GREENLAND AUGUST 2016
Population 56,000. 90% living on the coast. Greenland is an interesting place. Flying from Iceland takes around three hours, and the second half is ice cap all the way. We land at Ilulissat, population 4,500, and check in at the Arctic Hotel, the world’s most northerly four-star hotel. It’s 200km inside the Arctic Circle and at the mouth of a 56km ice fiord opposite Disko Bay. The glacier advances at 30-45m a day, and produces 10% of the world’s ice. That’s quite enough stats for the moment.
We were advised that no excursions could be pre-booked because they were all weather dependent. This is bollocks. They were all booked up – mainly by Danes. So we were unable to take a boat trip up to the Eqi glacier to watch it calve. So we improvised. Firstly by walking through town to hike down to the Sermermiut ice fiord. There was an unusual sight on the way, as a pick-up truck sped past dragging a seal. Surely he would just put it in the truck?
We wander past the packs of Greenlandic dogs. They can withstand minus 40 degrees C apparently, and outnumber the town’s inhabitants. Back to the hotel for a barbecue offering a mix of meats including whale, musk ox and reindeer. The ox is chewy, and the whale is revolting – somewhere between rich, off pate and chewing a sock that has been steeped in seawater for years and left out in the sun. In the evening we go out on a boat for a classic sunset photography.
The weather continues to be brilliant: non-stop sunshine against an iceberg backdrop. It’s ideal for hiking around in a t-shirt, through the working town of Ilulissat with all its harbour activity, and over to the Sermermiut glacier. It’s beautiful and appears near endless. On the way back we buy a scary mask from one of the local carvers, and a tupilak – a small monster carved from reindeer horn. I ask if they are to scare off evil spirits. No, they are to cast mean spells on people. Charming.
In the afternoon we take a plane ride for an hour up the glacier. Visibility is an astonishing 200 miles, and as we circle round the mouth out to sea we see humpback whales feeding in the oxygen rich waters. Amazing stuff.
Then back in time for dinner and sunset, only partly obscured by a set of Americans who came en masse to stand in the way. On our last day it’s cloudy, proving for sure we had top luck with the weather.
Greenland is highly recommended. Stunning landscape, fascinating people, and intriguing history. 10 out of 10.