Category Archives: Greenland

Things to do in Nuuk, Greenland

Just 240km from the Arctic Circle, Greenland‘s capital Nuuk is nestled at the base of soaring twin peaks, with its brightly coloured buildings dotting the Nuuk fjord’s shore.

Charming and comfortable, Nuuk has museums and restaurants to offer, but by far its greatest attraction is the wonderful array of outdoor adventures! No matter the season, there is always something thrilling to do in Nuuk to take in the serenity of the natural surrounds.

Nuuk, a unique city

A great way to see the picturesque Nuuk is by bike – there are bikes for hire in the city centre. On your two wheels, ride your way around the sites of Nuuk, including the Nuuk Cathedral built in 1849 with its red spire dominating the cityscape and the statue of Hans Egede above the church. If you take a peek inside the Cathedral, you can’t help but notice two large brass candelabras, gifts from the Church of Norway.

In your downtime, enjoy a tasting paddle at The Godthaab Bryghus craft brewery or a show at the Northern Lights inspired architectural marvel that is Katuaq Cultural Centre. But first and foremost, get outdoors and feel the fresh air on your face!

Quassussuaq and Ukkusissaq Mountains

The twin peaks that loom above Nuuk are a wonderful place for hiking in the summertime. On a Hurtigruten expedition, you can add on a 8km guided walk along  Quassussuaq and admire the surrounding fauna. Alternatively, there are many hiking paths through the mountains and detailed maps available to forge your own way. Surrounded by flourishing greenery, wander your way through the mountains in the summer and spring months and behold the incredible vistas over the Nuuk fjord and the city below.

Quassussuaq and Ukkusissaq are also popular places for mountain biking, with many trails ranging from easy to challenging. In the winter time, the twin peaks offer great skiing and snowshoeing opportunities.

Nuuk Fjord

Nuuk fjord is the second largest in the world and perfect for exploring by boat or kayak. With many inlets and islands open to exploration, cascading waterfalls are common place. For those keen on fishing, there is fantastic angling for Arctic char, while the fjord waters are also home to large cod and redfish.

In the summertime, humpback whale sightings are not uncommon, and you might see one flipping one of their huge fins out of the water as they crest a wave. The Narsap Sermia Glacier flows directly into the fjord, filling the headwater with icebergs and is beautiful in its own right.

Qornok Fishing Village

Qornok fishing village is a quaint abandoned fishing town located on a small island in Nuuk. Sail your way across from Nuuk and enjoy the wind in your hair and then picnic on the island. Abandoned in the 1970s when the fishing industry shut down, the town is now used as a little nature resort for locals in the summertime. Only an hour and a half from Nuuk city, this is an easy and enjoyable day trip.


Contact one of our agents today about organising your Greenland adventure. Discover the largest but most sparsely populated islands in the world with Bentours!

Arctic Legends behind the Northern Lights

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, have baffled people for centuries, sending bright waves of red and green streaks of colour across the sky. From warring gods to shoals of fish the aurorae were seen as being both good and bad omens. Interestingly, mythology surrounding the phenomenon often aligned between people who were thousands of kilometres apart.

We have collected a few of our favourite explanations to share with you. However, it’s not until you’ve actually seen this natural light show that you can truly understand why so much mysticism arises around it! We offer a particularly special Northern Lights Astronomy Voyage for those who have dreamed of seeing this sight for themselves.

Legends have not only come about because of Aurora Borealis, but also the less viewed Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) that can be seen (sometimes) in southern Australia and New Zealand. Look out for an up-coming article World Mythology about Aurorae to learn more.

The Northern Lights in the Arctic

Greenland

In Greenland, children born during the Northern Lights are thought to be more intelligent. The Inuit of Greenland believed that the lights were spirits trying to communicate with the living, while another legend told of dead spirits playing a game across the sky with a walrus skull.

Alaska 

Flipping that last legend on its head, the Cup’it Eskimo of Nunivak Island believed that the game was played by walruses with a human skull. Other Alaskan tribes were very afraid of the lights and would throw dog faeces and urine in to the air to make them go away.

Canada 

Hudson Bay communities believed that the lights were a celestial farewell, being torches of dead spirits as they made their way up into the heavens.

Russia  

The Chukchi see the Lights as an area of Heaven rarely seen, the home of those who died a violent death. Russian texts as recent as the 15th century discuss the Northern Lights as heavenly armies fighting.

Iceland

The Lights are said to relieve the pain of childbirth as long as the mother does not look at them while giving birth. If she does, her child will be born cross-eyed.

Finland

Perhaps one of our favourite myths, the Lights were believed to be created by a celestial firefox, that runs so fast across the snow that his tail showers sparks into the night sky. The word for the Lights in Finnish is revontulet which means firefox. The Sami of Finnish Lapland believed the lights were spumes of water from whales.

