see. Get in touch with your inner pioneer.
Meeting native Greenlandic people and visiting their homes was a bonus in the ports of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, and Qaqortoq, the only place name in the world, I am told, boasting three of the letter q.
We missed a full day in the UNESCO World Heritage region Disko Bay and the icefjord of Ilulissat. For an explanation and photos of icebergs, see Icebergs in Ilulissat, Greenland: A day in Disko Bay.
Greenland is what National Geographic referred to in an issue of its magazine as “ground zero” for measuring the impact of global warming. If there is significant melting of the icecap, coastal dwellers worldwide should plan on moving to higher ground.
An Inconvenient Trip, But A Worthwhile One
You can’t help but visit Greenland and be reminded of the premises that Al Gore laid out in “An Inconvenient Truth.” And though Greenland itself is “an inconvenient trip” for North Americans, it can be a life-changing one in small, but not insignificant, ways.
In 2007, it was possible to board a flight in Baltimore and set foot fewer than five hours later in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s largest commercial airport. No longer. In 2008, Air Greenland ceased operations from North America, and today, a trip to Greenland is indeed an inconvenient one.
Getting there from the U.S. requires connecting through Reykjavik or points beyond in Europe, primarily Copenhagen, so that you board a plane in the U.S., fly over Greenland, disembark, board another plane, and fly back in the direction from which you came. Returning home requires the same travel in the wrong direction and flying once again over Greenland.
Despite the inconvenience, Greenland is well worth a visit, and one of the best ways to see the world’s largest island is by ship. While Fram operates the most extensive Greenland itineraries (ranging from 11 days to 14 days), other cruise lines typically include Greenland on repositioning cruises from Europe, across the North Atlantic, to North America. The Faroe Islands, Iceland and Newfoundland are often included on these itineraries as well. Among the cruise lines that call on Greenland: Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Silversea Cruises.
For Port Profiles, Shore Excursions and What To Do In Greenland, click on the destinations below.
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