Join this unique expedition voyage exploring the wild west coast of Greenland, and the vast wilderness of Baffin Island, Canada. See the vibrant capital cities of Greenland and Nunavut, meet the friendly locals in picturesque towns and villages, as well as exploring breathtaking Arctic nature including glaciers and icebergs, plunging fjords and precipitous mountain ranges
DAY 1 - FLY REYKJAVIK TO KANGERLUSSUAQ, EMBARKATION
In the afternoon, we board our chartered flight in Reykjavik, Iceland, bound for Kangerlussuaq in Greenland. Upon arrival to Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strømfjord), we will be driven to the small port located west of the airport, where Ocean Albatros will be anchored offshore. Zodiacs will transfer us the short distance to the ship, where your stateroom awaits after check-in. After the mandatory safety drill, dine in comfort with spectacular views as we set sail through the 160-kilometer Kangerlussuaq Fjord.
DAY 2 - KANGAAMIUT AND EVIGHEDSFJORDEN, GREENLAND
On the first full day of our expedition, we will arrive at the small village of Kangaamiut, an incredibly picturesque settlement in Greenland’s central Qeqqata region. Surrounded by cold rich waters and a vast back country brimming with game, life in Kangaamiut moves at a slower pace, and locals still live a largely traditional lifestyle, surviving by hunting and fishing. Hike to the heliport atop the hill for stunning views over the town and the surrounding fjordlands, or meet the friendly local people during a display of traditional clothing, foods, and seal-flensing. The artists of Kangaamiut are well-known throughout Greenland, and some of the locals' most splendid work can be viewed in the town's small museum. In the afternoon, we will sail inland into Evighedsfjorden/Kangerlussuatsiaq, one of the many deep fjords carved between the steep mountains of this region. The Danish name 'Evighedsfjorden' means 'The Eternity Fjord', referring to the vast size of the inlet, while the Greenlandic name 'Kangerlussuatsiaq' translates as 'The Rather Large Fjord' - something of an understatement! Evighedsfjorden stretches around 100km into the glacier-clad mountains, bisecting the large ice cap which overlies much of the land between Nuuk and Sisimiut - Greenland's two largest cities. We will aim to explore on a Zodiac cruise in front of the Evigheds Glacier, which flows into the fjord from the Maniitsoq Ice Cap above. Watch for calvings from the glacier, and guillemots and kittiwakes on the nearby bird cliffs.
DAY 3 - NUUK, GREENLAND
A mixture of skyscrapers and traditional wooden houses, the quaint and the cosmopolitan, Nuuk is a city of contrasts. The vibrant bustling capital of Greenland, Nuuk feels much larger than it’s 19,000 inhabitants, and offers a wealth of experiences to visitors. The calm fjords around Nuuk have been inhabited by Paleo-Inuit cultures since at least 2200BCE, and archaeological evidnece indicates waves of migration through the area as ancient hunters followed migrating prey. Around the year 100CE, Norse colonist from Iceland etablished the Western Settlement in the green meadows of Nuuk Fjord; these settlers mysteriously disappeared several hundred years later, and the next Scandinavian to visit the area was Hans Egede, the Danish missionary who 'rediscovered' Greenland, founding Nuuk as Godthåb ("Good Hope") in 1728. Danish initiatives to modernise Greenland in the 1950s left a significant mark on Nuuk. While they brought significant improvements to the city's infrastructure, the many large apartment blocks in the city attest to rapid (and sometimes haphazard) urbanisation; as Greenland's capital, the city's population continues to rapidly grow, with new suburbs being constructed beneath Ukkusissat, the mountain which looms to the east of the city. Nuuk offers a huge amount to the discerning visitor; larger than any other city in Greenland, Nuuk has a bustling cosmopolitan vibe, and hosts some of Greenland's best attractions. Swing by Kolonihavn district to visit the Greenlandic National Museum, a treasure trove of history stretching back to the first inhabitants of this icy island - including artefacts from the Paleo-Inuit and Norse periods, as well as the spellbinding Qilakistoq mummies. Explore Greenlandic culture at Katuaq, the city's cultural centre, and an architectural marvel; shop for authentic Greenlandic artworks in the city's many boutique shops, or simply relax at a hip curbside café with a Greenlandic coffee and watch this vibrant city in action. Nuuk York (as proud locals call it) is unlike any other city in Greenland, or indeed the world.
