Autumn adventure along the Arctic Circle, Part 1

You know you’re in one of the best jobs on Earth when… it sends you to guide international agents through 200 km of the Arctic Circle from ice cap to coastline. It was a five-day adventure that (almost) made me and the 7 agents forget we were working! Read about my extended weekend of new experiences here.

In mid-September 2017, on home turf, Greenland hosted Vestnorden Travel Mart, a trade show to connect international travel specialists with the three North Atlantic destinations: the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland. One immersive and extremely important part of this trade show is the pre-tours that take place in the days before all the meetings. No suits or formal handshakes here. Agents get into their travel element and have the exact same adventurous and fun tourist experience that their guests will have in the future. Together with local partners, Visit Greenland planned and sponsored these pre-tours, and hence, my guiding 馃檪聽

Autumn is such a nice time of year to be outside. Though there are no piles of fallen leaves to crunch through and kick up, the changing colours of the mountain alder and Arctic thyme to yellow and red hues are more than #fallyall Insta-worthy. Usually there’s already been a few snows at the higher altitudes, and the snow-capped mountains just add to the whistfullness of the landscape.

And into the inland autumn wonderland that is Kangerlussuaq is exactly how we started the long weekend.


Nini Frydkj忙r Holstebro, owner of the little boutique called ByHeart, led us on a narrow pathway trodden not by backpackers but by – get this – muskox. Her voice is calm and soothing, and I could instantly tell she is every bit the ‘beautiful soul’ I have heard her described as before. As we walked, she showed her true colours as a modern-day gatherer, describing in detail the homeopathic uses of different herbs, including which ones work best in cookies. I, for one, took notes!

Following Nini off-track to investigate an area just over the hill paid off. After a few hours we found a blended herd of muskox bulls and females with their calves. At first we counted 5 or 6 animals, but in time, ‘rocks’ came alive and turned out to be little ones hunkered down!


Muskox in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.聽Photo by Anne Kiel.


The hike, and day, ended at Restaurant Roklubben on Lake Ferguson. Over a three-course plated dinner followed by the聽famous nightcap called Greenlandic Coffee, the agents wrapped their heads around the fact that just fifteen hours earlier they stood in European capital, Copenhagen, Denmark, and now they sat a world away in the Arctic, looking out over the widest landscape imaginable with a green swirl of Northern Lights overhead.

For more hiking inspiration and information, ready my Ultimate Greenland Hiking Guide on


Though an Ice Sheet may sound like a flat ice skating rink, it is anything but. Cracks, crevices and snaking rivers define this Arctic landscape.


Day 2 got us up in the air and was such a perfect experiential segue from the previous day’s backcountry hike and into this day’s upcoming mini expedition on the ice.

We circled and swirled over the same lakes and reddish hills we walked through, this time getting so much more perspective of the vastness we stood in. We saw the lakes’ true depths as evidenced by their technicolour layers, not to mention hundreds of muskox. Funny to think that though聽I only saw 12 muskox with my own eyes, we were actually completely surrounded by them.

My stomach was in my throat half the time, but I did enjoy nonetheless following the braids of glacial runoff further inland to their source. The Greenland Ice Sheet is so monstrous and obvious but somehow it still seemed to surprise me how fast it popped up on the horizon. Russell Glacier gives such a stark contrast to the land it creeps onto one cm at a time, and the only thing I could think was, “I can’t believe I’m going to be sleeping down there tonight!”


From above, one gets perspective – always on the landscape and even sometimes on life.


Four and a half years ago I stood on the Greenlandic Ice Sheet for an afternoon to watch a charity football game (yes, you read that correctly). Though that story is pretty hard to top, I do think camping overnight on the ice gives it a run for its money, and I was so excited for the opportunity to try this staple adventure experience in Kangerlussuaq.

The drive out to the ice is as rough as I remembered – an hour and a half jostling around on a dirt/sand/gravel road leftover from Volkswagen’s car-testing days in Greenland. Thank goodness for short breaks for fresh air and silence!

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Tents and sleeping bags, check. Barrels of food, check. The pulks are ready to be strapped down and pulled up to camp.

Once we reached the end of the road, we went immediately into pulk preparation mode. The camp is located half an hour’s walk on the ice, so there’s no running back to the bus to grab something real quick. Everything we needed for the night we had to take in ourselves. This is not glamping, folks!

Pulks are the classic piece of equipment that the bonafide聽Extreme Adventurers use when they cross the Greenland Ice Sheet from coast to coast. (It is not uncommon for them to train for their expeditions by pulling heavy tires, CrossFit style!) While the pulks we had were super light, I couldn’t help putting myself in the expeditioners’ shoes for a moment to imagine the feeling of heading off into a frozen world with 70 kilos strapped to myself – everything to (hopefully) keep me alive for upwards of thirty days in an otherwise uninhabitable environment.

