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Greenland

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Hotel Avannaa
Hotel Avannaa - dream vacation

Nuussuataap Aqq. 2, Ilulissat

Greenland (Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaat; Danish: Grønland) is the world's largest non-continental island, in the far northeast of North America, largely within the Arctic Circle. Although it is still part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it was granted self-government effective in 1979, more recently it voted for more autonomy, in effect making it a separate country with formal ties to Denmark, and a member of the Nordic Council. Some inhabitants are now projecting the eventual road to full independence. Copenhagen remains responsible for its foreign affairs, and of course is a source of investment.

The closest neighbouring countries and territories are Iceland to the South-East, Canada to the West and the Svalbard islands of Norway to the North-East.

Regions

Cities

Greenlandic places generally have two names: the (traditional and now official) Greenlandic, or Kalaallisut, and the (once but no longer official) Danish. Greenlandic is abbreviated 'kl;' Danish is 'da.'

  • Nuuk (da: Godthåb) – the capital
  • Ittoqqortoormiit (da: Scoresbysund) – settlement in the sparsely populated eastern Greenland
  • Kangerlussuaq (da: Søndre Strømfjord) – known for research facilities and the former US Bluie West Eight base; comparably mild weather, while the glacier is in easy reach; good site for viewing northern lights.
  • Kulusuk (da: Kap Dan) – one of the largest towns in Eastern Greenland
  • Qaanaaq (da: Thule) – one of the world's northernmost civilian settlements, with an US airbase
  • Sisimiut (da: Holsteinsborg) – second largest city
  • Tasiilaq (also Amassalik, for its municipality and the island it is on) – the largest city in Eastern Greenland
  • Upernavik – unique wildlife, the largest bird cliff (Apparsuit)
  • Uummannaq – whale watchers paradise

Other destinations

  • Northeast Greenland National Park - the largest natural reserve in the world. There are no towns or settlements, only a couple of weather stations. This area is accessible on cruise expeditions.

Understand

Although some maps with flat projections of the globe tend to make Greenland look the size of Africa, it is actually "only" about the size of Mexico. Greenland has the lowest population density among autonomous entities.

It represents some 97% of the area of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish territorial claim is rooted in the 10th-century explorations of the Vikings, though administrative power has changed hands several times over the centuries due to developments in Europe. The native Greenlanders, or Kalaallit, are Inuit descendants of nomads from northern Canada. ("Eskimo" is offensive in Canada and Greenland, but not in the USA.)

According to the Icelandic Sagas, Erik the Red chose the name "Greenland" to entice settlers from Iceland. In fact, Greenland has far more ice cover (about 84% of its surface area) than Iceland does, but the southern coasts the Vikings settled are green in summer, and were likely more so during the Medieval Warm Period.

Be careful with maps of Greenland, as many Greenlandic names simply reference a particular geographical feature. For example, "Kangerlussuaq" means "Big Fjord" and so is not only the Greenlandic name for Søndre Strømfjord.

When visiting a city or village don't be afraid to ask for directions of shops, places to eat or somewhere to sleep, even if you think there might not be any. Most places (even Nuuk) are small enough for everyone to know where everything is, and therefore no one bothered to put up a sign. Don't be surprised to find a fully equipped supermarket inside a grey factory-like building in the middle of nowhere.

Get in

Passports and visas

If you do not need a visa for Denmark, you can generally visit Greenland for up to 90 days in a half year without a visa, although your passport must be valid for at least three months after your visit. Nordic citizens (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic) do not need visas for any length of stay, and can use any form of identity documentation to enter. EU/EEA/Swiss citizens can use a national ID card instead of a passport.

If you do require a visa for Denmark, keep in mind that Schengen area visas issued for visits to mainland Denmark are not valid for Greenland or the Faeroe Islands. You will need a separate visa, which can be applied for at any Danish diplomatic post or embassy along with your Schengen visa for Denmark or Iceland if you are transiting through one of those countries. If you are flying through Nunavut, you would need a Canadian temporary resident or transit visa.

If you're planning work or study in Greenland, you'll need an appropriate permit, although some types of work (teaching, consulting, artists, installation technicians, and a few others) as well as short term research are exempt from needing a work/ study permit if the time spent in Greenland is less than 90 days. For more information look here.

There is no border control on entering or leaving Greenland - all document checks are performed by the airline during check-in and at the gate. Thus, if you need your passport stamped (i.e. for a residence permit) you will normally have to seek out border staff yourself or get in touch with Greenland Homerule to obtain the stamp.

Expedition permits

If you stay on the typical tourist paths you do not need any permissions, but any expeditions (including any trips to the national park, which by definition are expeditions) need a special permit from the Danish polar centre. If travelling with an agency they will usually take care of the paperwork for you. If you are entering or travelling through Thule Air Base, you also need a permission from the Danish department of foreign affairs, since it is a US military area (except for children under 15, Danish police and military, US military or US diplomats). See Qaanaaq for details.

By plane

Trans-oceanic service to Greenland either lands at Kangerlussuaq (IATA: SFJ) (Danish: Søndre Strømfjord, English: Sondrestrom), or Narsarsuaq (IATA: UAK), the only airports in the country that can accept anything larger than a turboprop. These two airports are located in unpopulated areas without road connection, and almost every passenger continues with local flights, helicopters, or boats.

The capital Nuuk (IATA: GOH) is also seeing some international traffic from Iceland in the summer.

