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I’m desperate to get my first glimpse of icebergs from our tiny 20-seater plane, but the ice crusting on the panes makes it impossible. The whirling clack of the engines is not the peaceful start to our trip I’d been hoping for either. Instead I dig my nails into the soft leather of my seat as we dip and lurch our way down to the runway in west Greenland.
Hours later, when, back home, the sun would be setting, I stand under brilliant sunshine, awed by the light glancing off the icebergs, and I know that every moment of turbulence was worth it. After months of anticipation, I have arrived in Ilulissat, the city of icebergs.
Ilulissat inspires open-mouthed gazing, but it is also a place for adventuring! Here are three awesome experiences not to miss in Ilulissat, Greenland.
1. THE 65KM ICEFJORD
There is one main reason why Ilulissat, which translates as ‘icebergs’ in Greenlandic, is something of an epicentre for the glittering giants – the Unesco-listed icefjord. Every summer, as the weather warms, icebergs from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier travel slowly down the Ilulissat Icefjord, and eventually, when they melt small enough, out to sea. Huge icebergs scatter across the bay, blocking the town’s harbour until they are caught by the current and carried further north.
There are three official hiking routes in the Unesco site along the icefjord where you can see the bergs all squashed up like jagged teeth, grinding against each other over the bobbing water and, if you’re lucky, spot seals playing. I took the longest route – 7km – and it’s a good decision as few people choose it and that means I had the incredible far-reaching views mostly to myself. The trek is straightforward, a little bit of scrambling is needed as is tails back round to the city, but it’s easy to spot the blue trail markers, and I stopped so many times to admire the view that I didn’t really get tired.
2. KAYAKING UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN
To truly discover Ilulissat it is important to get on the water. I joined PGI Greenland for an evening kayak trip under the midnight sun. As the sun began to set, nature offered one of its finest spectacles; the fierce white glare of the bergs turned into a shimmering gold, and light rippled across their groves and splinters until they looked like they were breathing. Then, the sun threw pinks and purples, yellows and oranges across the sky, creating an orchestra of colours.
The feeling of bobbing away to the sound of icebergs popping and fizzing as they melted and merged with the seawater was beaten only by the far-off sighting of two humpback whales floating in the same stretch of water. Then our guides Pil and Hilde scooped out centuries-old ice straight from the sea and poured cream liquor over them; and we sat there, under a vivid sky, soaking in the moment and sipping a drink made even more special by ice only recently freed from the thousand-year old glacier.
3. GETTING PERSONAL WITH HUMPBACK WHALES
Between June and September, Ilulissat is home to pods of humpback whales and a trip on a somewhat larger boat with World of Greenland brought me mere metres away from the gentle giants. In Ilulissat, where tourism is a small affair, there were no other boats competing for the view and, with engines off, we silently drifted alongside them for our 2-hour trip as they slept, dived and played. There is very little that beats the sight of a humpback whale breaching the water, with a glittering iceberg behind, and utter silence all around.
Have you been to Greenland? Please Share your experience in the comments below! Read Next > Iceland: A 3 Day Itinerary In The Land Of Fire And Ice
By We Are Travel Girls Contributor Nadia Stone
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