Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by Greenland—its icy landscapes, iceberg-dotted waters, and majestic snow-capped mountains. Though I wasn’t certain it would happen, I quietly held onto the dream of visiting one day.
Last year, that dream became a reality when I set out on a 10-day adventure to East Greenland—from the exciting flight from Iceland to the rustic accommodations in the villages I stayed in. Each moment highlighted the beauty and resilience of this incredible place. Join me as I recount my journey through Tasiilaq, Tiniteqilaaq, Kuummiit, and Kulusuk villages.
I spent a few days exploring Reykjavik before my East Greenland adventure started. On the day of departure, I took a brief 10-minute cab ride from my downtown hotel to Reykjavik Airport, where I boarded a plane for a roughly 2-hour flight to Kulusuk Airport. Since the plane was not full, I asked the flight attendant if I could switch seats to get a window view as we approached the airport. I moved to an empty row on the plane’s left side, ready to take my first view of Greenland!
As I stepped off the plane, I received a warm and welcoming smile from Marco, who hailed from Argentina and would be our guide for the next ten days. While searching for travel options to Greenland, I discovered Arctic Hiking and Expeditions, the company he represented.
Marco gathered the rest of the group (13 of us, including himself), and then we introduced ourselves. It was a mix of adventurers from various corners of the world – Canada, Norway, France, Germany, and me, representing the United States.
The baggage claim process was a bit different here. Rather than go inside the small terminal to find the baggage claim, we were told to wait outside for our bags. And sure enough, after about 15 to 20 minutes, a large tractor approached—it was pulling a large cart piled high with the luggage from the plane. It was quite a sight!
As the bags were unloaded, I realized mine had ended up at the bottom of the pile. So, I patiently waited as other passengers found and retrieved their bags one by one.
After collecting our luggage, we took a 10-minute walk to a nearby dock. We waited on the dock for almost 40 minutes (waiting was something we had to get used to) for two prearranged motorboats– one for our luggage and the other for us. Our adventure would take us to four villages along Greenland’s east coast: Tasiilaq, Tiniteqilaaq, Kuummiit, and Kulusuk.
Once the boat arrived, we headed to Tasiilaq, the largest settlement along the eastern coast of Greenland—home to about 2,000 residents. To reach Tasiilaq from Kulusuk, we had two options: either by helicopter or by motorboat, with the latter being our chosen mode of transportation. Since no roads connect these settlements, the sea is the natural passage that connects them.
Our group boarded the motorboats and then off we went —along the stunning coastline— its rugged and snow-covered cliffs and rocky shores, all blending beautifully with the clear blue sea. We passed by some of the most exquisite icebergs, each one a masterpiece.
(An iceberg is a piece of ice that breaks away from a glacier or ice shelf and drifts into the open sea. That said, not everything I saw floating in the water was considered an iceberg. To qualify as an iceberg, specific criteria must be met—it must be at least 16 feet tall above the water’s surface, have a thickness ranging from 98 to 164 feet, and cover an area of at least 5,382 square feet. If it falls short of these dimensions, then it would be a “growler” or a “bergy bit” —depending on its size).
The resounding boom of icebergs collapsing into the water (known as calving) was a reminder of the Arctic’s ever-changing nature. The echoes of these moments filled the air, making the journey even more surreal.
At one point, the captain had to change course because ice blocked the way, adding an unexpected adventure to our expedition.
After about an hour’s ride, we reached Tasiilaq. The view of its little colorful houses spread across the landscape was truly charming. It felt like I was stepping into a postcard.
We pulled up to the dock, deboarded the boat, and made our way up the ramp while we waited for our bags to be brought up.
Once everything was safely off the boats, we followed Marco as he led us to one of the local houses where we’d stay for the next few days. It was a modest and clean place with a table large enough for us all to sit around.
There were only roads within Tasiilaq’s town limits, so you had to use a boat or helicopter (or dogsled in winter) to go anywhere outside.
