Planning A Summer Trip To Greenland (Finally)

Filed Under: Travel

Just over three years ago I wrote about how I really wanted to visit Greenland. Life got in the way of that happening (for whatever reason), though I’m happy I wrote about it, because it gave me a lot of planning inspiration for when the time did come.

Well, I’ve decided that 2020 is the year where I want to plan a summer visit Greenland, and Ford is excited about it as well. I wanted to share my general plan and then get feedback from you guys, because my intent is to finalize booking this trip this week.

The airline angle

Since this blog is largely about getting to destinations, let me first share my plans for flying to Greenland. There are two practical ways to fly to Greenland (assuming your transatlantic flight isn’t diverting there):

  • Air Greenland offers up to two daily flights (in high season) between Copenhagen and Kangerlussuaq, which is the largest airport in Greenland; this flight is operated by an A330 with business class seats
  • Air Greenland offers up to 3x weekly flights between Keflavik, Iceland, and Nuuk, which is the capital of Greenland; this flight is operated by a Dash 8 (turboprop), and I’d argue that’s probably the most interesting turboprop route in the world

Air Greenland doesn’t belong to any alliances, so we’d have to pay for a ticket. Our plan is to fly to & from Copenhagen, since we’ll be in Europe anyway. Fares aren’t cheap, but then again, nothing in Greenland is.

I can’t even imagine how cool the views on these flights must be!

Why I’m so interested in Greenland

When it comes to travel, I’m much more into nature than cities. A vast majority of my most memorable trips in the past few years have been to nature destinations, whether we’re talking about Bhutan, Easter Island, Big Sur, or Svalbard.

In particular, our visit to Svalbard was probably our most memorable, and being so far North in summer, with 24 hours of daylight, was unforgettable. I view Greenland as being a similar nature destination, and I’m even more excited because I have no real clue what to expect — it’s not exactly a widely traveled to destination (at least relatively speaking).

Planning a trip to Greenland

Below I wanted to share my general plans for visiting Greenland, and I’m hoping that some of you who have been can chime in and either approve or veto my ideas. I’m basing my plans on the recommendations you guys provided last time I wrote about this, a few years ago.

Let me start by saying that:

  • Realistically we plan to “only” be on the ground in Greenland for about five days, as we’re tagging this on to another trip
  • We can’t completely disconnect, as we’ll still be working (so we need to be places with decent wifi)

With that in mind, I’m leaning towards us splitting our time between Ilulissat and Nuuk, with the former apparently being the most beautiful, and the latter being the capital (and also beautiful).

Plans for Ilulissat

Ilulissat is essentially known for ice fjords and glaciers, which I suppose is the first thing that comes to mind anyway when you think of Greenland.

This is also where Hotel Arctic is located, which seems to be one of Greenland’s better hotels (though it’s most definitely more in the category of “nice enough” rather than “luxurious”).

What confuses me a bit is that the property shows as sold out for almost the entire summer on the hotel’s website, while it’s readily available through most online travel agencies. I’d get if they sold some space to consolidators or tour groups, but it’s puzzling for the space to show through all OTAs (where they’re paying big commissions), and not directly, no?

I’m hoping I’m not misunderstanding anything here. So my plan was to spend three days here, because it seems like there are lots of great nature activities.

This requires adding on an internal flight, but you can book it as part of the itinerary from Copenhagen, and it only increases the fare marginally.

Plans for Nuuk

Nuuk seems to be the largest and most vibrant city in Greenland, though still only has ~18,000 residents. So our plan was to go here for two days, and both see what the city is like, and also enjoy the nature, as there seem to be lots of options to take cruises to icebergs, etc., from here.

Our plan here is to stay at Hotel Hans Egede, which seems to be the best lodging option.

We’d then return out of Nuuk back to Copenhagen, and similarly, it seems it doesn’t increase the fare that much to include the connecting flight.

Other Greenland musings

A few other thoughts/questions for anyone who may have an opinion.