Sweden 

The Lights were seen as heralding good news, indicating a good harvest or being the reflection of a large shoal of herring that would now fill the ocean. They were also said to be benevolent gods providing warmth and light through a distant volcano.

Norse Mythology

There are disputed claims as to whether the Vikings had any stories behind the Northern Lights, particularly because there is evidence to indicate there was very low solar activity at that time and so the Lights would have been weaker, rarer and mostly red. One of the most popular myths is that the lights were reflections off the armour of Valkyries, peering down at earth to decide who would leave a battle and who would die. This has been disputed for the lack of evidence within Viking texts, as it only comes into existence in more modern writings on the Vikings.

The more accepted myth is that the Lights were believed to be the Bivfrost Bridge, a glowing pulsating arch that led fallen soldiers to Valhalla (although some believe this was describing a rainbow and not the Lights).


Contact Bentours today to book in your Northern Lights adventure! We have many great itineraries to offer or perhaps better yet, relax and admire the view on a Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage with our Northern Lights Promise.

10 Interesting Facts about Greenland

How much do you know about the largest ice island in the world? Sparsely populated on the coast, while the interior is covered with ice, Greenland is emerging as one of the world’s best kept secrets as a holiday destination.

And with Hurtigruten running Expedition Voyages up the coast, there is no better time to see the incredible flora and fauna! Plus it is a great chance to have an in depth look at the fascinating culture and history of this land of ice.

Did you know that…

1. 80% of Greenland is covered by an ice sheet and glaciers, estimated by scientists to be 400,000 to 800,000 years old, with the edges about 10,000 years old, a remnant from the last ice age! Despite that, the ice-free area is still as large as Sweden.

2. The flag of Greenland is a polar bear on a blue shield – the polar bear represents the fauna of the nation while the blue represents the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

3. Technically, Greenland is part of the North American continent although it is geopolitically aligned with Europe and is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. In fact, in 1946, the US attempted to purchase Greenland but Denmark refused.

4. The Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet has lost more than 10 billion tons of ice per year since 2003 due to melting, according to a Nature Climate Change study.

5. While sealing, whaling, hunting and fishing are the primary source of income, there are large deposits of gemstones all throughout the country and it is predicted that mining could take over fishing as the largest industry.

6. ‘Kayak’ and ‘igloo’ are Greenlandic words that have been adopted without modification into English.

7. There are practically no roads in Greenland! Despite the fact the country is enormous, all travel is done by plane, boat, helicopter, snowmobile or dogsled. As a matter of fact, there are hardly any cars in Greenland – with a population of 57,000, there are estimated to be only 2,570 cars in the entire country, most of them in Nuuk, the capital.

8. The indigenous people of Greenland are called Kalaallit (which means Greenlander in Kalaallisut language) and originate from Central Asia. Parts of Greenland have been occupied for over 4,500 years, although the people today are not directly descended from those earliest settlers. They are rather largely descended from a group that arrived in Greenland some 1,000 years ago.

9. Greenland is home to some of the world’s most extreme versions of sport including the Arctic Circle Race and the Ice Golf World Championships. The Arctic Circle Race is the toughest cross country ski race in the world, spanning 160km out of Sisimiut with both locals and visitors competing. The Ice Golf Championships occur in March over two days and involve a golf course cut into the ice between icebergs and into the snow fields.

10. From May 25 to July 25, Greenland experiences the midnight sun – thanks to the angle of the Earth, the sun travels across the sky but does not actually set. July is also the only month of the year were the temperatures are above freezing point!

Did you learn something new about Greenland? For such a sparsely populated land, the culture and history is certainly very fascinating – and there’s a lot more facts where these came from!

Experience the wonders of Greenland, from picturesque Nuuk to the incredible Ilulissat Icefjords with the largest glacier outside of Antarctica on a Hurtigruten coastal expedition voyage.

Arctic Adventures in Sisimiut

40km north of the Arctic Circle, Sisimiut is Greenland’s second largest town and a gateway to Arctic adventure. Try hiking, skiing, fishing, hunting, kayaking or dog sledding – if you can think of any Arctic activity, it’s probably common place in Sisimiut!

Although only established as a town in 1756, the area has a rich history and has been inhabited for some 4 500 years. There are countless artifacts of the Inuits of the Saqqaq culture who occupied the area almost five centuries ago while the majority of the population is descended from the Thule people, who settled the area nearly one thousand years ago.

Hurtigruten Greenland Expedition

Aboard a Hurtigruten journey, you can explore the coast of Greenland, seeing incredible glaciers, fjords and oceanside towns. Some towns of the island are so isolated that they can only be accessed by boat and most aren’t connected to each other by roads. Sisimiut is one of the larger towns the voyage stops at – specifically chosen for its charm and the wealth of opportunities it presents to adventurous souls!

