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The Great Greenland Adventure 2023 – an epic sea voyage from west to east

As we travel from Ilulissat in West Greenland to Scoresby Sound in East Greenland, we get to experience one of the world’s most epic sea voyages, a life-affirming adventure of 27 days.

We will encounter astonishing landscapes, unique geological formations, narrow fjords, caves and hot springs as well as magnificent towering icebergs and impressive glaciers faces. The rich waters are likely to introduce us to several whale species, such as humpback, minke or pilot whales, as we navigate in between enormous icebergs under the midnight sun. The voyage will also be filled with fascinating stories of ancient times, Inuit culture, Norse history and natural wonders! In the east we navigate ”the forbidden coast”, a wild and unchartered coastline, rarely visited. This is the ultimate expedition for those of you who would like to maximise your Greenland experience.

Join us on this extraordinary expedition cruise with M/S Balto! Travelling with this unique and elegant expedition ship in a group of merely 12 passengers offers an intimate experience of Greenland compared to a larger expedition ship. We get to visit remote settlements, meet the welcoming people living here and in a personal way learn more about their fascinating culture. The M/S Balto has a lot of experience of the Greenlandic waters and is designed to explore the most remote fjord systems and take you to secret anchorages. This is true micro cruising.

  • Small group of 12 passengers
  • A 27-days adventure
  • Inuit culture & norse history
  • Small settlements & the capital Nuuk
  • Hot springs & icebergs
  • The large Sermilik fjord system
  • Great chance of seeing whales
  • The wild and unchartered eastern coast
  • Stories and myths from the Tunumiit culture
  • Chance to see Polar bear
Accommodation: Cabin on bord på M/S Balto, hotel in Ilulissat and Reykjavik. Transport: Expedition ship, Zodiac. Ship: M/S Balto. Passengers: 12 passengers. Languages: English & Swedish. Length: 27 days, 24 nights on ship. Price: From USD 21 890. Departure: 16 July 2023

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Greenland

We arrive to the third biggest town of Greenland, Ilulissat, in the afternoon. Immediately upon arrival we are struck by the natural beauty that surrounds us, with hills, glaciers and a bay filled with icebergs. The remoteness from our everyday life is obvious! We check in at our hotel, with breath-taking views of the ice-choked waters.

Day 2: Ilulissat

This morning we explore the beautiful surroundings of Ilulissat and plan a small hike to the World UNESCO heritage site of the Ilulissat Icefjord (Sermeq Kujalleq). The scenery in the fjord filled with huge icebergs is just beyond imagination and truly sets the standard for our exploration the next weeks.

We board M/S Balto in the afternoon and begin our epic voyage of more than 2000 nautical miles along one of the most stunning shorelines of the world; all the way from West Greenland to the last outpost of civilization in the far Northeast Greenland.

We continue to explore the ice-choked area around the Ilulissat ice fjord looking for a rather ice-free passage out of the harbour, before we head towards the beautifully situated settlement of Qeqertarsuaq further west in Disko Bay.

We are now on a voyage in true expedition style and our exact route is depending on weather and ice and the itinerary must be kept flexible! When opportunities arise we will make interesting landings and Zodiac cruises.

Day 3-8: Expedition cruising along the Greenlandic West Coast

Next morning, we plan on doing a small hike to get a different view on the tremendous icebergs situated close to the lovely Qeqertarsuaq. In the afternoon we might go for a Zodiac Cruise at the basaltic cliffs just East of Qeqertarsuaq. 

We are constantly on the lookout, since we are possibly sailing through Humpback whale feeding grounds as we are passing gigantic icebergs in the Disko Bay area. 

We now continue south via an interesting passage past Sisimiut, sailing along small islands, fjords and cliffs. As we now have left the ice filled Disko Bay behind, only occasional icebergs will pass our way. Next day we plan to enter the magical Eternity Fjord (Kangerlussuatsiaq), where huge mountains up to 2000 metres ascend straight from the ocean. Here, rather small, but extraordinary steep valley glaciers flow down from the mountain cliffs; one of the real landscape highlights of the west coast of Greenland.

Next day we aim to visit Nuuk. The capital’s setting is stunning, and the bay is sometimes visited by Minke, Pilot or Humpback whales. We pay a visit to the National Museum, Greenland’s largest museum of cultural history. The collections come from all over the country, brought from various archaeological and small museum displays over recent years and the visit gives us great insight into the many different cultures of Greenland. 

Our journey continues south, and in favourable weather conditions we might navigate further away from the shore in order to search for whales along the continental shelf. Along the route we also hope to stop by the abandoned mining town of Ivittuut – one of the few places in the world where naturally occurring cryolite was discovered. During a hike we have good chances of seeing Muskox. We are also exploring the astonishing «ghost town» that was left when the discovery of synthetical cryolite was making mining here obsolete.