SAS ceased its operations to Greenland in 2009 and Atlantic Airways some time before that. Except on the Reykjavík-Nuuk route, where there is some competition, getting to Greenland is expensive, although sometimes travel agents are able to get discounts through agreements with Greenland Tourism.

Two airlines provide scheduled service to the country:

  • Air Greenland, the flag carrier, offers several options for reaching Greenland:
  • Year-round, a daily return between Copenhagen and Kangerlussuaq, with a second daily return in the summer season contracted out to Danish carrier JetTime. From Kangerlussaq, you can reach any other city or settlement in the country, including the capital Nuuk, through Air Greenland's domestic network.
  • Seasonally, Air Greenland has several departures each week between Copenhagen and Narsarsuaq, operated by JetTime.
  • June through September, two weekly returns from Keflavik Airport in Iceland (Icelandair's hub) to both Nuuk and Narsarsuaq. With plentiful flights between the United States and Iceland, this is by far the easiest way to get to Greenland from North America. It's also the most affordable as it's the only route Air Greenland has any competition on.
  • Also June through September, there is twice weekly service between Iqaluit in Canada and Nuuk. Through codeshare agreements with FirstAir, it is possible to purchase a ticket originating in Ottawa (YOW) from around kr 10,000 ($2,500 return).
  • Air Greenland only sells tickets through its own website and travel agents. Fares are not advertised on Expedia, Priceline, or any consolidator website.
  • Despite minority ownership by SAS, Air Greenland is not part of the Star Alliance network nor does it have codeshares through SAS or any other major carrier. Interlining baggage and a single reservation may be possible - consult a travel agent.
  • Air Iceland operates year-round flights from Reykjavík to Kulusuk, Ittoqqortoormiit and Nuuk and additionally to Narsarsuaq and Ilulissat during the summer months. Bear in mind that Air Iceland is not the same carrier as Icelandair. It operates out of the downtown Reykjavík airport (domestic and Greenland flights only), rather than the international airport at Keflavik, which Icelandair uses. If you arrive on Icelandair from North America or Europe, you'll need to transfer airports, and you should allow at least four hours between flights for this. The flights to Greenland typically leave in the morning and flights to Iceland in the afternoon. This means together with the transfer time that a night's sleep is probably needed In Iceland. If you are vacationing in Iceland, one popular day excursion is to fly from Reykjavík to Kulusuk, where traditional handicrafts are on sale, before returning to the comparative comforts of Iceland.

There are also numerous charter outfits serving Greenland from Europe and North America, and if you're on a package tour to Greenland from North America, a chartered flight is frequently included. Scientific and technical personnel travelling from North America for research purposes typically fly into Kangerlussuaq aboard New York Air National Guard C-130s.

Greenland's airports are very private aviation-friendly if the weather is right. The name of Greenland's airport service is Mittarfeqarfiit.

By boat

Realistically, there is no ferry service from Europe or North America. Royal Arctic Line is the national freight operator, but they don't take passengers to or from Greenland.

There are cruise ships from both continents that visit Greenland:

  • Hurtigruten, has cruises from or to Iceland.

By car

It is possible to transport a car as container cargo. Royal Arctic Line transports containers and other goods from Aalborg. This is however very expensive (kr 30,000 return) and time consuming and considering the fact that there are no roads between settlements, this is done only when moving or buying a car, not by visitors.

Get around

There is no road or rail system. The easiest way to get around Greenland is by plane, particularly Air Greenland. In the summer, Arctic Umiaq Line passenger ships provide service to destinations between Narsarsuaq and Uummannaq along the west coast. Royal Arctic Line can take passengers on local routes.

See

  • Icebergs and glaciers (especially the Ilulissat Icefjord)
  • Animal life - Whales, seals, walruses, musk oxen, reindeer/caribou and polar bears.
  • The Midnight sun - In the northern 2/3 of Greenland, the sun stays above the horizon for days or even several weeks in the summer. In the remainder, the weeks around the summer solstice (June 21, a national holiday) see the sun dip below the horizon for only a short while each night, with the sky never getting truly dark. (Of course the reverse is true in the winter.)

Do

Hiking

You can freely hike near most settlements in Greenland as there is no property ownership anywhere in the country. DO go off the few small walking paths that exist. You will easily find yourself in offbeat locales, and wonder if you are perhaps the first person to ever stand in that particular spot. This rare sensation is by far the best reason to travel in Greenland.

Hiking does require permits in some cases, though. The government requires expedition permits for all traffic on the glacier, in the Greenland National Park and East Greenland except areas around Illoqqortoormiut and Tasiilaq. There is a non-refundable application fee of 4000 kr for the expedition permit.

There are hiking trails or trail networks in some parts of Greenland.

Driving a dog-sled

Kayaking

Mountaineering

As with hiking, you need permits for some destinations. The helicopters on Greenland are not equipped for mountain rescue.

Talk

The official language - Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) - is actually that of the more populated western coast. The eastern dialect is slightly different. Both are highly challenging languages to learn, as words are very long and often feature "swallowed" consonants. Try uteqqipugut or Ittoqqortoormiit on for size.

The good news is that almost all Greenlanders are bilingual Danish speakers, and many will even have a functional command of English. Greenlandic words may come in handy for travellers wanting to experience the "real Greenland", though.

Greenlandic is different enough from Inuktitut, the language of the Canadian Inuit who share similar historical roots to the Greenlanders, that the two peoples have difficulty understanding each other. However, attempts are being made to unify the Inuit language, and Greenlandic - with its existing libraries of translated Shakespeare and Pushkin - seems like the most natural option.