Summer – Hiking, Fishing and more

In the summertime, take advantage of the midnight sun and hike amongst the mountains any time of day. Crest the summit of the Palasip Qaqqaa – from the peak on a clear day you can see the long Greenland coast snaking off into the distance. With the stunning views of the ocean and Nasaasaaq mountain, it is well worth the climb.

The back country of Sisimiut is where the original people of this land have walked for centuries. Participate in an organised guided walk to see early Inuit artifacts and ruins along the trail or buy yourself a map and find your own way.

Fly fishing is also a popular summer past time, with Arctic Char abounding in the rivers. There are also opportunities for big game hunting, mountaineering and kayaking.

Winter – Skiing, Snow Shoeing and Sleds

In the wintertime, do as the locals do and ski! Back country skiing offers fresh powder off-piste almost daily. Each year the strenuous Arctic Circle Race takes place from Sisimiut. At 160km, this race is the toughest cross-country race in the world but unites locals and travellers alike, all challenging themselves to an ultimate test of endurance.

Dog sledding is a must do, heading off into the back country for the afternoon or perhaps for a longer three day adventure. Bunk down in log cabins each night, eat fresh Greenland produce and try some cross country snowshoeing.

All year – Cultural Experiences and Fresh Produce

Visit the fascinating Sisimiut museum, housed in historic 18th century colonial buildings, with an entrance gate decorated by an intricately carved whale jawbone. Here, you can learn of the history and traditions of the region, as well as examining artifacts from the Saqqaq settlements, an exhibition of modern and traditional dog sleds and hunting tools, plus explore a reconstructed traditional peat house.

A trip to the local handicraft market is fascinating, where art is made out of reindeer antlers, seal skins and walrus tusks. A popular souvenir is a tupilaq statute – a monster traditionally carved into an animal bone but now more often out of antler or tusk, that Inuits would use to take revenge on their enemies.

For those not keen on any strenuous outdoor activities, Hurtigruten also offers a leisurely boat excursion, where you can admire the mix of modern and traditional in the town, with its brightly coloured colonial houses and new cultural centre.

To try the local fare, you can’t go past the central fish and meat markets, where there is casual dining on the very freshest ingredients. Just be aware that most of the market (and the museum) will only accept cash, so have some with you.


Contact an agent today to book your Bentours adventure with Hurtigruten up the stunning coast of Greenland!

Reasons to visit Greenland in 2017

Greenland: remote, wild and rugged.

For many years, travel in this country has only really been possible for the more adventurous traveller, willing to hitch a ride aboard a freight ship from Iceland. However in recent years, Greenland has opened its arms wide to tourism and now offers some of the most unique experiences of the Arctic and sub-Arctic to those thirsting for somewhere new to explore.

2017 is the year that Greenland comes into its own. With the growing tourism industry, there are enough resources available for you to see the country in comfort without the hordes of tourists. If you are a nature lover, Greenland is the place for you to visit and with Hurtigruten running expedition voyages up the Greenlandic coast in 2017, there is no better way to experience this incredible country of ice.

Trek…

… around the edges of the prehistoric ice sheet that dominates the interior of Greenland – in fact over 80% of the country. Ice sheet is perhaps misleading: there are many ice mountains, frozen freshwater formations and fauna. This ice sheet represents 10% of the world’s fresh water supplies and is 14 times the size of the UK.

Why 2017? A Nature Climate Change study has shown that the Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet is melting at a rate of 10 billion tons of water per year since 2003 and shows no signs of letting up.

See…

… the Ilulissat Icefjord, incredible and probably the most famous natural site of Greenland. Sermeq Kujalleq is the largest glacier outside of Antarctica and the whole area has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage.

Why 2017? As the popularity of Greenland grows, in 2017 you can see the glacier in many different ways – by boat, helicopter or even on foot, hiking around the edge of the glacier with experienced guides.

Relax…

… in one of the hundreds of hot springs scattered around Greenland. On the islands of Uunartoq and Disko there are many natural springs to choose from, ranging in temperature from 38 to 60 degrees celsius!

Why 2017? Many natural springs around the world have turned into luxury resort locations, which are lovely in their own right but a totally different experience. You’ll find none of that in Greenland yet, so come and enjoy pure, unadulterated nature at its finest.

Capture…

… the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis on camera, visible from Greenland as they are from other Arctic countries. The green and red streaks will appear dancing across the sky between September and the beginning of April. A common tale in Greenlandic mythology is that the lights appear when the dead are playing football with a walrus skull across the sky!

Why 2017? Greenland has very little light pollution due to its sparse population and from a Hurtigruten ship, the Northern Lights can be seen with the greatest clarity. Plus due to the predicted solar cycle, 2017 is perhaps the best time to see the Northern Lights for the next decade.

