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Glacier Chaser, West Greenland
Peak Summer in Greenland: muskox, kayaking with icebergs, helicopter onto the ice sheet, collecting native herbs.
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Vacation Style Holiday TypeCulture, Discovery, Family, Guided Tours, History, Short Breaks, Trekking, Wildlife
Activity Level Moderate
Group Size Small Group
Led by Big Chill Adventures co-founders Sarah Aciego and Mindy Cambiar, this all-inclusive trip focuses on exploring rugged and fantastic landscapes of pristine beauty and exotic, arctic wildlife that is abundant in this, one of the last frontiers.
We have chosen destinations and added a number of activities designed to yield adventure opportunities of the highlights that West Greenland has to offer: calving glaciers and palatial icebergs near Ilulissat, dogsledding and indigenous life on Disko Island, musk ox and reindeer close to the ice sheet in Kangerlussuaq, and an open-boat tour of the fjords surrounding the capital city of Nuuk. Along the way, we will provide opportunities for kayaking or a midnight boat ride amongst icebergs, all-day hikes on primitive trails, and even some mountain biking.
We will take care of everything you need to interact with the Greenland environment up close and personal from the time you step off the plane in Greenland to your departure from the country. The lodges and casual itinerary are guaranteed to offer great adventure opportunities while the meals and other details are sure to please. Small group, maximum 8. Moderate walking and hiking every day, with potential for strenuous physical activity, and alternatives for those with health conditions that preclude strenuous activity.
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners & dining
- All accommodation
- All transportation once in Iceland including flight to Greenland
- Expert tour and trekking guides for entire journey
- Travel insurance and other emergencies
- Visa fees and entry clearing fees
- Liquors, beers and alcoholic beverages
- Flights to Iceland
Arrival in Iceland
Typically, flights into Iceland arrive early in the morning. We will arrange transportation for you to get from the airport to the hotel in Reykjavik after you land. You will be able to leave your bags at the desk while you explore Reykjavik until check-in time. Our first meet-up of the Big Chill Adventure team will be in the hotel lobby, and then we head out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Reykjavik. After dinner everyone is free to explore the town on your own or rest up in your room before we meet first thing in the morning for breakfast! If you are interested in arriving a day early and being on your own, resting up or exploring, we can help you find accommodations and transport into town.
We will travel together to the Reykjavik city airport 2 hours before the flight departure time and fly to Ilulissat, Greenland on a small AirIceland plane. Upon arrival we will check into our hotel overlooking Disko Bay filled by icebergs created by the largest glacier in West Greenland: the Jakobshavn Isbrae. Here on the main island, we will be walking on some of the oldest rocks in the world, formed between 1.8 and 3.8 billion years ago!
A walk around the city will take us to the Jakobshavn Isbrae fjord, where icebergs the size of small cities can be heard crashing into each other. An optional hike before dinner will take us deeper into the fjord and into a small canyon before heading back to town.
At dinner we will have our first taste of traditional Greenlandic food with a contemporary twist. After dinner, we can either relax with a Greenlandic coffee or head out for a kayak trip under the midnight sun amongst the icebergs.
Eqi Sermia, the calving glacier
Our first excursion will be to Eqi Sermia, where a large calving glacier will give you a feel of the scale and energy involved in how glaciers make icebergs. The early morning boat trip with a light breakfast takes several hours and the possibilities are very high that we will spot whales amongst the icebergs. The boat brings us right to the face of the glacier, where we will have lunch and spend 1 1/2 – 2 hours watching and listening for an amazing calving to happen before our eyes (and cameras!).
Icebergs are amazing works of nature whose magnificence should be experienced first hand. No two icebergs are alike, and when you see an iceberg for the first time, you may be seeing shapes and sizes that no-one has seen before.
Icebergs consist of heavily compacted snow that fell on the Greenlandic ice cap several thousand years ago – some more than 15,000 years ago. The ice cap is in a constant state of change and movement, and every year it produces thousands of icebergs that are primarily formed in the sea from glaciers in the central and north-western region of Greenland and on Greenland’s east coast. The tallest icebergs tower over the surface of the ocean, some almost as tall as a 16 story building.
They are present throughout Greenland’s waters, but the area around Ilulissat is known to be the source of many large icebergs that break off the glaciers in the deep fjords. Icebergs are found in numerous shapes and sizes – it is common to see icebergs that take on shapes of animals or contain beautiful openings that form alluring passages to sail through. The fjord full of enormous ice sculptures is a spectacular sight. But, just like the majority of an iceberg is hidden underneath the water, there is more to the Ilulissat Icefjord than its natural beauty. This icefjord, one of the northernmost UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is increasingly in the spotlight of climate change. Visiting the Ilulissat Icefjord is not only about seeing a large calving glacier or melting icebergs before it’s too late. It is a unique opportunity to be active in the climate change conversation there at ‘ground zero’ and to let your experiences in Greenland inspire your life back home.
