A long weekend in Greenland? It’s not out of the question. You can fly there in four and a half hours from Baltimore-Washington International, and with so many possibilities for adventure, you’d be crazy not to. Here are a few fun things we did on our latest Greenland adventure. Oh, a word to the wise: there are no roads between towns in Greenland, so traveling about the country means flying. We recommend you be sure about your flights before you get there.
The Humpbacks of Nuuk
It is always a thrill to see whales, but around Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, it’s also an excuse to get out on the water, where you’ll get the best views of the snowy mountain peaks rising from the sea and the fjords that weave their way between them. Waterfalls of melting snow flow down the mountains and into the sea. And with the occasional iceberg, you’ve got a stunning backdrop for whale tail.
A humpback may hang around your boat, usually a converted fishing boat, for even an hour or longer and get quite close. No one seems to know of one tipping a boat, but Greenlanders will warn you about not getting hit with their breath when they exhale. You will smell of rotten fish.
Boats leave from the harbor and Nuk Tourism can help set up a trip, which usually lasts four hours, includes food and beverage, and costs around $125 per person.
Helicopter Through the Valley of Icebergs
This may be the most exciting helicopter ride you’ll ever take, and it’s even good for first timers, because you’re so absorbed in the otherworldly landscape you don’t have time to think how crazy the ride is. Departing from the town of Ilulissat, above the Arctic Circle on Greenland’s west coast, the pilot flies just above the water and weaves you through a fjord chock full of mountain-sized icebergs so that you’re flying below them, and turning corners to reveal new floating valleys. When you land on a promontory (a landing marked by colored stones) that overlooks the vast iceberg-choked fjord, the pilot likes to say, “Welcome to the moon.” Skimming over the rugged icecap with rushing streams of pool-blue water cutting across is not bad either. Helicopter flights are run by Air Greenland.
Days of Wine & Glaciers
It’s like being in one of those 19th-century paintings where the “civilized” Victorians are having a picnic atop a mountain with spectacular views. Only here, outside of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s only interior town (and where you fly into from the U.S.), you’re at the edge of a green meadow with purple, blue, and white wildflowers. You laze about with a glass of white wine in front of a massive glacier, calving anything from boulder-sized ice blocks to the entire face of the glacier into a fierce river, gray from crushed rock. Picnics beside a French canal, with the highlight of a barge passing, suddenly seem quite boring. Kangerlussuaq’s mid-60s summer temperatures, the constant sunlight, and even a few picnic tables help make this surreal picnic one of the most pleasant in the world.
You can drive or bike partway, then walk — you will be surprised by the desert landscape leading up to the glacier. But the easiest route is to arrange a trip with Kangerlussuaq Tourism. Contact info and various tours are on www.greenland-guide.com/kangerlussuaqtourism or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting To Greenland
To travel to Greenland from the U.S. you must fly Air Greenland, which has direct flights (4.5 hours) from Baltimore-Washington International Airport May through September. You can swim there but unless you’re a sea mammal, we don’t recommend it. Web sites to help PLAN YOUR TRIP include www.greenland.com, www.greenland-travel.com, and www.greenland-guide.com.
Also see: Just Back from Greenland