Time flies when you do! But where does it go?

Happy New Year! I’m marking it with my 12th trip northward to the best place in the world: Greenland. I’m a little biased, so if you don’t believe me, just ask Lonely Planet or National Geographic Traveler.

Getting to Greenland comes as second nature for me, and I could almost make the route with my eyes closed, so in a way I do become blind to how much time and how many steps it actually takes to get door-to-door. All I know is, it’s all worth it once I start seeing those East Greenland pointy peaks on the way to the west coast.

47.5 hours across three different days and three different airlines is what it’s going to take this time around to travel from Washington, D.C. to Ilulissat, Greenland. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. True story.

Here’s a fun little chart to show how I’m using my travel time to get north. Need some ideas for how to do the Reykjavík stopover? Check these.

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Before you go to Greenland, check the weather!

IMG_8695 Sila nuan’! Nice weather! Summer in Tasiilaq, Greenland.

In Greenland, sila reigns all. Sila is the entire worldly environment which can be seen with one’s own two eyes – the world of humans. The word is most commonly used in everyday Greenlandic to talk about the weather, and everyone knows that absolutely nothing can be done when sila acts up – so if your travel plans are affected, don’t even use your energy to get angry over it. That’s just how it is.

I recommend preparing yourself by checking the weather in Greenland a few days before departure/arrival. Most Greenlanders rely on the Danish Meteorological Institute for a weather forecast. Since the website is in Danish, here’s a small Cliff’s Notes to how to read the graphs, using the current weather for Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, in the next two days, Saturday-Sunday, 2-3 January 2016.

NOTE: The DMI website changed its entire look as of Week 6, 2019, so the following graphs are now irrelevant. I have not yet had the time to update this post fully.

There’s 5 things to look for on the graphs – general weather characteristics, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, and wind direction. There is a 2-day outlook, a 3-9-day outlook, and a 10-14-day outlook, but really the only one that should be taken seriously is the 2-day outlook. Weather can always change.

The time is measured in military time, so for anyone that isn’t accustomed to this, 15 is 3:00 PM, 18 is 6:00 PM, and so on.

General Weather Characteristics

The top line of the graph shows the typical weather symbols to give a quick impression of what the day will hold. Fun fact: if the outlook is clear skies all day long on a winter day above the Arctic Circle, the symbols will be all stars 🙂

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Precipitation

“Nedbør” means precip (rain or snow), and if there is any, there will be dark blue vertical bars beneath the blue line. The amount is measured in mm along the y-axis on the left.

In the graph below, there is no precipitation predicted.

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Temperature

The blue line indicates air temperature and is measured in degrees Celsius along the y-axis on the right.

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For a general rule of thumb for conversions, for every 5*C you go up or down, the *F goes up or down by 9. And for even quicker reference:

  • 20*C = 68*F
  • 15*C = 59*F
  • 10*C = 50*F
  • 5*C = 41*F
  • 0*C = 32*F
  • -5*C = 23*F
  • -10*C = 14*F
  • -15*C = 5*F
  • -20*C = -4*F

Wind Speed & Wind Direction

The red and black lines indicate wind speed, both the gusts (“vindstød”) and the persistent winds (“middelvind”), and are measured in meters per second along the y-axis on the right.

10 m/s is approximately 22 mph or 36 kph, and is nothing that gets people worried in Greenland. There has definitely been 40 m/s (89 mph or 144 kph) before – or higher in East Greenland when the Piteraq comes – and that’s cause for worry!

The arrows along the x-axis on the bottom indicate the direction of the wind. Keep a watch for downward-pointing arrows – this means the wind comes from the north and makes for very chilly temperatures!

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Now you’re all set to check the weather in Greenland!

Fly WOW air

IMG_3378My latest rec for getting to Greenland cheap so you can spend the money where it counts!

EDITED 28/3-2019: Wow air is no longer in operation.

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Greenland is expensive. Let’s just go ahead and get that out of the way.

Short of some pretty astronomic miracles, the Air Greenland and Air Iceland prices won’t be decreasing much.

But what if I told you the solution could be WOW air?

No, WOW air does not fly to Greenland yet, but traveling with this newcomer budget airline from Europe or North America into Reykjavík (a major connection hub for Greenland) could at least make one leg of your journey much cheaper.

