There are about 5000 musk oxen near Kangerlussuaq, but they are not native to this area, being transplanted from north-east Greenland in the 1960's. The area they were transplanted from is much more barren than Kangerlussuaq (where there are bushes up to three metres in height), so those musk oxen were used to eating as much as they could all the time. This attitude led to them killing themselves by overeating in the Kangerlussuaq summer. Another attempt was tried, whereby they accustomed the musk oxen to the more plentiful flora gradually over the course of a year in the Copenhagen zoo - this herd survived when taken to Kangerlussuaq, hence the number of animals there today.
Musk oxen are generally shy of humans and will run, except when they have their young with them, when they can be dangerous. This big guy (standing about 1.7 metres high) allowed me to approach within about 7 metres before he ran. Notice the shedding fur - Kangerlussuaq has temperature highs of 18 to 25 degrees Celsius in the summer, which is very hot for these animals. As a result, they tend to hang out near the ice cap in the summer, where it is a bit cooler.
I rented a bicycle and rode for about 90 minutes to reach the ice cap. There are some beautiful views there, and I saw a couple of musk oxen along the way. I also saw lots of different kinds of wildflowers, as well as some caribou droppings.
The ice cap spawns many streams, which all flow into the fjord.
The great thing about renting a bike at Kangerlussuaq is that there is no danger of theft - they are never stolen, and you are not even given a lock. If you want to see something on foot, you just leave your bike anywhere, and come back to it later.
Kulusuk, on the east coast of Greenland, has a population of about 300. It is the destination of day-trips to Greenland from Reykjavik, Iceland. The day-trippers are there only for about 4 hours, so outside these hours, you will be one of only a handful of tourists.
Kulusuk is quite traditional : the people still hunt seals, polar bears and whales. There is no running water, and there is no transport from the airport to the village (3 kilometres) - you have to walk ! Some people do have motorized 3-wheeled tricycle-type vehicles with large heavy-tread tires.
The east coast also looks much different from the west coast - in the height of summer, there is still a lot of snow in the mountains around Kulusuk.
The Greenland Dog is a sled dog found everywhere in communities of West Greenland above the Arctic Circle. And in this area, no other dog is allowed - this is to preserve the purity of the breed.
Sled dogs spend the summer chained up in large dog areas - in Ilulissat, there are several of these. Most owners only feed their dogs once every two days, so the poor things are whining for food all the time.
Sled dogs are both male and female. Apparently, the males are better for short journeys, and the females (who have greater stamina) are better for longer journeys. These Greenland Dogs are rather different than the Canadian husky; the Greenland winter is not as cold, nor is there as much snow as in the Canadian north, so their fur isn't as thick, nor their legs as long as Canadian huskies.
In Ilulissat, there are "yield to dog sled" road signs. They picture a dog sled in a triangle.
The home of Knud Rasmussen, explorer and author and Greenland's favourite has been established as a museum dedicated to his life of discovery and Greenland and Inuit history.
It is in fact much more that Knud Rasmussen's thing, it covers much of what could go into an anthropology museum of these latitudes.
In Ilulissat, you cannot miss it, just ask or roam around until you find this house (photo).
1.4. - 30.9. every day 10 – 17. 1.10 - 31.3. Monday - Friday 12 – 16.
Visits outside the ordinary opening hours might be possible. The additional fee is DKK 500.
Advance notice is needed.
Entrance: Adults: DKK 35 - Children below the age of 15 free.
You see two dinstinct kinds of icebergs - smooth ones and jagged ones.
The smooth ones have recently flipped over - they are smooth because the water they were submerged in made them so. The jagged ones have become so because of rain and because of chunks falling off due to melting.
With limited time and money you can still get some great nature experiences just by hiking outside the towns and settlements. Just be geared up for the local environment - hiking terrain, the weather and the season - and you should be fine (see my tip on gear for light hikes). In my opinion, this is one of the best things you can do in order to experience Greenland's nature.
The use of a map is indispensible, and a compass too, in case the fog comes rolling in. Just remember that you are very near the magnetic north pole, and that your N-needle doesnt really point towards the north. You can get the compass adjusted asking at tourist inf places. There are some dedicated and well-marked trails around the main touristic-oriented towns and in particular in and around the ancient Nordic settlement areas in the south-west.