DAY 4 - DAY AT SEA, CROSSING THE DAVIS STRAIT WESTBOUND
Separating southwestern Greenland from eastern Nunavut, the Davis Strait was named for John Davis, one of the many European explorers who ventureed into this region in search of the Northwest Passage. The area was formerly a hotspot for European whalers, who came to harvest the vast numbers of northern right whales which once frequented the area. The coasts of the Davis Strait are sparsely inhabited, with Nuuk and Iqaluit being by far the largest. Extreme tidal ranges and heavy winter ice once made access to the region a serious challenge, although modern expedition vessels such as the Ocean Albatros can now navigate such waters with ease. Days at sea are never dull. We will arrange a variety of activities onboard for our guests to enjoy to engage the mind, body and soul. Join your knowledgeable Expedition Team lecturers in the Theatre to hear specially-crafted lectures on local history, wildlife, geology, culture and more, unwind with a massage in the Albatros Polar Spa, or simply watch the seabirds gliding along the ship from our hot tubs as the Ocean Albatros flies across the Davis Strait.
DAY 5 - IQALUIT, NUNAVUT, CANADA
Iqaluit (meaning 'Many Fish' in Inuktitut) is the bustling capital city of Nunavut. While situated at a similar latitude to Nuuk, the city couldn’t be more different. The western side of the Davis Strait is significantly colder than the east, and the landscape around Iqaluit is subsequently much more stark than comparatively warm Greenland. Nonetheless, this wild region has a rugged beauty all its own. Much like Nuuk, the area was used as a rich fishing ground by nomadic Inuit groups for thousands of years (hence it's Inuktitut name) prior to the arrival of the first Europeans, who passed through during their search for the fabled Northwest Passage. The settlement of Iqaluit itself was founded as Frobisher Bay by the Hudson's Bay Company, and expanded during the Second World War, as the USA built the Frobisher Bay Air Base - a vital stopover for transatlantic aircraft. The provision of services and population in the area expanded as the USA invested in the area as part of the Distant Early Warning Line radar system, and many Inuit moved to the area as the Canadian Government invested in permanent services in the town, which was renamed Iqaluit in 1987. Iqaluit is the largest city in Nunavut, home to roughly 8,000 people. As the administrative, educational and transport hub of Nunavut, the city is rich in history and culture. Watch out in particular for the old Hudsons Bay Company buildings near the shore in nearby Apex/Niaqunngut, which date back to the city’s foundation, the igloo-shaped Arctic Cathedral, the space age Iqaluit high school (built to withstand the brutal winter conditions in the city), and the various breathtaking sculptures, murals and other works by Inuit artists around town. With a unique blend of Canadian and Inuit culture, Iqaluit is a fascinating city to explore – poutine is served alongside fresh Arctic char, politicians sit on sealskin chairs in the territory's legislature, and narwhal tusks form the cross in the city's igloo-shaped cathedral. Highlights for visitors include the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum and the Unikkaarvik Visitors Centre, which detail the fascinating history and culture of the region, and the nearby Sylvia Grinnell National Park offers a peaceful riverside refrane from the busy city.
DAY 6 - LOWER SAVAGE ISLANDS, NUNAVUT, CANADA
The Lower Savage Islands are a group of rugged low-lying islands at the mouth of Frobisher Bay, the vast inlet leading to Iqaluit. Eons of time, and the passage of ice, wind and sea have carved two deep channels into these islands, which almost seem made for exploring by Zodiac. While the landscape is barren and stark, the southern Baffin region experiences some of the largest tidal variations on Earth, and these strong currents keep the waters in and around the islands fresh and rich in nutrients. Thus, these waters are a hotspot for Arctic wildlife, which we hope to see during a day spent Zodiac cruising in the area.
DAY 7 - MONUMENTAL ISLAND AND LADY FRANKLIN ISLAND, NUNAVUT, CANADA
Two barren and isolated rocks pierce the sea off the southeast coast of Baffin Island – these are Monumental and Lady Franklin Islands, two of the most wildlife-rich areas in Nunavut. Monumental Island was named in English in honour of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition - however the Inuktitut name ᐅᒥᐊᙳᐊᖅ/Umiannguaq references the island's shape, translating as 'The Little Boat'. Lady Franklin Island was named in honour of Franklin's wife, who sponsored seven expeditions in search of her missing husband - a sadly fruitless endeavour. Situated well offshore, well away from the nearest human settlements and icebound for most of the year, these undistrubed islands are a haven for polar bears and walrus, which are commonly seen in the area along with the vast flocks of seabirds which nest on these remote islands. Although wildlife sightings are never guaranteed, these are two of the best sites in Nunavut to see Arctic wildlife; keep binoculars and cameras at the ready!