There are two supermarkets in Tasiilaq – Pilerquisoq, a large modern one (Walmart-like) selling everything from rifles to carrots, and a much smaller one located near the harbor. Everything in Greenland is imported, so things are more expensive. The fruit and vegetable varieties are limited, primarily apples, occasionally grapes, onions, potatoes, and carrots. But they did sell wine, which we always ensured we had plenty of.
On our first full day in Tasiilaq, we headed out to hike Sailor’s Mountain, which began right behind the village. The hike was a steep, steady climb along the ridge, leading us first to a lower summit and then continuing to a higher summit, which was nothing short of breathtaking.
The lakes were just incredible—with these intensely vivid shades of blue (apparently, the color of lakes in Greenland can vary depending on several factors, including their size, depth, location, and the presence of certain minerals and sediments).
After enjoying lunch and soaking in the beauty, we went down the mountain’s north side to a beautiful flower valley. The vibrant purple blooms added a splash of color to the already magnificent landscape. There was also a cemetery in the valley with what looked to be hundreds of crosses.
It took us about 4 hours to complete the hike, but every minute was worth it!
It might be worth mentioning that Marco always carried a shotgun in a case strapped on his back during our hikes. While polar bear encounters in East Greenland are uncommon, there have been a few rare instances, hence the precautionary measure with the gun. A reminder that we were exploring an untamed wilderness, adding excitement to the adventures.
Evenings after dinner, I’d often walk around the village either by myself or with Alex (a girl from Canada). One evening, we walked up to a hill in the village and joined an Inuit man sitting on a bench, the three of us sitting there watching the sunset. It was stunning.
On our third morning, we said goodbye to Tasiilaq and traced the coastline out of the village, setting off on a 14-mile hike across Ammassalik Island. Since we weren’t circling back to Tasiilaq, our bags were set to make a boat trip to our next stop, Tinitequlaaq.
The hike itself was no joke – it took most of the day. But, oh, was it gorgeous—the snow-capped mountains, six lakes brimming with glacier waters with the most beautiful shades of aqua imaginable, rocky terrain, and scattered patches of wildflowers.
We began our trek at 8:30 in the morning and finished around 5:30 in the evening—making for a long (but beautiful) day.
Next, we entered the waiting game, patiently anticipating the arrival of a boat for a solid 2 ½ hours. The boat would take us to our next destination—Tiniteqilaaq. It was chilly and windy while waiting. Luckily, there was a little fishing cabin nearby with an enclosed porch. Thankfully, the door was unlocked, so I stood there briefly to warm up. We were reminded, once again, that in Greenland, time operates on its terms, and we had no choice but to embrace the laid-back attitude; after all, it was a small price to pay for being surrounded by the unspoiled beauty of this untamed wilderness.
Finally, the boat arrived, and our long wait was just a memory. And, once again, the boat ride was amazing — passing iceberg after iceberg. I would never tire of this. It was like a ride through a museum of modern art.
Tiniteqilaaq is a tiny (and I mean tiny—home to only about 100 people) village primarily inhabited by hunters and fishermen. This place was stunning, and its coastline provided the most breathtaking views of the Sermick Icefjord—like unbelievable!
Upon arrival, we followed Marco to the next night’s lodging. It was a small, very modest house. Upstairs were three bedrooms, each with thin mats laid out on the floor. Our French friends grabbed the room with four mats and the Norwegian sisters the room with two mats. As for the rest of us, we were left with the larger room with six or seven mats.
Alex and I were about to pick out two mats on the floor for ourselves when one of our newfound French friends made a suggestion. He recommended that we use the downstairs wrap-around leather couch instead. So, we headed downstairs to take a look. As our friend had wisely pointed out, it was the perfect spot for a comfortable night’s sleep. Why opt for sleeping on a thin mat on the floor when we could enjoy the luxury and comfort of a couch?
As Alex and I walked around the house, we discovered the bathroom. While there was a sink with cold water, we had a surprise waiting for us. Brace yourselves –the house was not equipped with a shower or flush toilet. There was, however, a portable waterless toilet lined with a large black plastic bag. Yes, you read that right – a bag would catch the waste from thirteen people over the next three days! Alex and I couldn’t believe it; though horrified, we couldn’t help bursting into laughter at the situation’s absurdity.
