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16th May 2017
Visiting Greenland is an adventure, an inspiration, an awakening, a revelation.
This tour takes you to the settlement of Ilulissat - situated at the mouth of the 40 km long Ice Fjord and filled with enormous spectral icebergs produced when the Ilulissat Glacier, an arm of Greenland’s great Ice Sheet, calves into the fjord’s icy glacial waters. This unique nature and beauty have resulted in Ilulissat Ice Fjord being listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The first Inuit people to set foot in Greenland arrived around 4-5000 years ago from North America and Canada. Greenland’s population today is descended from the last immigration, the Thule culture, which arrived in 13th century AD.
In the Icelandic sagas it is said that in the year 982 Erik the Red and his extended family set out by sea from Iceland to search for the icy lands known to lie to the northwest - a land he eventually found and named Grœnland (‘Greenland’). In 985 he returned to Iceland to encourage other Norsemen to follow him; what is rather ironic is that the country they were leaving was actually greener than the land they were going to! It is believed that devious Erik had thought of this and deliberately chosen the name to encourage new settlers. What a surprise they must have had to find that 80% of Greenland was actually covered by ice!
For reasons unknown the Norse population disappeared around 1500 and it was in 1721 that the missionary Hans Egede, from the joint kingdom of Denmark-Norway, arrived. He was actually looking for the Norsemen but instead found the Inuit people and decided to stay and convert them to Christianity!
Fly from UK to Copenhagen. Your hotel is only one Metro stop away from the airport (3 minutes). If you would like more time to visit Copenhagen you can request an early flight.
1 night COPENHAGEN - Park Inn Copenhagen (BB)
Flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq and then onward by smaller aircraft for the magnificent ‘sightseeing’ flight to Ilulissat, with glorious views of the Ilulissat Icefjord. Met on arrival for transfer to your hotel. Ilulissat is a modern town by Greenlandic standards yet we believe better described as a ‘settlement’. It is 300 kms north of the Arctic Circle, with the unique Disko Bay and magnificent Ilulissat Ice Fjord (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) right on the doorstep. Here you will find calving glaciers, gigantic and majestic icebergs and remote, isolated settlements where Greenlandic hunters still live very much according to ancient traditions. During your guided walking tour of Ilulissat you will also see the Greenlanders’ chief working companion, the Greenlandic dog; there are around 3500 of them in Ilulissat and the four villages which surround it!
During the evening relax and enjoy a welcome dinner in your hotel which has a repuation for good food, especially seafood!
4 nights ILULISSAT - Hotel Arctic (HB)
Today you leave the civilised world and enter an Arctic wilderness of low passes and ice-covered fjords with icebergs rising from the surface like spectral sculptures. The experience is a journey back to the time of the old polar explorers and travels in the mountains and fjords close to Ilulissat. Please note, this excursion is primarily operated by dog sled but an alternative exploration by boat to the hunters’ settlement at Rodebay may be taken instead if ice conditions dictate. Either way - glorious scenery!
Today you have a short excursion to see the icebergs of Sermermiut. You travel by car as far as the road goes and then continue on foot for an easy hike to a viewpoint from which the icebergs at the mouth of the Ice Fjord can be seen. They really are quite breathtaking. Remainder of the day free.
Free day for optional activity or relaxation in Ilulissat.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Copenhagen via Kangerlussuaq.
1 night COPENHAGEN - Park Inn Copenhagen (BB)
Homeward bound from Copenhagen Airport to the UK.
Departure Day: Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday
Departure Dates: 1 Nov 2016 - 20 Mar 2017
Duration: 6 nights
Price from: £3285 per person (double/twin), £3680 per person (single)
* actual activity will depend upon snow and ice conditions.
Park Inn by Radisson, Copenhagen Airport ***
As a rule we wouldn't normally use a hotel whose location is so close to an airport, indeed only 2 stops or 5 minutes away by Metro. However with this hotel we are more than happy to make an exception as it fits in perfectly for those who want to spend time in Copenhagen city but who also have an early flight departure or late flight arrival. Plus it happens to be a really, really nice hotel.
The hotel is actually at Femøren and the Metro station is situated directly next door therefore really handy. Femøren is also just 10-12 minutes on the Metro from the centre of Copenhagen and during peak hours travels every 5 minutes and then every 10 minutes outside of this time. And this is 24 hours a day so it doesn't matter what time you come home from Copenhagen or what time your flight is the following morning!
