Skip to Content

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Greenland From Iceland

In researching our trip to Iceland, I heard that a day trip to Greenland from Reykjavik might be possible. Visiting Greenland? I was intrigued.

This brought up several other questions for me. How can you visit Greenland? Specifically, how do you get to Greenland? And who goes to Greenland anyway?

I immediately became captivated with the idea of visiting Greenland and I knew that we HAD to go. Convincing Laura that this was a good idea would be another story. Here’s everything we learned about trips to Greenland from Iceland.

Colorful homes in Kulusuk, Greenland

How to Get to Greenland

Our first real decision was how to get there. We found some airlines offering day trips from Iceland to Greenland. Alternately, if we’re going, we could add a couple of days and really explore, however the trip was proving to be long enough with our limited vacation time. Most of our long discussions came down to whether we would like take the quick trip from Iceland to Greenland.

Once before, I wanted to do a day trip to somewhere crazy (from Spain to Gibraltar). At the time, I was accused of just wanting to collect a passport stamp (which, since Greenland is a partially autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark, it’s a Denmark stamp).

And it went much that way this time. I’ll admit, that was part of it. But how often do you have the opportunity for visiting Greenland? We don’t have a lot of vacation time, and tacking the quick trip on to our time in Iceland just made sense (to me, anyway).

Glacier near Kulusuk Greenland

There’s really only two ways to get there. The first is to fly from Iceland to Greenland. There are flights to Greenland from Iceland (via Air Iceland Connect) and Denmark (via Air Greenland). However, there are still no direct air service from the United States.

So, if you’re wondering how to get to Greenland from the US, most people fly to Reyjavik with IcelandAir and then take an Air Iceland Connect flight on to either Nuuk or Kulusuk, which is actually kind of strange since Greenland is part of North America and you’d think you could fly direct.

The second option is that there are a number of cruise lines that are beginning to add the country to their sailings. Contrary to popular belief, there is no Iceland to Greenland ferry. The good news for travelers is getting to Greenland is getting easier every year with more travel options available.

We opted for a day trip offered by Air Iceland Connect. Yes, it is quite expensive – at about $525 per person, this would be an investment. Unfortunately, it was difficult to find detailed specifics about the Air Iceland Connect package. So, with a leap of faith, we booked the trip. [Note: Hearty travelers can overnight in Kulusuk at either of the hotel or hostel in town. Check current prices/options on accommodations here.]

Crosses mark the Kulusuk, Greenland cemetery

Why Visit Greenland

My motives in this Greenland vacation were more about country collecting or getting that passport stamp. Before we left on the trip, the cover of National Geographic was about this island being Ground Zero for global warming. I wanted to see it for myself. Laura finally gave in.

What to do

We got up early and headed to the tiny Reykjavik city airport for the flight. The Air Iceland Connect flight from Reykjavik to the hamlet of Kulusuk took a little under two hours and covered a distance of just over 450 miles (725 kilometers).

Once in Greenland, we crossed through security and found the guide, a gent from Iceland who had lived in Greenland for some time. He originally came to the island as a sociologist to study the indigenous population and ended up seeing a money-making opportunity and stayed.

The brightly-colored houses in Greenland

In Kulusuk, we walked from the airport down into the town, stopping at the cemetery ridge for a view of town. At about this time, the midges found us. These crazy little bugs are attracted to CO2 and fly into your mouth and up your nose. They made us miserable, but there was nothing we could do to keep them away. I wished we had had netting to get the bugs out of our faces.

Kulusuk is a small village where all of the little buildings clinging to the rocks are painted in picturesque reds and greens and blues. It was very charming…from afar.

Inside the all-purpose general store and grocery store in Kulusuk
The barren grocery store was pretty humbling

The locals in this part of the country have progressed rapidly. In just over 150 years, they have moved from tribal hunter/gathering in seal skins to driving ATVs and wearing North Face. But, like most native peoples, they have over 80% unemployment and an extremely high level of alcoholism.

When we were in Kulusuk on a Saturday, the few locals with a job had been paid the day before and the entire town was drunk – including some boys as young as about 10 or 12. Our guide explained that this was pretty typical right after pay day. It was quite sad. We wondered if this was typical for the entire 57,000 population of Greenland, or whether it was specific to this island.

Our first stop was the town’s all-purpose store. It carries everything from groceries to clothes to guns and ammunition. An unusual mish-mash of merchandise, but it gave us a glimpse into the sparse lifestyle of the people and was a strong reminder of how remote Kulusuk is.

The interior of the Danish church in Kulusuk

There is one gift shop in town, which our guide opened up for us. The store sells exactly the same merchandise as the Kulusuk Gifts store in Reykjavik – t-shirts and expensive bone carvings. He then took us over to the brightly-colored church for a brief 10-15 minute history lesson on the island.

We then went into a woman’s house for a drum ceremony demonstration – it could have been really good, however, without providing any cultural context, it was just kind of weird. And somehow Laura got roped into participating.

Laura participating in the drum ceremony

Actually, that really sums up our trip. Our guide studied the local people for his degree and could have provided a really rich cultural discussion and been really informative. Instead, he seemed to be more focused on wanting to open the gift shop and sell things.