Not long ago I flew on WOW air for the first time and I’d like to give it the Polarphile seal of approval (I just made that up) along with an honest pledge that I would seriously consider flying with them again in the future. High marks for service, price, and personality; low marks for convenience (as someone traveling to/fro the DC Metro Area).

Post-script note: I already booked my second flight with WOW air just two months after this first trip. Despite having a free points ticket with the competitor, black out dates prohibited me from using it when I needed to. Since I was forced to use real money, booking with WOW air helped me save over 500 USD versus booking with the competitor.

~

The motivation: As someone booking their ticket just 11 days before departure, I was what you call ‘price-motivated’ – exactly WOW air‘s target market.

The bottom line: 11 days before departure I bought a transatlantic flight between continental Europe and North America for 294 USD, which did include some extra purchases of mine like seat selection, cancellation protection, and 1 piece of heavy hand luggage.

Regarding the seat selection fee, this applies to choose any seat in the aircraft, not just priority seating with extra leg room, like on other airlines (I don’t think those seats even exist on WOW air’s machines). I really didn’t want to get stuck with a middle seat in front of the exit row, and truth be told, I wanted to see out the window to Greenland when flying overhead. It’s a little ritual of mine.

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Regarding the luggage fee, 5 kg of hand luggage is included in the ticket price. One can elect to purchase an additional 7 kg allowance for a fee, or else check a bag for a fee.

The Experience: 

So what had me saying “Wow“? Plenty!

* Hand-luggage only travelers are the new Business Class. WOW air offers a separate check-in line for those traveling with hand-luggage only. Therefore, I got to bypass a line of around 50 people when I arrived to the airport, which I found to be a so lovely surprise!

* There are electrical outlets under each seat. This was maybe my biggest WOW moment, in fact. Not even Icelandair offers this in economy class!

* The planes are perfectly fine, just like all other Airbus machines. Maybe I was expecting a matchbox for some reason, but the economy seats are just like any others I’ve been in, and the seats themselves are very comfortable. I flew in their new Airbus.

* They’re funny! Anybody whose business model includes launching a gigantic purple people eater into the sky has to have a sense of humor, right? And, a la Southwest Airlines out of the United States, when you take away in one department (think: the free sodas and snacks) you have to add in another. Check the Vomit-meter on their Sick Bag in the seat pocket!

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The Critique:
There’s literally only one thing that made the experience a drag – WOW air does not service IAD (Dulles International Airport) outside Washington, D.C.! If WOW air flew out of IAD I would be hooked. Hands down.

Instead, flying into/out of BWI (Baltimore-Washington International Airport) creates some logistical nightmares for anyone trying to connect with D.C. or Northern Virginia, like me. After 9 hours of flying, this is the absolute last thing you want, especially in this area. Not to mention, there’s no TSA Pre-Check line at BWI security. Huh?!

45 minutes on the B30 Metro Bus from BWI to the Greenbelt Metro Station before riding 1 hour on the Metro from Greenbelt to Vienna, plus an Uber, to reach my destination in Northern Virginia, which otherwise would have been just a 22 minute Uber ride from IAD. That’s what it took for me to get home after landing at BWI.

And I’m a lucky one with a Global Entry status. I don’t even want to think about how much time I would have used if I had had to wait in the standard customs line.

These public transportations cost just an additional 21 USD, so clearly the pricing still makes a compelling economic case, but somewhere on the Metro I found myself wondering if crashing on my bed still fully clothed and dead tired due to an extra 2 hours of transit was worth saving approximately 275 USD. What do you think?

Aside from that big ticket item, there are a few things that could polish up the experience to match the competition in terms of value proposition, but nothing that’s a huge game-changer for me.

* It would be fantastic to have wi-fi onboard. I would gladly pre-purchase it along with the laundry list of other add-ons. What’s another 10 USD?

* A self check-in kiosk would be great!

The Facts:
WOW air flies to Reykjavík from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and Baltimore in North America (and soon from Los Angeles and San Francisco, too) and from 17 European cities including London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, and others.

WOW air advertises their base fares and then offers a whole host of optional fees and charges, plus various taxes. For example, at first glance my 294 USD ticket looked like it was going to cost just 129 USD. And really, many of the “electives” are virtually unavoidable so you have to pay extra no matter what. Is it really realistic to travel across the Atlantic with only a purse?