DAY 8 - PANGNIRTUNG, NUNAVUT, CANADA
Situated in the calm waters of the vast Kuugarjuaq fjord off Cumberland Sound, Pangnirtung surely occupies one of the most scenic locations in the Arctic. A small town nestled amid sweeping glacier-capped mountains and miles of pristine tundra, Pangnirtung represents what most people think of when considering Inuit hamlets in Canada. Even the place names here drip with description; Kuugarjuaq roughly means 'Becoming a Large River', while Pangniqtuq, the Inuktitut name of the town means 'The Place of Bull Caribou' - although the town is often known throughout Canada simply as 'Pang'. The local Inuit in the region have only had contact with Europeans in the last 100 years; the settlement was established as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, around which the modern town grew as government services were established in the area. Today home to around 1,500 people. The town is today known both for its outstanding natural beauty which have earned it the epithet 'the Switzerland of the Arctic', and the enterprise of the local residents. Government initiatives have promoted the growth of Inuit Art in Pangnirtung, and artworks from the town such as carvings, prints and woven goods are sought after worldwide - expecially the famous Pang Hat, the closely knitted iconic headware of Nunavut.
DAY 9 - DAY AT SEA, CROSSING THE DAVIS STRAIT EASTBOUND
As Ocean Abatros returns across the Davis Strait to Greenland, enjoy the superlative amentities onboard your expedition vessel. We will arrange a variety of activities onboard for our guests to enjoy, engaging the mind, body and soul. Join your knowledgeable Expedition Team lecturers in the Theatre to hear specially-crafted lectures on local history, wildlife, geology, culture and more, unwind with a massage in the Albatros Polar Spa, or simply watch the seabirds gliding along the ship from our hot tubs.
DAY 10 - SISIMIUT, GREENLAND
After breakfast, Ocean Abatros will arrive in the colourful city of Sisimiut. With around 5,400 inhabitants, it is Greenland’s second largest city, and one of the most interesting to explore. People have lived around Sisimiut on and off since 2,500 BC, arriving in waves of migration from Arctic Canada. Remnants from this time such as the remains of turf huts and tent camps can be found thorughout the vast back country which surrounds Sisimiut, including on Tele Island, a short pleasant walk from the harbour. In 1756, Count Johan Ludvig Holstein established a colony here and called it “Holsteinsborg”. The oldest part of Sisimiut features town houses from this era, and the oldest dates back to 1756. One of the most culturally significant buildings is the Blue Church, built in 1775, now a landmark in the city’s historical museum district, arguably the best preserved in Greenland, and the perfect place to discover the Greenland of old. Nowadays, Sisimiut is an important hub of education and industry, and local factories process the bulk of fish caught in the country (Greenland’s largest export). The fish processing plant in the harbour is one of the largest in Greenland, and among the most modern in the world. Just beyond the harbour sits the headquarters of KNI, the government-operated company which resupplies the many small settlements throughout Greenland - a vital service in a country with so many remote communties. The busy city centre of Sisimiut offers a glimpse of what daily life is like in 21st-century Greenland, where seal hunts and smartphones collide. Take a refreshing stroll around Spedjesø and take in an exhibition at the city's cultural centre, explore the region's fascinating heritage at the city museum, or visit the Artists Workshop, where savvy shoppers can purchase traditional artworks direct from the artist. As evening falls, we will leave Sisimiut and set a course for the iceberg studded waters of Disko Bay (Qeqertarsuup Tunua) as Ocean Albatros sails for Qeqertarsuaq.
DAY 11 - QEQERTARSUAQ, GREENLAND
Nestled below Disko Island’s 1,000-metre mountains, we pull into port in a beautifully sheltered natural harbour. The place was aptly named Godhavn (“Good Harbour”) in Danish, while its Greenlandic name “Qeqertarsuaq” simply means “The Big Island”. For most of Greenland’s modern history, Godhavn was the political and economic capital of North Greenland (while Godthåb, now Nuuk, served this role in South Greenland). Its importance was due to the vast economic activity generated by whaling in Disko Bay, the preeminent Arctic industry since the 16th Century. As the whaling industry collapsed in the early 1900s, Godhavn lost its political status as all government functions moved south to Godthåb/Nuuk, and the town was forced to reinvent itself, changing its name to Qeqertarsuaq in 1979 . Today, hunting and fishing are the main industries in Qeqertarsuaq, while tourism is becoming increasingly important. Ferries arrive in the town daily in summer from around Disko Bay, while in winter, access is only by helicopter. Qeqertarsuaq’s sweeping red-and-black basalt mountains are radically different to the rolling granite hills which characterize much of Greenland, and provide a much richer soil. Despite being situated well above the Arctic Circle, this rich volcanic soil and the area’s mild microclimate make it much more green and lush compared to the rest of the country. Locals from all over Disko Bay come to the island in summer to hunt and collect angelica, herbs and mushrooms, and the stunning rock formations and black sand beaches attract visitors from all over the world. The town itself is typically Greenlandic, with quaint multicoloured homes, a splendid museum, and the unique octagonal church (built in the Norwegian stave style). With excellent hiking opportunities, friendly locals, and a fascinating place in regional history, Qeqertarsuaq has a lot to offer. From here, we set sail towards Ilulissat, the largest city in Disko Bay and the Iceberg Capital of the World.
