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planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

Sydney, Australia
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planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

My husband and I are thinking about traveling to Greenland in June. The place we definitely want to visit is Disko Bay / Ilulissat. We know it won't be cheap, but we would like to not spend too much money. Does anyone has any tips (hotel, day trips, etc.)?

Scunthorpe, United...
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1. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

Ilulissat is a magical place....but is expensive.

Have you seen this website which has information on the town:

greenland.com/tourist/…

There is a list of accommodation here:

greenland.com/tourist/…

We stopped in the Arctic Hotel which is a big modern hotel on the hillside overlooking the town. It gets good reviews on TA but isn't cheap.

http://www.hotel-arctic.gl/

It is a long trek into the town but the hotel does run a free bus service.

We had dinner B&B. For lunch we bought food from Pisifflik the big supermarket in the town.

There are several excursions you can do from Ilulissat.

greenland.com/tourist/…

The midnight cruise through the ice bergs is one of the highlights. We also enjoyed the trip to Rode Bay which is a small traditional settlement reached by boat.

The highlight of Ilulissat is the ice fjord. It is possible to walk to this without a guide. This is a superb walk which drops you down towards the old settlement of Semermuit and then follows the bare rocky coast above the fjord. The views of the ice are out of this world. There is a steep drop at the end of the walk back down to the road. There is a small map showing hiking trails here:

greenland.com/tourist/…

You can read about our trip to Greenland here:

www.slowtrav.com/tr/tripreport.asp…

Photographs and some more information are here:

http://homepage.mac.com/wasleys/greenland_mw/

Toronto, Canada
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2. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

Thank you for sharing your trip report and experience EESW. We are also in the process of planning out trip in summer 2011 and your info you provided are very helpful.

Based on your link to the Ilulissat map, I presume you were taking the 1.4 km green trail to Semermuit. Did you try any other trails? If yes, can you share some feedback?

For the supermarket in Semermuit, does it provide the basic food supply other than seafood?

Scunthorpe, United...
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3. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

Thank you for the kind comments wifty.

Before commenting on the walking trails I should explain that I have osteoarthritis in my knees so am no longer able to walk as far or as fas as I would like. Rough surfaces can cause problems and I am unable to scramble or jump streams. Steep descents can cause a lot of problems. This limits what I can do.

We followed the green track to Sermermuit which was good easy going although the ground could be wet and swelchy. Apart from bumps in the ground there's not much to see of the original settlement. We looked at the blue hiking rail but it climbed steeply and I rapidly decided that it wasn't for me, although we did see several groups striding off purposefully.

We followed the orange track which took us across bare rocks (scrapped by ice) well above the ice fjord. This was a fantastic walk with superb views of the ice (as you can see from Michael's pictures). We enjoyed it so much we did in fact do it twice. The first day was dull with low cloud - decidedly atmospheric. The second time with blue skies and sunshine. The walk was easy apart from the final 100-200 yards when it dropped steeply down to the road. I had problems as the drop was so steep and ended up sitting on my bottom sliding down from flat bit to flat bit. By the time we reached the road I could hardly walk....

I would have liked to do the red dotted walk at the top of the map which starts off along the side of the reservoir (the start of it looked fairly easy) but time didn't allow. From memory I think this is the start of a longer circular walk which swings round through the tundra back into Ilulissat.

The supermarket sold a wide range of groceries - everything you need. Everything has to come from Denmark so don't expect a wide variety of fresh food (meat, cheese. fruit and veg). Fruit and veg can also look a bit sad. Actually there isn't a lot of seafood on sale as most families still fish and catch their own food.

Hope this helps.

Eleanor

Durham, United...
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4. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

I've not been to Ilulissat in summer, so can't comment too much on hiking but I have been twice in winter . One thing that i think was new this year (March) were boardwalks on parts of the Sermermiut trail - I don't remember them being there before.

I'd also advise people to try all the tourist offices to check prices, especially those staying the Hotel Arctic (I think Air Greenland own the Hotel Arctic and World of Greenland, and like to keep it in the family). I found Tourist Nature cheaper, and more helpful and flexible, and the owner (Silver) was good.

Another thing I'd say is since you almost certainly will have to change planes in Kangerlussuaq, at least stay a night or two there. OK, it's ugly, but the hotel is OK and how often do you get the chance to get a bus to and stand on one of the world's two major ice caps? Of all the things I've done in Greenland, that's probably the one I'll always remember.