Buy

Money

Like the rest of the Kingdom of Denmark, the official currency is the Danish Krone (plural, kroner), denoted by the abbreviation "kr" (ISO code: DKK). Icelandic króna, euros, and Canadian dollars are sometimes accepted in tourist areas (but always check first), exchange other major currencies (such as pounds sterling, Swiss francs or US dollars) for krones at any bank or post office for a minimal charge.

Shopping

Greenland is largely a cash economy. With improvements to the infrastructure over the past few decades, the number of merchants accepting credit or debit cards are steadily growing, although many still do not. As a general rule, unless you're dealing with hotels or mainland chains with a presence on the island (e.g. supermarkets) don't automatically expect that credit cards are accepted - carry some cash as a backup. Every settlement has at least one ATM and if all else fails, banks may be able to give you a cash advance from your credit card.

Tourists to Greenland sometimes buy:

  • Inuit art and crafts
  • Sealskin -- which the Great Greenland fur company has fashioned into everything from coats to thick belts to purses and pencil cases.
  • Duty-free -- most flights land at Kangerlussuaq, one of those lovely places on earth where you can buy duty-free after landing. Stock up on cheap booze, smokes and everything else at prices far lower than the rest of Greenland. Important: Greenland is not a member of the EU, so although you may be travelling from Denmark, the custom rules are the same as for a trip out of the EU.

Supermarkets

These are the names to look for, if you need to buy groceries:

  • Pilersuisoq - Chain of larger supermarkets usually found in small villages. Has a little bit of everything.
  • Pisiffik - Chain of larger supermarkets present in the cities.
  • Spar - Dutch supermarket chain with a few shops in Greenland.
  • Brugsen - Danish supermarket chain with a few shops in Greenland.

Eat

Food in Greenland is generally not that different from American or continental European tastes. Restaurants carry typical European fare. Local food can be purchased at local markets in each town. Many Greenlandic restaurants combine traditional foods (locally-caught fish, shrimp and whales; also muskox and reindeer) with more familiar dishes. Expect to find whale meat at a Thai restaurant and caribou in a Chinese joint. Nuuk also has several burger bars and a couple of very high-end restaurants, most notably Nipisa, which specializes in (very expensive) local delicacies. Prices are high everywhere, but servings are generally large, especially with fries.

Drink

A local specialty is Greenlandic coffee. Its creation in some places is pure performance and it hits hard: its coffee laced with liberal amounts of kahlua, whisky and Grand Marnier. One of the best places to buy is at the Sukhumvit Thai Restaurant, for about Canadian $22.

Sleep

Accommodations in Greenland tend to be pricey, world class hotels exist in all of the more visited areas (Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk, Hotel Arctic - with its igloo rooms - and Hotel Hvide Falke in Ilulissat), but cheaper options exist. Try for the Seaman's Home hotel in ManiitsoqNuukQaqortoqSisimiut and Aasiaat.

For less expensive options, you can check with the Nuuk Tourism office for its hostel program, where locals have rooms they will rent out for a third the price of the town's hotels. It's a great way to experience the real Greenland, although knowing a few words of Danish or Greenlandic is very helpful as your hosts may or may not understand English. You can also camp in any field or plain for free if you're equipped to handle the elements.

Learn

  • University of Greenland in Nuuk.

Work

Skilled workers (K-12 teachers and doctors in particular) are always needed, knowledge of Danish or Greenlandic (preferably both) are necessary, although the University of Greenland in Nuuk does offer some programs in English. Foreigners, including most EU/EEA nationals (Greenland is not part of the EU/EEA) require a work permit in advance, which needs to be vetted and approved both by the Danish immigration authorities and the Government of Greenland. Danish citizens and other nationals of the Nordic Passport Area (Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland) are exempt. Certain types of short-term work (teaching, performing, installation technicians, construction, among others) for less than 90 days does not require a work permit, nor does short-term research. See this page.

If you have residency (permanent or temporary) in Denmark, you do not have any automatic immigration privileges in Greenland, although you can visit for up to 90 days without a visa even if you are a citizen of a country that would normally require one. Keep in mind that under Danish immigration law, time spent in Greenland is considered time outside of Denmark for residence permit purposes, and a long visit or work assignment in Greenland (i.e. 6 months or more) could cause your permit to lapse. Contact the immigration department if this may apply to you. (For purposes of applying for Danish citizenship, time spent in Greenland fully counts as it is part of the Kingdom of Denmark.)

Stay safe

Crime, and ill-will toward foreigners in general, is virtually unknown in Greenland. Even in the towns, there are no "rough areas." So long as the visitor uses basic common sense and etiquette, he or she should be fine.

Cold weather is perhaps the only real danger an unprepared traveller will face. If you visit Greenland during cold seasons (considering that the further north you go, the colder it will be), it is essential to bring coats and warm clothes in general.

Stay healthy

During the northern summer, the days in Greenland are very long. Always make sure that you get as much sleep as you're used to, as sleep deprivation can lead to all manner of health problems.

During the summer, also watch out for the Nordic mosquitoes. Although they are not dangerous as they do not transmit any diseases, they can be irritating.

The availability of emergency health care is limited in smaller communities. Evacuation by helicopter or airplane might be needed. This is quite expensive, so make sure you have travel insurance that covers this.