While we could easily add a stopover in Kangerlussuaq to our itinerary without it costing extra, it seems that most agree it’s not necessarily worth a stop, if you’re trying to be efficient? Or is it worth spending a day there?

Is there anywhere else in Greenland we need to visit? I’ve heard some stuff about Qaqortoq (I’m really not going to be able to pronounce anything here, am I?), but it is a bit of a trek to get to, so I’m not sure if it’s a place we can’t miss, or if it’s worth it.

Lastly, while I totally understand why Greenland is so expensive, the flights between Ilulissat and Nuuk are crazy expensive. A one-way economy fare consistently costs $394.

Of course airfare pricing is never logical and airlines use married segment logic, but you’ve gotta love when adding a connecting flight within Greenland to a Copenhagen itinerary costs ~$30-50, while it’s $394 if purchased separately.

Anyone know of a trick to get that added on at a more reasonable cost as part of an itinerary to & from Copenhagen, or is that just what you’ll pay no matter what?

Bottom line

For a variety of reasons I’ve decided that this is the summer to finally visit Greenland, so I’m trying to finalize this trip. The above is what I’m leaning towards, and I’m very excited about both the airline aspect of this, as well as the destination. Ford and I loved Svalbard, so if this is half as cool, we’ll be delighted.

I’d love some feedback on our planned itinerary for anyone who has been to Greenland (or who knows much about the destination). If time is limited, are Ilulissat and Nuuk the places to go (and then of course we would do day trips from there), and are the above the best lodging accommodations there? Or is there somewhere else we absolutely must visit?

I’m so excited to finalize this and to share our experience there, so any further thoughts before we book this would be appreciated!

Comments
  1. mosquito repellant.
    I can’t stress it enough.
    I had a wonderful 2 weeks travelling all over Greenland but the mosquitos were too much.

    Eqi Glacier is amazing.
    and Ilimanaq Lodge near Ilulissat.

  2. I’ve flown CPH-Kangerlussaq-Ilulissat. No security checks or assigned seats for the intra-island segment. I’ve heard sometimes the pilot will let you sit in the cockpit jump seat for a while if you ask. Definately worth visiting!

  3. Also, weather is a tricky issue and unlike anything you’ve likely experienced. Flights are delayed or cancelled outright.
    For these reasons, I found it best to use a travel agency (Greenland Travel). Lisabeth was great in organizing everything and contingencies were in place for the (inevitable) delays/cancellations.

    Eg., Weather caused a delay to Eqi and some (other) Americans were whining loudly about how they “flew in just for 3 days to go there!”
    They were the last to be helped by the boat crew — all others had worked with various agencies.

  4. There is also Air Iceland Connect. They fly daily from RKV to Nuuk and east coast, where you can connect to Air Greenland’s domestic network. Yes, RKV as the tiny airport located smack in Rejkjavik city center, and I doubt you will get other opportunities to fly this turboprop-only airline(as I assume you won’t be flying domestically in Iceland anytime soon). So why not CPH-SFJ-JAV-GOH-KUS-RKV-???
    Would definitely make some fond memories, and killer reviews.
    (I think just 4 months ago the first J video review of Air Greenland popped up on Youtube and it was one of that guy’s most successful ones)

  5. @beyounged — that’s what I did: Air Iceland Connect from RKV to KUS (Kulusuk) — and connecting to an Air Greenland helicopter to Tasiilaq (Ammassalik Heliport). The 10 min copter ride was great!

  6. @Will
    I doubt Lucky will have time to take the ‘copters, they are all O/D and needs backtracking. He can also save time as Air Iceland Connect flies to GOH and JAV as well, so he can at least do something like CPH-SFJ-JAV-RKV if he is short on time, and maybe cross off another “weirdest trans-atlantic flights” off his list. (I think RKV-JAV might as well rival FRA-YXY)

  7. I would recommend a long layover or perhaps a night in Kangerlussuaq. It is the easiest place to get to the Greenland Ice Cap. You can either just go there on a half a day tour (with a little time on ice cap). There are other options to camp for a night.