Who would have thought we’d have this unique bathroom experience with our newfound travel companions? OMG indeed! It got scarier as the days progressed because that bag was filling up fast! After the first time using the toilet, the shock was over. I don’t think the other travelers were initially as freaked out as Alex and I were.
I loved walking past all the colorful homes, often blue, red, green, or yellow. It was as if these joyful bursts of colors mirrored the resilient spirit of the Inuit community. Some of the buildings within the villages adhered to distinct color codes—for example, grocery stores and churches were painted red, medical facilities were yellow, and most fish factories —were blue. Meanwhile, the homes displayed a variety of colors, offering a nice contrast.
A plant known as Scheuchzer’s Cotton grew abundantly here, adding to the picturesqueness of the area. I seriously went crazy taking photos here.
While out walking one morning, I came across an Inuit fisherman. He was rolling out a large fishing net known as “gillnet fishing.” These expansive nets are hung vertically in the water, capturing fish by their gills as they swim through the mesh. Regrettably, I didn’t see this method in action.
On day five, it was time to say goodbye to Tiniteqilaaq and head towards our next destination, the village of Kuummiit.
On arrival in Kuummiit harbor, the captain docked at the bottom of the ramp. After we had all exited the boat, we formed a human chain to pass our luggage and essential supplies for our stay from the boat to the shore. It was called teamwork, and we all did it well!
With our belongings in hand, we made our way to our next lodging—eager to see what awaited us. The accommodations resembled those in the previous villages, emphasizing simplicity. In total, there were thirteen of us, divided into two homes. I was in the larger house, complete with a kitchen. Alex and I shared one bedroom, while the German family occupied the other two. The remainder of our group was in a very tiny place next door.
Upon entering our bedroom, Alex and I were greeted by a cluttered sight, with belongings scattered everywhere, including large garbage bags filled with used clothing and linens covering the beds where we were to sleep.
There was a large table in the dining area (I guess that is what I will call it). They didn’t have the wood for the table extension, so instead, they just laid a piece of plywood on top of the table and covered the open space. Oh my! Alex and I ran to the store to see if we could find a makeshift tablecloth. We had success. We covered the table, making it look more presentable, albeit uneven.
During our stay in Kuummiit, we continued to embrace the slower pace of life that Greenland epitomizes. Marco once again procured provisions from the village’s small markets. However, as a vegetarian, I often had to settle for simple fare like brown bread cheese sandwiches for lunch and usually pasta for dinner. But when surrounded by such natural beauty, even a humble meal becomes a feast for the senses. And honestly, I wasn’t in Greenland for the food.
Here is a rather personal part of my trip that embodies the realities and challenges of any adventure. On the second day, in Kuummiit, I felt an all-too-familiar and uncomfortable sensation, a potential sign of a bladder infection. The timing couldn’t have been worse, with half of the trip still awaiting me. Ignoring it was not an option.
I sought out Marco, explaining my concerns about the possibility of it worsening. Thankfully, he reassured me that a clinic was just a short walk from our house. He took me to the clinic, where I was introduced to the local doctor. I told her my symptoms, and after a urine test, the diagnosis was confirmed—it was indeed a bladder infection.
The doctor prescribed me a five-day course of antibiotics, and to my surprise, she said there wouldn’t be any charge for the medical care. The medication started working its magic in no time, and within a couple of hours of taking the first pill, I could already feel the improvement. Yay!
I was so thankful for that clinic because a full-blown bladder infection could have potentially ruined the rest of my trip. It wasn’t the first time I had to seek medical care when traveling in another country, and it probably will not be the last. Fortunately, I’ve always received excellent care, just like I did here once again.
Anyhow, back to the real story!
One of the highlights here was climbing the Qeqqit Qaqqartivaat, the Kuummiit mountain. We started off the hike by tackling the ridge right above the village. Talk about a killer view – the backside opened to this stunning small fjord surrounded by imposing mountains. This hike was a feast for the eyes – mountains, glaciers, fjords, valleys, just endless natural wonder.
