JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH TUPERNA DAVIDSEN FROM ILULISSAT, GREENLAND!
Tuperna is an educated nurse, a mother and a blogger at Guide to Greenland. She is 34years old and comes from the city of Ilulissat in northwest Greenland. In Greenlandic summers Tuperna loves hunting and spending time in the nature while she enjoys dogsledding in the winters.
Greenland is world’s largest non – continental island. Although physically under North America it is an autonomous Danish dependent territory.
From Qaanaaq in the north to Nanortalik in the south; from Tasiilaq in the east to Ilulissat in the west, Greenland is covered with ice.
‘Ilulissat’ means the place with many icebergs. It is indeed the capital of icebergs and also Greenland’s 3rd largest city with approx. 4,905 inhabitants. A beautiful coastal town, Ilulissat is popular among tourists for quite a few reasons. It is the home to northern hemisphere’s most active glacier Sermeq Kujalleq which is believed by scientists to be the birthplace of the iceberg responsible for sinking the Titanic. The famous arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen, the first European to travel the entire Northwest Passage (across Greenland, Canada, Alaska) via dog sled, was also born in Ilulissat.
When is the best time to visit Ilulissat?
According to me the summer months (June to September) is the best time to visit when the sun is present 24 hours a day. You can go out sailing, kayaking, hike in the nature with a beautiful view to the big icebergs and spend hours outside. Most of the local people spend their time outside, and many go out to their small cottages and spend time there with families.
February-April is the best time to come and try dogsledding. The light is back these months and especially in April the weather is not so cold. In March you can experience the big national dogsledding competition which is a unique experience.
Although the summer months is the peak season in Ilulissat but people have started coming in the winter to experience the dark time we have in the north, when the sun does not emerge at all. Many think it is completely dark, but the snow gives light and you can see the northern lights in the sky. However most of the activities and guided tours take place between February to April and June to September.
How to get to Ilulissat ?
Air Greenland and Air Iceland can take you to Ilulissat. You can fly to Ilulissat from Copenhagen via the international airport at Kangerlussuaq. In the summer months there are up to ten weekly departures and in winter there are four. All the connections are to and from Copenhagen, so Denmark is an important entry point to Greenland. You can also enter Greenland from Iceland during the summer. From Reykjavik international airport there are four flights a week to Ilulissat which takes around three hours.
If like most tourists, you have landed in Nuuk, you can also reach Ilulissat by Sarfaq Ittuk. Sarfaq ittuk is used more by locals than travelers and you can travel to many other places in it within Greenland.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Ilulissat?
In Greenland we have no roads from town to town. If you are going to another city, it is by plane or by boat. In the city we use cars. But Ilulissat is such a small town that you don’t have to spend much time getting around the city. The only time you will need a cab is probably for getting to and from the airport. If you are there in the winter then you should definitely go dogsledding.
What are the top three must visit places in Ilulissat?
Take a trip to Sermermiut valley, an Inuit settlement in the Disko Bay, to look at the incredible, giant icebergs floating right outside the city. Soak in the mesmerizing view of the icefjords while walking through a wooden walkway until you reach the valley. Remnants of this 4000 years old ancient settlement can still be witnessed there. You can take a guided tour to know about the life and customs of inuits back then. See their ruins and head to Nakkaavik for the most breathtaking view of Illulissat.
Ilulissat has 4 settlements. Ilimanaq which is located just south of the city is worth a visit. it is located approx. 1 hour sailing from the city but time varies depending on how much ice is on the sea and which boat you take. The village is also known as Kalaallisut which in English means “Place of Expectations”.
Visit the museums. There are two of them in Ilulissat. Knud Rasmussen’s Museum is a museum dedicated to the famous Greenlandic – Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen who is also known as ‘the father of eskimology’ and how Greenlandic life has evolved over the years while Ilulissat Kunstmueum is an art museum. When you buy a ticket to Knud Rasmussen you get a combined entry to the local art museum as well. Learn about the story of the town.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Ilulissat?
Ilulissat is extremely small and the greatest attraction is the wonderful array of outdoor adventures around it. I would recommend doing these –
A boat trip to the ice fjord is something you need to do when you come in the summer. It’s a trip you can never get tired of. The boat takes you really close to gigantic icebergs that are huge like buildings.
If you have the courage and the opportunity to go on a hike. Then hiking to Oqaatsut, which is one of Ilulissat’s settlements is worth a try. It is on a tear that is easy to walk in without going too much up and down. It is a full day trip where it is possible to have a tent and spend the night in a place you like on the road. There is a trail with markings all the way to the village. It’s a great trip.