WOW air offers a wide selection of food and beverages on board for 250-1500 ISK (2-11 USD, or 2-11 EUR). Note that even non-alcoholic beverages like water, soda, and coffee/tea must also be purchased for 300-350 ISK (2-2.50 USD, or 2-2.5 EUR). The pricing is nearly exactly the same as you’ll find in the airport stores, at least it was for the wine, water, sandwich, and yoghurt I bought, so no need to nearly miss your boarding call to try to save some pocket change on refreshments.

All in all, given the late notice of booking and the distance traveled, I would say the 294 USD on Wow air is well spent. But given the circus involved in getting between BWI and the DC Metro Area, I would say there’s definitely grounds to think long and hard whether the cheaper airfare is worth the extra transit steps.

How to Get to Greenland

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Photo credit: Visit Greenland

After countless trips between the United States and Greenland, traveling northward became a second nature for me. But how quickly I forget that, not long ago, I too was a first-timer wondering how on Earth to get to the top of the world! So, after my friend over at The Fourth Continent taught us about How to get from Down Under to Up Over earlier this month, I decided to share 6 basics about traveling to Greenland (with a focus on the United States/North America as the starting point and Iceland as the preferred connection point), plus bonus material of a few veteran tips and a step-by-step look at my typical journey starting from Washington, D.C.

SIX BASICS

  1. There are 0 direct flights to Greenland from the United States/North America. Sorry about it.
  2. There are 2 cities with direct flights to Greenland, listed here from closest to furthest distance from the United States/North America. Look on the map and realize that both of them take you past Greenland just to bring you back west… 😉
      • Reykjavík, Iceland ( NOTE: There are two airports: Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavík Domestic Airport. Both are used for international transportation to Greenland. See Routes section below).
      • Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. There are 2 airlines that fly into Greenland, each with distinct routes in different seasons. See #5. Note: for anyone that is a very thorough researcher, you may have found mention of smaller airlines also offering service to Greenland (namely Greenland Express and Aluu Airlines). Both of these were upstart companies that have unfortunately not get gotten off the ground (pun intended).
  4. There are 6 international airports in Greenland, listed here in clockwise order starting in the east.
      • Nerlerit Inaat (East Greenland) – CNP
      • Kulusuk (East Greenland) – KUS
      • Narsarsuaq (South Greenland) – UAK
      • Nuuk (Capital Region) – GOH
      • Kangerlussuaq (Arctic Circle Region) – SFJ
      • Ilulissat (North Greenland) – JAV
  5. 2 big factors determine which airline and which route you will take into Greenland. Ask yourself these questions, and look below at the various route/season combinations.
      • When do I want to go to Greenland?
          • If you want to travel in summer, both airlines will be flying out of Reykjavík/Keflavik to multiple locations in Greenland, and you can travel on nearly every day of the week in the big picture.
          • If you want to travel in winter, there are limitations regarding route and frequency. If you need more flexibility or your dates are fixed, it might make more sense to connect via Copenhagen.
      • Where do I want to go in Greenland?
          • It always makes the most sense to connect through Reykjavík/Keflavik with a direct flight to your destination, season permitting. If you are traveling during summer, you can reach all 5 regions of Greenland via Reykjavík/Keflavik.
          • If you want to travel to Kangerlussuaq, specifically in autumn & winter & spring, check the economics – depending on ticket price and availability, it might make more sense to connect via Copenhagen than to connect via Reykjavík plus take a domestic flight in Greenland.
      • International Routes & Seasons. (*** Disclaimer: these routes and seasons are pretty set, but always refer to the airline booking systems for the most up-to-date information, linked above in #3.)
          • Copenhagen – Kangerlussuaq (Air Greenland, year round)
          • Copenhagen – Narsarsuaq (Air Greenland, summer)
          • Keflavik – Nuuk (Air Greenland, year round)
          • Reykjavík – Nuuk (Air Iceland Connect, year round)
          • Reykjavík – Kulusuk (Air Iceland Connect, year round)
          • Reykjavík – Ilulissat (Air Iceland Connect, spring & summer & autumn)
          • Reykjavík – Narsarsuaq (Air Iceland Connect, summer)
          • Reykjavík – Nerlerit Inaat (Air Iceland Connect, spring & summer)
  6. You can also travel to/around Greenland via cruise ship.

