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Baltic Travel Blog

Grand Tour of Southern Greenland, Dainas Journey

Posted on August 25th, 2016.

My journey to the world’s biggest island – Greenland starts from Copenhagen with a 5 hour flight to Narsarsuaq. The first view of Greenland is as expected,  completely white, and slight panic sets in as I mentally rampage through my suitcase wondering how many layers did I pack. As we travel more inland the scenery changes and the snow slowly disappears revealing mountains, valleys, glaciers with green glacial lakes.

1 - Narsarsuaq Landing

Landing is spectacular and not a cloud in sight, blue sky, icebergs floating by and it’s hot in Greenland!

2 - Narsarsuaq Airport

Thanks to the time difference we land just about an hour after departure and still have half a day to explore this faraway land. Luggage stays at the airport as we’ll be catching a helicopter to Qaqortoq later in the afternoon and we walk down to the Blue Ice café which functions also as a Tourist Information Centre. Local guide recommends a little hike up the hill by the airport to get a view of the inland ice cap. We set off with a scourge of mosquitoes following us – fresh meat! The hike takes us about an hour and the view is worth it, we get a peek of the glacier, runway below us and scenery of Narsarsuaq which used to be US airbase during the WW II and the largest community in Greenland with up to 3,500 people.

3 - Narsarsuaq Inland Ice Cap

Currently there are only 160 people living in Narsarsuaq which translates from Greenlandic as “the large plain”. During the Korean War, Narsarsuaq airbase Blue West 1 gained renewed importance and the local hospital was expanded to 1,000 beds. The rumor has it that seriously wounded soldiers from Korea were treated here, far away from public eye, to avoid weakening public support for the war in the US.

4 - Narsarsuaq

In the afternoon we head back to the airport for 25 minutes helicopter ride to Qaqortoq, the part I’ve been really looking forward to. As we take off, view is spectacular and it definitely feels that pilots have the best jobs in Greenland! There are 9 seats onboard and sitting on a side gives a wonderful view of the icebergs floating in the fjord, mountains and colourful houses as we approach our destination.

5 - Narsarsuaq Departure

Qaqortoq is a postcard pretty village! So colourful and our guide tells us that it is allowed to paint your house in any colour found in nature and locals definitely done that.

6 - Qaqortoq

After hearty, meaty musk ox dinner at the Hotel Qaqortoq we are introduced to Greenlandic coffee. The “coffee” contains:
– whisky (as it was Greenland’s national day, 21st June, Irish whisky was replaced by a Greenlandic one)
– Kahlua (coffee-flavored liqueur made in Mexico)
– Grand Marnier (orange peel flavored brandy-based French liqueur)
– for the space that’s left in a cup, add a bit of coffee
– top it with whipped cream to represent iceberg… and enjoy!

7 - Greenlandic Coffee

It’s difficult to sit inside when outside is so beautiful! It’s late but light and time for an evening stroll around the town. There are about 20 hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset and children are still playing in the streets (not much traffic there!), couples having a stroll, locals sitting on the terraces and watching icebergs and life passing by.

8 - Qaqortoq

Qaqortoq is the largest city in Southern Greenland with a population of 3,229 and the only city in Greenland with a fountain in the center square. Strange fact but kids seemed to enjoy the fountain. This is also where is also FIFA has decided to sponsor the only grass covered football field in Greenland.

Qaqortoq is an educational city with a high school and therefore the town is full of life for most of the year. It must look spectacular in winter with white snow backdrop for the colourful houses.

9 - Qaqortoq

10 - Qaqortoq

11 - Qaqortoq

After a good night sleep in Room 0 at the Hotel Qaqortoq we head to our boat for a full day journey back to Narsarsuaq with stops along the way, first being the Hvalsey Church Ruins, the best preserved from the Norse period. A wedding in the church in 1408 is the last written evidence that there is from the Norse settlement in Greenland.

12 - Hvalsey Church Ruins

As we get on a boat and continue to our next stop Narsaq, spectacular icebergs appear. Our guide says that they are not big but for us who never seen an iceberg, they are spectacular. As we continue, our captain alerts us to a whale in front it flips its tale and dives deep. We hover around for a while to see if there are more but no and we continue our journey among the icebergs.

13 - Iceberg

14 - Iceberg from boat

Narsaq is the youngest town in Greenland, founded in 1959 and has a population of 1,598 inhabitants. It is a typical Greenlandic town with small wooden houses painted in bright colours on the shores of Narsaq Sound.

15 - Narsaq

We are met by the owner of the Narsaq Hotel, Fridrik Magnusson an Icelander who used to work in London and relocated with his family to Greenland. They bought a hotel in 2014, took over and reopened local brewery last year and are opening a café by the fjord in a renovated warehouse this year. Spectacular location, with so many icebergs in the fjord and terrace planned, it will be a place to relax and reflect. Walking into an empty hall makes you aware how remote Greenland is, how carefully you have to plan what you need to get delivered. There is no Ikea or a convenience store where to pop in and get something you forgot.

On our city walk we visit local fish market and fish is as fresh as it gets, the morning catch. Meat and fish form a large part of Greenlandic diet and by looking around you can understand why, there is very little farmland.

Narsaq has an interesting historical area around the old harbour where the little museum is also found. Fridrik directs us to a small workshop near the hotel where souvenirs are made and sold. It’s very interesting to see the bone and stone carving process done by locals.

16 - Narsaq - view from the hotel

As we leave Narsaq behind we continue through the Eric´s fjord to Qooroq ice fjord. Qooroq Glacier discharges up to 200,000 tons of ice into the fjord each day. We cruise between the icebergs and get as close as possible to the calving glacier. Engine is turned off and we can enjoy the majestic view and listen out creaking ice. About 7ths of an iceberg is below the water line.  In places we spot a blue ice – smaller icebergs in bright blue colour floating along the white ones.

17 - Qooroq ice fjord

Our next stop is Qassiarsuk, a sheep breeding settlement, situated on the very spot where Erik the Red settled in 985 AD and named his farm “Brattahlið”. We visit the ruins of Erik’s farm and Thorhildur’s church, the first Christian church on the American continent. A very small one, especially assuming that as a Viking, Erik the Red was quite a big man.

18 - Qassiarsuk

19 - Qassiarsuk

20 - Qassiarsuk - Thorhildur church

Long day comes to an end with arrival back in Narsarsuaq. Buffet dinner is served at the Hotel Narsarsuaq with wide selection of local seafood and it is delicious, especially, the snow crab.

On our last day we still have time before the flight back to Copenhagen and we join a short hike to the ridge. Icelanders have a joke “if you get lost in an Icelandic forest, stand up”. The same applies to Greenland, the tallest trees in Greenland are by the Hotel Narsarsuaq and they are not tall at all. After an hour and half, we reach the top from where there is an amazing view over the Flower Valley, the river, the fjord and the Narsarsuaq Glacier. Slightly covered in clouds today but perfect weather for a hike.

21 - Narsarsuaq Hike

It was a trip of discovery, adventure and unforgettable sights. Nature is the biggest attraction and in Greenland there is plenty. It is slowly being discovered by tourists and adventurers and, as with most places, now it’s the time to visit before it all changes.

 

Text and images by Daina Kontrima. All rights reserved. Copyright by Daina Kontrima.

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