Cope

Media

Newspapers

Radio

  • Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa (Radio Greenland) broadcasts one national radio station with a wide variety of news, music, cultural, and entertainment programs, primarily in Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) but some features (particularly news) are also in Danish.
  • In Nuuk only, a second frequency re-broadcasts Danmarks Radio from Copenhagen.

Television

  • Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa broadcasts KNR TV nationwide, with a similarly broad selection of programs in both Greenlandic and Danish.
  • Many settlements have a secondary commercial television station - such as Nuuk TV and Sisimiut TV with locally produced news, current affairs and entertainment programs.
  • Nuuk TV also offers Nuuk TV Digital an encrypted over the air digital network available by subscription. 40 channels are available, comprised of Danish terrestrial networks (DR Television), Canal+ movie channels, and several Danish and international cable networks, such as CNN, Discovery, etc... If you're staying in Nuuk and your hotel or guesthouse has Nuuk TV digital, some of these channels are in English.
  • Terrestrial TV networks do not broadcast around the clock. KNR Television has a breakfast news program from 6am-11am, closes down until 4pm and then signs back on for the evening program until midnight or 1am, hours are expanded slightly on weekends and may be expanded further for football or other sports coverage. The local commercial stations only broadcast in the evening. Nuuk TV Digital, however, is on the air 24 hours a day.

Respect

As mentioned above, though the word "Eskimo" remains acceptable in the United States, it is considered pejorative by many non-U.S. Arctic peoples, especially in Canada. While you may hear the word used by Greenlandic Natives, its use should be avoided by foreigners. The native inhabitants of Greenland call themselves Inuit in Canada and Kalaalleq (plural Kalaallit), a Greenlander, in Greenland.

Connect

Phones

Greenland has country code 299. TELE-POST Greenland is the only telephone operator. Almost every village has mobile phone coverage. The countryside has much less coverage. Greenland does not belong to the EU, and the roaming charges are much higher than they are inside EU for EU residents, closer to the high end of the world's roaming prices.

Internet

Thanks to undersea fiber optic cable links to Europe and broadband satellite, Greenland is well connected with 93% of the population having internet access. Your hotel or hosts (if staying in a guesthouse or private home) will likely have wifi or an internet connected PC, and all settlements have an internet cafe or some location with public wifi. Ask around if you need help finding it.

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

Sisimiut, Greenland

Carefully trying to pick my way across a marsh, I sink into a deep pocket of mud up to my shins. This wet terrain is a regular hazard on the Arctic Circle Trail.

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a series. ► Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Packing/Logistics

DAY 9: Innajuattoq to Nerumaq

Hiking Distance 18 km (11 miles) | 7 hours

The Greenlandic morning is dark & wet with heavy fog at 8am when I begin packing my gear for the next leg of the Arctic Circle Trail. Luckily most of the day will be hiking downhill out of the mountains.

Stuffing dry kindling from my failed fire attempt under a rock for the next hiker to use, I gradually make my way into a valley lined with small lakes and cotton grass blowing in the wind.

Eventually the fog clears and I spot reindeer grazing in the hills beside me. Then another arctic hare. There are so many wild animals roaming Greenland!

Nerumaq hut is not far away, and I stop to take a short nap due to lack of sleep the night before. Today will be a long day on the trail and I’ll need all the energy I can get.

Moving quite fast now, at this pace I should finish by tomorrow evening. My backpack is exponentially lighter having eaten most of the food I began with.

Dark & Wet Morning

Dwarf Willow Forest

Willow Tree Forest

The Arctic Circle Trail threads through a patch of dwarf willow trees, the tallest are only about 6 feet high. It’s the largest forest I’ve seen since arriving in Greenland last week. Trees don’t grow well in the arctic tundra.

More and more rivers snake their way down from the mountains across my path, some with small waterfalls. Most are easily crossed by rock-hopping.

The trail becomes wet & swampy again. The weather worsens.

In fact now it’s raining. I still haven’t found the next hut. Fog moves in and the sky darkens. While I’d love a dry place to sleep tonight, it looks like I’ll have to pitch camp in the rain.

I curl into my sleeping bag and snack on dried fish — washing it down with the last of my potent Greenlandic schnapps in an attempt to stay warm.

Final Day of Hiking

Mountain Hunting Cabin

Remains of a Sled

DAY 10: Kangerluarsuk Tulleq to Sisimiut

Hiking Distance 22 km (14 miles) | 8 hours

The next morning I prepare for what will hopefully be the final day of trekking. Right away my feet are sucked deep into bog mud, up to my shins. Not a good way to start!

Climbing a hill I soon discover the Tulleq hut I’d been searching for the night before. Ahhhhh! Only 10 more minutes and I would have enjoyed a solid roof over my head.

The trail rises back into the mountains through a high rocky valley, with views of snow covered peaks on either side. I find the remains of dog sledding equipment scattered about.

Hiking through boulder fields alongside a small river, crossing it a few times before coming to a wide open valley called Nasaasaaq. Jagged mountains can been seen in the distance.

Beautiful Nasaasaaq Valley

Musk Ox on the Trail

Musk Ox Surprise

Trekking down into this beautiful valley, I spy something large, shaggy, and brown moving across the trail. It’s a musk ox!

The musk ox is Greenland’s largest land mammal weighing up to 400 kilos (880 lbs). These huge shaggy creatures are related to goats, but look more like buffalo to me.

I watched a group of them from a distance earlier that week, but this bull was only 50 yards away — blocking the path ahead. The Greenlandic name for them, Umimmak, means “the long-bearded one”.

Musk oxen are an important source of meat and wool for native Greenlanders. You have to be careful not to get too close or they can charge.