MY TYPICAL JOURNEY (Washington, D.C. to Nuuk, Greenland via Reykjavík, Iceland)

Step 1: It always starts with a 6-hour direct red-eye flight, via Icelandair, from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. to Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavík, Iceland! Just like clockwork, I select the departure around 20:00 and arrival around 06:30 the next day, local time.

For Americans/North Americans not starting in DC, Icelandair also operates flights from Boston, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Denver, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Anchorage, and others, and WOW air, an airline no longer in operation, had budget North American flights from Baltimore, Boston, Toronto, and Montreal, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I tried them once from Baltimore. I was pleasantly surprised. Read my experience here.

    • Veteran Tip: Difficult as it is to sleep on the plane when you are so very excited to get to Greenland, DO IT! When you land, you have jumped ahead 4 hours from EDT (or 5 hours from EST) directly into Iceland’s morning, and your next chance to sleep won’t be for many hours!

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Step 2: Next is a typically a 12-hour layover in Reykjavík, Iceland. The flight to Nuuk, Greenland does not leave until the evening, although if you’re going to Narsarsuaq, Greenland or Ilulissat, Greenland, for example, there are morning/afternoon departures, which are a bit more humane 🙂

You have many choices of what to do during a layover, depending to some extent on which airline you fly into Greenland with (which, in turn, depends on what time of year you fly…).

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    • If you take Air Greenland to a destination in Greenland, you will fly out of the same airport you arrived to (Keflavik International Airport). The Keflavik airport is a bit south of Reykjavik city center (45 minute drive), so you can either stay out of town near the airport or you can go into town and come back.
        • ‘Stay out of town’ option: You could hit the nearby Blue Lagoon, a popular natural geothermal spa. Reykjavik Excursions provides round-trip bus transportation, and you can hire luggage storage at the spa. Or you could do another excursion, of course.
        • ‘Go into town and come back’ option: Reykjavik Excursions provides bus transportation for this option, too, which I highly recommend over taking a private cab. For one thing, it’s cheaper (30 USD round trip, versus 200 USD round trip using a private cab) and for another, there is free wi-fi on board. You can hire luggage storage at the BSÍ Bus Terminal while you sightsee around Reykjavik.
        • Veteran Tip: Unless you have a definite plan or an excursion booked first thing upon arrival to Keflavik International Airport, I suggest killing time in this airport for a few hours before making your way to Reykjavik city center or elsewhere. Remember, it’s quite early in the morning, and if you go into Reykjavik too soon, you run the risk that the shops, cafés, and sights are not open yet. Better to stay put with a guarantee of wi-fi and strong coffee 😉
        • Veteran Tip: For extreme flexibility with your plans, you can wait to buy bus tickets upon arrival to Keflavik International Airport. Like clockwork, buses leave 30 minutes after every single international arrival, so check the schedule for your ideal bus departure. Tickets can be purchased at the Reykjavik Excursions kiosk. After baggage claim, follow the signs to Exit/Customs Declaration, and the kiosk will be on the right just before exiting the airport.
    • If you take Air Iceland into Greenland, then you might have to transfer to a different airport (Reykjavik Domestic Airport). Please note: the flights to Narsarsuaq, Greenland and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland leave from Keflavik International Airport while the flights to Nuuk, Greenland and Ilulissat, Greenland and Kulusuk, Greenland leave from Rekjavík Domestic Airport.
    • Reykjavík Domestic Airport is in Reykjavik city center so you must go into town no matter what. See the ‘Go into town and come back’ option and veteran tips above. A one-way ticket via the Reykjavik Excursions bus costs 18 USD, versus 100 USD for a private cab.
        • Veteran Tip: Reykjavik Domestic Airport is very small with just a small cafe and places to sit. These days, there IS free wi-fi inside, so that’s a plus! Check-in does not begin until 1 hour before departure, even for international flights, so there is no need to arrive to this airport very early. Stay in town as long as possible!
        • Veteran Tip: Always be prepared for delays or cancellations, and check the Departure Schedule frequently. Delays are a harsh reality of traveling anywhere in the world, but remember that you are flying in the Arctic. If there are unstable conditions in Reykjavík, in your Greenland destination, over the Greenland Ice Sheet, or anywhere in between, it is best to stay put until conditions improve. If a cancellation occurs, the airline will provide overnight accommodation for you, meal vouchers, and transportation to/from airport/hotel.