Some photos of Ilulissat here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncl65

Scunthorpe, United...
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5. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

Those are superb photos. You had some marvellous weather. I loved the sunset pictures...and northern lights too! Now those really are an amazing site. We've seen them in Norway and I'll never forget the way the colours swirled across the sky. The ice bergs are so photogenic and I loved the one with the small hole in it.

I'm not surprised they have now put boardwalks on parts of the Sermermuit trail - it was pretty wet in places.

Toronto, Canada
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6. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

Thank you Eleanor for taking the time to provide detailed feedback on the trails and also the supermarket. We will sure bear those in mind when we plan the itinerary. Hopefully the condition of your osteoarthritis will improve so that you can continue to enjoy the great outdoor.

Thank you ilas65 for sharing your advice and your lovely photos. Based on the flights between Canada and Iceland/Greenland, we will be flying Toronto-Reykjavik-Nuuk-Ilulissat. Our primary focus of this trip is photography and we are planning to spend the majority of time in Ilulissat. Based on your photos, it seems there some major differences in activities and photo opportunities between visiting in summer vs winter. Looks like we won't be able to do dogsled and to watch the northern light in summer. Anyway we would be very very happy to be able to enjoy those fascinating Ilulissat landscape under the midnight sun.

Scunthorpe, United...
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7. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

Hi wifi,

Thanks for taking the time to come back and acknowledge answers - it is appreciated.

Depending on when you visit you will have 24 hours sunlight which is an amazing experience but the downside is that you don't want to sleep in case you miss anything! The midnight trip among the icebergs is not to be missed. It was dull the night we did it and decidedly atmospheric, especially when the skipper cut the boat engine and we just floated among the ice. All we could hear was the occasional whoosh as a bit of ice broke off somewhere.

This reminds me I should have said DON'T walk too close to the shore line. You are advised to keep above 10m. If a big block falls off one of the icebergs (and some of them are as big as islands) it can cause a considerable tidal wave. People have been know to have been washed off the shore into the sea. With temperatures only just on freezing you won't last long.

No dog sledding in the summer but it should be possible to arrange a visit to meet and talk to a dog handler in Ilulisaat. This was fascinating as you learn so much about the importance of the dogs and the way they are looked after. You will see plenty of dogs tied up around the settlement. Often they are lying asleep and look a bit like stones in the landscape. You are unlikely to hear them barking - unless it is feeding time when they all all start to bark and howl. These are not pampered pooches but working dogs. They spend all their life outside and are chained to stop them wandering and to stop fights. Only puppies and the female dog (sorry TA regards bi*ch as a rude word) are left unchained for the first few months. You may be lucky and see puppies running around.

Don't pet them as they are not family pets and the mother may get upset. The rule was to avoid contact with the dogs and not to go too close or to touch them. If a dog gets lose it is likely to be attacked by other dogs and often ends up getting shot.

The Greenlandic way of life is very different - it has evolved over thousands of years and it is important to leave some of our western preconceptions behind when it comes to hunting and treatment of the dogs.

Come back if you have more questions and ilas65 or I will try and answer them.

Eleanor

Edited: 15 January 2011, 13:21
Durham, United...
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8. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

I think - though I'm not 100% sure - you can go dog sledding in summer on Disko Island, but you'd need to take an expensive helicopter trip to get there. Northern lights are really only between about November and March, although Ilulissat town isn't the best place to see them (too much light pollution). I saw them on my last night in 2009 - I thought about walking out of town for a better view, but I'd already packed most of my cold weather gear, and it was around -25C. Kangerlussuaq is actually better for the Northern Lights, as it has a more stable climate.

If you're flying Nuuk - Ilulissat, I may be wrong, but I think that does land in Kangerlussuaq en route. It really is worth a day there, even if it's just to stand on the ice cap. I'll put some pictures from Kangerlussuaq on Flickr in the next day or so and post a link.

I can echo what Eleanor says about the dogs. I'm wary of all dogs anyway, but the sled dogs really are one step from wild. Walking back from Sermermiut, past the area in the photos where dogs are kept, two adults were loose on the road and started moving very slowly and deliberately towards me, teeth bared, and making quite scary growling noises. I was just about to employ my tried and trusted tactic of running away shouting like a little girl, when their handler appeared and grabbed them. He said something to me in Greenlandic and laughed, so I did too, but for all I know he said "you big European wimp".

For photography, it's a difficult place to beat, at least in winter. The light is extraordinary, and the scenary pretty much unique outside of Antarctica. If you can, it's worth taking the boat to Ilimanaq (Tourist Nature organise that trip) or Rodebay - you'll get some shots of a much more traditional town than Ilulissat.

9. Re: planning my trip to Ilulissat / Disko Bay

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