When we walked outside Reykjavik airport and saw the light aircraft before us, the excitement started to build. It is pretty much a rule of thumb that boarding a light aircraft means an awesome adventure is on the cards. The anticipation of venturing to a far off icy land was mounting, as we flew over the ocean towards the world’s largest icecap. One of the best decisions of the trip was to book window seats, as the view was extraordinary. The rocky volcanic landscape was soon replaced by vast ocean, as we flew steadily north-west, across the Arctic Circle, towards the edge of East Greenland. The scene from our tiny airplane window was truly breath-taking. Massive icebergs scattered across the water like a giant jigsaw puzzle, flanked by towering snow topped glaciers meandering to the sea, cutting a path across an untouched white blanket. Tiny freshwater lakes showcasing a broad palette of brilliant blue and green waters, like paint stains on a white canvas. It took an hour to cross the ice sheet from east to west, the snow so white that sunglasses couldn’t bar the blinding glare off the unpolluted, untouched snow. A true polar wilderness.
When the longest road in the area is a 10 minute drive from the airport to the town, you realise how remote you really are. The clear blue skies and warming sun was a welcoming surprise, as being 69 degrees north you think you would be entering a world of fur coats, not sunglasses and t-shirts! Home to a mere 4,000 people, Greenland’s third most populated settlement is a true gem for scenic vistas. Perched on the edge of fjord slopes, wooden houses in red, blue and green look out to the sea, towards the giant icebergs on the horizon. An ancient 18th century church overlooking the fjord provides the perfect postcard photo opportunity, its dark wood exterior starkly contrasting the pure white bergs behind.
Hotel Arctic grandly overlooks the town and bay, with sea views from the rooms which are impressive enough to keep anyone from wanting to sleep. Looking out the window, a dozen Siberian huskies lounge on the rocks, the only thing between you and the vast expanse that is the bay. One lifts its head towards the sky and howls, breaking the silence. These magnificent dogs command respect and awe. The icebergs drift serenely and silently with the evening tide. I close my eyes and breathe in the cool, crisp Arctic air, feel the cold wind gently brush past my face, the warm summer sun radiating on me. The occasional howl from a husky and the gentle lapping of the water is most soothing. You truly feel like you are in a distant wilderness that must be appreciated. Global Warming is changing the landscape at an unprecedented rate, yet as I look out to the sea, time seems to slow and worldly problems seem almost insignificant. This is a place to visit to get perspective, clear your head, and think about what is important in life. Whilst looking out at one of the world’s greatest views of course!
And all this beauty and emotion is before we even started any of the activities that we had planned!!; Whale Watching boat cruises in amongst the Icebergs, The Calving Glacier of Equip, Kayaking amongst the Icebergs, Broadwalk Hike to the Unesco protected Sermmiut Icebergs, Midnight sun Iceberg Cruise!! To see the Greenland under the Midnight Sun break we went on
With the uncertainty of Brexit we wanted to make you aware of the government advice re passport requirements, and Driving License Requirements for driving abroad in Europe, if we Brexit with out a deal.
The rules for travel to most countries in Europe change if the UK leaves the European Union (EU) with no deal.
The new rules will apply to passports issued by the UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey.
Please see a link below with further details and also a link for you to check your specific passport.
Driving Licence Requirements
In the event that there is no EU Exit deal, the government will seek to put in place new arrangements for EU and EEA countries to recognise UK driving licences when people are visiting, for example on holiday or business trips. Until such arrangements are in place, UK driving licence holders may need an IDP in addition to their UK driving licence to drive when visiting EU and EEA countries.
Each EU and EEA country will decide if they require a foreign driver to have an IDP, in addition to a driving licence, to legally drive in their country.
There are three different types of IDP (International Driving Permits) covering different countries so if you already have one please check it is the correct one for the country you are travelling to.
For example –
Italy, Norway, Sweden – 1968
Iceland – 1949
It is very easy to get a IDP from a Post Office (There are 2,500 that issue them in the UK). You would need to take with you a passport photo, your plastic photocard driving licence and we would recommend taking a second Photo ID such as your passport as well. It costs £5.50 and it is issued there and then over the counter. We would strongly recommend if driving in Europe (including Norway and Iceland) you get one as the local suppliers are also not clear if they will need them or not. For example in Iceland one car hire company think they may not need them, another one says they will need them. For the sake of £5.50 it seems an easy decision for peace of mind for your trip, and as we would not be able to help overrule this requirement if on arrival it is required we do recommend you get one.
Please see the link below with further details, as well as the ability to search for you nearest issuing Post Office.
For most the pull of the Unesco protected Sermermiut Icebergs, the calving Equi Glacier, and watching whales under the midnight sun are the main pulls for going to Greenland in the summer, and the Husky Sledding, Snowmobiling and Northern Lights are the reasons given in the winter.
However there are some other activities that we would recommend you also do whilst in Ilulissat in Greenland to add richness to your Greenland holiday.
The Kaffemik short visit to a local family is much loved by our guests – Luc explains why:
Visiting a Greenlandic family home and being part of the traditional “Kaffemik” gives the unique opportunity to experience this local tradition in a close and cozy environment, whilst enjoy a hot drink and delicious cake.
“Kaffemik” is an expression for the openness and solidarity of the people in Greenland – it combines the celebration of important festivities with the need of companionship. A Greenlandic “Kaffemik” is the perfect place to enjoy a good cup of coffee and meet a local family in a homely setting.
You will leave the “Kaffemik” with a filled stomach and many impressive stories about the daily life in Greenland.
It is a great opportunity to ask about the local customs and to understand current Greenland culture and ways of life. This 1 hr excursion has proved popular as an insight into the “Greenland Way”.
Click here to see our range of Midnight Sun breaks in Greenland and our Icebergs and Northern Lights adventure in the winter in Greenland
“I would like to thank both of you for the organization of the amazing West Greenland Tour that made an unforgettable impression on me. First of all, the Tour was meticulously prepared and accompanied with perfect logistics. Difficulties and troubles met during the journey were promptly settled by your company.
Due to ideal planning of the Tour we were able to enjoy and gain a profound impression of Greenland and Iceland in spite of a very short stay. We felt you delivered professional logistics and an organizational approach during the whole Tour.
Thank you again for the experience that will hold a special place in our memory.”
To see the Greenland break that they went on click here.
There are three main types of travel. The first are the beach holidays. Flights, car hire and a hotel/villa and you’re all set. These are great for when you just want to get away and have a relaxing break. They are perfect for those that don’t want to plan and just decide as they go what they do with tomorrow. This is the sort of trip for someone who wants to keep full control of their schedule. They are simple, easy trips. Pick a beautiful location and half an hour on Expedia, and it’s all done.
The second category is the full set tour package. Whether it is a case of you travelling alone, wanting to meet new people, or whether you are just unsure how to put together everything you want to do, these are the breaks for those wanting someone else to plan out the A’s to B’s. It could be a case of too much to organise or just not knowing how. City breaks are easy to organise, but how about a trip to the arctic on a northern lights holiday? How do you organise a husky sled tour? Or maybe you are travelling around. Organising a trip to Golden Triangle India trip say, would be quite daunting for most people. This is where the tour package excels; it gives you effortless travel without the worry. Trying to arrange this sort of trip would feel like a comparison search for new car insurance at the end of the day, and that rather defeats the point of a wonderful holiday!
But there is a downside to the second category. What if you don’t get on with everyone in the group and you spend part of your coach or cruise trying to avoid set people? Also, it means many early starts, which feels contradictory taking into account that for a few days/week etc. you want to escape the alarm clock! Lastly, whilst you’re happy to get up early for a tour you are looking forward to, there are always parts of the ground programme you have no interest in, and that’s when getting out of bed early, packing the case and checking out of your hotel to be driven to the next place, just feels like too much hard work.
Onto category three. At Weekend a la Carte most of our clients have done many of the previous types of trips, and they know what they want. This includes hassle-free travel and to be looked after, but not to be part of a group and have no say on their itinerary. Everything we do is bespoke travel, reaching from an African Big 5 Safari, Venice Carnival package, Northern Lights trips, to city breaks. We know you want control of your holiday, but we also know you want someone else to work on the finer details. Most of our travellers are celebrating special birthdays and wedding anniversaries. These are our forte. We know how to make your trip special. You won’t be waiting for others to get on the bus, we won’t take you places you have no interest in, your hotel won’t be away from all the local sights.
The travel dates, hotels and duration are for you to decide. We are very flexible! We have many clients who want us to arrange ground only and then leave them to their devices, and if you want a second tiger safari on your Golden Triangle India holiday or a second night at the Verona opera, we can do this. We have been doing it for thirteen years, and are constantly looking at ways to improve our breaks, extensions being one of the main ways. We really do have something for everyone. Why not take a look?
Weekend a la Carte – a chocolate box of trips including Slovenia, Russia, Prague, Jordan, Morocco and Vienna.
Aurora Nights – Northern Lights inspired trips to Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Greenland.
Italian Short Breaks – Verona Opera, Venice Orient Express Train, Venice Carnival and the Siena Palio.
Big 5 Safaris – South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia.
Now the only hard part is for you to decide where your next adventure takes you!
We had booked the hotels and transport direct ourselves, and so were very much doing this on our own, with no support, and at that stage no knowledge of the location.
We were visiting East Greenland landing in Kulusk. As the clouds parted, and the stunning jigsaw of icebergs in the sea appeared we suddenly felt the most irresponsible parents in the world – Did I mention that our daughter was 11 months old at the time and still in a push chair?!
We landed and walked across the ice to the airport and outside to see an enormous mountain with glacier on it. A few 4WD cars picked up passengers and drove off and there we were left, no-one in or outside the airport!! It was a beautiful spot to be stuck in, but I have to say I was quite concerned. Eventually my husband managed to find someone who phoned someone and we made it to the hotel.
The hotel was basic and clean with plenty of hot food and full, of all things, Koreans! The owners also had a young child and were delighted to see tourists with a young child in tow and immediately produced baby food for us to use if we needed it. What great service, and it made us feel perhaps we were not totally mad to be travelling to one of the most remote places in the world with a baby after all!
We walked down to the local village along a track towered over by 8 foot high ice and snow. Actually taking a child in a push chair was perfect. If she had been older she would have wanted to get out and then would have got cold and miserable. As it was she was quite happy looking out from her push chair, and wasn’t old enough to have the everlasting snowball fights children insist upon having!
We stopped along the way to see the cemetery, an important part of the Innuits village. The village was compact and surrounded the harbour which was still full of ice which was starting to break up. There was a tiny village store selling some local handicrafts and pretty brightly painted small houses perched on the rocks overlooking the harbour with stunning views. Most of them had Huskies tethered up outside. This was the genuine McCoy!
It was apparently a festival day and we sat with the locals as they sat on the highest point of the village drinking their local brew from big plastic containers, and singing enchanting songs.
The benefit of having a baby with us really kicked in here with all the children coming to see us and adults waving us over from their doorways. At one point it was a moot point whether they or us were the tourist attraction! It was lovely as it gave us a personal contact with the local Innuits and made us feel very welcome. I suspect not many people take their babies to Greenland!
A couple of the local men jumped into traditional kayaks to show how easily they could manoeuvre them through the ice. Whilst amazing to see, the next day when we organised a private boat to take us out to see the Icebergs we specified we wanted a boat with a motor!
That was one of the most extraordinary experiences of our lives. We had arrived just during summer ice melt and the locals were not sure if the boat would be free of the ice in the harbour to take us out. But after a bit of a struggle the little boat was free and the driver took us right up to towering icebergs, breaking through thin ice as we went and into a bay with a glacier flowing into the sea at the end. What a special private experience, though the driver couldn’t speak a word of English so communication was limited to smiles and shrugs and finger pointing!
The next day we then had another extraordinary experience. The Helicopter transfer to the next village to Tasiilaq was quite amazing. It’s not a tourist transfer, it’s what the locals use to get around – especially at this time of year when the ice is melting so they can’t use Dog Sleds and the sea is not clear enough yet of ice for proper passages through for longer sea voyages. As we flew over the Ice Fjords and Icebergs as big as the Titanic our eyes were filled with beauty and drama. It’s only about a 20 minute hop, but what a special 20 minutes.
Tasiilaq is a bigger settlement than the village at Kullusk and here we saw a small church, hospital and school. We arrived at the Church just as a guide with a small group was showing them around so we overheard some of the stories he was telling about some of the customs and how the Inuits live there. However we were quite happy wandering around the village on our own coming across an Inuit carving local artefacts from horns, numerous huskies, and setting off up mountain paths we came across. We had to pace ourselves to Kristyna as she still needed afternoon naps!! The only real challenge we came across with her was the fact of the midnight sun and her struggling to get to sleep at night as the thin curtains were not dark enough to black the light out. I’d always wanted to see the Midnight Sun so I found it quite exciting to be outside at midnight in broad daylight!!
The next morning we took another boat trip, (a much bigger fishing vessel this time), out to see the Icebergs and the guide on board was extremely knowledgeable explaining about Global warming and the effect on their local environment. It was quite shocking to hear of the changes they had seen in only 1 or 2 generations. The sun was out and the colours and hues of the blue Icebergs were stunning. We went right up to where we could pass no further as a recent strong wind had pushed all the icebergs together and blocked the way. Tasiilaq is a beautiful spot to relax and explore.
We again returned by Helicopter and then headed straight onto a flight back to Reykjavik. I decided there and then that Greenland needed to be added to the Weekend a La Carte itinerary, though with organised transfers, tours and guides to bring more information and structure to this dramatic break. For those looking for raw nature, different culture and genuinely different sights it doesn’t get better than this!
Click here to see our amazing break which includes Greenland
Some of you may be watching the latest reality show “71 degrees North” on ITV. This new adventure reality show stars 10 celebrities and is set amongst the icy glaciers and snowy landscape of Norway, mixing spectacular experiences and pure danger, with sheer entertainment and breathtaking scenery. Activities so far have included Husky Sledging, Snowmobiling, Swimming in the Icy Waters and Building a Snow Cave. To come is reindeer racing, frozen waterfall climbing and snow hiking to name but a few.
As many of our Arctic Adventures breaks are set in similar conditions, though we offer Arctic breaks in Greenland, Sweden, Finland and Iceland and include many of these activities we thought it might be interesting to talk about what you should be wearing in these climes.
In order to dress right in a cold climate it is important to regulate the body’s exchange of heat with the surroundings.
The 3 layer clothing principle outlined below will ensure your comfort.
What to pack
An inner layer or Thermal base layer made from synthetics, wool or a woollen mixture (pure cotton should be avoided since cotton clothing cools down when it becomes wet.)
A middle layer of clothing should strengthen and regulate the heat insulation, isolate air and hold the humidity from the body. For example woollen sweater/shirt, fleece or thermal sweater.
An outer additional layer of woollen jumpers/sweaters, fleeces or thermal sweaters made of breathable material in order to allow even distribution of body heat, which can be added if required. Good Quality Woollen Socks
Gloves and Hat (for use outdoors when arctic clothing is not essential)
What would be provided to complete your Arctic Wear
An arctic jacket and trousers or thermal overalls, warm protective boots, outdoor hat, balaclava and gloves.
A proper hat restricts the great heat losses from the head while giving protection to ears and neck. A Balaclava offers excellent additional protection from the elements and can be worn under your Arctic Hat. People may find this of help to protect their faces from the elements (when travelling on snowmobiles in particular).
Gloves give good protection to the hands, and Arctic Thermal Shoes protect against moisture as well as the cold ground. They are larger than a normal shoe, in order to leave space for socks and soles, and to have an insulating layer of air in the shoe. Remember to take good quality woollen socks.
So now you are set and know what to wear! Take a look at the Arctic Adventure Breaks and see where you would wear them!