I had dreamed of going to Greenland for more than 20 years and finally I made it there!
Was it worth the wait?
Though I really should not have waited and made my first trip years ago 🙁 Oh well, making up for lost time – I have already made plans to go back again next year!
It’s a fascinating place, but I didn’t really go into the day-to-day stuff in any of the blog posts that I’ve written, so thought I’d finish off with some random thoughts/logistics/costs.
Things that struck me about Greenland
- It’s quite European … but in a frontier kind of way. I don’t know why this surprised me, given it is an autonomous county of Denmark, but it did.
- Almost everyone under the age of 30 (at least in the major centres) speaks English, most of them extremely well. This makes it incredibly easy to get around and learn a little about the culture.
- I loved exploring the Pilersuisoq stores – the big chain of supermarkets in Greenland. No two were the same – they all stocked different things – and this depended on what had come over in the last shipments, and what had already sold out. You can buy everything from fresh baked pastries to frozen goods to tinned food to pet food to guns in a Pilersuisoq! In fact, the hardest (and most expensive) things to buy are fresh fruit and vegetables. Remember, everything gets shipped in from Denmark!
- The vibrantly coloured houses are very typical of Greenland – I imagine to brighten things up a bit during the long months of darkness.
- South Greenland is very different to East Greenland, and not just in scenery. Each has their own dialect and South Greenlanders (at least) don’t always understand what East Greenlanders are saying. I imagine West Greenland will be different again – we’ll find out next year!
Costs in Greenland
Unlike just about everywhere else I travel, Greenland is not cheap! However, it wasn’t quite as expensive as I thought it would be. Major expenses:
There are only 2 airlines that fly to Greenland:
- Air Greenland – which flies from Reykjavik or Copenhagen
- Air Iceland Connect – which flies from Reykjavik
Both are very comfortable airlines, but they don’t fly all the time and the flights are expensive. For example, I paid ~AUD$650 for a one-way ticket from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq (South Greenland) and AUD$630 for a one-way ticket from Kulusuk (East Greenland) to Reykjavik.
Because of the icecap, there are no roads linking the “major” centres in Greenland so you have to fly or take a boat.
Air Greenland is the only domestic airline, which means they can charge what they want for the flights – so getting from one area to the next is not cheap! For example, I paid ~AUD$520 to fly from Narsarsuaq (South Greenland) to Nuuk, and ~AUD$670 to fly from Nuuk to Kulusuk (East Greenland). It’s like Australia used to be before Virgin arrived.
Boat transfers – I did some boat transfers in South Greenland (via Blue Ice Explorer) and had originally booked boat transfers between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq in East Greenland. Without getting too specific – it seems as if it averages around AUD$100 per hour in the boat. More or less.
These boat transfer companies tend to be quite localised (I will use Disko Line when I travel to West Greenland next year), but there is also the Arctic Umiaq Line which runs between the major population centres of the west coast and South Greenland.
With both the flights and the boats – it’s always good to factor in some leeway with any connections you might have. Flights can be delayed due to adverse weather (while I was in Kulusuk, the plane didn’t make it from Iceland at all for 2 days running), and boats can be put out of commission depending on the pack ice (I was advised to switch from boat transfers to helicopter transfers because of the pack ice in East Greenland).
Accommodation is also expensive in Greenland, though not hideously so compared to Australia and other Scandinavian countries.
If you are on a budget, I highly recommend staying in the hostels in Greenland. All the hostels I stayed in were amazing and the average cost for a bed (shared room) was about AUD$60. Yes. Ouch. It’s a lot for a dorm room. But on par with Iceland, and all the hostels were warm and wonderful with fantastic caretakers. I stayed at:
- Narsarsuaq: Narsarsuaq Hostel
- Igaliku: Gardar Hostel
- Sillisit: Sillisit Hostel (booked via Blue Ice Explorer)
- Qassiarsuk: Illunnguujuk Hostel (booked via Blue Ice Explorer)
- Kulusuk: Kulusuk Hostel
- Tasiilaq: The Red House
In Nuuk, I stayed in a great little self-contained Airbnb about 5 minutes from the centre for about AUD$100/night
As alluded to above, fresh fruit and vegies are crazy expensive in Greenland. What is there looks 1/2 expired already and it is more expensive even than fresh food in Australia. For example, I threw caution (well Danish Krone) to the wind and bought an AUD$7 bunch of asparagus one day because I had a keen need for something green after so much cheese and salami and crackers!
Your best bet is to trawl the freezers (there are a lot of frozen meals available – I had a couple of amazing frozen lamb roasts in South Greenland) and the canned goods 🙂
Tours in Greenland
For my 5 weeks in Greenland this year I only used 2 companies.
South Greenland – Blue Ice Explorer
I worked with Blue Ice Explorer to come up with my 14 day excursion in South Greenland for only slightly more money that it would have cost me to arrange it all myself. The nice thing was that they included luggage transfers with it – so I only ever had to hike with a day pack 🙂
If you aren’t confident traveling independently, then I would probably suggest going with a more formal package tour. After all – this was all the information I received before being sent off to explore by myself.
However, if you are used to traveling alone and figuring things out for yourself – I highly recommend this company!
Cost: For 14 days, including all accommodation (in hostel dorm rooms), and boat and luggage transfer it cost AUD$1330
East Greenland – Icelandic Mountain Guides
However, if you love long treks in remote places – I can’t recommend Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides (IMG) highly enough (or simply Icelandic Mountain Guides if you are interested in trekking in Iceland).
You pretty much have to trek with a company if you are exploring these more remote places, and I’ve already sent inquiries to IMG about a few other treks I’d like to do with them next year. For a couple of my other trekking companions in East Greenland, this was their second trip with IMG, and one of the top-rated New Zealand outdoor adventure companies partner with IMG to run their Arctic Expeditions.
Cost: Guided hikes in remote places are not cheap – especially in this part of the world! But totally worth it 🙂 For 12 days of hiking with just a day pack, and with all food and camping gear (minus sleeping bag) included, it cost AUD$4080 for an incredible experience.
Tours in General
Although I traveled Greenland fairly independently, there are some very good tour operators at work there. Guide to Greenland in particular is an extensive site listing everything from complete package tours to day tours, and is one of the best places to start when looking for what tours are available.
I absolutely fell in love with Greenland and I can’t encourage you enough to go if you are at all curious about it. The best places to learn more about visiting this amazing country are the two sites I have mentioned throughout this post: Guide to Greenland and Visit Greenland.
You won’t regret it!