Spot…

… polar bears! From January to April take a sled shore excursion to see polar bears where they hunt off the North and Eastern coasts of Greenland. You can also see reindeer, musk oxen, eagles, ptarmigan, lemmings and perhaps even the rare arctic wolf. From Ittoqqotoormiit in Northeast Greenland, you can access the remote but abundant interior national park with safaris to see both polar bears and walruses.

Why 2017? With the melting ice sheets, polar bears’ natural environment is being threatened more and more as the years pass. Plus the emerging tourism industry means that tour groups are smaller and more personal, so you can get right up close (but safe) to these incredible predators.

Watch…

… whales. Marine life in Greenland is abundant, so is it any wonder that the land has been inhabited for 4, 500 years!? See the gentle giants of the ocean with some summer whale watching. From Narsaq Minke whales can be spotted, while in the Nuuk fjord sometimes the huge humpback whales will appear.

Why 2017? Because why not?! Surely we have already given you enough reasons to visit this incredible part of the world this year!


Discover Greenland and all the natural wonders it has to offer in 2017 aboard a Hurtigruten voyage. Contact Bentours today to organise the Arctic trip of a lifetime!

Wild Scandinavia: Puffin facts

 

Did you know that this cute Atlantic bird is also known as a ‘clown of the sea’ or a ‘sea parrot’? With their almost comically large beak and head, striped in a distinctive red and orange fashion, seeing a puffin in the wild is a quintessential Arctic and sub-Arctic experience.

On a Hurtigruten voyage to Norway, Iceland or Greenland you’ll have the opportunity to spot these beautiful birds and even join one of our bird watching safaris. Some 60% of puffins nest on Iceland, so on a visit to Reykjavik, make sure you check out the not to distant nesting grounds. Before you head off on your Arctic adventure, here are a few interesting facts about these cute little critters:

12 Puffin Facts:

1. Puffins get their name from their puffed-up appearance. Puffins are only about 25cm tall and have thick down to withstand the freezing waters. Their thick black and white feathers give them the appearance of roundness, like they have a little belly. When puffins fight they raise their feathers in an attempt to look more intimidating to the other puffin. To the human eye though, in combat these birds look perhaps even cuter.

2. Puffins are extremely effective flyers and by flapping their wings at about 350–400 beats per minute, they can reach speeds of up to 88 km/h!

3. Puffins don’t always mate for life exclusively, but they do rarely change mates, prompting many people to describe them as monogamous. When a puffin is 3 to 5 years old, they will choose a life mate. Every year, they return to the same nesting grounds with their mate and perform a mating dance, where they rub their beaks together. This is known as billing and will often draw an excited crowd of puffins to watch. They then make a nest in a burrow and lay just one egg, for which they share responsibility, including when the chick hatches out of the egg.

4. The puffin’s Latin name, Fratercula means ‘little brother’. The name refers to the sea bird’s black and white plumage, because it was said to resemble the robes that friars (or brothers) once wore.

puffins_fish_600x4505. A puffins main diet is fish and sometimes crustaceans. Similar to penguins, they are incredibly skilled divers and hunt for prey by diving. They can stay underwater for up to a minute at up to 60m of depth searching for fish, but usually only spend 20–30 seconds in the water at a time. Puffins are able to carry an impressive number of fish in their beaks at once – they usually catch around 10 or so per hunt, but have been known to carry more. According to Project Puffin, the record for fish held at once was 62.

6. Puffins spend most of their lives at sea, resting on the waves when they are not swimming. They will drink seawater to maintain energy between hunting prey.

7. A puffin’s beak changes colour during the year. In winter, the beak has a dull grey colour, but in the springtime, in time for mating season, it becomes bright red or orange. The vibrancy of the colour is thought to indicate the puffin’s health and therefore attractiveness as a mate.

puffins_chick1_600x4508. Puffins have waterproof feathers specifically effective for open sea. It is extremely important that they keep their feathers clean to maintain the waterproofing so learning how to do this is essential for young chicks, or pufflings. Although a puffling will not leave the burrow until they are able to fly, at the mouth of the burrow will be a toilet area, away from the nest to maintain cleanliness.

9. In the wild, puffins live up to 20 years and their main predator is the great black-backed gull, which will catch the puffins while they are in flight or swoop in on them when they are on the ground.

10. There are a few collective nouns for puffins, but our favourite has got to be a Circus of Puffins (because they’re also known as “clowns of the sea”)

11. Ever wondered what sound a puffin makes? When they’re flying they make a high screeching noise, and when they’re in their burrows they make a muted sound a bit like a cat purring.

12. Puffins are not classified as endangered but they are threatened by over-fishing in some areas, as this is their main food source. Climate change also poses a threat to puffins as they are ideally built for 0–20°C  waters and cool water fish.

 

See these incredible sea parrots for yourself with us on one of our expedition cruises or excursions!