The most rewarding part of visiting Greenland was boarding the boats from the town of Kulusuk and taking them out into the bay and past some MASSIVE icebergs. That was very cool!

Bright red house near the ocean in Greenland
The colorful houses were absolutely beautiful

Yes, we got our Greenland passport stamp. Yes, we went to Greenland. And who goes there? It’s one of those places in the world that is very far off the beaten track and I’m glad we took this opportunity to go. But for cost of about $525 per person, we expected more. It was not the educational and enriching experience that we were hoping for, but I’m glad we did it.

Small iceberg in Greenland at Kulusuk Bay
Evidence of climate change could be seen everywhere

That night, after our flight back to Iceland, we went out for dinner in Reykjavik. We had selected Argentine, one of the most popular restaurants in all of Iceland and one of the better steakhouses we’ve ever been to. The restaurant was excellent. However, the whole Greenland vs Iceland moment was a very odd juxtaposition. Here we were enjoying a fabulous meal after having spent much of the day with people who were really struggling.

Visiting Greenland was one of the most remarkable experiences of our lives, but it was both intellectually and emotionally challenging. Perhaps more than any other destination we’ve ever visited, our journey has stuck with us.

There are times I can still see the faces of some of the native children in Kulusuk. It is an island that is being rapidly transformed by climate change. But in many ways, the real change was within us. This trip changed us in ways we didn’t realize at the time.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Richard Weil

Saturday 30th of July 2022

An old thread but very informative and will illustrated, thank you. I admit to being a country collector--122 and the 7 continents too--with some long trips to weird places (overland France to Nepal when things were calm enough in the Middle East, more recent visits to Andorra, Haiti, Albania, etc.). And my wife thinks I'm nuts that every time we get to a new port I jump off the cruise ship and look for that passport office. (Often find one for a stamp too.)

But for all that I agree that swooping in is both emotionally jarring for the visitor and does not do the locals justice. But if you treat them with respect (I try to learn a few local words first), study their history a bit, know about the local sights, and just gear into how things are done then you will learn something and do fine with the people. (I learned the latter in India where if you push then everything locks up. Take your time and things usually work.) What drives me nuts is people who just stay in a resort or expect things to be exactly like they are at home. One learns nothing and sees little.

On the other hand a lot of people are curious about the world. I teach college level geography and do a lot of ham radio, and in both these ways one finds much general interest about other places. And perhaps with so many people communicating online we're making a little progress that way too. So my thought is that if enough people travel without preconceptions, and meet enough folks from elsewhere, then it will be a better world. Keep on moving, friends.

Lance Longwell

Sunday 31st of July 2022

Richard, thanks so much for your thoughtful note. I agree that the world can teach us so much. And I really push back on the idea that there is only ONE right way to travel (and the stupid traveler vs tourist crap). Every needs to experience the world - sometimes we just do it differently. I dabbled in ham back in the 1980s and wished I would have stuck with it.

Tom Fletcher

Sunday 1st of May 2022

Great information. When I go there, it will be a multi-day trip. One day just allows you (as you said) to visit the gift shop and grocery store, see a few munities of music, and take a boat ride, but even that you got an experience.

Seeleema

Sunday 6th of February 2022

Thank you for the information. I stumbled on your story tonight while talking to my grandkids about the north pole. We will be in Iceland in June and is planning to go to Greenland.two says in Greenland sound like more than enough, should he leave on say two or go on to day three there? Thank you.

Lance Longwell

Sunday 6th of February 2022

One day is plenty for Kulusuk (or a day and a night, fly back the second day). Two days would be good for Nuuk.

Alr

Sunday 1st of September 2019

Have they "progressed rapidily?" Is wearing North Face an indicator of progression?

People who fly into a culture for a stamp in their passport give respectful travelers a bad name. Money does not buy cultural sensitivity or intelligence.

Steve

Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Being sanctimonious doesnt buy intelligence either it seems.

Asger

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

Spot on!

Lance Longwell

Sunday 1st of September 2019

We have long been proponents of travel - however you can, for whatever your reasons - in an effort to learn something about the world...and yourself. In many ways, this quote from Bourdain sums up our thoughts: “If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food, it's a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.” Long ago we rejected that notion that there is only one right way to travel. We eschewed the closed mindedness of first-world superiority - the attitude 'you must do as we do.'

To be sure, this was an extremely difficult article to write - and more difficult to experience. "Culture" wasn't on our radar. Like the article says, we came to see ground zero for global warming. Icebergs don't have a "culture." However, travel is about learning. And we were confronted with a situation we had never considered.

Toni

Tuesday 8th of January 2019

I came across this article since I just came back from Iceland. I was really wanting to go visit Greenland but I didnt see any flights there. I still plan to visit. I havent come cross many articles of people who have traveled there. I did find a 9 day Reykjavik and Greenland tour option with a 4 day cruise to greenland. I think I'll take that option.

Seeleema

Thursday 9th of June 2022

@Toni, can y please send the info on the 9 day tour Iceland/Greenland. Thank you

Laura Longwell

Tuesday 8th of January 2019

Many of the flights to Greenland are seasonal, so it likely depends on what time of year you are looking for.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.