Do you remember a travel experience so extraordinary that it made you forget about your phone, put it back in your pocket and just stand there in awe because the moment and the location were just too unique to be shared with anyone?
I’ll admit I’m very attached to my phone and often live by the expression “if it wasn’t on social media, it didn’t happen.” But in Greenland some areas are so far into nature and so remote that they are not very well connected. This can be viewed as a problem, or instead it can be viewed as an opportunity to get off the beaten track and offline. I was a sceptic at first, but there is something wonderful about an offline exploration. It is an opportunity to be truly present and to come home with an experience to which social media will simply not do justice.
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This trip is one for the bucket list. I have heard several local Greenlanders from other regions speak of others sailing through East Greenland with great envy. East Greenland is dominated by the ice cap and sky-high mountain ranges. Even by Greenlandic standards, East Greenland has a unique landscape and atmosphere, and because of its isolated location the region has its own dialect and culture. It’s one you will want to explore.
Photo by Per Arnesen – Visit Greenland
In a country like Greenland which often has rough terrain, the best way to get a fresh and broad perspective of the area is sometimes by taking to our main highway: the sea. While you breathe in the fresh ocean air, imagine all of the explorers who have sailed through East Greenland in the past. A region with an atmosphere rooted in myths and legends, you will be sure to feel close to history.
Set sail in Kangertittivaq fjord and sail to Ittoqqortoormiit. If you reach Ittoqqortoormiit, you can already consider yourself a successful adventurer, since this settlement is about as far away from any other Greenlandic destination as possible. The village is so remote that it is known for having polar bears wander through town in the wintertime, but it is also a place known for colourful houses and kind hospitality.
While out on the open water, you will have an unreliable internet connection. But checking in on social media will only ruin the illusion that you, in fact, an intrepid explorer, were one of the first to discover this location. And who really needs to be online with a view like this one?
The approximately 160 km long Arctic Circle trail could be described as the Camino of Greenland. It is the Greenlandic route to reconnecting with nature and with yourself. The trail is located in the Arctic Circle Region in between the towns of Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut. In Kangerlussuaq you will find an international airport and both cities offer a vast variety of adventure experiences, good food and a comfortable rest. Therefore, you should consider getting your phone fix by starting out in one of these locations with a stable connection, and then venturing into the Arctic backcountry offline. While out on the trail, you will struggle to find a single bar of signal, but hiking food is not that aesthetically pleasing on your Instagram account anyway. Instead, you can revel in the fact that you are standing in the middle of the Greenlandic wildlife mecca, and focus your attention on spotting an Arctic hare or the footprint of a musk ox.
Along the trail you can choose to sleep underneath the stars (metaphorically, perhaps, as this area is sun-soaked all day and most of the night in the summertime), or instead choose to vacay in one of the huts along the route. Many of the huts have incredibly scenic views and they all have a basic but cozy interior. Now imagine boiling water for a steaming hot cup of tea, cuddling up in a sleeping bag and telling ghost stories in the Arctic night with your travel companions. I believe there’s nothing quite like it, and you know what they say – bunk beds and bonding go hand in hand.
Disko Island, located in North Greenland, is (with an area of 8,578 km²) the largest island in Greenland (besides the mainland) and one of the 100 largest islands in the world. The island is home to the byen Qeqertarsuaq where you will find everything you need for a comfortable stay. The settlement offers a variety of experiences you could very well add to your itinerary: dog sledding, whale watching, a museum and the popular sight, the Lyngmark glacier.
However, what truly makes Disko Island the perfect offline location is its extraordinary natural surroundings. It is a paradise for the true nature-lover. The island is extremely fertile because of its volcanic earth, and this paints a colourful palette bursting with angelica and many other diverse species in the summertime. This is one of the reasons many artists have been inspired by the area. It is the perfect location to sketch out the landscape or study the flora. If you’re not a genius with pen and paper yourself, consider bringing a good camera and going on a botanical field trip.
The images might create beautiful decorations or become a starting point for an interest in botany when you’ve returned home. If your interests are more along culinary lines, another experience not to be missed is gathering angelica leaves in the area and making an aromatic cup of tea with the sparkling clean water from the actual waterfall just outside of town.
Who else would love to dive into a hot spring right now? Hot springs are a natural phenomenon and can be found in several locations around Greenland. One of the best locations is on an island in between Alluitsup Paa and Nanortalik. The deep layers in the earth’s crust create pools with water warmer than the air and our Greenlandic hot springs have natural surroundings with a view that will give any day spa a run for its money. If you are picturing these hot springs located in a snow-covered area and getting goosebumps at the mere thought, think again.
South Greenland generally has warmer weather than other regions of Greenland and temperatures can rise to more than 20°C (68° F) in the summer months.
Pack your swimwear and travel to Nanortalik, a city so beautiful that its Google Street View looks like a photograph from a tourism ad. The city sits in the mouth of the vertical walls and shining waters of Tasermiut fjord which is an exciting base for exploring. Leave your phone in your home away from home and sail out with a bag of towels and cold drinks. You wouldn’t want to drop your phone into the water anyway. The water around here is said to have cosmetic benefits and even if this is just a local myth, soaking yourself in the warm water will be sure to bring you back to earth, and you are sure to return home with a different face either way – one without any worries.
I know, this one is hard to resist. From Nuuk Fjord to Ilulissat to Tasermiut fjord, these enormous mammals play all around our Arctic waters. Greenland is home to 14 species of whales – including the beluga whale, bowhead whale, humpback whale and narwhal (which all inhabit different regions – narwhals for example are mostly found in North and Northeast Greenland). Seeing one, even just the tip of a tail in a split second, is so extraordinary that it is hard not to jump for your phone to share the moment with your friends back home. But for a moment, resist the urge. Whales are sometimes easy for the trained eye to spot in summer. However, they can also hide out of plain sight. The odds are that if you find one, it won’t be there for long, and you wouldn’t want to miss this unique moment because you’re fumbling for your camera. It is also likely that a video recording from a distance won’t come out perfect. Try instead to keep your focus on the open water and to be on the lookout for steam shooting into the air from a blow hole.
When you are lucky enough to spot one or maybe even several whales, let the moment sink in. You’re so close to these giant ancient animals, which are simply swimming calmly around their natural habitat, enjoying the wild. It will be a travel memory for the ages. Even if you, understandably, come home with one or two photos, the moment can never quite be relived in the same way, or transmitted through documentation.