    The mosquitos in some areas particularly Nuuk are brutal so be aware. 🙂 Oh and definitely try the CPH-SFJ AIR Greenland flight but Nuuk to Iceland in a Dash 8 can be a great for views.

    Enjoy the trip!

  8. Don’t fly to and from CPH if at all possible! Would love to see you fly in on the A330 in biz, and return to Iceland on the world’s coolest turboprop flight, for example. Much more interesting to see two planes!

  9. You see no irony that your incredibly frivolous and inconsequential source of income is a contributing factor in a process that is going to destroy the way of life among the native population in Greenland, decimate the flora and fauna that depend on taiga and tundra environments, and the melting of glaciers in Greenland is going to lead your home city to succumb to global sea rise? Nothing? way

  10. Give me a break Richard! Lucky’s travel’s make no difference, the planes are flying whether he’s on them or not.

    Personally I think it should be a human right that each of us should get the joys of travel and leisure, despite what the elitist climate cultists think (and I bet you these people have no problem going on their own holidays.

  11. I’m sure you’ve probably thought about this, but it would be cool if you could review SAS’ A321LR or A350-900 business class on the way to Copenhagen. Additionally, I don’t really see much point in returning to Copenhagen and mainland Europe (although I obviously don’t know the specifics of your trip itinerary), so it would be cool for you to review Air Iceland Connect’s Dash 8 from Greenland to Iceland and then fly back to the US on Icelandair on their 767 or 757 (or dare I say 737 MAX?). Alternatively, if you could find availability or cheap prices, you could fly United’s 757-200 in Polaris back to Newark from Reykjavik; I know that they recently started retrofitting their 757s with new economy class seats, IFE screens, and new Polaris seat covers in business (pictures can be found on airliners.net).

  12. Just note that Kangerlussuaq is nowhere (though on the end of a fjord.) If you stopover, plan carefully. It has a few hundred people and not much else.

    And try get on the S-61. We did an amazing flight over and between the icebergs in Illulisat (where the one the Titanic rammed almost cretainly iriginated).

    Greenland in general is VERY basic.

  13. I know it’s out of your wheelhouse, but if you are really into nature travel in polar regions, take a break from flying and hotels and do a cruise to Antarctica. There’s really no comparison.

  14. Goretex too and trousers, mosquito repellant and a headnet. I spent a month there a few years ago doing fieldwork, living in a tent, and they are unbelievable. It was about 15 degrees in the summer (unseasonable) and our group often ended up going out wearing a headnet, goretex shell top and trousers and underwear… Greenland style. Too warm for anything else! Goretex seemed to be the only thing the mossies couldn’t bite through. Yes, the weather can be mad. One (proper outdoors) tent blew into the sea. The foehn wind is crazy.

    I don’t know if they are still around, but Air Alpha Greenland used to do helicopter tours over the glacier. They took us and all our kit (many huge wooden crates) to the field site. Best safety briefing ever “yah, if I crash the helicopter we will all be killed”. Dry danish wit… I hope.

    The Hotel Arctic is out of town on the road to the airport – best avoided to be honest. It’s overpriced and misses the point of going to illulisaat where you need to be in the town, surrounded by the smell of fish… the bars are only open for a few hours in the evening to control access. When I was there, everyone wore the same black/orange wellies as there was only one shop that sold wellies… all very odd.

    Kangerlussuaq exists because that’s where the airport is. It’s not somewhere I’d like to stay.

  15. FYI Visit Greenland offers week and 2 week long packages from KEF from 1200 EUR including flights and hotels. Might be your easiest and cheapest option since you are located in North America.

  16. Hi Lucky, I just wanted to share some of my experience. I spoke at a conference in Greenland in 2015, and it was truly unlike any other place on earth. It was an amazing experience.

    My strong recommendation is to watch the docco ‘Sume: The Sounds of a Revolution’ ahead of your visit. It is essentially the history of modern Greenland, as told through the story of a seminal Greenlandic rock back. It is simply incredible and will add much context to your visit.