Eventually this one smelled me & ran up a mountain. I don’t blame it.

After passing an out-of-place ski lift, I round a corner to find the Arctic Ocean. Perched on the edge is the colorful fishing town of Sisimiut.

Sled Dog Welcoming Committee

Sisimiut, Greenland

Greenlandic Fishing Boats

Fishing Town Of Sisimiut

Success! I made it! I hike into town past hundreds of barking sled dogs feeling on top of the world. My feet ache. My body is exhausted. Yet I can’t stop smiling.

Trekking for 10 days across the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland’s wilderness was a rewarding adventure travel experience.

I’d lived off the land eating berries & mushrooms, saw all kinds of cool wildlife, camped under the stars, and spent time alone with my thoughts surrounded by nature. It was my personal version of into the wild.

To celebrate the end of my long journey I checked into a fancy hotel, boots still caked in mud. Jumping into a hot shower for 20 minutes with a cold beer. Followed by a delicious musk ox steak dinner with Greenlandic coffee.

Damn it felt good to be back in civilization!

The next 4 days were spent walking around Sisimiut, hanging out with other hikers & a group of theater actors from Norway & Denmark. We danced to Greenlandic hip hop & learned about Inuit culture.

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland and reconnecting with nature in the wilderness has been the highlight of my travel year so far. ★

Watch Video: Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail

(Click to watch Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail – Greenland on YouTube)

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a series. ► Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Packing/Logistics

READ NEXT: Complete Travel Gear Guide

Have you ever wanted to travel to Greenland?

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

Sisimiut, Greenland

Carefully trying to pick my way across a marsh, I sink into a deep pocket of mud up to my shins. This wet terrain is a regular hazard on the Arctic Circle Trail.

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a series. ► Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Packing/Logistics

DAY 9: Innajuattoq to Nerumaq

Hiking Distance 18 km (11 miles) | 7 hours

The Greenlandic morning is dark & wet with heavy fog at 8am when I begin packing my gear for the next leg of the Arctic Circle Trail. Luckily most of the day will be hiking downhill out of the mountains.

Stuffing dry kindling from my failed fire attempt under a rock for the next hiker to use, I gradually make my way into a valley lined with small lakes and cotton grass blowing in the wind.

Eventually the fog clears and I spot reindeer grazing in the hills beside me. Then another arctic hare. There are so many wild animals roaming Greenland!

Nerumaq hut is not far away, and I stop to take a short nap due to lack of sleep the night before. Today will be a long day on the trail and I’ll need all the energy I can get.

Moving quite fast now, at this pace I should finish by tomorrow evening. My backpack is exponentially lighter having eaten most of the food I began with.

Dark & Wet Morning

Dwarf Willow Forest

Willow Tree Forest

The Arctic Circle Trail threads through a patch of dwarf willow trees, the tallest are only about 6 feet high. It’s the largest forest I’ve seen since arriving in Greenland last week. Trees don’t grow well in the arctic tundra.

More and more rivers snake their way down from the mountains across my path, some with small waterfalls. Most are easily crossed by rock-hopping.

The trail becomes wet & swampy again. The weather worsens.

In fact now it’s raining. I still haven’t found the next hut. Fog moves in and the sky darkens. While I’d love a dry place to sleep tonight, it looks like I’ll have to pitch camp in the rain.

I curl into my sleeping bag and snack on dried fish — washing it down with the last of my potent Greenlandic schnapps in an attempt to stay warm.

Final Day of Hiking

Mountain Hunting Cabin

Remains of a Sled

DAY 10: Kangerluarsuk Tulleq to Sisimiut

Hiking Distance 22 km (14 miles) | 8 hours

The next morning I prepare for what will hopefully be the final day of trekking. Right away my feet are sucked deep into bog mud, up to my shins. Not a good way to start!

Climbing a hill I soon discover the Tulleq hut I’d been searching for the night before. Ahhhhh! Only 10 more minutes and I would have enjoyed a solid roof over my head.

The trail rises back into the mountains through a high rocky valley, with views of snow covered peaks on either side. I find the remains of dog sledding equipment scattered about.

Hiking through boulder fields alongside a small river, crossing it a few times before coming to a wide open valley called Nasaasaaq. Jagged mountains can been seen in the distance.

Beautiful Nasaasaaq Valley

Musk Ox on the Trail

Musk Ox Surprise

Trekking down into this beautiful valley, I spy something large, shaggy, and brown moving across the trail. It’s a musk ox!

The musk ox is Greenland’s largest land mammal weighing up to 400 kilos (880 lbs). These huge shaggy creatures are related to goats, but look more like buffalo to me.

I watched a group of them from a distance earlier that week, but this bull was only 50 yards away — blocking the path ahead. The Greenlandic name for them, Umimmak, means “the long-bearded one”.

Musk oxen are an important source of meat and wool for native Greenlanders. You have to be careful not to get too close or they can charge.

Eventually this one smelled me & ran up a mountain. I don’t blame it.

After passing an out-of-place ski lift, I round a corner to find the Arctic Ocean. Perched on the edge is the colorful fishing town of Sisimiut.

Sled Dog Welcoming Committee

Sisimiut, Greenland

Greenlandic Fishing Boats

Fishing Town Of Sisimiut

Success! I made it! I hike into town past hundreds of barking sled dogs feeling on top of the world. My feet ache. My body is exhausted. Yet I can’t stop smiling.

Trekking for 10 days across the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland’s wilderness was a rewarding adventure travel experience.

