Ilulissat is one of the most visited places in Greenland - with good reason. The main attraction being the UNESCO World Heritage icefiord with its huge icebergs, rich sea life and interesting history makes for a unique experience! Here are a few things that are good to know before visiting:
There are no polar bears.
Polar bears are insanely rare in the area. It would be cool to see a polar bear in real life - but the Disko bay is not the place. There are plenty of whales though and you might be lucky to see an arctic fox.
You will not understand a word.
The Greenlandic language is interesting. Listening to a conversation is an experience in itself. The words can easily contain 20 characters. You will most likely not understand anything.
It’s not cold in the summer.
I was there in peak summer from late June to late August. It definitely wasn’t southern France, but it wasn’t dead cold. Many days were spent in shorts and a t-shirt. Although if you are going sailing it will be colder, so bring something warm and wind stopping. Wind-wise it is like an on/off switch – either it is dead silent or storm, usually dead silent though. I experienced only a few days with precipitation during my stay, so it was nice and sunny 85% of the time. Sounds like it's all sunshine and rainbows, right? The weather can change to storm-like conditions within minutes, so be prepared.
There are no roads.
#Vanlife is not going to happen anywhere in Greenland. In Ilulissat the longest stretch of connected tarmac is 5 km / 3 mi - then there is only backcountry. So it would rather be #boatlife as the ocean is the highway of Greenland.
Don’t pet the dogs.
They are more wolf than dog. And they are hungry. Enough said.
The smell of fish.
Fishing is the biggest industry in Greenland so naturally the smell of fish is present! If a local smells fish in the air, he/she will probably say “It smells of money!”. A dedicated fisherman can make a significant amount of money in Greenland.
Stay out of the water.
There happens to be quite a few gigantic ice cubes floating around so the water is a bit chilly. You will only survive for a few minutes if you aren’t in a survival suit - if not, you will probably die. So stay out of the water.
It is not a choice. Internet connection is insanely bad. Forget about streaming videos, if you are lucky you might be able to download half of your incoming mails. If you are lucky… Don’t get mad - embrace it and enjoy a little time offline.
“I will be there when I am there”.
Generally people will (try to) be on time. Although if one ask when someone will arrive the answer can be “I will be there when I am there”. Due to the dynamic natural environment it’s hard to predict travel times as fog, wind and ice might get in the way. Rarely planes are on time – a multi-day delay is not uncommon.
Everything is expensive.
Want that delightful pint while watching the icebergs? Well, you have to dig deep into your pockets. Want to buy anything else? You have to dig deep too. Everything has to be sailed or flown in so most things are expensive. Fish is cheap though if you buy it fresh from “Brættet”.
Bonus: Everything is spectacular!