Step 3: Finally, Greenland-bound! The final step is a 2-3 hour direct flight from Reykjavík, Iceland to Nuuk, Greenland. It is a lovely flight, and with good visibility, you can see down to East Greenland and the Greenland Ice Sheet!

Flight time is still typically 2-3 hours even if you are not going to Nuuk.

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Total travel time: Up to 24 hours.

Total ticket price: Don’t even think about it.

Total experience of traveling to the best country in the world: Priceless.

Copenhagen, Denmark

(Post from Thursday, 7 March 2013)

Getting to Greenland for this trip was quite the journey! However, I should give the disclaimer that it was entirely due to my own choosing. Last summer, I traveled to Greenland via the Iceland route, as most Americans would, and spent a few days in Reykjavik before going on to Greenland. This time, I wanted to travel to Greenland via the Copenhagen, Denmark route to see what the Europeans tourists experience. I have never been to Copenhagen, but I heard so much about it in conversation last summer. And Denmark, in general, seems to be an important part of many Greenlanders’ lives because they studied here, or have friends and family here, or moved from here. So I wanted to be able to say that I have experienced some of it, too.

As keeping transportation costs low was important for me, I booked a really cheap one-way flight to Copenhagen, but the consolation was that I had to make 2 stops – Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts… to Reykjavik, Iceland… and finally to Copenhagen. It did add considerably more time to the trip, and perhaps a little bit of concern about making quick transfers and whether my bags would check all the way through, but in retrospect I preferred it. I was quite happy to have the breaks and be able to get up and move around after so much sitting!

I arrived to Copenhagen at 1:30 PM yesterday, Wednesday 6 March, after approximately 26 hours of traveling. I was smart and actually forced myself to sleep on the flights even though it was like going to sleep at 5 in the afternoon for me! Last year when I took the red-eye from the US to Iceland, I did not sleep a wink and consequently got quite sick from sleep deprivation.

I am staying in a really nice little boutique hotel – Bertrams Hotel Guldsmeden in Vesterbro. It is such a lovely place with great service, free Wi-Fi, and a delicious breakfast… and the canopy bed is like heaven! Not to mention, it is perfect walking distance to everywhere I need to go. It is just fantastic – like staying in somebody’s home, really!

I should mention that in addition to having never been to Copenhagen before, I have also never been to Europe before! So this was a first for me in many ways! I suppose many people wonder why on earth I would want to travel alone to a new country – a new continent even – all by myself. But really, since I grew accustomed to the Danish language and culture while in Greenland, when I arrived in Copenhagen I felt very comfortable. I think it would be a much different experience if I knew nothing about the place. For holiday, I would, of course, prefer to travel in company with others, but when it is ultimately a business trip, you can always use that as the “cover” for why you are all alone in a foreign country.

Yesterday, I went to Nørreport and the student metropolis area to visit with the Ace & Ace Productions crew who film the Taste of Greenland series for Visit Greenland. They gave me the grand tour of the office, and we also went for coffee and a bite to eat. It was nice to see them in their ‘natural habitat’. Now I really feel like I have a full understanding of the Taste of Greenland series from witnessing the raw filming on location, to seeing their home base in Copenhagen, to seeing the final product on TV and DVD. It really is quite special for me to have been able to foster a relationship with the crew because it is their filming and handiwork that virtually single-handedly sold me on Greenland! A tourist said to me a few days ago, ‘When you see Greenland, you either love it or you hate it,” and Ace & Ace’s cinematography definitely made me love it!

For dinner I went to a restaurant called Falernum on recommendation of the hotel front desk. It is a cozy little wine bar with Italian-inspired food, and just around the corner from the hotel. I was surprised to find the place fully packed on a Wednesday night, but I think that must be the European lifestyle. They are not so squeamish as Americans (or Washingtonians) are to go out on weeknights for fear of having to wake up extra early to sit in a few hours of traffic!