Take a boat to Eqip Sermia (or Eqi). Located 80 km north of Ilulissat, Eqi can be reached within two to four hours from Ilulissat. On the way you shall cross hundreds of icebergs of all sizes, the town of (Oqaatsut/Rodebay), and big fiord system called Pakitsoq where whales and seals can be seen. If weather doesn’t get rough, there is a high chance of spotting the calving of Eqi glacier or in other words splitting/shedding of ice along with a loud sound of explosion. It will be undoubtedly an unparalleled experience.
If you would like to stay longer amidst it’s outstanding nature and experience the calving of ice consider putting up at Glacier Lodge Eqi. A luxury accommodation consisting of fifteen cabins all powered by solar panels. It’s breathtaking views and solidarity should make it a unique experience. With World Of Greenland, Greenland’s biggest travel company, it is possible to combine a boat trip to Eqi with a stay in Glacier Lodge Eqi. However, the trip is very expensive and weather can get rough, so be prepared.
What is the best time of the year to spot Aurora Borealis?
In Greenland, Aurora Borealis is present all year round but it can only be seen in the winter months due to the Midnight sun. If northern lights is your primary reason to visit Greenland, anywhere between October to March should be fine. If you are fortunate you might get to see it before October or after March, however, for that you have to head up the hill towards the Arctic or to Sermermiut to have better chances. There are many weather forecast apps especially for Northern lights which can come in handy then.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Ilulissat?
June 21 is our national day. On this day people are free from work and there is a lot going on in the city. For example, kayak show in the sea down in front of the church. Most people have their national costumes on and you can see their beautiful pearl collars. They serve Greenlandic delicacies which are made outside in nature.
Christmas is also widely celebrated in Greenland. Feel the magic of white Christmas in Ilulissat. Most households place an orange Christmas star in their window at this time of year.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Ilulissat?
In Greenland people don’t grow anything, everything is wild. The most delicious food you can get in Ilulissat is halibut or shellfish.
I would definitely recommend Hotel Icefjord‘s lunch plate where there are different kinds of fish and meat on the plate which is quite delicious. There is also a restaurant called Mamartut which makes good food with Greenlandic ingredients.
Hotel Arctic is also a place to eat if you are in Ilulissat. It sits on top of a small hill on the periphery of Ilulissat.The cafe there offers good food at affordable price. Restaurant Ulo, headed by country’s leading chef, is on the expensive side, but worth trying.
If you have the opportunity to go out with the locals, cook in the bonfire and follow their ways, it would be the best Greenlandic experience you will have.
Greenland is not really vegetarian friendly. Most Greenlanders are meat eaters but there are good places to eat in the city where it is possible to get dishes without meat.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Ilulissat?
There are good shops in the centre of the town, you can’t help but look at the various things they have on offer. Greenlanders are reserved and like to live fascinating lives of old traditions dotted by modern twists. There is a small workshop near the harbor where the local artists make the most beautiful crafts which you might want to check out. You can also buy the national costume which is pretty expensive these days since only older generations have the expertise to sew the skin of seal into the fabric.
Which are the best streets in Ilulissat worthy of taking a stroll on?
The street names are really poorly described in Ilulissat. But a walk especially down towards the power plant is beautiful. Here you can see the old houses along the coast. Since the city is quite small, you can easily spend an hour walking around the city just to see how the locals live.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
The best view you can get from Ilulissat is from the mountain before reaching the old heliport. Here you get almost the entire city as a view, but you can also look out towards Sermermiut and the sea with the many icebergs.
Do you suggest any shows on music, culture or art performed by the locals?
There is not really any art in Ilulissat town. We have an art museum about which I have mentioned earlier. It’s called Ilulissat Kunstmueum and it has various kind of art on display. See various inuit artefacts, historic paintings and other kind of installations.
Do you want to give any suggestion/tip to tourists coming to your city?
If you are planning on coming to Ilulissat and Hotel Arctic is out of your budget you may try accommodation in the hostel ‘The Blue Ice’. It also has a good view. It is a family from Ilulissat who owns the house and you can also agree with the owners about sailing trips or dog sledding trips.
I would definitely recommend local business drivers if you want to visit Ilulissat or Greenland. There are many local drivers like Aakattak Sandgreen, John & Lisbeth Davidsen who arrange tours which I would think are more worth to use.
IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING TO ILULISSAT OR WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT TUPERNA’S TRAVEL EXPERIENCES THEN BE SURE TO FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM