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East Greenland Arctic Safari


Greenland nature tour mapDay 1: Keflavik, Iceland / Reykjavik
You are met on arrival at Keflavik International Airport, then transferred to our hotel in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, about a 45- to 60-minute drive. If you arrive very early, you may store your bags at our conveniently located hotel while you enjoy exploring this compact city on your own. This evening, learn about all that lies ahead in Greenland during a welcome presentation and dinner with our Expedition Leader.

Day 2: Reykjavik / Kulusuk, Greenland / Tasiilaq
We drive a short distance to Iceland's domestic airport where we board our flight to Kulusuk, Greenland. From Kulusuk, make a scenic transfer by helicopter to Ammassalik Island, landing in Tasiilaq, the small administrative center of East Greenland. Though it's just a 10-minute flight, it offers a preview of the magnificent scenery to come, with icebergs drifting below and perhaps even a chance to spot a whale from the air. Tasiilaq's charming collection of wooden houses painted in bright primary colors surveys King Oscar’s Bay, surrounded by pointed peaks iced with glaciers. The town of 2,000 is a hub for outdoor adventure, from hiking and kayaking in summer to dog sledding and glacier skiing in winter. Most of East Greenland is uninhabited, however, except for a handful of small subsistence hunting communities. Greenland's east coast is often called "the back side" by those on the west, where most of the population, its capital and institutions are located. East Greenland's people had no contact with the outside world till the turn of the 20th century, and that isolation has fostered a distinct and resilient culture.

Our introduction to Greenland begins here where Arctic wilderness and traditional lifestyles meet. We convene at our hotel for lunch and a short briefing on what to expect during our adventures ahead, surveying the 180-degree view of the town below and mountains beyond. Then set out with our Expedition Leader to explore the area around Tasiilaq on foot, hiking into the Valley of Flowers above the scenic bay that fronts the town. Bring your camera: the ice-clad gneiss and granite peaks provide a striking backdrop for waterfalls and small lakes fringed by northern wildflowers in season.

Day 3: Tasiilaq—Iceberg Cruise & Hiking
Though interior Greenland is covered by a massive ice cap, a few habitable areas exist around the bays and coastal islands, and the region we visit enjoys a surprisingly mild and dry summer climate. Our exploration starts with a half-day excursion by enclosed private motorboat in the open waters of the Greenland Sea, providing our first close-up views of icebergs. In addition to large chunks of ice calved from glaciers that feed the region's fjords, we also see tabular icebergs—ocean-going slabs of ice, some of which have been drifting for months or even years, driven down the coast by the strong East Greenland Current. Glaciologists believe that some even travel from northern Canada, hundreds of miles away. Once they reach the outer edge of Greenland's fjords, they collide with ice that has broken off the Greenland ice sheet to form gigantic composites, sometimes mingling with brash ice to create frozen mosaics. Whales are also found seasonally in these waters, when ice conditions permit, and we'll look for fin, minke and humpback whales, as well as seals. Back on shore, we explore the coastline on a scenic walk and visit Tasiilaq's small history museum to learn about the culture and traditions of the Inuit, at home in this region for centuries. This afternoon, we'll also hear firsthand experiences from a local resident, sharing personal perspectives on daily life and year-round subsistence in this remote Arctic wonderland.

Day 4: Tasiilaq / Base Camp Greenland
Depart via boat or helicopter (depending on ice conditions) for our exclusive wilderness Base Camp, located on the east side of Sermilik Fjord. Our destination is near the tiny hamlet of Tinit, which we'll visit during our stay. The village is one of the most picturesque outposts in East Greenland, surveying a panorama of Sermilik Fjord littered with huge icebergs, with the ice sheet in view beyond. Behind the town, glacier-clad peaks rise over a mile high, jutting up like sharp black teeth through the ice. Tinit is home to fewer than a hundred hardy people who life a subsistence lifestyle, fishing and hunting amid constantly shifting ice. 

