Why visit Greenland?
When we think of Greenland, our minds often conjure images of massive icebergs, vast glaciers, and polar bears. While these iconic aspects are undoubtedly mesmerizing, there's a unique aspect of the country waiting to be explored in Northeast Greenland, which I discovered this summer onboard an expedition ship with AE Expeditions. Read all about my voyage in my previous blog post, here. Visiting this pristine wilderness on an expedition cruise ship reveals a lot about the geography, culture, and history of this region.
Isolated beauty of Northeast Greenland
Northeast Greenland is one of the least-visited and most isolated regions on the planet. Its remoteness adds to its allure. The entire north-east of Greenland is one huge national park. Established in 1974 and expanded to its current size in 1988, it is a sanctuary for arctic wildlife as special permission must be obtained from the Greenlandic Government for access. Sailing across the Denmark Strait from Iceland gave me a chance to relax and change gear from the hubbub of daily life and prepare to enjoy this remote wonderland.
Closeness to the Polar region
Weather is a huge determinant of any expedition to Greenland in the summer. With the ice flow current from the North Pole heading south along the Northeast coast, making progress north can be difficult. Our expedition ship sailed to 75 degrees north which is comparatively much closer to the North Pole at 90 degrees north than if you travelled south to Antarctica. Most expedition ships that sail from Ushuaia to the Antarctic peninsula only get to a latitude of around 66 degrees south.
Settlements unlike another places
In Northeast Greenland you won't find many tourists. And the entire east coast of Greenland is relatively unpopulated. In the Northeast there is only one settlement Ittoqqortoormiit with fewer than 350 people living there. It is the most isolated town in Greenland. In fact, there are more boats owned than cars in Greenland, because most settlements are not connected to one another with fewer than 160km of roads across the entirety of Greenland.
One peculiar facet is that Greenland has many colourful houses in the settlements, which makes them distinctive to observe from the sea. The reason for this is in Greenland’s history where there were no house numbers or street names and so each building was one of five base colours – red, black, yellow, green, and blue. Each colour had a specific meaning, for r example, red buildings were churches, schools, and the teachers house, black was the police station. Today house owners can paint their buildings in any colour they choose.
Wildflower encounters and geological wonders
When the snow melts the Arctic vegetation comes to life for the few short weeks of summer. The colourful plants are in stark contrast to the vivid colours of the rocks, and ice, and make for wonderful photographs. We enjoyed several hikes in the mountains making sure to not trample on the colourful vegetation beneath our feet. The region's geological formations are nothing short of astounding. Towering cliffs, sedimentary rock layers, and rugged mountain ranges provide a glimpse into Earth's ancient history. It’s a photographer’s paradise.
Culture and History
Northeast Greenland is not just about nature; it also has a rich cultural heritage. The indigenous Inuit communities have thrived here for centuries and on some of our Zodiac landings we gained insights into their traditional way of life as well as learning about the fascinating history of explorers, whalers, and scientific expeditions that travelled in the region.
In conclusion, Northeast Greenland offers an unparalleled Arctic adventure filled with wildlife encounters, geological wonders, and a truly off-the-beaten-path expedition. So, consider setting sail to this remote corner of the world and experience its hidden treasures.
Like the look of AE Expeditions?
In an adventure quite literally the 'polar' opposite of Sue, Rich and Helen ventured south to Antarctica and filmed their entire experience with AE Expeditions. Have a watch, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and check out more voyages from AE Expeditions on our website.