Day 9-11: The surprising diversity of the South Coast

We plan to visit Qaqortoq, the largest city in Southern Greenland, beautifully situated under the mountain slopes and surrounded by fjords. We also plan to venture to Hvalsey church, the best-preserved Norse ruin in Greenland. Close by we also find Eriksfjord, named after Erik the Red, a Norse explorer believed to have founded the first settlement in Greenland.

This area has many stories to tell. We learn more about the Inuit cultures and their great respect of and symbiotic relationship with environment and animals. During periods of weather change and animal numbers declining, amulets and fishing or hunting artefact became objects of great beauty and artistry. Of respect and love for the animals, who give themselves to sustain the Inuit life and culture, offerings are made to the sea goddess Sedna, to release the animals’ souls. Still today, Inuit carry a small jug of fresh water when hunting seal. After a seal is killed it is given fresh water, so its spirit will not go thirsty. 

We will have many opportunities to learn about stories and legends, different eras and people that migrated to Greenland, the conflicts and ultimate demise of the once powerful Norse civilisation.

But this part of Greenland offers much more than history and culture! It also invites us to natural hot springs, bird cliffs, remote islands and deep fjords characterized by high mountain peaks and playful whales. We explore the hot springs of Uunartoq and enjoy a bath in these warm-tempered natural bathtubs, with breath-taking views of mountain peaks and drifting icebergs. 

We continue south towards Nanortalik and Prince Christian Sound. We travel into this extraordinary and narrow fjord system through its rugged western entrance. A mountainous landscape surrounds us with steep cliffs plunging into the fjord and peaks rising up to 2000 meters. And when it is time to exit the fjord in the east, the resemblance to Mordor, in Lord of the rings, is striking.

Day 12-25: “The forbidden coast” – natural wonders of the East Coast

When entering East Greenland, we sail along an unbelievable wild and uncharted coastline. A fair amount of our time the next couple of days will be at sea travelling North again. The strong East Greenlandic current is meanwhile carrying a parade of icebergs southwards. Glacier fronts calve straight into the ocean and there are many unexplored unnamed fjords. Weather and ice conditions decide our course of exploration more than ever! We aim to visit Umivik Bay, which was chosen as the launching point for the brave pioneering westward crossing over the Greenland ice sheet by Fridtjof Nansen in 1888. 

As we reach the large Sermelik Fjord system near Tasiilaq we are greeted by icebergs of all shapes and sizes, in a never-ending spectrum of blue and we collect some glacier ice for our drinks. This fjord system is awe-inspiring and could be explored for days. We make several remote anchorages and are constantly on the lookout for marine mammals! 

We continue to the town of Tasiilaq via a tiny secret passage. With its 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 and alive than in other parts of Greenland. Here we are closer to the rural and original Greenland culture that most visitors unfortunately never experience! During our visit here, we will try to organise story telling 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. If lucky we get to witness some ritual or traditional singing. 

When we leave the Tasiilaq district northbound we are finally entering the Forbidden Coast of Greenland where travel even in this day and age means real exploration! We are visiting places where we might as well be the only visitors that very year. Thus, the following places are just examples of our possibilities. Weather and (now finally also) sea ice conditions play the key role for our day-to-day planning.  

As we sail North above the Arctic Circle again, we get to experience the eastern wild, beautiful and unchartered coastline first hand. But we also see that even in these seemingly remote regions human influence has altered nature. The remains of the former US American air base Bluie East Two (1942-47) stand as a monument of human destruction midst the Greenlandic wilderness. Visiting this place is nevertheless extremely exciting. 

In the ice choked Tuttilik Fjord, meaning the place where the reindeer live (a long time ago), we hope to go ashore and explore some abandoned Inuit winter houses. With some luck we might lalso find the memorial built in honour of the famous explorer Gino Watkins that vanished here in 1932 while hunting seals from his kayak. 

As we continue north, we enter some of the wildest coastal landscapes in Greenland. In favourable conditions we enter Kangerlussuaq Fjord and Watkins Fjord with beautiful hiking possibilities.  

In this area we could also experience the first severe sea ice encounters during our voyage. Due to the cold East Greenlandic current, sea ice is normally blocking the entrance of Scoresby Sound until mid-July. But at the start of August the passage now has usually opened up reasonably. Still, every year is different and thus we have to adapt our plans to the sea ice concentration in that very year. If we encounter a fair amount of sea ice, we also want to make the most of it - scouting for ice-loving animals like seals or other marine mammals. 

