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Expedition East Greenland & the Westman Islands 2024

In the heart of the Greenlandic wilderness lies a hidden gem waiting to be explored – the grand Sermilik fjord and its surrounding areas, full of beautiful hiking opportunities. In many terms these parts of the world are still undiscovered. We are greeted by towering mountain chains, calving glaciers, icebergs of all shapes and crystal-clear waters. The nutritious waters provide feeding ground for both humpbacks and fin whales and if lucky we will encounter these giants of the sea. We also get unique insight into the Inuit culture, their way of life, traditional practices, and cultural heritage. This natural wonder of East Greenland is so much more than a destination, it’s a true experience of a lifetime!

The adventure ends with a full day exploration of Westman Islands, one of the best places in the world to see the charming puffins. 

  • Small group of 12 passengers
  • The impressive Sermilik fjord
  • Remote and unexplored
  • Magnificent icebergs
  • Chance of seeing whales
  • Fascinating Inuit culture
  • Puffins on Westman Islands
Accommodation: Cabin on board the expedition ship M/S Balto, 3 nights at hotel in Reykjavik. Transport: Expedition ship, Zodiac, airplane. Ship: M/S Balto. Passengers: 12 passengers. Languages: English. Length: 13 days, 9 nights on ship. Price: From USD 12 890. Departure: 28 July 2024

Itinerary

Day 1: Reykjavik

We arrive individually to Reykjavik and check in to our hotel (included in the flight and hotel package described below). 

Day 2: Reykjavik & flight to Kulusuk, Greenland

Explore the lovely city of Reykjavik on your own. In the afternoon we transfer to Keflavik and our flight to Kulusuk, and the airport built by the US Air Force in 1956. Kulusuk means “the village with the mountain that looks like the breast of a bird” in the Greenlandic, referring to the Isikajia Mountain located directly behind the airport. In the evening we board our expedition ship and begin our great exploration.

Day 3 – 10: Expedition cruising

We are now on an expedition cruise and our exact route will be decided by weather and ice. Some areas can be filled with ice and therefore not always reachable. Please note that the places mentioned below are just examples of places we can visit on this true expedition cruise. 

We visit the town of Tasiilaq. With just under 2000 inhabitants, it is the largest settlement in East Greenland. It is home to an older and different Inuit culture, where shamanism and native culture is much more vibrant than in other parts of Greenland. During our expedition here, we will learn more of local myths and legends, as the one about tupilaqs. In Greenlandic Inuit religion, a tupilaq was an avenging monster fabricated by a practitioner of witchcraft or shamanism by using various objects such as animal bone, skin, hair, or sinew. Tasiilaq is also known for a its art scene, where local artists create prints, sculptures and textiles mostly portraying the animals, landscapes and traditional stories of the area.

We venture into the serenity of the Ammassalik fjord system and the small settlement of Kuummiut. This is a relatively unknown pearl of east Greenland, nestled within the Ammassalik Island group. The surrounding fjords – lined by tall mountain tops offer perfect hiking opportunities, with hidden waterfalls and spectacular views. Kuummiut has a rich Inuit heritage, and we hope to get the opportunity to learn about the traditional practices.

Further up north is the Ikateq fjord, where we might make a landing at the abandoned military base from World War II, Bluie East Two. It played an important role in serving as a refuelling and maintenance stop for aircrafts travelling between north America and Europe. Today it is no longer in operation, but some remnants still exist, such as abandoned fuel drums, buildings and vehicles.

Weather permitting, we reach the ice choked Tuttilik fjord. We hope to go ashore and explore some abandoned Inuit winter houses. The area around the fjord features mountainous terrain, offering dramatic vistas. The fjord has been a site of historical significance as well. It was near Tuttilik Fjord where the British explorer Gino Watkins tragically drowned in a kayak accident in 1932 when hunting for seal. Watkins was a notable British explorer, best known for his expeditions in Greenland. His primary interest was in surveying and mapping uncharted territories. He emphasized the importance of using local knowledge and techniques, often adopting Inuit survival methods. This approach was not only more effective but also helped in fostering respect and understanding between different cultures.

Further east is two impressive glaciers: Karale and Knud Rasmussen. When sailing in this area we will most likely hear and see thundering calvings of these two very active glaciers.

We continue into the mighty Sermilik fjord. It stretches over 90 kilometres and cuts through a rugged landscape of towering glaciers and jagged peaks, and we find ourselves amongst a myriad of icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Most of them originating from the impressive Helheim glacier at the deep end of the fjord, which produces some of the largest icebergs in all of Greenland. The beauty around us is stunning!

On the southern shores of Sermilik fjord is the tiny village of Tiilerilaaq. The wooden houses are beautifully situated on a hill, with the grand Sermilik fjord in the background. The local Inuit culture and the traditional hunting and fishing activities play a significant role in the way of life here. Before we wave goodbye, we head out on a nice hike to overview the surrounding landscapes and the many icebergs!

If the ice allows, we enter Johan Peterson fjord. On the northern side of the entrance of the fjord is Qeertartivatsiaq Island, where we find Inuit ruins on the southern shore of the island. At the head of the fjord are some outlet glaciers from the inland ice coming straight down to the sea. This is one of the few places where you can catch sight of the actual inland ice, although please note that it is often shadowed by beautiful icebergs.

We are continuously looking for Arctic foxes, seals and different species of whale.

Day 11: Kulusuk – Reykjavik

After a long, nice breakfast, we disembark in Kulusuk. We head out on one final Greenland excursion: a glacier hike to an ice cave - it is a truly unique experience to lose yourself in this surreal world of blue and to take in all of the cave's incredible details. After an early dinner in Kulusuk, we head to the airport and our flight to Reykjavik, where we check into our hotel for a good night sleep.

