When most people review their bucket list, Greenland usually isn't on it. Travelers want to see polar bears–and they absolutely should while they still can, yet even though Greenland is home to roughly 3000 bears, the icy island country of Greenland rarely makes the cut. Why would you want to go to Greenland? How would you travel there, and what might make you choose Greenland over the Norwegian Arctic islands of Spitsbergen, for example, for your bucket list polar bear trip?
Greenland is the largest island on the planet and is considered a constituent country of Denmark along with the Faroe Islands. The Greenland Ice Sheet covers 80% of the island nation and is the second largest ice sheet in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet. Greenland has been inhabited by Arctic peoples who migrated there from what is now Canada over 4500 years ago, and it is the descendants of these hearty and industrious people, in addition to the extraordinary landscape that makes visiting Greenland as a traveler so very inspiring and fascinating.
The best way to travel to Greenland and access untouched landscapes and remote settlements is by expedition ship. A range of ships from basic research-style vessels to luxurious floating hotels are available to transport you in your preferred style. Some ships offer world-class guiding and a seasoned expedition team. Others focus more on activities like kayaking, ice climbing, and long hikes. Be sure to contact a Wild Nectar Travel Curator to help you determine which ship will be right for you. Trips travel between June and August.
East Greenland is mostly wilderness and will take your breath away with its vast landscapes and stunning geological formations. This is one of the areas where you may see polar bears and the landings you make from your expedition ship will be burned into your brain forever due to the enormity of the bright blue ice contrasted with dark mountains and even swathes of tiny green plants. Your expedition team will point out minuscule flowers and leaves bursting forth from this barren landscape and you’ll be amazed at the vibrant life that emerges again each summer in this seemingly inhospitable place.
“How do people live up here?” is one of the first questions you’ll be asking yourself when you set foot in your first Greenlandic village. The brightly colored houses and warm welcomes you’ll receive in Ittoqqortoormiit, for example, an East Greenland home to 345 people, will barely dispel your sense of just how remote and isolated these people are. You’ll be struck by just how remarkable it is that people have learned to survive on musk ox, seal, whale, narwhal, walrus and other animals of the region. Every resource is utilized to its fullest and tricks for surviving the ice and its hardships are passed down from generation to generation.
Kayaks came to Greenland over 4000 years ago and are used for hunting and traveling between settlements. The kayak became a focus of everyday life and stands as a symbol of how resilient and adaptable the Greenlandic people have become over the centuries.
Stories come alive in this vast and distant place. The early Inuit believed that all nature was alive and endowed with spirits. Every single stone, piece of straw, animal and organism had a soul. In addition to the tales told by these extraordinary indigenous people you’ll hear tales of Vikings who also settled in these lands and then disappeared mysteriously leaving the ruins of their settlements behind.
Soak at Uunartoq in a hot spring ringed with flowers, as steam rises from the 140 degree F (60C) waters. Visit a ghost town settlement where people were unable to continue on and left for other climes. Rappel down a rock face. Mountain bike on a rocky trail. Visit an abandoned cryolite mine. See an expert kayaker do tricks that send him under the water then back up. Meet husky dogs who work for a living. Try seal meat. Learn to catch fish and cook them on stones the Greenlandic way.
The list of adventures available on a trip to Greenland is nearly endless and choosing to include Greenland in an Arctic adventure or even to go only there hoping to catch a glimpse of a polar bear in addition to the other adventures available is an excellent choice.
I’d like to highlight two remarkable trips that include Greenland or focus on Greenland. Essential Greenland: Southern Coasts and Disko Bay on the beautiful new luxury ship, Ultramarine includes many of the adventures I’ve listed above and will offer both spectacular wildlife-dotted landscape viewing in East Greenland, and fascinating cultural visits to settlements, including the capital city, Nuuk. The Arctic Cruise Adventure: In Search of the Polar Bear journey on the lovely L’Austral is a “three islands” cruise including Arctic Svalbard (Norway), Greenland, and Iceland. This trip has world-class guiding and a seasoned expedition team who know just where to look for polar bears.
At Wild Nectar, we can help with other Greenland adventures also that are not on our website. I hope you’ll consider adding Greenland to your bucket list and will contact us soon to start working on your fantastic trip!