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Alternate Routes · Europe · denmark · Greenland · Lato Lapsa

World' s Largest Island

Author: Lato Lapsa1 COMMENT

Greenland belongs among the destinations that successfully combine wildlife completely untouched by civilisation with man's desire to admire and immortalise it. It is the world's largest island with the population of only slightly over fifty and a half thousand people, fascinating with its typically arctic defiance of day-night alteration, with the huge glaciers that cover most of this „green land" and a knack for keeping with the times, offering even four-star accommodation in the spots most deluged by tourists.
Getting to the Danish-governed island can be either expensive or extremely expensive. The road to this Nordic paradise starts from Copenhagen or Reykjavik and is provided, respectively, by Air Greenland and Air Iceland. Due to the island's geographic and geological characteristics, the huge Airbuses can land only in two of Greenland's cities, Kangerlussuaq and Narsarsuaq, neither of which is the capital. Tickets to this overseas island are available online; however, the companies' concept of e-tickets is slightly peculiar: you can book your tickets and pay for them online and yet you will get on board of the airplane (or at least in the case of Air Greenland) only by producing a paper ticket (you will be handed one at the airline's office at the Copenhagen Airport).
In case you have decided not to stay too long in said airport cities (and, indeed, there is precious little to see or do), you would do wise to book your tickets for internal flights well in advance. Air Greenland enjoys the rights of a full-fledged monopolist in this land of glaciers, and it may well turn out (especially in summer) that there are no vacant seats in the air carrier. As an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland can be visited without a visa by travellers who don't need one going to Denmark.
Situated within a longish arm's length of the North Pole, Greenland is well aware of its own worth, and guests of the island should expect to pay for their hotel rooms up to three times the average European price. If your personal budget can take it, in the largest cities you will find a few „starred" hotels that offer a room for approximately DKK 800 (LVL 80-90) - in the best case; the more expensive rooms will cost you about twice as much. Don't expect a so-called „seamen's home" (sømandshjem) do much for you in that respect, either - as far as Greenlanders are concerned, seafarers are all well-off people. When visiting the capital or places less touched by civilisation, travellers of a more frugal sort favour dorms-style accommodation in hostels (there are some in the cities most visited by tourists, like Ilulissat), renting a room at a family home or staying in auxiliary rooms - gyms, for instance - specially allocated to guests of the island. An en-suite lavatory and bathroom are rare in such places; as likely as not you will be offered only breakfast and will have to do your best to communicate in Danish instead of English. On the other hand, your expenses will be up to three times gentler to your personal budget than the costs of staying at some of the less expensive hotels. Quite often the number of visitors is so high that without advance booking no hotel rooms are available. If you find yourself in a situation like that, the best thing to do is to find the nearest information centre or town council and ask for help there.
Worries about diversity of your diet (or lack thereof) are groundless: while the indigenous inhabitants of the island haven't given up hunting of seals and whales (the latter is often not quite legal), in city restaurants and other establishments you can relieve your hunger with a traditional European meal - albeit mostly prepared from frozen ingredients. In all the largest cities there are substantial supermarkets, in towns and villages - smaller shops that will still provide all the essential products.