The hike was no cakewalk. The climb was challenging, made even more difficult by the rocky terrain. I must’ve slipped a handful of times but luckily caught myself. It was another wonderful and amazing day.
One afternoon, while staying in Kuummiit, serendipity led us to an Inuit man who graciously shared his wisdom and heritage. Leading us along a path to his secret fishing spot, he intertwined stories of his ancestors with expressions of gratitude for the breathtaking beauty surrounding him. Upon reaching his favorite spot, he invited us to take turns using his fishing pole.
To our amazement, Alex was the only one of us who managed to catch a fish, and on her first attempt at fishing, no less. It was amazing!
The way our Inuit friend dispatched the fish by swiftly striking its head against a rock was momentarily shocking—a technique I had never witnessed before.
When we returned to our house, one of the Norwegian sisters cleaned and cooked the fish, and Alex let everyone try a piece of her catch. I politely passed.
On our seventh day, we headed to our last destination, the village of Kulusuk. Docking here proved very unconventional since there was no dock, just a rocky and jagged coastline. We carefully stepped off the boats onto the rocks made slippery by the rain, which was now falling. And like in Kuummiit, we had to form a human chain to pass our luggage and essential supplies for our stay from the boat to the shore.
Then, it was off to find the house we’d be staying at for the next few days.
The house was a step up, a small one anyway. It had a shower, a sink, and even a flush toilet (hot water included, woohoo!). I was excited about the idea of a proper bathroom. It also had a cute little kitchen, not huge, but it did the job, a large living area, and a dining table big enough that we could all sit around it like one big happy family (which we were by then!)
We would all sleep upstairs in an open room lined with thin mattresses. The sleeping arrangement didn’t bother me much at this point in the trip. We survived pooping in a black garbage bag early on; sleeping together and on the floor was no biggie.
Evenings on our trip were all about fun and relaxation! We’d continue to gather after one of Marcos’ feasts to play cards, chat, read, and enjoy a glass of wine – a delightful treat after a day of adventures. Often, we’d put out peanuts or some cheese and crackers to snack on. If someone had some special treats of their own, they would often share them with the group!
One hilarious moment was when one of the Norwegian sisters (I wish I had written down their names!) brought out what looked like Cheese Doodles to share. However, to my amusement, she referred to it as “Angel’s Shit.” I cracked up when I heard that.
One evening, we got invited to Kristinn’s place, the owner of Arctic Hiking and Expeditions. He and his wife recently purchased a house on Kulusuk and were working hard on fixing it up.
The delightful aromas wafted from the kitchen as soon as we stepped in. And guess what? The dining table was enormous, with fancy silver candelabras adding a touch of elegance to the paper tablecloth. Oh, and dinner was a treat! Loads of fresh veggies, pasta for vegetarians, and a chicken dish for meat lovers. And you won’t believe it – we even had a chocolate cake topped with Pomegranate seeds for dessert. It was a lovely evening!
On our final full day, we headed out on a hike, soaking in the stunning beauty of Kulusuk Island’s landscape. There was this moment when we climbed up a hill, and from there, we had an incredible view of the mountain lake. We continued our hike towards the coastline, where the cliffs and rock formations awaited. Greenland truly went beyond what I had imagined, and those views – let’s say, I was constantly in awe and left wanting more.
Despite starting as strangers, our shared experiences forged friendships among us (one of the joys that come out of traveling in very small groups). We boarded the plane back to Iceland as friends, and I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to everyone. I will remember all the evenings we spent reflecting on our adventures or some of us engaging in lively rounds of Uno. These cherished moments of camaraderie and laughter illuminated the dark Arctic nights. I’m not sure if any of us will meet up again, I hope so, but I’ll always remember them fondly. Cheers to the camaraderie and the quirky little adventures that made our trip one for the books!
My 10-day expedition through East Greenland was an extraordinary journey that exceeded all expectations. Each day was a gift, from the exhilarating flight over awe-inspiring landscapes to the warm encounters with locals and the invigorating hikes through nature’s wonderland. My heart overflowed with gratitude for this unforgettable journey.