The reception area is bright and welcoming with a stylish bar to the right as you approach the desk and a restaurant to the left. Standard rooms are double/twin rooms - the beds can be together or separated and all have TV, telephone, mini-bar, hair-dryer and free WiFi - yippee! The hotel also has a free indoor swimming pool, saunas in each of the changing rooms and a gym. It is also approximately 150 metres from a man-made beach which is suitable for swimming and sunbathing. Superior rooms are available which are a bit bigger and include tea and coffee making facilities and Business Class rooms which include the same as the superior rooms but also have air-conditioning. There are family rooms too - actually Junior Suites with a sofa bed but plenty of room in an entrance vestibule for extra luggage so they do not feel crowded even when the bed is made up.
OK, so you don't walk straight out of the hotel directly into the airport and you don't walk out directly into central Copenhagen but you do get an awful lot more for your money than you would for the same price in either of those locations.
Hotel Arctic **** Ilulissat
Without a doubt Hotel Arctic offers the highest standard of accommodation in Ilulissat, perhaps even in the whole of Greenland, but it is important to bear in mind that a 4 star hotel in Ilulissat is not quite the same as a 4 star hotel in Copenhagen. That said, Hotel Arctic is a very nice hotel, with an excellent kitchen, very comfortable rooms and a truly poetic location with a panoramic view over the Icefjord. The hotel is located just 1.5 km from the airport and approx 2-3 kms from the city centre with the hotel operating a shuttle bus service several times a day to and from the city centre.
It seems odd to call Hotel Arctic a 4 star hotel, not because the standard is not good but because star ratings just seem silly and out of place in Greenland. Best to describe the hotel in terms of what it provides for you. Nice comfortable rooms with fabulous beds and quilts, all rooms with shower and WC, TV, mini-bar, telephone, desk and plenty of room for your outdoor clothing and luggage. There is an iron and ironing board and hairdryer in the bathroom. Standard and superior rooms have pretty much the same decor and facilities, however, superior rooms have a view of the Icefjord plus coffee and tea making facilities and a mini-bar. It is possible to make an extra bed up in superior rooms for a third adult or child. The hotel does not offer free WiFi (this is incredibly expensive to have in Greenland so the hotel have to charge for it) but you can pay the reception directly by the hour or daily - beware though, connections can be poor and intermittent. The hotel also has a sauna, solarium and work out facilities for those who want to fill any spare moment in between activities. There is a large a la carte restaurant where the Welcome and Farewell dinners are served and a brasserie and bar on the second floor with a panoramic view over the Ilulissat Icefjord.
In the hotel's gardens, inbetween the hotel and the Icefjord, you will find numerous dog houses with their occupants, Greenlandic dogs, secured by chained leads. It doesn't matter how much you love and trust dogs (and no-one does more than the staff at Taber Holidays!) you must not approach the dogs to pet them. They are working dogs and would much rather you kept your distance - particularly if they are eating.
There is a boardwalk which takes you past the dogs and down to the very edge of the Icefjord for glorious views of bizarre icebergs just floating by. Here you will also find the hotel's 'Igloos' - if you really want to stay in one we can request it but in our opinion they are a novelty item which doesn't really add anything extra to your overall holiday experience.
The Icebergs of Greenland
Night Rider Tour
An evening snowmobile tour in search of the Northern Lights. No previous experience is required as you will be given full instructions before setting out into the darkness (with headlights of course!) following your guide. Duration approximately 2 hours.
Price: £150 per person
Northern Lights Snowshoe Adventure
Experience the Northern Lights on a snowshoe walk from Ilulissat. You will follow your guide, wearing your headlamp and snowshoes (provided) and walk safely into the wilderness where there is no artificial light. Walking with snowshoes is fun and practical - once you get used to them! Duration 1½ hours.
Price: £70 per person
We really want you to enjoy your holiday to Greenland and come home having experienced something amazing. Here are a few bits of information and tips to help you along the way:
Who is this holiday suitable for?
Basically anyone who has always wanted to visit Greenland, the truly serious Arctic. We say this because we have many travellers who want to visit ‘Lapland’ for ‘soft’ winter adventures that include plenty of frolicking fun in the snow, roaring log fires in cosy wooden hotels and wintry landscapes resonant of Christmas cards and children’s books. We can offer you this, but not in Greenland. Greenland is for people who only want Greenland.
You do not need to be of any particular level of fitness, however, this featured tour includes a dog-sledding trip and for this you need to be steady and firm on your feet. Greenlandic dogs are not to be cuddled, in Greenland they are one of man’s ‘tools’ and, though valued and respected enormously for their contribution, they are not pets and are revered only so long as they are useful. You have to accept this.
This holiday is not suitable for young children. They will find it too cold, with too little to entertain them and very few other children to spend time with. Take them on one of our wonderful holidays to Norway, Sweden or Iceland instead.
What temperature will it be?
Greenland is located in the depths of the Arctic so expect anything from 0 to -40 during the winter months.