DAY 12 - ILULISSAT, ICEBERG CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
This is it. This is why visitors from all over the world come to Greenland. Translated from Kalaallisut simply as ‘icebergs’, Ilulissat is rightly known the world over as ‘the Iceberg Capital of the World’. Surely no other city on Earth occupies such a spectacular natural setting. Situated within a short walk of the harbour lies Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland’s most famous site. Choked with city-sized icebergs so closely packed one could almost walk across to the other side, Ilulissat Icefjord stretches 70 km from its outlet in Disko Bay back to the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. This is the single largest glacier on Earth outside Antarctica, draining 13% of the Greenland Ice Sheet, and producing 10% of all the ice in the Northern Hemisphere (enough water to supply the annual needs of the entire United States). These mind-blowing statistics, together with the indescribably beautiful scenery, have secured the Ilulissat Icefjord designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While archaeological finds detail the long Inuit habitation of the area, the modern town has steadily flourished in the 280 years since its establishment; legendary Arctic explorer, Knud Rasmussen was born in Ilulissat, and his childhood home now houses the city museum. Today, Ilulissat is Greenland’s third largest town, with more than 4,500 inhabitants, and is undoubtedly Greenland’s tourism capital, with more hotel rooms than even Nuuk. The city offers excellent amenities to visitors, with fresh locally caught seafood served in the city’s cafes and restaurants, and excellent shopping – look out especially for the Artist’s Workshop above the harbour, where you can buy handmade artworks direct from the artist. The city typically experiences dry sunny weather throughout the summer, and there are a variety of well-marked hiking routes around the Icefjord, with options to suit all abilities. During the visit you will have the opportunity to join a boat trip with a local captain to the Icefjord (optional excursion – charge applies). The journey takes about two and a half hours and is considered the best way to experience the magic of Ilulissat Icefjord up close. If a hike or a trip by boat does not present enough excitement, there is also an opportunity to join a flightseeing excursion in fixed-wing aircraft over the Icefjord (optional excursion – charge applies). Please note the boat and flight excursions to the Ice fjord are not included in the general tour price. Refer to Price Information for more details. In the evening, we will cruise southward in front of the city-sized icebergs at the mouth of the Icefjord as we leave Disko Bay en route to Kangerlussuaq.
DAY 13 - SARFANNGUIT, GREENLAND
Situated just north of the Arctic Circle, Sarfannguit is one of the many tiny villages dotting the coast of Greenland. The settlement if situated in the heart of the Aassivisuit-Nipisat UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was inscribed due to its ancient Inuit hunting heritage, documenting the entire habitation history of Greenland. While the turf houses and hide tents have been replaced by colourful modern houses, the lifestyle here has changes little since the Inuit first arrived in Greenland. The local highways are the water and the ice, and the sea continues to nourish the locals, as it has for thousands of years. Despite this ancient heritage, locals in Sarfannguit are still firmly in the modern world, with smartphones, speedy wifi and satellite TV. Depending on how many residents are in town during our visit (many are frequently away on extended hunting trips), we hope to be able to play a game of football with the locals. Although we may outnumber them, they will be playing on home turf. Good luck!
DAY 14 - DISEMBARKATION, FLY KANGERLUSSUAQ TO REYKJAVIK
During the night, we will sail up the 160-kilometer/100 mile Kangerlussuaq Fjord. After breakfast aboard the ship, we will bid farewell to the ship's crew shuttling ashore by Zodiac. Due to Kangerlussuaq’s military history and present-day role as an important air travel hub, Kangerlussuaq remains fairly isolated from Greenland’s rich cultural traditions, in comparison to other regions. While you still find cultural experiences when visiting Kangerlussuaq, the most impressive attraction is the surrounding nature, which is just beckoning to be explored. The town itself was largely constructed by the American military in the 1950s, and this small airport town has retained something of its Cold War atmosphere. Your Arctic adventure and time in Greenland concludes as we board the flight from Kangerlussuaq back to Reykjavik, Iceland.