A little bit further up the coast is Nansen Fjord, which lies directly south from the impressive Gunnbjørn fjeld, Greenland’s (and the Arctic’s) highest mountain, measuring 3694 meters. We have now entered the area where we are most likely to see Polar bears and we intensify our scouting! Polar bear sightings are not an everyday thing in Greenland, but if you wish to see one, the leg from here to Scoresby Sound offers the best chances. 

As we explore the area of Rømer Fjord, Deichmann Fjord and Steward Island our chances of seeing polar bears increase. On rare occasions even narwhals have been spotted here. 

On our final days we aim to venture into Scoresby Sound, the world’s largest fjord system. Here, we might visit Vikinge Bay a sheltered place perfect for Zodiac cruising amongst magnificent basaltic columns and icebergs. Hall Bredning is a place where huge icebergs from the deeper fjords tend to accumulate; icebergs in a density and size we have not seen since leaving Ilulissat at the very start of our voyage. Though, the difference now is the magnificent mountain scenery in the background giving us even new perspectives. Finally, landing at Sydkap, we might get another chance to see Muskox or Arctic hare. 

Day 26: Constable Point - Reykjavik

In the morning we disembark in Constable Point for our flight (mandatory, read more under prices) to Reykjavik, Iceland, where we spend one night in a hotel.

Day 27: Reykjavik and homewards
Our great adventure has come to and end and we continue home on our own. 

Please note: Our exact route will depend on ice, weather conditions and wildlife as well as permissions and restrictions from local authorities. The places mentioned are just examples of some of the many 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 package from Constable Point to Reykjavik?

Northeast Greenland is a true and very remote wilderness. To sail to Iceland takes at least three or four sea 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 from Constable Point (Greenland) to Reykjavik (Iceland), at the end of the voyage.

Flying to Greenland

Greenland is an enormous island. It is wild and remote and offers fascinating culture and history. Most airports are very small, the airlines flying there are few and flights do not arrive daily. For these reasons you will most likely find it necessary to add extra hotel nights in connection to your outbound and/or inbound flights. Flight tickets to Greenland are also rather high-priced, comparing to many other destinations. But even if flying here is a little bit of a challenge, the grand nature experience that awaits you is incomparable and worth every effort. We strongly recommend everyone to book flexible flight tickets. 

Be inspired by our digital polar lectures!

To sail along Greenland’s spectacular coastline offers some of the most remarkable nature experiences. But what is it like to be on an expedition cruise in Greenland with a small, unique 12-passenger ship? Maybe you are wondering which places you can visit or what separates the east coast from the west coast? We believe that this digital polar lecture will give you a lot of answers and inspiration about our expeditions to Greenland. The presentation is be given by one of our Greenland expert and expedition leader, Gunilla Lindh.

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
  • Rebecca Gustafsson - Visit Greenland

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 2019-2020, 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 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 cider lined sauna, accommodating 4-6 persons, with a cold shower and a small changing room. The richly appointed saloon and the beautiful dining messroom feature crotch-mahogany panelling, a bar, a card table, a library, coffee and tea stations. She offers a large restaurant style open galley, where you can check on the marvels of our chefs and sample freshly baked bread. 

 

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.

The ship has been fitted with an electric diesel propulsion capable of maintaining versatile manoeuvring and survey speeds with no vibration. It is therefore ideal as film and photo platform. There is also a mud room for expedition gear and two Zodiacs for wilderness cruises and offshore experiences. 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 expedition 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 isolated Inuit settlements, take you to secret anchorages and maximise each guest’s experience in the unspoiled wilderness. This is true micro cruising. 

 

Cabins & prices

Cabin category Price per person
Double cabin Double bed USD 21 890
Superior cabin Twin beds USD 23 690
Owner's cabin Double bed USD 26 490
Single cabin Single bed USD 27 290

 

MANDATORY FLIGHT PACKAGE

Our mandatory flight package includes:

    • Flight from Constable Point (Greenland) to Reykjavik (Island).
    • Transfer in connection with flight, from Reykjavik airport to hotel. 
    • One hotel night in Reykjavik after the expedition.

The price is USD 1050 per person. Please note that this cost will be added on top of the above price.

Price includes

  • 24 nights on board M/S Balto
  • 1 night at hotel in Ilulissat
  • All meals on board
  • Coffee and tea
  • 1 Expedition Leader and 1 guide
  • Guiding ashore and talks on board
  • All excursions and activities
  • Comprehensive information material before the expedition

Not included

  • Flight to Ilulissat and back home from Reykjavik
  • Mandatory flight package Constable Point to Reykjavik (please see info above)
  • Travel and cancellation insurance
  • The customary gratuity to the ship’s crew
  • Personal expenses such as bar and shop 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
16 July 2023 11 August 2023

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