What sort of clothing do I need?
For many people the idea of travelling in the Arctic in winter conjures up images of grizzly looking explorers with frozen beards, weathered faces and exhausted expressions. Whilst we love the idea that these people were more than prepared to suffer for their dream journey we really would rather those travelling with Taber Holidays did not! It simply isn’t necessary. Keeping warm and cosy whilst still being able to move around easily and comfortably is important – this is a holiday after all – and for this we recommend the layering principle. This means that when you are inside (which invariably will be over-heated) you can shed a couple of layers easily and likewise pop them back on when going outside to face the elements. There are plenty of good outdoor clothing companies offering a wide variety of technical clothing which can be worn on a regular cold day at home too and therefore purchasing a few items is a good investment as they will be worn again and again. We have to say, In our opinion wool is king; there is nothing like it for warmth and merino wool is so soft and comfortable you can wear it next to your skin with absolutely no scratching at all!
The Nordic countries do not have a dress code and the general rule of thumb is comfort and practicability. If you are dining in a restaurant, having a drink in a bar or a cup of coffee in a cafe you will be expected to leave your outdoor clothing i.e. heavy coat, scarf, hats AND boots in the cloakroom and not wear them inside or leave them hanging over the back of your chair. But you will not be expected to wear a tie and jacket for dinner in the evening – though if you want to then go ahead!
What language is spoken in Greenland?
The real language of Greenland is Greenlandic. Greenlandic is an Eskimo-Aleut language spoken by about 57,000 people in Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat) and Denmark. There are three main dialects: West Greenlandic (Kalaallisut), East Greenlandic (Tunumiisut) and North Greenlandic (Inuktun). You will also find Danish widely spoken as Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark and there are a significant number of Danes living and working in Greenland. All of your guides will speak English and you will find staff in the hotels, restaurants and cafes will usually understand enough English to be able to help you.
Greenlanders are always delighted when visitors try to speak at least a few words of the local language. To make it easy, you can start by learning the words "hello", which is 'aluu', or 'goodbye', which is simply "baaj". These words are loan words that were probably introduced when the Americans came to Greenland during the Second World War.
What is the currency of Greenland?
As Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark the currency is Danish kroner. Credit cards can be used at ATMs to withdraw Danish kroner (DKK). The following credit cards are accepted:
Credit cards can be used at many hotels, restaurants and shops, but it is recommended that you take a small amount of Danish kroner with you to Greenland, as some ATMs may not be in service at the weekend.
Are there any specific customs I should know about before travelling?
It may seem quite brutal to say this but we believe the first thing all travellers should take with them is good manners! Greenland has a rich history and culture, its nature is second to nowhere else in the world and there is a mystic and exoticism about it that attracts visitors from all over the world. But please remember Greenland is not a safari park for tourists; these are real people, living real lives and you need to respect that their culture may not always be akin to your culture. The following may seem obvious to many people but we would just like to remind you anyway:
Do not take photographs of people or their personal belongings without asking. This is very rude and it is worth imagining how you would feel if someone from abroad did it to you at home.
Greenlandic dogs are not pets, they are tools. DO NOT try to stroke or cuddle them. You will see puppies walking around freely, this is because they live wild until they are 6 months old and are then kept chained up outside their pen with other dogs and used as working animals.
Whale and seal meat are important for Greenlanders. They are a very rich source of vitamin C, something that is not easy to come by in such a harsh environment. We think this is a perfect example of nature providing. The Greenlanders are the only people allowed to hunt the whale and seal as they use it for food, clothing, furniture - in fact they use it for everything. Be no more shocked to find it on the menu than you would to find beef or pork at home.
PLEASE do not buy bottled water! Plastic bottles of water are flown in to Greenland primarily for visitors and it is UNNECESSARY and terrible for the environment. Take a water bottle with you in your luggage and fill it from the tap - it's the purest on the planet and free!
There is a very well known word in Greenlandic - 'immaga'. It means 'maybe'. 'Maybe the weather will be good today...', 'Maybe I will fish today...', 'Maybe the boat will depart on time today...'. Greenlanders are notoriously laid-back as things in Greenland are generally dictated by the weather, the sea conditions, the movement of the ice, how you feel when you wake up in the morning - and not so much by the clock! Be patient and go with the flow.
Take the opportunity to engage as much as possible directly with the Greenlanders rather than always having your guide (usually Danish) doing it for you. Greenlanders love visitors but they don't want to feel like specimens.
What sort of equipment should I take with me?
Pretty much all of the equipment you will need for activities will be provided for you, however there are a few things we would really recommend you take:
Sunglasses! When the sun (yes, they do have plenty of it in the summer!) hits those white, white icebergs the glare can be considerable.