If you can get somebody to drop you by boat, you can have a complete day's (and night in the summer light of the north) hiking back to town without having to backtrack.
If there are "vandrerhjem" youth hostels there is also the possibility of hiking around a larger area without the extra burden of bringing a tent and complete cooking gear.
A good guide for planning such trips is "Naturguide til Grønland" (Danish) published by Gads Forlag, Copenhagen 1999. A bit of a brick, but well worth the purchase if you understand a Scandinavian language. I am sure such things will be updated with the increase in popularity of Greenland travels.
Ilulissat, on the west coast of Greenland north of the Arctic Circle, has a harbour full of icebergs (up to 65 metres high). These come from the "ice fjord" next to Ilulissat; the ice fjord is jammed full of icebergs which have broken off a glacier at the fjord's far end. A must activity is to take the two-hour boat ride among the icebergs. If you take the night trip during the summer, you'll see the midnight sun casting all sorts of different colours on the icebergs.
OK - cheating again, I didn't go to Kap Farvel, the southernmost point of Greenland.
But it is said to be an interesting area, and many hiking and rock climbing opportunities in the fjords nearby, particularily on the western coast.
This photo (not a particularily good one, I know...) I took out the window while most people on the plane were watching some dumb movie. I let myself be mentally transported down to the icy lands below...
It actually is the Kap Farvel, the southern tip of Greenland.
Every town or settlement of some size has a market place where the results of the day's hunting and fishing is being sold.
Here you can find a variety of sea birds, fish (cod, wolf fish, red fish, halibut, etc.), whale (minke, finwhale, sometimes other species), seal, reindeer, musk oxen displayed and for sale. On a budget, and backpacking independently, this is a very good place to stock up for your trip. Both reindeer and musk oxen meat keeps well.
Everybody can show you where the Braedetet is, normally it is a small house, sometimes in smaller places it is an open stall. A very central feature of all Greenlandic communities, in fact.
Ask before you take any pictures in these places, as locals are Greenpeace-weary as they have been partly mobbed out of their livelihoods by well-meaning but misunderstood environmentalism. Their tolerance rate for greenpeacers is very low.
I haven't been here myself, but I have friends who spent hours here and still did'nt get enough. It's right at the airport, too, and probably well worth visiting in its own right as well as if you have to kill time at the airport.
I was surprised of how clearly it was possible to see the fiords, the watercourses, the mountains and the ice. I did this transatlantic trip four times and I could see it just one time, when it was July.
Me sorprendió lo claramente que pude ver los fiordos, los cursos de agua, las montañas y el hielo. Hice cuatro veces este trayecto transatlántico y sólo puede ver todo esto una vez, cuando era julio.
Go on a leisurely day hike along the fjord from just south of Ilulissat town then eastwards along a vaguely marked trail or find your own way. At the ancient Inuit settlement and Kællingekløften rock crevice you can turn north back to the town on a good trail via the camping site and heliport.
Another good day hike is to proceed further east from the Inuit settlement ruins and put in another day's return hike further east. Some of the best views of the Icefjord are from the cairned hills to the north-east above the Inuit settlement ruins. Bring your camera, film, binoculars, a lunch packet and something to sit on to view the spectacle of the Icefjord. See also "warnings"!
Top off your hike(s) with a sightseeing trip by boat at the mouth of the fjord - the "Isfjeldbanken".
When flying between Europe and North America you across the southern half of Greenland somewhere, occasionally further north. To North America it is normally day time, on the return flight it is normally night.
Should you have an opportunity to look out, and lucky you with a window seat, you will see Greenland's icy waters, nunataks and coastal bare land and the ice cap very well. You can see huge ice streams with ice bergs drifting out to open sea. Next, imagine you are there!
Near the old Inuit settlement of Sermermiut at Ilulissat there is a gorge cutting in from the Icefjord named Kellingekløften (in the Danish). In the rough translation it means the old ladies' canyon. During bad times when survival of the Sermermiut settlement was paramount and old people would be a burden, it is said that old people committed suicide by jumping the 30-something meters into the ice water at Kellingekløften.
Easy access, but slippery and a bit nasty with the histroy, the drop into the churning Icefjord and all, so beware not to copy the activity of old times...
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Kangerlussuaq, a former US military base, is the main gateway to Greenland. Since Hotel...more
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