I’d lived off the land eating berries & mushrooms, saw all kinds of cool wildlife, camped under the stars, and spent time alone with my thoughts surrounded by nature. It was my personal version of into the wild.

To celebrate the end of my long journey I checked into a fancy hotel, boots still caked in mud. Jumping into a hot shower for 20 minutes with a cold beer. Followed by a delicious musk ox steak dinner with Greenlandic coffee.

Damn it felt good to be back in civilization!

The next 4 days were spent walking around Sisimiut, hanging out with other hikers & a group of theater actors from Norway & Denmark. We danced to Greenlandic hip hop & learned about Inuit culture.

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland and reconnecting with nature in the wilderness has been the highlight of my travel year so far. ★

Watch Video: Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail

(Click to watch Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail – Greenland on YouTube)

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a series. ► Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Packing/Logistics

READ NEXT: Complete Travel Gear Guide

Have you ever wanted to travel to Greenland?

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Packing for the Arctic Circle Trail

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Preparing to hike Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail? Here are some useful tips for packing and planning your trek based on my Greenland adventure in August 2015.

NOTE: This post is part of a series. ► Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

When I first began planning to hike Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail, it was difficult to find useful details online. There were a few blog posts about the trek, but they were written in German or Danish.

So this is my attempt to remedy that situation and make the hike more accessible to English speakers who are interested in exploring this beautiful and lesser-known area of the world on foot.

Located about 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the typical route stretches 102 miles (165km) from Kangerlussuaq International Airport to the fishing village of Sisimiut on the West coast.

It’s possible to lengthen the trip to 124 miles by starting from Greenland’s ice cap for those who are up for the challenge.

Recommended Experience Level

While most of Greenland is covered with ice, the Arctic Circle Trail is ice-free during the summer. Passing through low valleys covered by many lakes, it’s a relatively easy walk with regards to elevation.

The difficulty comes with packing all your own food and supplies to last at least 10 days. Plus a complete lack of civilization nearby in the event of an unexpected emergency.

Arctic Circle Trail hikers must have experience surviving alone in the wilderness, understanding their own limits, reading weather patterns, and the ability to navigate unfamiliar terrain using a map and compass.

At the hike’s midpoint, you can be 5 days and 50 miles away from any type of civilization. You’re on your own out there. It’s not a trek for beginners, but you don’t need to be a serious mountaineer either.

Hiking in Greenland

How Long Does It Take?

Depending on fitness levels and the specific route chosen, the traditional 102 mile long Arctic Circle Trail from Kangerlussuaq Airport to Sisimiut can take anywhere between 7-10 days to complete.

To start from the ice cap like I did, plan for an additional 2-3 days.

It’s important to note that Greenland is a wild and unpredictable place. If you think you can hike the trail in 10 days, make sure to include 2-3 extra buffer days for delays due to weather, injury, exhaustion, or canceled flights.

Seasons & Weather

While hiking the Arctic Circle Trail is possible in the winter, it’s far more difficult & technical. The primary hiking season is from June to September when the trail is free of snow.

Greenland has a mosquito problem. Swarms can be downright maddening from June until mid August when the first frost finally kills them off. I started hiking August 12th and had to break out my mosquito head net a few times.

The trail is extremely muddy & boggy in June after the snow melts with river crossings becoming deeper and more dangerous. In September, the risk of snow storms is higher as winter begins.

In August, the air temperature fluctuated between 60’s (F) in the day to 30’s (F) at night, with one afternoon of snow flurries.

Over the 10 days I was on the trail, I experienced steady rain for 3 of them.

Kangerlussuaq Airport

Flying To Greenland

Flying to Greenland is the most expensive part of this epic trekking adventure. Air Greenland offers regular flights to Kangerlussuaq from Reykjavik, Iceland and Copenhagen, Denmark. So you’ll need to get yourself to one of these cities first.

I flew to Greenland from Copenhagen for $1032 USD round trip. Now if you’re hiking the Arctic Circle Trail from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut, you’ll also need to get yourself back to Kangerlussuaq in order to leave the country.

The one-way flight from Sisimiut to Kangerlussuaq costs about $200 USD.

If you need help searching for international flights to Iceland or Denmark, make sure to read my popular post about How To Find Cheap Flights.

Accommodation Options

Accommodation in Greenland before and after the hike is expensive. A single room in Kangerlussuaq or Sisimiut will set you back about $100 – $200 USD. A hostel dormitory bed costs between $30 – $40 USD.

However both towns also have campgrounds available with bathrooms.

Kangerlussuaq Accommodation

Kangerlussuaq Youth Hostel Old Camp Hostel Polar Lodge (where I stayed) Hotel Kangerlussuaq

Sisimiut Accommodation

Sisimiut Youth Hostel Seaman’s House Hotel Sisimiut (where I stayed)

Inside a Trail Hut (Sleeps 6!)

Trail Huts & Camping

Spread along the route are a series of 9 basic wooden huts with bunks that are free for hikers to use. Packing a tent is highly recommended though, as some huts only sleep 4 and could possibly be full when you arrive.

Bad weather may also prevent you from reaching one of the huts in time, so having a backup plan for shelter is very important for your safety in Greenland’s vast wilderness.

Due to personal preference, I spent most nights wild camping. However I did sleep in 2 of the trail huts during my hike, and took an afternoon nap in a third. If you’re hiking from hut to hut each day, the full journey (from Kangerlussuaq airport, not the ice cap) will take 10 days.