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The mini expedition begins.


Camp Ice Cap by Albatros Arctic Circle. Open from March to October.

Our glacier walk with the pulks was pretty painless – 30 minutes or so and we had arrived to the camp where two large expedition dome tents stay erected for the whole season. We paired off and set up our small two-man sleeping tents (provided for us, along with a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag+liner good to -35*C), plus the all-important bathroom tent, and then enjoyed a nice cup of cocoa before heading out again (sans pulk).

We were fighting the waning light a bit, but we still managed to get in a good couple hours of glacier walking. We went up and down over the frozen waves of light blue, dark blue and black, looked sheepishly into moulins where liters of rushing water disappeared into a deep hole every second, and even collected cold glacier water directly into our water bottles. By the end, head lamps were a necessary tool to navigate back to camp, which definitely added to the feeling that this is real adventure.

Though I never said it to my group of agents, I was so thankful they all are the adventurous and ‘respectful’ type. They were up for anything, no problem, and they were also quiet when on the trail. It is more important than one realises. The聽pleasant ambience of shared silence聽gives everyone the peace to connect and reflect on the experience in real time. Live in the moment, you know?


This is adventure.


Me. Don’t ask how an Amazonian feels perfectly at home in the Arctic. I don’t even know the explanation myself.


Crampons and hiking poles are a necessity out here on the ice.



Dinner was a surprisingly delicious just-add-water packet of spicy rice mix, seated comfortably in the gathering tent on foldable camp chairs pre-arranged in a cosy circle on the perimeter. In the middle, the top on a pot of soon-boiling water fluttered, and soon the steam plus body heat made it more like a sauna tent. A hat was complete overkill!

Like on most camping trips, the excitement of adventure mixed with physical activity puts everyone early to bed. My tent mate and I turned in for the evening, noting verbally that it really was not cold at all! I slept the whole night through until we woke to the sound of little droplets of sleet hitting the rain fly in the morning.


The obligatory ‘our feet were here’ shot! It’s just like field camping, only icier.


We were all pretty sad to leave the ice – the fun had only just begun! But yet new adventures awaited us out on the coast. Fast forward through the same bumpy drive between ice and town, plus another lunch at Hotel Kangerlussuaq Restaurant (it’s like Groundhog Day here sometimes) plus a flight out to the coast and we landed in Sisimiut.

But that story you will have to wait for Part 2 for…



Autumn Arctic Circle Adventure in a nutshell

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes of everything, in chronological order, that we packed into 5 days/4 nights of discovery:

  • Direct flight on聽Air Greenland from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq (in summer, there are also direct flights with Air Iceland Connect from Keflavik)
  • Lunch buffet at Kangerlussuaq Airport Restaurant
  • Hike through Muskox Country with Greenland Outdoors / By Heart
  • Dinner and Greenlandic Coffee at Restaurant Roklubben, RSVP only via Albatros Arctic Circle
  • Overnight at Polar Lodge, run by Albatros Arctic Circle
  • Flightseeing with AirZafari Greenland
  • Camp Ice Cap, a combination glacier hiking and overnight glacier camping experience with Albatros Arctic Circle
  • Lunch buffet at Kangerlussuaq Airport Restaurant
  • Visit to Kangerlussuaq Musuem
  • Air Greenland flight to Sisimiut
  • Three-course dinner at Restaurant Nasaasaaq at Hotel Sisimiut
  • Sailing trip / Tour of Assaqutaq, an old settlement, with Arctic Incoming
  • Overnight at Hotel Sisimiut
  • Adventure day of sailing, fishing, grilling at a fjord cabin, hiking, ATVing & mountain biking, meeting sled dogs, and sauna, all with Arctic Incoming and Greenland Extreme
  • Greenlandic buffet dinner at Restaurant Nasaasaaq at Hotel Sisimiut
  • Overnight at Hotel Sisimiut
  • Walking tour of Sisimiut with Destination Arctic Circle








PHOTO GALLERY: A Walk on the Ice(land) Side

For many tourists, Greenland is the add-on to Iceland because they see the combination tour advertised in their travel agent’s portfolio or something. But for me, it is the opposite! Iceland is the “add-on” or “necessary evil” in order to get to Greenland.

Coming from Washington DC, the most direct way for me to get to Greenland is through Keflavik, (Reykjavik, Iceland’s international airport). From there, I have choices for how to get to Greenland, and where. Depending on the time of year, I can fly direct Keflavik to Nuuk, Keflavik to Narsarsuaq, Reykjavik to Nuuk, Reykjavik to Ilulissat, Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq, or Reykjavik to Kulusuk.