Foto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest Island

You can safely leave your driver's licence at home when going to Greenland - there are not an awful lot of roads your vehicle would be capable of negotiating in the snowy land of innuits. (The largest cities, however, are enveloped by small networks of roads, and, generally speaking, there is no lack of cars in Greenland.) You will have the opportunity to enjoy fabulous landscapes from bird's eye-view if you choose travelling by air instead, availing yourself of intercity airplanes and helicopters, although even a half-hour flight will set you back for the equivalent of no less than LVL 100.
In the harbours which are ice-free even during the coldest months of the year, owners of small vessels offer their all-year-round services. OK, so maybe „offer" is a bit too strong a word: most people are more than happy to let things take their own course here. Anyway, the boats run on a schedule and keep to a set route. Visitors are also free to charter a boat individually; however, do keep in mind that the actual costs will make the price higher in autumn and winter when the tourist numbers drop significantly; besides there is no cruise schedule and the whole business is pretty slow. Even in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, you may have to haunt the premises of travel companies for days, whining and begging for a whale-watching trip and get told the same thing over and over again: either pay for the whole vessel (and we are speaking of the equivalent of hundreds of lats here), or else wait for at least five other whale enthusiasts to show up.
Regardless of the fact that even Greenland offers a nightlife of some description at one of the capital's numerous hotels (quite a feeble one) or nightclubs (not that different from the sort we can enjoy in this country), the land of glaciers will seem much more attractive to wildlife enthusiasts and those who love challanging their own mental and physical stamina. Practically every little town offers an opportunity to admire the most beautiful corners of Mother Nature, tempting tourists with two hour flights or dog sledding rides as a way of feasting your eyes on the white glaciers, icebergs, rocks and get acquainted with the scanty vegetation and animal kingdom of the island. What is more, your mushing adventure will last as little or long as you desire: a ride with 12-15 specially trained dogs may take a couple or hours or a couple of weeks. Don't forget, though - in South Greenland people even grow potatoes in summer. In other words: dog sledding will not be possible anytime and anywhere, you need snow and you need winter for it. Waiting for northern lights (aurora borealis), on the other hand, is a real gamble: it's not every night that the flux of electromagnetically charged particles provided by the Sun is strong enough, and it's not that often that the night turns out to be clear and cloudless.

Foto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest Island

The braver traveller, one who feels physically and emotionally prepared for such a feat, takes his or her nordic holidays to the extreme by going on a several days or even weeks long trek across Greenland's glaciers, getting a first-hand experience of snowstorms, sleeping in tents and rock climbing. What you need for an adventure of this kind is not only an offical permit - that has to be obtained in Copenhagen - but also warm and waterproof clothing, a tent suited for some really rough weather, a sleeping-bag, a first aid kit, some rope, a knife, a GPS, a map and a number of other essential objects well known to any experienced trekker. You have to remember on each step that this „green land" is not a resort, it's a place where a call from your mobile phone may not necesserily save you in case of getting lost or an emergency due to a possible lack of coverage.
It's advisable to buy all the necessary things back home: it will be much cheaper, besides the choice in Greenland with its tiny population is not that big.
If visiting the northernmost regions of the island is also on your itinenary, you would be wise to go in early summer since flights to the northern municipality of Qaanaaq (formerly known as Thule, the same legendary town that was moved on the „kind" request by the American militaries) are scheduled twice a week during the warm season and only once every seven days in winter. Unless you are particularly tough, a down snow jacket and thermals are a must to embark on a tour to the permafrost region where temperature can drop to - 30˚ C, while in the southern part of the island a short-sleeved T-shirt may come in handy in July. On this funny island you will find even real deserts where during the polar summer the temperature may rise to over + 30˚ C.
You can't take home a handful of snow as a souvenir from Greenland but do look for objects, including adornments, made of stone, bone and reindeer antlers in small shops, tourist centres and hotels instead. Locals are also allowed to sell seal souvenirs made of seal hide and whale products, including narwhale horn carvings. It is illegal to take these trinkets outside the territory of the island, so you will just have to convince the sellers that you don't have the slightest intention of doing so and likewise are not aware of the fact that customs control is practically non-existent in Greenland.


In Nuuk the finest (and the only centrally-located) hotel is the self-proclaimed „international" four star Hotel Hans Egede with 115 rooms, a restaurant and a skyline bar on top floors of the building. Seamen's Home, on the other hand, is at least half an hour's walk from the city centre. It rates itself as a three-star accomodation and yet does not provide an en-suite bathroom in all the rooms. Be prepared for the contingency of no vacant rooms in either or both places.

Hotel Hans Egede

Foto: World' s Largest Island

Single room from DKK 1.395,-
Double room from DKK 1.695,-

P.O Box 289
DK-3900 Nuuk

Phone:+299 32 42 22
Fax: +299 32 44 87

Nuuk Seamen's Home & Hotel

Foto: World' s Largest Island

Single room from DKK 795,-
Double room from no DKK 1.095,-

Marinevej 3
P.O. Box 1021
3900 Nuuk
Phone: +299 32 10 29
Fax: +299 32 21 04

Ilulissat is a tourist paradise offering not one but two - relatively speaking - luxury class hotels: Hotel Hvide Falk with a mere 46 rooms and Hotel Arctic (complete with a crazy aluminium igloo, sunbed salon and sauna). Hotel Icefiord is not much inferior and seems a particularly good choice for people who consider iceberg-watching through a hotel window an integral part of their Greenland holidays.

