Ilulissat – 50 shades of blue (and white; and grey).
We flew in through Kangerlussuaq from Denmark, where we got our first impression of Greenland at the curious airport: There are two gates, one we came in through, and another one, which is in the same hall as the three air greenland check in booths. There was one security check, between the big hall and the one where we came through, apparently because this is where the only „international“ flight, to Copenhagen, departs and arrives. It was sunny and warm outside, so we grabbed two iced (!!) coffes and sat outside (!!!) on the terrace, with a nice view onto the field, where the airplanes landed and started.
We took a very small machine, with free seating to Ilulissat. The airport was even smaller, just one hall. When we left the building, we were greeted by Greenland’s biggest nuisance in summer – approx. 1 million mosquitos. Lucky we got mosquito nets…. So definitely no walking, we got oursleves a taxi to the hostel. Well, we were warned by the tripadvisor reviews not to expect too much. It’s pretty run down place, we just learned that World of Greenland, the biggest tour operator in this region that also runs the hostel, is currently building a new one, so they don’t invest any more in this old one. Well, at least it’s not cheap. We pay 100 Euros per night for the both of us, for a double room. At least breakfast is included, and also bedlinen, which is new this year, we also learned that recently.
Ilulissat is Greenland’s second biggest citiy, with roundabout 4000 inhabitants. Sizewise I would compare it to Edewecht (for those who know. That’s where we are from. For those who don’t – you can google it if you like…). Everything else is quite different. Lots of colourful little wooden houses, a harbour with millions of little boats, and – most important – lots and lots of icebergs.
First, if you travel to Ilulissat, it’s a good idea to book your accomodation ahead – but not any tours. Lots of operators around and tours run pretty frequently. We had prebooked a boat tour through the icefjord with World of Greenland, which was completely unnecessary, since they run daily and usually have some free places left. So if you stay more than lets say three days, no need to book ahead. We also found out there are other operators offering the same tour slightly cheaper (Check out the flyers in Café Kangia).
That said, the iceberg sightseeing by boat is pretty spectacular. We did the evening tour, which started at 10 pm in bright daylight and ended around half past midnight at dusk, just after sunset. The icebergs glow in all different kinds of colours, it’s absolutely amazing! It does get pretty cold though, even in the beginning of August we were happy to warm ourselves up with tea and coffee on board.
If you travel on a budget, like we usually do, this should be the trip of your choice – it’s affordable, compared to many other. The best activity anyway here is hiking. There are some beautiful hiking routes along the icefjord, well marked with different colours (the blue one is the hardest, but also the most rewarding we found), so you’ll absolutely manage them on your own. The more adventurous can also go explore off the beaten paths – basically all the countryside is open for roaming, and also camping. A great way to save some money, if you’re up to it (did I mention the mosquitos?)
Basically all trails will lead you through the sledge dog areas at the city’s outskirts. If you’re lucky you’ll pass them while a musher is there feeding them, that’s quite a spectacle. The Greenlandic sled dog is not a pet, it’s a working animal, since the dog sleds are the best mode of transportation during winter. Keep that in mind when you pass them, don’t feed them and keep your distance, especially from the mothers with their little ones when no musher is around. When he is, they are friendly. And so cute!
There is one last thing to say about Ilulissat – Wifi is a bit of a problem. You won’t get it anywhere for free. Your best bet is Café Kangia downtown, where they will give you their wifi password (ie unlimited use) for 50 DKK (approx. 7.50 Euros). Per device, of course. They also serve really great sandwiches (you can even get Gouacamole!)