Long story short, Iceland is in my life because Greenland is in my life. Thanks to this, I am currently on my 9th visit to Reykjavik. 7 out of 9 times I just spend some hours or one weekday night, so I stay within the city limits and just sightsee and eat good food.

But this time I have 3 weekend nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) and a bit more freedom! So I bought the Reykjavik Excursions tour called “A Walk on the Ice Side”. Reykjavik Excursions provided the bus transportation, and Icelandic Mountain Guides provided the guiding on the glacier. We walked on S贸lheimaj枚kull Glacier and we stopped very briefly (like 15 minutes) at two waterfalls, Sk贸gafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

Here are some of my pictures:

Toward S贸lheimaj枚kull GlacierIMG_6160

Sun over S贸lheimaj枚kull Glacier (white in the foreground and blue in the middle-ground are the glacier; dark in the background is land).P1020596

Guide, Ana, teaching proper positioning to peer down into a glacial moulin.IMG_6168

More guiding. It is snow weather now!P1020586

Cool tunnel on the glacier. Formed by gallons upon gallons of melt water rushing through here. Hard to imagine, huh?P1020610

Inside the tunnel. Not quite tall enough to stand in. Approximately 1.5 meters (4 feet) high.P1020612

A crevasse in the glacier. Looks a bit like a Georgia O’Keefe painting if you ask me!P1020577

We were in the shadows (or snow weather) most of the day, so this sun was a welcome sight!P1020597

Measurement equipment. This device reveals that S贸lheimaj枚kull Glacier depressed (melted downward) 8 meters (26 feet) since May 2013 (6 months time). For more information about glacial retreat, especially on THIS VERY GLACIER, see the movie Chasing Ice!P1020601

It is getting late in the day.聽P1020603

Between the many certified guides and this Search and Rescue Team practicing drills, there was a lot of safety on the glacier!P1020581

On the way out, we passed another group doing ice climbing with belayers. 聽聽P1020627


Seljalandsfoss – neat because you can walk behind the fall聽P1020649

Now the practical info…聽(Keep in mind that the date is 17 November.)

What clothing did I wear?
– Thermal pants
– Heavyweight dry-fit thermal shirt
– Water resistant pants
– Fleece layer
– Down jacket
– Breathable wool socks
– Waterproof hiking boots
– Wool hat
– Glove liners w/ touchscreen finger tips
– Gloves

What extra clothing/accessories did I have in my daypack?
– Extra socks
– Wool sweater
– Extra dry-fit shirt
– Waterproof rain pants
– Waterproof rain jacket

Did I need these extra items?
Regardless of whether I needed the extra items or not, it is always better to be prepared! So if you’re reading this, still bring the items!

I did break out the waterproof pants and jacket when we visited the waterfalls, but that was to protect against fierce spray! On the glacier, I did not need these items. And I was plenty warm with my layers, so the extra shirt and wool stayed in my pack.

What other items did I have in my daypack?
– Lunch (ham&cheese sandwich, piece of fruit, chocolate bar, juice)
– Plenty of water
– Sunglasses (see Tips below)
– Sunscreen (see Tips below)
– Camera, extra memory card(s), etc. (See Tips below)
– Pen & paper
– Lip balm

Last but not least… Don’t forget your adrenaline and sense of adventure !!!

Other tips/info:
– It sounds counterintuitive to need sunglasses and sun cream during the Arctic autumn/winter, but the sun does rise all year round in Iceland. And it’s reflection off the snow can be powerful! Do yourself a favor and protect your eyes and skin.

– If I can recommend one single item to splurge on, it is quality boots. Of course, you must consider your budget, how many times you will use them, etc. but in general, DO NOT skimp on footwear. Get something that is tall/supportive for the ankle, waterproof, and warm. Nothing is more uncomfortable than cold toes, but it is also a safety risk. If you can’t feel your feet, you could take missteps and injure yourself. Today, all the guides were wearing Scarpa boots.

– Colder temperatures can typically affect the performance of electronics, so keep them as close to your body as possible to help extend their life! For example, on this tour my iPhone 4S turned off with 16% battery remaining. And in Greenland in March, my SD card completely froze.

– RE always does a communal pickup at the hotels, takes you to their home base – BS脥 Terminal, and from there you meet your exact tour group. Look for the name of the tour in the front window of the bus.

– The bus ride to the starting point of this tour (and probably others) is quite long (2 hours). There was no guiding or information during transport on this tour, so you may want to bring reading material, music, etc. for the ride to and fro.