Hotel Hvide Falk

Foto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest Island

Single room from DKK 1.015,-
Double room from DKK 1.350,-

P.O. Box 20
3952 Ilulissat
Phone: +299 94 33 43
Fax: +299 94 35 08

Hotel Arctic

Foto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest Island

Single room: DKK 1,100,-
Double room: DKK 1,450,-
Igloo: DKK 150,-

P.O. Box 1501
3952 Ilulissat
Phone: +299 94 41 53

Fax: +299 94 40 49

Hotel Icefiord

Foto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest Island

Low season
Single room: DKK 650,-
Double room: DKK 900,-
High season
Single room: DKK 950,-
Double room: DKK 1.250,-

Jørgen Sverdrupip Aqq. 10
P.O. Box 458
3952 Ilulissat
Phone: +299 94 44 80
Fax: +299 94 40 95

In Sisimiut, a reasonably-sized town, the best choice is yet another Seamen's Home with 30 rooms or the four-star Hotel Sisimiut with a restaurant and a conference hall. Interior-wise, however, the hotel seems to caught in a time warp and left behind in deepest 70s.

Sisimiut Seamen's Home & Hotel

Foto: World' s Largest Island

Single room: from DKK 695,-
Double room: from DKK 920,-

Frederik D IX's Plads 5
P.O. Box 1015
3911 Sisimiut
Phone.: +299 86 41 50
Fax: +299 86 57 91

Hotel Sisimiut

Foto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest Island

Price: approximately DKK 1.350,-

Aqqusinersuaq 86
P.O. Box 70
3911 Sisimiut
Phone: +299 86 48 40
Fax: +299 86 56 15

In the tiny fishing town of Aasiaat the best choice is Seamen's Home with a mere 28 rooms. The hotel is located next to the harbour, and you can also reach it by taking a shortcut from the centre, finding your way among shored boats and engine parts.

Aasiaat Seamen's Home & Hotel

Foto: World' s Largest Island

Single room: from DKK 695,-
Double room: from DKK 920,-

Sammiarneq 9
P.O. Box 216
3950 Aasiaat
Phone: +299 89 27 11
Fax: +299 89 29 10

Narsarsuaq is a tiny settlement - actually more like a transit stop where the choice is limited to a youth hostel and the sad-looking Hotel Narsarsuaq; no en-suite bathrooms there.

Narsarsuaq Youth Hostel

Foto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest Island

Adults: DKK 225,-
Children (2-11 years): DKK 115,-
Single tent: DKK 115,-
Sleeping-bag rent per night: DKK 50,-

P.O. Box 58
3923 Narsarsuaq
Phone: + 299 66 52 21
Mobile: +299 49 73 71
Fax: +299 66 54 22

Hotel Narsarsuaq

Foto: World' s Largest Island

Single room without en-suite bath room: from DKK 695,-
Double room without en-suite bath room: from DKK 880,-

P.O. Box 504
3923 Narsarsuaq
Phone: +299 66 52 53
Fax: +299 66 53 70

In Qaanaaq Hotel Qaanaaq is the only possible choice. Don't come unless you feel capable of sharing a bathroom with another visitor to Thule.

Hotel Qaanaaq

Foto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest IslandFoto: World' s Largest Island

P.O. Box 88
3971 Qaanaaq
Phone: +299 97 12 34
Fax: +299 97 10 64

In Kangerlussuaq the best thing is to stay at the hotel which is part of the tiny airport building; at least all the available means of transport, food, a tourist centre and, most importantly, the office of Air Greenland, is at hand there.

Hotel Kangerlussuaq & Conference Center

Foto: World' s Largest Island

Single room with en-suite bathroom: DKK 1,095.-
Double room with en-suite bathroom: DKK 1,295.-

P.O. Box 1006
3910 Kangerlussuaq
Phone: +299 84 11 80
Fax: +299 84 12 84

Posted in 2008.

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