We will take an early morning ferry trip across the Disko Bay to Qeqertarsuaq, Disko Island. Although only 30 miles away, Disko Island is very young geologically, only a couple of million years old, and made of volcanic rocks. We will walk to hot springs and basalt columns where the edible root angelica is picked by the locals along the coastline of Disko Island. After dinner, we will spend the night in an hotel in the town of Qeqertarsuaq. Hiking will be light to moderate.
We will wake up early morning for a hike to the small icecap above the tall basalt columns that make up the cliffs of Qeqertarsuaq. The hike is a strenuous 3-4 hours along a primitive trail that takes you into the clouds. The views of Disko Bay, the waterfalls and the tall basalt cliffs are magnificent. Once at the icecap, we can walk to the top and see all the way to the Greenland ice sheet. On top of the icecap we will visit with the working sled dogs and, if weather permits, dog sled across the ice cap. We will spend the evening with local Inuit people in a hut next to the icecap. The hut accommodations are more primitive (no electricity), but the hut is snug and warm!
If you aren’t up for the hike, we will arrange an alternate activity with a more leisurely hiking pace – visiting the waterfalls of Disko and investigating the Danish science station.
We will hike down to Qeqertarsuaq in the early morning then check out the local artisans’ market and whaling museum before our return to Ilulissat via ferry. In Ilulissat, we will have an opportunity to watch the local artisans make Tupilaks. Those looking for a more active afternoon can join the trekking guide for a moderate hike over to Rodebay.
We will start the day with our AirGreenland flight to Kangerlussuaq, the homebase for scientific research throughout Greenland. After checking into the hotel we will pickup our 4WD trucks, which will give us unique access to the Greenland ice sheet margin. Here we will encounter both distinct landscapes and wildlife: incredible waterfalls and lakes, caribou and musk oxen.
Greenland’s ice sheet encompasses a total area of 1.8 million km² (695,000 square miles) and corresponds to 14 times the size of England. The ice-free area amounts to 350,000 km² (135,000 square miles) equivalent to the area of Germany.
The ice sheet has covered large parts of Greenland for the last 2-3 million years, but active glaciers and constant melting have meant that the ice has been recycled many times. The aging ice sheet is only a few meters thick at the ice fringe, but more than 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) thick at its highest point. The ice contains 10 per cent of the world’s reserves of fresh water as well as atmospheric particles which scientists can use to gain an insight into the climate of both Greenland and the Earth going back some 250,000 years.
In Kangerlussuaq there are some places that you can walk on this historical monument from the last ice age, it is an other-worldly experience.
This area of Greenland is also famous for its’ wildlife. Musk oxen are concentrated in the area around Kangerlussuaq, where more than 10,000 animals graze in a green mountain landscape rounded by ice. All along the west coast there are pockets of herds of reindeer, which each year migrate long distances between the interior and the coast in search of food, and to reach summer calving grounds near the ice cap.
Up on the ice sheet
Our second day in Kangerlussuaq will provide us an opportunity to hike up onto the ice sheet and observe wildlife via longer hikes. We will bring pack lunches so that we can spend the whole day in the field. In addition to our normal guides, we will also be joined by a local Inuit expert in native plants, who will show us the edible plants used in preserving and cooking Arctic cuisine.
The capital city of Nuuk is nestled amongst the most beautiful fjords in West Greenland. We will arrive in late afternoon which will give us time to explore the largest city in Greenland (population 16,000). On this first day in Nuuk, arriving in the late afternoon/early evening, we will have a small amount of free time before we head to dinner.
Our second day in Nuuk will be one of the highlights of our adventure: an AirGreenland helicopter excursion over the fjords to an inland glacier and a landing on top of the ice sheet next to one of the large supraglacial lakes. This particular glacier has a large ice cave that we can explore if conditions permit. Because of helicopter limitations (weather and scheduling) we will reserve the day for this activity, reconvening in the afternoon/evening for our evening together as a group.
One of the most amazing things about ice is how different it can be – white and flaky or dark blue and dense. In the icefjords of Nuuk, some of the most magnificent blue icebergs float.
For our third day in Nuuk, we will don some emergency immersion suits and head out into the icefjord in an open speed boat to ride the waves, play with whales and get our hands on some of the blue jewels of the ice fjord. While we can’t climb onto the icebergs, the small boat will allow us to get close enough to touch the amazing blue of the Nuuk ice.
Our destination for the day is a small fishing village that sits next to the only salmon river in Greenland. We will have lunch overlooking the ice fjord then head to the village to see fish jumping in the glacier-fed river.
We have some options for morning activities: than we have other options for the day: hiking up Ukkusissat, enjoying traditional coffee and cakes with Greenlandic friends, or a walking tour of the art museums in town. Our return flight from Nuuk to Reykjavik will have us arrive in the evening back to the capital city of Iceland. We can arrange transport and hotels in town and of course….we will end with tearful goodbyes and exchanges of contact info with your newest friends!
- Download full itinerary pdf available
Warm beds and hot showers at every stop along the way.
Bring a couple of options!
Waterproof, winter boots and slippers (for the hotel).
You are welcome to pick up items from duty free on your way into the country.
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