How Many Hikers?

Only 300 people hike the trail every year, so while you may run into other hikers, it’s possible to go days without seeing a fellow human depending on which month you decide to attempt the trek.

I met about 10 hikers on the Arctic Circle Trail over 10 days. Most were German or Danish, and one other American. Many people hike this route for the solitude, so walking together and chatting for a few miles before breaking off on your own again was the standard routine.

Tasty Trekking Breakfast

Food & Water

The traditional Arctic Circle Trail route takes 7-10 days for most people to complete. So hikers need to pack at least 10 days worth of food to be safe. That’s a lot of food!

At 1-2 pounds (16-24 ounces) of food per day, that’s about 10-20 pounds of food on your back. To keep it as light as possible, I recommend buying dehydrated backpacker meals and bringing them with you to Greenland.

While there is a supermarket in both Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut, they don’t stock dehydrated meals. They do have ingredients for trail mix — but to be safe I’d also prepare your own trail mix before you arrive. It will be cheaper and you’ll have more options.

Water on the other hand is pretty easy to take care of, as there are countless freshwater lakes, ponds, and streams along the Arctic Circle Trail. So with careful planning you can get by with just a single Nalgene bottle. No filter is required either! Of course there is always a risk of water contamination, but it’s pretty low out here. Most hikers don’t use one.

My Greenland Trekking Diet

  • Muesli/oatmeal with wild berries & brown sugar for breakfast
  • Trail mix plus wild mushrooms/berries for lunch & snacks
  • Canned fish sandwich and dried fish jerky for dinner
  • Chocolate & Greenlandic Schnapps for dessert

(I brought dehydrated meals, but couldn’t use them due to a problem explained below)

Wild Camping in Greenland

Packing List

50 Liter Backpack Carbon Trekking Poles Waterproof Backpacking Boots Hiking Gaiters Cuben Fiber Tarp Tent 40 Degree Sleeping Bag Inflatable Sleeping Pad Emergency Space Blanket Waterproof GoreTex Shell Headlamp 32 Ounce Nalgene Bottle Jetboil Zip Cooking System Knife & Waterproof Matches First Aid Kit Heavy Duty Garbage Bags (4) Mosquito Head Net Long Underwear Hiking Pants Hiking Shorts Hiking Shirts (2) Wool Socks (3) Fleece Top Ballcap & Sunglasses Sunscreen & Lip Balm Mosquito Repellent Winter Hat & Gloves River/Camp Sandals Paper Maps & Compass iPhone 6 & Camera Gear

Maps & GPS

You’ll want to buy a series of 3 paper topographical maps that cover the entire length of the Arctic Circle Trail. While you can generally buy these at the Polar Lodge in Kangerlussuaq, it’s better to get them in advance because in Greenland, things run out of stock easily.

You can try to pre-order the Arctic Circle Trail maps from Greenland Tourism. The trail is marked with occasional rock cairns along the way, but there are a few places where you can still lose the trail, and in bad weather, the cairns aren’t always super visible.

In addition to the paper maps, I also packed my iPhone 6 with a LifeProof FRĒ Power Case running Gaia GPS and pre-dowloaded maps. There is no cell-service on the trail, but you can still use your phone as a GPS device.

I’ll be explaining how to do this in a future article.

What Would I Do Different?

After hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in August 2015, there are a few things I’d do differently if I decide to return. Hopefully you’ll learn from my mistakes!

My 40 degree (F) sleeping bag was a bit too cold for wild camping, and I was forced to sleep in my clothing and use a space blanket for a few chilly nights. I’d probably want something closer to 0 or 10 degrees.

I packed a great lightweight and efficient Jetboil stove that became useless when I couldn’t buy fuel canisters for it in Kangerlussuaq. The whole town ran out of the type I needed.

Shipping propane to Greenland is difficult because it’s not allowed on airplanes, so it must arrive by boat. Because of this, I’d recommend bringing a multi-fuel stove instead. It allows you to boil water with a few different types of fuel.

Sure, I made due with cold food for 10 days anyway, but strong hot coffee and warm dinners have a wonderful way of re-energizing you on long-distance hikes. They were missed.

Guidebook & More Details

If you’re planning to hike the Arctic Circle Trail I highly recommend picking up the book Trekking In Greenland by Paddy Dillon.

It goes into far more detail than I can cover in a blog post, and it’s what I used to plan my own adventure. Good luck, and have fun! ★

NOTE: This post is part of a series. ► Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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Do you have any other Arctic Circle Trail questions?

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Hear about travel to Greenland as the Amateur Traveler talks to Matthew Karsten from expertvagabond.com about his recent visit to this remote island.

Greenland & The Arctic (Lonely Planet Travel Guides)

Etain O'Carroll

Kayak past towering icebergs, dog-sled frozen tundra to picture-postcard villages, marvel at the midnight sun or dancing northern lights – Greenland and the Arctic are the perfect backdrop to an unforgettable experience. Whether you crave quiet solitude or bold adventure, this inspiring and practical guide takes you to the heart of the cold north.Exploring Made Easy – slumber in colorful cottages, dine on reindeer or sail the coast in style, with our extensive, practical listingsPlan Your Adventure – inspiring itineraries for exploring the Arctic Circle, from Lapland to Deadhorse, Nuuk to the North PoleGet Beneath The Surface – topical coverage of cultural and environmental issues affecting the region, with chapters on indigenous peoples and Arctic research projectsAmazing Endeavours – from Norse voyages to legendary explorers, storybook adventures uncovered in our dedicated history and exploration chapters

Greenland - The End of the World

Damjan Koncnik

This book is not about a world-conquering superhero.Nor will it help make you one.These are the travels of an everyday man, inviting you to come break away from the everyday.Welcome to Greenland -- We hope you enjoy the trip!...