Keep an eye out for whales as we travel, as they are frequently seen in these waters when ice conditions permit. The area is filled with evidence of ancient habitation, including graves and ruins of old Inuit sod house foundations, and it is an evocative place to learn more about Inuit history and lore. Reaching Base Camp Greenland, we find ourselves in one the most remote places on Earth. After settling in to our private tent cabins, sit down for coffee, tea and lunch in the dining room. We’ll convene for an orientation to our environs, followed by a gear fitting to prepare for our Arctic explorations ahead. An afternoon exploration is likely to include a paddle among the small bergs and calm waters of our protected bay if weather permits, then we'll gather for dinner and a lecture to acquaint us with the region's remarkable natural history. Through presentations and personal visits during our stay, we also learn about Greenland’s cultural heritage and aspects of modern life. Traditional Inuit identity remains dominant in East Greenland, and during our time at camp, we share an authentic encounter with this enduring culture that still exists in close harmony with nature.

Days 5–7: Base Camp Greenland—Exploring Sermilik Fjord
The landscape along Greenland’s isolated and rarely visited east coast is dramatic. Great fjords indent the coastline, penetrating far into sheer-sided mountains capped by the world’s second-largest ice sheet—and Sermilik Fjord is the mightiest of them all. Our base camp provides a safe and comfortable outpost from which to explore this vast expanse of wild terrain just below the Arctic Circle. Though we are profoundly secluded, the wider region is dotted with a few isolated villages where Greenlandic Inuit people have thrived for centuries in this uncompromising Arctic environment. In varied encounters, we learn about their culture and how they are retaining their traditions while adapting to contemporary life in the 21st century.

On Zodiac excursions, we navigate among a flotilla of icebergs in an array of wild shapes, some as big as buildings, as we look for seals and whales. Guided sea kayaking is also an option for an eye-level view on the frigid waters around us. We spend plenty of time ashore, too, with hikes for varying ability levels. Traverse the mountainsides and wander near glaciers that wind down from the Greenland ice sheet. This huge ice mass—second in size only to Antarctica—stretches more than 1,500 miles from north to south, is nearly 2 miles deep at its thickest point and covers 80 percent of the island. We learn about the crucial role the ice sheet plays in regulating Earth’s climate and see with our own eyes how rapidly it is being affected by climate change. Amid fields of Arctic cotton grass, look for Arctic fox and birdlife, including eiders, loons and possibly peregrine falcons.

Long hours of summer daylight allow for extensive exploration. Each evening, we retreat to Base Camp for creative meals prepared by our accomplished chef. After dinner, gather for interpretive presentations by our naturalist Expedition Leaders, who share their extensive knowledge of Greenland's geology, glaciology and human history. And, though the sun gleams late into the evening just below the Arctic Circle, a good night's sleep is in order to refuel for the next day's adventures. Wrapped in profound silence in our isolated cabins, we're sure to get it. On our late-season departures, we may even have a chance to glimpse the northern lights, if the aurora is active in the darkening night sky. 

Day 8: Base Camp Greenland / Kulusuk
Today we make our way back to Kulusuk. Weather and ice conditions dictate which transportation mode we will take, but both offer spectacular views. By helicopter, survey jagged peaks and huge U-shaped valleys gouged by glaciers. By boat, we navigate the imposing fjord system, keeping an eye out for whales and seals among the ever-shifting tableau of drifting ice. On arrival in Kulusuk, we check in to our hotel that's surrounded by more of East Greenland's imposing mountains—and is a well-known gathering point for adventurers and scientists heading out to the ice sheet. If time permits, we'll make an exploratory walk around Kulusuk before gathering for a private performance of traditional Greenlandic drum and dance. Celebrate an extraordinary adventure of discovery, wild beauty and camaraderie over a farewell dinner on our last night together in Greenland.

Day 9: Kulusuk / Reykjavik / Depart
Though today is devoted to journeying back to the urban world, it is filled with magnificent Arctic scenery on display from the air. We meet our plane for the return flight to Reykjavik's domestic airport, where our adventure together ends. From here, a transfer is included to the group hotels or Keflavik International Airport for homeward flights.

Please Note: This itinerary is meant as a guideline and can change due to weather and ice conditions. On some occasions, adverse conditions may require us to deviate from our intended itinerary, in which case we will provide the best available alternative. And we’ll make a great adventure of it!

Physical Rating: Moderate

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