Day 12: Westman Islands

Today we take the ferry to Westman Islands and the main island Heimaey for a full day tour, offering a unique and memorable experience. These islands are known for their stunning natural beauty with lava fields, volcanic craters, and rugged cliffs. It also has a rich history and a vibrant wildlife. The islands are one of the best places in the world to see puffins. 

After the visit to the museum and if the weather conditions are favourable, we hike up Eldfell volcanic crater. On a clear day, the views from the top are out of this world. We enjoy a nice ‘local lunch’ it is time to look for the real stars of the island: the famous Puffins, that nest and breed in the rocky cliffs along the coast. We will walk around with our guide and try to spot the cute birds, also known as the “Clowns of the Ocean” for their unique and colourful look.

After a lovely island dinner, the ferry and a bus take us back to our hotel in Reykjavik for a good night’s sleep. (Included in the flight and hotel package)

Day 13: Homeward bound

Today we bid our farewells and return home or onwards for new adventures.

Please note: Our exact route will depend on ice, weather conditions and wildlife. The places mentioned are just examples of some of the sites this region of Greenland has to offer. We always strive to maximize your experience. Please remember that flexibility is the key to a successful expedition!

The Package Travel Directive – protects the traveller’s rights

When you have booked a trip with PolarQuest, you are protected by the Package Travel Directive. This includes that you have the right to rebook your trip or cancel and receive a full refund, if your Government, or other relevant authorities, have implemented restrictions against travelling. This includes documented quarantine requirements in the country you are travelling to. However, free cancellation is only possible when it is less than 30 days to departure, provided the travel restrictions are still in place and clearly will affect your trip. You are also entitled to a full refund, should PolarQuest cancel the trip for any reason whatsoever.

Why mandatory flight and hotel package?

East Greenland is a true and remote wilderness. To get here with a small ship from Iceland means at least three days on the Denmark strait, a passage that can be quite rough for a small ship like M/S Balto. To be able to offer you a more comfortable experience with focus on Greenland’s spectacular nature, we have therefore chosen to book flights between Reykjavik (Iceland) to Kulusuk (Greenland). We have also included two hotel nights in Reykjavik, one before the expedition and one after. This is to allow for potential flight delays.

Be inspired by our digital polar lectures!

Would you like to learn more about our upcoming adventures on M/S Balto in East Greenland? Watch this recourded webinar from January 2024. During this virtual tour one of PolarQuest's most experienced Greenland guides, Gunilla Lindh, will tell you more about our cruises in the Sermilik area of East Greenland.

 

The ship M/S Balto

  • Bar
  • Dining room
  • Salon
  • Sauna
  • Bathroom
  • Double cabin
  • Owner's cabin
  • Owner's cabin
  • Superior cabin
  • Single cabin
  • Crew mess
  • Kitchen

M/S Balto is named after the leading sled dog of 1925 Nome serum run. She was built for the highest ice class in Rauma, Finland, to serve as a government service vessel in the Baltic sea. During 2019-2022, she has been totally refurbished and is now one of the roomiest and most elegant small polar expedition yachts in service. M/S Balto offers a relaxed luxury accommodation for 12 guests in 7 outside cabins, all with private facilities and lower beds. The spacious cabins include 1 Owner’s cabin, 1 superior cabin, 3 double cabins and 2 single cabins. The Owner’s cabin is 30m2, has 6 windows and a queen bed, the superior cabin has two twin beds while the three double cabins has a queen bed. The Owner's and superior cabin also offer a separate seating area. In all cabins you find a desk with a chair and a closet for storage.

On the guest deck you also find a small sauna with a cold shower. The richly appointed saloon and the beautiful dining messroom feature crotch-mahogany panelling, a bar, a library, coffee and tea stations. 

There are several open and semi enclosed deck spaces from where you can enjoy the stunning Arctic sceneries. You are welcomed by an international crew and the bridge is open for visitors.

With our two Zodiacs, we will explore the wilderness and go ashore in the settlements and in the middle of the breathtaking nature.

M/S Balto is truly one of a kind when it comes to small polar expedition ships. Travelling with this unique 12-passenger ship offers a completely different and much more intimate experience of Greenland compared to a larger ship. 

A small group of merely 12 passengers gives us more flexibility, unique itineraries and more time ashore. Also, the footprints we leave behind are a lot smaller!

The M/S Balto is designed to explore the most remote fjord systems, visit Inuit settlements, take you to remote anchorages and maximise each guest’s experience in the unspoiled wilderness. 

Cabins & prices

Cabin category Price per person
Double cabin Double bed USD 12 890
Superior cabin Twin beds USD 13 790
Owner's cabin Double bed USD 15 590
Single cabin Single bed USD 16 190

MANDATORY FLIGHT & HOTEL PACKAGE

This mandatory package includes:

  • Flight from Keflavik (Iceland) to Kulusuk (Greenland) roundtrip
  • Two hotel nights in Reykjavik, one night prior to the expedition and one night after
  • Transfers in connection with flight mentioned above, between hotel and airport in Keflavik

Price: USD 2 590 per person. Please note that this cost will be added to the cabin prices listed above.

Price includes

  • 9 nights on board M/S Balto
  • 1 night in hotel
  • All meals on board
  • Coffee and tea on board
  • 1 Expedition Leader and 1 guide
  • Guiding ashore and talks on board
  • All excursions and activities in Greenland
  • A full day excursion to the Westman Islands including meals

Not included

  • Mandatory flight & hotel package (see details above)
  • International flights to and from Iceland
  • Travel and cancellation insurance
  • Gratuity to the ship’s crew
  • Personal expenses such as bar charges

Departures & booking

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or wish to make a reservation.

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Departure Return
28 July 2024 9 August 2024

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