Suncream, when the sun is shining and you're out on the water with the glare from those icebergs an unexpected suntan is developing - as long as you don't burn first...
Binoculars - great for spotting all types of whales, calving glaciers, Arctic fox and hare, seals, Musk Ox, walruses, reindeer, wolves, hundreds of types of birds or maybe just something in the distance you can't quite make out.
Water bottle - take a reusable one with you and fill it from the tap at your hotel. Please do not buy bottled water and if you are offered it in your hotel ask them to fill a jug instead.
Hiking boots - you will be walking over a lot of uneven ground, climbing on and off boats and possibly wearing crampons if walking on glaciers. Trainers are not sturdy enough for this. If you buy a new pair for the trip make sure you break them in before travelling!
Camera - use it but don't overuse it!! Sometimes it is better to just watch a whale than it is to try and capture it on camera... Use your camera with consideration of other people (see above).
A small back-pack for day trips - it is much easier to have a bag with extra clothing, binoculars, camera etc on your back than it is on your shoulder, especially when climbing on and off boats or helicopters.
Mosquito repellent - during July and August when the weather is warmer mosquitos can be around! Take a repellent with you and an antihistamine if you are allergic to insect bites.
A travel journal! We would never go away without one - it's a great way to remind yourself of your experiences later - and let us know about them...
Am I safe to go hiking on my own in Greenland?
Well this all depends... Are you an experienced hiker or a novice? Have you travelled to Greenland before and are familiar with the terrain or not? The majority of Greenland's nature is actual wilderness, with few or no paths, numerous mountains, rivers and glaciers. The very clear air means that it can be hard to judge distances; it is often a lot further to a given point than you might think. The terrain's degree of difficulty varies from the very easy to the very challenging. The following information is taken from recommendations made by greenland.com, the tourist association for Greenland, based on their advanced knowledge and experience:
Everyone should be aware that help can be a long way away and that mobile phone coverage is rare when you are out in the heart of the wilderness. The weather is generally stable in the summer, but sudden weather changes can also occur. Thorough preparation is essential, as is having the right equipment and listening to the advice of those with local knowledge. Making and keeping agreements about expected news and return is equally important.
There are paths close to most towns and settlements that lead out in the mountains. Some of these are marked as hiking routes, but many of the paths disappear once you move slightly away from built-up areas. It is therefore important to always keep track of where you are, and a map, compass and GPS (including spare batteries) are essential. There are a number of 1:100.000 hiking maps that are very accurate, but many areas are only covered by 1:250.000 maps, which are not particularly well suited as hiking maps.
When straying from paths into open terrain, it is always tempting to take the shortest route. But the shortest route can sometimes prove to be the hardest. You can unintentionally find yourself in a place that you can neither leave nor get to - while it is much easier to walk and semi-climb upwards, it is also much harder to walk downwards. If you are hiking over the top of somewhere and need to start using your hands to go further, then your hike has in fact turned into a climb, and it can suddenly prove difficult to get back down. So always make sure a retreat is possible.
When walking in Greenland you will most certainly have to cross a stream or a river. Few hikers avoid getting their feet wet at one time or another. The water flow in Greenland's rivers can vary enormously. A small stream can swell to a gushing river if it starts to rain. The rivers born of glaciers vary significantly in intensity depending on the temperature. The water flow in these rivers is typically calmest in the mornings and roughest late in the afternoon. If you cannot walk across dry-foot, then you will have to wade through the water. Keep your hiking boots on, but take your socks off first. A good rule of thumb is that gushing water should never reach higher than your knees - otherwise you risk getting knocked over. A pair of hiking sticks/ski batons really help keep the balance. If you feel unsure then turn around.
If it is very important to cross a river or stream, and you are unsure whether you can, then tie a rope to the person crossing. Should he/she fall in, they can be pulled to safety by someone else in the group - you need to be at least three in your group to do this. The rope should be doubled up so that everyone can use it to get across. If you have the slightest doubt, don't do it.
All glaciers have crevices. A glacier with snow has hidden crevices and you should therefore avoid walking on a snow-covered glacier unless you have at least three people in your group with complete glacier equipment (braces, rope, ice axes, crampons and equipment for glacier crevice rescue). If there is no snow on the glacier, which is the case with the lower lying glaciers in the summer, then you can sometimes walk quite safely on them. You should however be equipped with crampons or smaller crampons that can be fitted to hiking shoes and boots as well as have a hiking stick. The ice is slippery with many sharp stones scattered on the surface, so it is easy to get cuts and bruises, - wear gloves, long trousers and long sleeves. NEVER walk without a rope on snow-covered areas of a glacier!