Today, Thursday 7 March, I did a grand citywide walking tour – over 10 miles / 16 km in total!

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I had a meeting in the Amager Øst area, so I made the 4-mile walk from Vesterbro in the brisk Scandinavian air J Once I got out of the city center, it was a very residential area, and the streets were interesting because they are all named for countries of the world. On the eastern coast there is a man-made beach with a clear view of wind turbines and some new business and residential development, so the area is up-and-coming it seems. Then I walked 3 miles to Christianshavn, where the Copenhagen office of Visit Greenland is located, to do some work in preparation for traveling to Greenland. The area is very quaint with cobblestone streets and canals for days, and bakeries around every corner, but again, I suppose that is the European way! After work, I walked 2 miles toward Østerport and Kastellet past all the royal palaces and up toward the famous The Little Mermaid statue, and then went back a little more than 1 mile toward the student metropolis. My feet were most thankful for a rest at that point! I actually had planned to walk a few more miles to and from Nørrebro as well, but I thought that might be too much…

For dinner, I went to my friend Maia’s house in Nørrebro. Maia and I were both interns at Visit Greenland in Summer 2012, and while we only knew each other for about one month’s time, we had stayed in touch through Facebook. She is a fantastic vegetarian cook, and she served a spicy vegetable salsa appetizer, pasta with almonds, garlic, truffle, and cheese for a main course, and homemade licorice ice cream for dessert! She and her friends often do small “supper club” dinners where they cook delicious new food for each other, so it was really special be a part of it! I generally find Danes to be extremely welcoming and open, and it was so nice to go to a foreign country where I have never been before and feel welcome! It was a fantastic evening of seven girls sitting around a table eating good food and drinking wine and laughing!

Finally, I am back to the hotel to pack my bags and get ready to head to Greenland! Of course I am not able to sleep a wink! It is quite an odd feeling to lie here feeling like there is something else I should be doing, but in actuality, everything is done – everything is set in place for me to take this trip that the only thing left to do is get on that plane tomorrow morning! I have been thinking about this second trip to Greenland since before I even left the first time, and after so many months of thinking about it and telling people about it, it actually became a rehearsed thing I said more than something I really reflected on. Also, the last couple weeks have been so extremely stressful between school and work that I hardly had time to think or do anything for myself. So despite lying here in Copenhagen, I still have not even stopped to realize that the tomorrow I will be back in Greenland after five months of dreaming about it!

Good night 🙂

Pay It Forward… Return of the Blog

I am very happy to announce that, at long last, this blog will come out of hibernation in just a few weeks time! I have solidified my plans to return to Greenland, and I absolutely cannot wait. I have practically been thinking about this trip since before I even left from the first one!

Over the course of 53 days in March and April, I will hop from region to region conducting hundreds of interviews with tourists, just as I did last summer. I will return to a few towns I know well, spend (not enough) time with my beloved host family from last summer, and even add a few new destinations to the repertoire.

While I now know a great deal about what to expect in Greenland, there is still much for me to have butterflies about! For one thing, Greenland in winter is a whole new ball game! Some temperatures will be colder than I have ever experienced, and there will be snow everywhere. For another thing, I will lead a much more nomadic life than I did in the summer. Every 1-3 weeks will be a new destination, and I will be alone for most of them. But, this is what I want and what I have dreamed about for months now, so I cannot wait to get my feet back on Greenlandic soil!

I often wonder how many other people out there have left Greenland so impressed, so impacted, and so totally obsessed?? And how many more people could be so because they are inspired enough by my words to go experience it for themselves?

It seems the phrase “pay it forward” has become a worldwide phenomenon lately, and I use it here as the title of this post because it appropriately describes my motivation to maintain this blog.

As a professional in the tourism industry I acknowledge that I have a different perspective than most, but I really feel as though I have a (welcome) duty to share my travel experiences with others. Since I have firsthand knowledge about things that could be of information and inspiration to others, I feel as though I should pass it on for the benefit of the inquisitive traveler.

So what exactly have I been doing to prepare for this trip?