    The flight itself was truly memorable. The flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq crosses the continent from East to West, revealing the most amazing views of the ice cap. Then I flew a dash-7 to the lovely capital of Nuuk. Both of those flights had the most extraordinary views, and remain the most spectacular flights I ever took, together with the Drukair flight from Kathmandu to to Paro across the Hymalayas on a clear day.

    The local people (native Greenlandians) cannot be nicer. Air Greenland were just perfect. The small airports are beautiful. Some of their lines are operated by helicopters, so you can have a relatively inexpensive helicopter flights to several parts of Greenland! Have a most amazing time!

  17. Just to add – I visited in late September/ early October and the flies were all gone by then, Though their timing may have changed with climate change. Why not go in the dead of winter? it would certainly be an even more memorable experience. I will never forget my week in Svalbard in January for example!

  18. @Lucky, while I think the tone of Richard’s comment is unnecessarily harsh, I have actually wondered something similar. You fly *a lot*, and flying is a contributor to Climate Change. I feel this is magnified when you discuss going to cold / isolated regions and how much you enjoy them, as they are the ones which will see a lot of the impact, thus I’m genuinely curious: Is the amount you fly, and its impact on the climate, something you think about and consider?

    Disclaimer: I travel a decent amount as well (~3-4 trips / year), and it’s something I constantly go back in forth on which is partly why I’m genuinely curious on your thoughts.

  19. @ Mike — It’s a great question, and it is something I think a lot about. Stay tuned for a post later today about exactly that. 🙂

  20. Learn the Greenlandic word “Immaqa” [Iima gra]before you travel – same as Arabic ins allah, by the will of good.
    They fly by sight so weather can give you long delays, and don’t expect any compensation or better accommodations even if you fly Business, a flight from Kangerlussuaq to one of the other cities can be very long while they circle in the fog, and then you end up in the alternative city or back in Kangerlussuaq.

    If you g’et delayed in Kangerlussuaq only plus for you is the dormitory they will put you in with overnight delays has 110 v sockets as it’s the old US Base gym 🙂

    But take a day in kangerlussuaq see the ice cape by transport or take a sightseeing by plane, when I was young boy you could walk to the ice cape in 30 minutes, but 30 yrs later that walk calls for more than Ecco.

    The reason for the expensive tickets is plane is public transportation in Greenland and there is only Air Greenland, accommodations is hard to find in Ilullisat only 3 hotels and 1 BB.

    In the old days you could sit in the cockpit if they oversold or delays, but I haven’t heard of it being used anymore.

    Get a mobile plan in https://telepost.gl/da/prepaid-mobile-broadband just opposite of the airport they have an office.

    You wouldn’t see any native Inuits, native Inuit is east coast or North like above Thule airbase, and simple fact natives on Greenland is Scandinavians, the first tribes (Saqqaq and then Dorset) in Greenland didn’t settle so far south, and they disappeared but Scandinavians stayed and ended up mixing gens with the later arriving Thule culture, that would give you a reason to go to the museum in Nuuk and see the mummies and get the history of the settlements in Greenland, and you would see that the Vikings found North America many centuries before Columbus 🙂

    PS Go for fish dishes on Norsaq (a330s name), it’s nice and fresh from Iceland, all you get served is not from Greenland 🙁

  21. I actually agree with Richard to a large extent– you about most of your points regarding “Lucky”. He does indeed have a massive carbon footprint and I really DO hope he is both aware of it and working on other offsets to help mitigate it. For those that dismiss these concerns–that’s fine–you’ll likely be dead by the time the worst of it comes–too bad for your kids, grandkids, etc. Although….take a look at Australia and its PM who blithely goes along with the greatness of coal.

    I also travel quite a bit–a flight almost 1 a month. However, I drive a hybrid (which helps, although not enough) and my I choose renewable-based electricity for my house–which I think more than offsets the travel. These are the very least of the things Ben (and other frequent fliers) should be doing….if not actual carbon offset credits. Is that “cultish”? Oh well–someone needs to care.

  22. For those concerned about Lucky’s footprint I just want to remind you all that unless Lucky is the only passenger on the flight the plane will take off anyway and it will go to Greenland. Thus, it won’t make a difference if Lucky flies or not. The climate change and global warming issue is something much bigger than just complaining about flying and that girl screaming that we are stealing her dreams. Maybe you should start with all the celebrities from Hollywood that love to come to social media to complain about fires in the Amazon, global warming, etc…. BUT I can guarantee you none of them them drive a Prius or ride a bike to travel. They all fly private planes and drive Ferraris, Porsches, etc…. so it is just BS to say something to be cool but not follow what they say. Airlines also love to talk about reducing their carbon footprint but that is just marketing and PR. None of them are really doing much to solve the problem. Maybe Lucky could plant a number of trees for any flight he takes. That would be a great start but staying home and not flying won’t be the solution.

  23. “Thus, it won’t make a difference if Lucky flies or not.”

    If enough people change their demand habits, so too will the supply. This attitude that, “I’m only one person and can’t make a difference” is one we hear again and again on so many issues, whether it’s climate change, voting in elections, or speaking up about most anything. And yet it’s nonsense.

    I fly on average 100,000 – 250,000 miles per year, My carbon footprint is likely similar to Lucky’s. I’m an expat with family on four continents. I have to travel for work. I love to travel and am also drawn to remote, far-flung places that too often are at greatest risk of climate change.

    Like tipping in some countries, I factor carbon offset prices into my trips. Almost all major airlines offer them as part of the purchase process. If I can’t afford the offset, I can’t afford to go. I don’t drive a car and pay attention to eating sustainably, even as a meat eater. I’m not perfect and despite my best efforts and intentions I certainly don’t make up for carbon footprint.

    That doesn’t mean I / we shouldn’t try.

    Mocking people who want to make the earth a better place to live as many here have done or complaining that one person can’t make a difference and pointing fingers at other people and saying “what about” has done does nothing to help anyone. Nor does self-righteously lecturing and scorning people with shame like Richard did.

    There are many things we can all individually do in some form or another, and despite the rhetoric about Greta Thunberg, she has repeatedly said that when it comes to individual people, they should simply do what they can and what works for them while being mindful of our impact on the earth and making real efforts to protect the planet. If people have a problem with that message, they either don’t care about the climate emergencies we face or choose not to understand the message. Sitting today at my home in Australia, we don’t have the luxury of doing either.

    I’m looking forward to reading Lucky’s thoughts on the subject.

  24. I did the Dash 8 flight from Keflavik to Ililussat, returning via Kangerlussuaq and Nuuk last July. Echoing what others have said I would suggest a day in Kangerlussuaq at the expense one one of your days in Nuuk. The whole day ice cap hike in crampons is awesome and believe it or not there is a great restaurant – the ”
    “rowing club”in Danish – on a lake close to town. It is true what some people said about jumpseat flights. On the SFJ-GOH sector the pilots gave me headphones and let me sit in the jump seat for the last 20 minutes of the flight including landing in Nuuk and I’ll never forget it. Can’t wait for your report.

  25. @Ben, Just take a closer look at the schedule, since Air Greenland is planning to lease HiFly A330-200 (at least some flights in March visible on Air Greenland website), so you won’t experience real long haul AirGreenland.

  26. You’re missing an option:

    First, get to Iceland, which provides a grandiose opportunity to review the new WOW lounges or the hard product provided by Play (or Repeat, or Pause, or whatever).

    Then move from KEF to RKV, which is easy with the regular bus to the bus station in Reykjavik. Just walk the last 300 meters. Then take a flight with Air Iceland (not to be confused with Icelandair) to Kulusuk, Narsarsuaq, Nuuk or Ilulissat. You’ll end up on a DH8B or DH8D as well, by the way, but the domestic airport in Reykjavik is an interesting one. 🙂

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *