Greenland visit caps off an epic trip through the Northwest Passage.
How exciting to wake up anchored off the Greenland community of Ilullissat, a tidy collection of very colourful buildings huddled amongst dark bedrock. We went ashore bright and early and landed at a dock in a small protected harbour crammed with fishing boats.
Once ashore I walked up the very narrow streets trying hard not to get killed by some very aggressive local drivers. The town is much larger and brighter than the Canadian Arctic communities we had visited. I headed straight for the famous Illulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The road led past hundreds of sled dogs chained up on the outskirts of town. I learned later that there are almost as many dogs as people (population 4,500) in Illulissat.
Copenhagen is a can’t-miss destination when exploring the Baltic Sea on a cruise with Holland America Line. The city’s old cobbled streets, brightly colored harbor and the tower- and turret-dotted skyline lend a fairy-tale charm that make Denmark’s capital one of the easiest European cities to love.
For the 2018 season, Holland America is providing guests with an exclusive opportunity to be enthralled in a piece of Danish history with the Copenhagen Signature Experience: A Night at Kronborg Castle. Our new signature Experiences, like the one at Copenhagen, give guests a couple of extra days before the cruise to get to know some of the world’s most beloved cities more intimately.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kronborg Castle is a Renaissance masterpiece and has been immortalized by one phrase: “To be, or not to be…”.
West Jutland is bringing old Norse culture to life with interactive attractions alongside historic sites and nature trails. Mother and daughter immerse themselves in a land of legend.
The longhouse is warm and dark. Embers smoulder in a fire-pit in the centre of the hall; above it hang blackened joints of meat. The air is thick with wood smoke. As our eyes adjust to the gloom, we make out the wide seating platforms, strewn with sheepskins on one side, and heavy chairs on the other. Shields and tapestries line the walls and carved wooden figures stand guard.
My daughter Nell and I have come to West Jutland to join a “Viking trail” and to visit some of the area’s historic sites and new attractions.
A futuristic thatched visitor centre is the latest focal point in Denmark’s Unesco-listed coastal national park, perfect for twitchers, cyclists and oyster lovers.
Eastwards, the view feels like it goes on for a thousand miles. It must be 15km or maybe 20. Looking west, the sight lines are just as flat, though here the low-lying vistas are marshy, with rivulets snaking their way across the flat sands to the North Sea proper, several kilometres further downstream. In a country that has barely a hill to its name, south-west Jutland is Denmark at its flattest.
The Wadden Sea, running from the northern Netherlands across Germany’s north coast and up Denmark’s west coast past the city of Esbjerg, is one of the world’s largest and Europe’s longest continuous stretch of wetlands.
The town of Jelling in Jutland, Denmark, was the seat of the earliest kings of Denmark in the 10th century. Today the Jelling complex consists of two large burial mounds, two monumental runestones and a small church built on the site of three earlier wooden churches going back 1,000 years. The combination of tumuli, runestones and church capture the transition from the traditional Norse religion to Christianity. King Gorm the Old, the first king of Denmark, dedicated the smaller and older of the runestones. The inscription translates to: “King Gormr made this monument in memory of Thyrvé, his wife, Denmark’s adornment.”
With all the tourist attractions in Copenhagen, you won’t have trouble finding things to do in this exciting Nordic city. But plenty of interesting places are also within easy day-trip distance. You’ll find tours offered to many of these, or you can use Denmark’s excellent public transportation network to visit them. Some, like the lovely fishing town of Dragør, are an easy bicycle ride away. Denmark has some outstanding castles that you can reach from Copenhagen, the most famous of which is Kronborg Castle, the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A new maritime museum and a world-class collection of modern art are nearby. Often included in a day tour to Kronborg Castle is Frederiksborg Castle, set in stunning gardens. Or you can cross the remarkable Oresund Bridge to Sweden to visit the exciting city of Malmö.
Given that this ‘city’ is much more of a small town, Ilulissat is the sort of place which you could go your entire life without hearing about. While this is completely understandable, it is also a little bit of a travesty.
The third largest town in Greenland may only be home to around 3500 people, but it is the sort of place that you’ll find yourself dreaming about until long after you’ve left.
Here’s how to make a visit to Ilulissat as easy and as amazing as possible.
WHEN TO GO
If you are on a budget, then you really cannot go passed the summer months of May-August. A lot of hostels in Greenland are only open in the high season – meaning that outside of these months budget accommodation is very limited.
Hike along the Ilulissat Icefjord and see icebergs from one of the most active glaciers in the world. It’s easy to see why Disko Bay is an UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Hike a 6.9km trail starting from the Old Heliport in Ilulissat and ending at the Quarry in Ilulissat. Luckily, Ilulissat is a very small town and although this hike starts and ends at different points, it’s very easy to get back to the main part of town just by looking around when you finish the hike.
From the main part of town, take Kussangajaannguaq to Alanngukasik then make a left on Kuunnguarsuk and keep walking until you reach the Old Heliport. Here, you will see a large sign with maps of all of the trails around the icefjords.