Ever since a long weekend trip to Iceland back in 2003, I became curious about its gigantic neighbor to the west, Greenland. With an area three times the size of Texas, Greenland is the largest island in the world. 80% of it is covered by an ice cap as much as 2 miles deep. As we flew over the ice cap during our return flight from Iceland, I wondered who the people are who live in a place as inhospitable as Greenland appears from the air.
I began researching Greenland online and reading the trip reports of those who had been there. I found out that although Greenland is the largest island in the world, there are only about 57,000 people that live there. Because the interior is covered by ice, the people live in towns and settlements along the coasts. Only scientists live on the ice cap occasionally. There are no roads or trains that connect the towns; therefore, people must use expensive options such as planes, helicopters, and ferries when they wish to travel outside of their city limits. Dog sleds and snowmobiles are popular modes of transportation in some parts of Greenland in winter.
More than once when reading about Greenland, I saw recommendations for a book called, An African In Greenland. I bought a used copy from Amazon.com and found I could not put the book down. It was about a West African named Tété-Michel Kpomassie who wished to meet and hunt with the Greenland Eskimos (called Inuit today) he happened to read about in his home village while recovering from a snake bite. Tété-Michel spent eight years earning enough money to get to Greenland from Togo, West Africa. He eventually lived in the various Inuit towns of Greenland and recorded his fascinating experiences. After reading An African In Greenland, there was no doubt I wanted to see this place with my own eyes one day.
I never thought I’d actually go to Greenland because it has traditionally been a difficult place for American tourists to get to despite its close proximity. There are no direct flights between the U.S. and Greenland. For example, getting to western and northern Greenland normally requires a transatlantic flight to Denmark before flying halfway back the way you came to Kangerlussuaq, the only airport runway in Greenland large enough to accommodate large international flights.
However, during a phone conversation in 2007 with my mother, she mentioned that she saw on the local news that Air Greenland announced its first direct route from the U.S.. The 4-hour flight between Baltimore, MD and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland would occur twice weekly during the summer. I thought to myself, "Finally, an easy way to get to Greenland."
I somehow managed to convince Traci to postpone the Caribbean cruise we were considering in favor of a trip to the arctic. I went online and researched several travel agencies that sell Greenland packages. I chose Borton Overseas based on positive comments I saw from other clients and the amount of times I saw them mentioned on the web.
In February 2008, I made reservations for the 8-day Ilulissat/Kangerlussuaq, Greenland vacation package. However, by March 2008, Air Greenland announced they were canceling their U.S. route mainly due to a projected profit loss and rising fuel costs. In April, just as I was about to request the return of my deposit, I got a message from our travel agent indicating that Air Greenland and IcelandAir had worked out new arrangements for those who had signed up for the trip. Instead of flying Air Greenland from Baltimore, IcelandAir would fly us from one of their North American hubs to Keflavik, Iceland. From there, IcelandAir would fly us to Nuuk, Greenland where Air Greenland would fly us to Ilulissat to begin the Ilulissat/Kangerlussuaq package. I was pleased when I found out about this new plan because there was no extra charge; yet, two days were added and we were given overnights in two additional towns – Nuuk, Greenland and Keflavik, Iceland. We decided to leave from New York JFK International Airport since it is the closest IcelandAir hub to Philadelphia. Our itinerary was as follows…
Greenland Vacation 2008 itinerary. Click map for larger view.
The whole trip went smoothly. We did some great tours and met some friendly people. Continue...