Gotta Get to Greenland
Greenland was more of an annoyance – an itch I had to scratch – than a dream destination. While not one of the fully-recognized-UN-193 nations, it was a place that I just had to get to. And getting there is more difficult than one would think.
It absolutely bothered me that this giant island (the world’s biggest, actually) almost touches Canada, yet there wasn’t even one flight there from anywhere in North America – not one! Why wouldn’t there be even at least a weekly flight from Montreal or Toronto? Is that too much to ask?! But as of this publication, the only way in or out (by plane) is via Iceland or Denmark, which makes Greenland absolutely out of the way for anyone living in North America. What’s more, the flights are all horrifically expensive. But, if you’ve been a reader of my blog for even a short time, you know it’s the tough-to-get-to and lesser-traveled-to places that excite me the most, so, here we are.
I enjoyed quick stops in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and France on this 11-day trip, and now, time for five full days in Greenland. If you’ve been a reader of my blog for even a short time, you know five days in one country for me is a long time! However, since just recently finishing “193,” I’d been looking forward to slowing down a little.
I was a little nervous when checking in for my Greenland flight, to see the Reykjavik (Iceland) to Nuuk (Greenland) segment was showing “STANDBY;” no seat assignment. What gives? I’d booked this ticket ten whole months ago and I could not miss this flight. But upon arriving in Iceland, the airline rep basically said, “I’ll see your ‘standby’ ticket and raise you one canceled flight.” To quote the late, great Jimmy Buffet, “There ain’t no way that bird’s getting’ through.” I’d be in Reykjavik for at least the night. I was bummed, but have been doing this long enough to temper my frustration over the things I can’t control. Plus, it was kinda nice to have a free night in Iceland, compliments of the airline.
Hey Look Ma, I Made It
I was relieved to finally be on the ground in Greenland, even a day late. It could’ve been worse – I was told horror stories about the frequent delays and cancellations, but I’d made it, finally!
The Nuuk airport was even smaller than I imagined, but this was the kind of adventure and off-the-beaten-path travel my heart craved. Nuuk became only the third international airport I’ve landed at to not have taxis waiting outside when I exited, joining the ranks of The Solomon Islands (it was Christmas Eve) and Cayenne, French Guyana (gasoline shortage). Thankfully my phone had signal, and I sprung into action, calling the local cab company who immediately sent an armada for me and the line of waiting and confused passengers. Let the adventure begin!
Greenland was special and I felt deserved some special lodging, so I treated myself to the “Aurora Hut” at a property called InukTravel. The glass dome was situated on a wooden deck, perched upon rocks just feet from the bay. While there was no TV nor shower, what the room lacked in amenities, it made up for in views and overall “vibe.” The Aurora Hut was a great choice. What a way to really get away and relax.
After getting settled, I took the 30-minute walk into town where I dined on chicken nachos at Café Esmerelda before turning in for the night. I’d only have one full day in Nuuk – tomorrow – and I wanted to be well rested. I had a feeling I’d be doing a lot of walking on this stop.
A Quick Luuk Around Nuuk
The hotel’s restaurant served shrimp with breakfast – so Greenlandic. Heading into town, this time I hiked a rocky trail which seemed to be a smart (and more picturesque) shortcut, found only thanks to my GPS. It was a truly relaxing and almost meditative walk, as I admired the colorful houses, passed by a red, wooden church and sucked on a piece of real iceberg at the shore. A long, wooden walkway winded along the coast and took me to the other side of this small town. After coffee and a cookie I rambled on.
Nuuks and Crannies
I was really enjoying my time taking it slow in this sleepy town. The sun was out and I barely needed a jacket. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. Heading back towards downtown I passed by the Nuuk Cultural Center and then into the mall. I took a break back in my hut to rest my barking dogs before venturing out again, this time heading east, to the smaller Quassussuup Tungaa neighborhood. There wasn’t so much as a general store in this area, but I enjoyed the post-cookie exercise as I wandered down to some small boat slips and then looped around, through a tunnel, back to the hotel.
Just like the arepas in Iceland surprised me, I did not expect to have the best hamburger of my life in Greenland, nor did I expect it to be reindeer! But I did, and it was. I keep a running tab of all of my “favorite” things during my travels, a “best-of” list, if you will. Only about five bites in did I realize the burger back at Café Inuk would contend with Minneapolis‘ famous Juicy Lucy for the number one burger on my list. I only wish my dear mother (May God rest her soul) was with me to try this masterpiece – she loved a good hamburger. You can read all the juicy details about the award-winning meal HERE. It was definitely one for the books!
Movin’ on Up
The next morning I’d fly to Ilulissat for my final night in Greenland. It was a new airline for me, which is always fun. The Air Greenland propeller plane made a quick stop in Kangerlussuaq, where all passengers had to deplane and hang out in the airport for about 40 minutes before returning to the aircraft and leaving for Ilulissat. I was impressed at how modern the Kangerlussuaq airport was compared to the bare-bones facilities of both Nuuk and Ilulissat. The landscape of Kangerlussuaq looked pretty neat, too, making me wish I’d booked a night there.
Last Stop on The Greenland Express: Ilulissat
The second and last stop in Greenland would be the town of Ilulissat. The vibe here was a little different than Nuuk. The landscape was a more hilly, with steep, windy streets that provided spectacular views to countless icebergs below. It was quickly apparent that this town was much more touristy than the last.
I arrived in time for my first of two tours – tonight I’d jump on a boat and cruise Disko Bay to visit the icebergs. The two and a half hour tour seemed to be the closest (not geographically) I’d get to Antarctica for now, as we cruised alongside those big, beautiful, bright white mountains of ice. The waters were nice and calm and one of the highlights was drinking tea with freshly-caught “glacier” ice – the tour guide scooped up fresh ice, right out of the water with a net! It was a nice trip – very calm and relaxing.
Next Day’s Function
My final day in Greenland would be a relaxing one – probably the most laid back day of the entire ten-day trip. I started with a hike through Sermermiut – the remains of an old Inuit settlement going 4,400 years back in time and a protected UNESCO-site. What an idyllic setting for a morning stroll. Halfway down the path I had to step over a group of children on their field trip, who sat on the pathway eating lunch. The people watching was good in Greenland. The Inuits sure are beautiful people.
The rest of the day was pretty lazy. With nothing else on the agenda, I spent most of the day loafing and taking my time packing. I’d finish off the trip with a very nice meal at my hotel, Hvide Falk. The cuisine was impeccable!
It was tough leaving at midnight that night. Red-eye flights are never fun, but you have to make sacrifices to get to certain places. I disliked having to head back east (to Iceland) just to turn west again to get home. Sacrifices, what can I say? But it was all so worth it: the chill time, the fresh air, the (surprisingly) good food and finally being able to scratch an itch that was bothering me for so long. Greenland isn’t close nor cheap, but I felt I needed to set foot on such a nearby and enormous neighbor of mainland North America. Most never will. I feel lucky I did. And I might return one day, if just for that burger.