An African in Greenland (New York Review Books Classics)

Tete-Michel Kpomassie

Tété-Michel Kpomassie was a teenager in Togo when he discovered a book about Greenland—and knew that he must go there. Working his way north over nearly a decade, Kpomassie finally arrived in the country of his dreams. This brilliantly observed and superbly entertaining record of his adventures among the Inuit is a testament both to the wonderful strangeness of the human species and to the surprising sympathies that bind us all.

Greenland for $1.99

Richard Starks

Greenland for $1.99 - a short e-book illustrated by more than twenty photographs - is the story of the authors’ journey inside the Arctic Circle. You can walk with them over the Greenland ice cap, touch the world’s biggest and fastest-moving glacier, hike along the Arctic Circle Trail, hear sled-dogs yowl and watch whales surface near drifting icebergs, as well as listen to the Inuit talk about the future of their country.

Lonely Planet Iceland (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Iceland *

Lonely Planet Iceland is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Splash around in the Blue Lagoon's geothermal water, catch a glimpse of the celestial Northern Lights, or take a boat trip among the icebergs; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Iceland and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Iceland Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, politics, landscapes, wildlife, literature, music, cinema, art, architecture, customs, cuisine. Free, convenient pull-out Reykjavik map (included in print version), plus over 37 maps Covers Reykjavik, the Westfjords, the Highlands, North Iceland, East Iceland, South Iceland, the Golden Circle, Southwest Iceland, the Eastfjords, Akureyri, Hunafloi and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience Seamlessly flip between pages Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash Embedded links to recommendations' websites Zoom-in maps and images Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Iceland, our most comprehensive guide to Iceland, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for a guide focused on Reykjavik? Check out Lonely Planet's Pocket Reykjavik, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip. Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Scandinavia guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Carolyn Bain and Alexis Averbuck.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Best-selling guide to Iceland. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA

Trekking in Greenland: The Arctic Circle Trail (Cicerone Guides)

Paddy Dillon

Greenland is a harsh environment, largely covered in ice, but it is also a fascinating place to explore, especially on foot in remote places, and in the summer months it can be surprisingly easy. A great way to do it is by tackling the Arctic Circle Trail – a splendid trekking route that fits neatly into one of the largest ice-free areas of West Greenland, 40-50km (25-30 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.

Only around 300 people walk the trail every year, but they come from all over Europe and North America. Access to the trail is easy and you can begin directly from the international airport at Kangerlussuaq and fly home from Sisimiut at the end. Greenland has the reputation of being expensive but there is no fee for walking the Arctic Circle Trail and the basic huts and canoes available for crossing the lakes along the way are free, too.

complete route description, including nearby mountain trails and optional extension to the ice cap illustrated on Harveys trekking maps throughout non-technical, graded trail accessible to well-prepared backpackers

Out in the Cold: Travels North: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada

Bill Murray

An inspired tale of high adventure, Out in the Cold is Bill Murray’s vivid portrait of his travel across the vast Northern Atlantic from the Arctic north of Norway to Nova Scotia. Murray begins in pursuit of a total solar eclipse in Svalbard, 800 miles from the North Pole. He tests the culinary appeal of wind-dried sheep in the tiny Faroe Islands, befriends Inuit bone carvers in Greenland and camps with an itinerant Italian musician who dreams of building Greenland’s first luxury resort. He stands naked and freezing on an Icelandic glacier and later (with his clothes on), on the wind-battered Canadian bog where the first European stood 500 years before Columbus.

With a light touch, wry analysis and remarkable depth of reportage, Bill Murray weaves high adventure with practical science and absorbing history, taking the pulse of an under-explored, fragile region on the precipice of change. By turns evocative, astonishing and always a jolly good ride, Out in the Cold is a sprawling and rewarding tour of the Atlantic northlands today.

Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

The crime rate is low. There are no serious security or safety concerns.

Transportation

Arctic weather conditions may cause delays and interruptions in transport services. Travellers should carry enough funds to cover unexpected expenses.

There are no roads or railways between towns. Travel is possible only by air, sea, ski, snowmobile, or dogsled.

Air Greenland operates regular domestic flights between all towns and larger settlements. Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Tourism and expeditions

Tourist facilities are limited. Main tourist centres are located in Ilulissat, Disko Bay, and southern Greenland.

You must apply for a special permit at the Ministry of Domestic Affairs, Nature and Environment of Greenland to explore glaciers, mountains or Northeast Greenland National Park. Travelling with a tour operator is recommended.

General Safety Measures

Exercise normal safety precautions. Ensure personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all time.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Greenland. When in doubt, remember…boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Greenland, certain insects carry and spread diseases.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with domestic and wild animals as certain infections found in Greenland, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds and the flu.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Limited medical facilities are available, but evacuation is required for serious illness or injury.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences or heavy fines.

Road travel

You must be at least 18 years of age to drive a car in Greenland.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Penalties for drinking and driving, as well as for speeding, are strict.

The use of mobile telephones while driving is illegal, unless fitted with a hands-free device.

Money

The currency of Greenland is the Danish krone (DKK).

Climate

The climate is extreme, especially during winter, with severe cold weather.