1. Making flight and hotel reservations, of course. In general, flexibility is key when planning a trip to Greenland, especially in the off-season. There are only two airlines that fly into Greenland (Air Greenland and Air Iceland), and they do not have flights every day (more like every 2-4 days). Also, because some airport runways are shorter than others, some planes can only land at certain airports; so there are typically transfers involved even with domestic flights. Finally, the weather in Greenland can cause delays. This is the name of the air transport game and cannot be avoided. My suggestion is to purchase trip insurance whenever possible and avoid quick layovers/transfers, especially when changing airlines.

As for hotels, there are only a handful of options in each Greenland town (hotel, hostel, private accommodation), so the choice is not very difficult!

I booked all of my flights using the airlines’ online booking systems, which was very easy and just like booking any other trip. I booked my hotels by either emailing the hotel’s info email or by calling direct with Skype account. FYI, if you call direct, be aware that the person answering the phone will answer in Danish. I typically say a small intro in Danish so that the person answering is not totally thrown off by hearing English out of the blue. “Goddag, jeg er fra USA. Du taler Engelsk?” (Hello, I am from the US. Do you speak English?”)

2. Getting a good idea of what exactly the weather will be like. The best site I have found so far is Weatherspark.com. It has detailed information about average monthly and daily temperatures in various towns in Greenland. For reference, when I first get to Kangerlussuaq (north of the Arctic Circle) on March 8, an average day should be between -10 and 6 *F. By the time I leave two and a half weeks later, it will be between -2 and 14 *F. In the second town, Ilulissat (further north than Kangerlussuaq but closer to the coast), it should be between 9-20 *F pretty much the entire two and a half weeks I am there. In the third town, Nuuk, the capital (south of the Arctic Circle), it will be between 21-28 *F when I get there and between 25-32 *F by the time I leave. Notice the first time I will probably experience above-freezing temperatures is not until the sixth week! In the fourth and final town, Kulusuk (just south of the Arctic Circle, on the east coast), it will be between 26-33 *F by the time I leave on April 30.

Shootingonlocation.com has also been helpful, giving specific information about sunrise and sunset times in various towns in Greenland. In Kangerlussuaq, there will be between 10 hours and 45 minutes of sunlight and 12 hours and 44 minutes of sunlight. In Ilulissat, 12 hours and 57 minutes to 15 hours and 14 minutes. In Nuuk, 14 hours and 38 minutes to 15 hours and 57 minutes. And in Kulusuk, 16 hours and 22 minutes to 16 hours and 58 minutes.

3. Familiarizing myself with photos of Greenland taken during the months and in the various locations of my trip. This is to supplement my inquiry of what the environment will be like during this time of year. Cue shameless plugs… The I Love Greenland Flickr account has oodles of pictures, as does the blog of Wanderer, a fellow GWU Masters student who also worked in Greenland. I also did Facebook album searches of friends and strangers who have been to Greenland around the same time.

4. Purchasing a few new cold weather clothing items (such as gloves, windproof/waterproof pants, and tall insulated/waterproof boots) but mostly packing lots of my existing items (such as thermal under layers, wool socks, hat, sunglasses/sunscreen, warm muskox wool wristwarmers from my first trip, puffy down jacket, and a heavy fleece-lined jacket with fur-lined hood). If there’s anything I do know about the weather in Greenland, it is that it can change quickly and drastically with the onset of wind and fog. Dressing in layers is definitely the best way to regulate body temp.

My last tip about clothing in Greenland (which I wrote about previously) is to not take anything that has 50% or less of its life left. Of course, it all depends on your activity level. In the summer, I took a pair of boots that I had had for years and had never let me down. After a full day hike up and down an 1180 meter mountain, they had virtually disintegrating on my feet. So, even if you’re not the type to buy new things for a trip, I suggest you do it for Greenland.

5. Buying traveler’s medical insurance. I use a company called Seven Corners/Liaison Majestic, and it is extremely affordable. I like having the added security of knowing I am covered if I were to need medical attention further than what Is available in Greenland. I think it is a good idea, especially if you are doing more physically challenging activities like mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, heliskiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking, and so on.

6. Since I will only be in Greenland for a short time, I fortunately did not need to go through the process of applying for a Visa for this trip. It is quite a lengthy and arduous process. If my memory serves me correctly, a Visa is necessary for trips longer than 90 days.

That’s all for now. The next time I write, it will be from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!

Cheers 🙂