As our flight took off from the small airport, I took my last look at the colorful houses dwarfed by the towering icebergs floating in the Arctic Ocean. Unspoiled by time. I jotted those three words down as there is no better way to describe the tiny settlement of Kulusuk, the gateway to East Greenland.
Kulusuk was permanently settled in 1909, little more than 100 years ago. We walked along the gravel road from the airport toward the village about three kilometers away. There’s no taxis or buses waiting to zip tourists in to town. Your own two feet are the only way to get there. The one or two cars belong to the lone hotel. As we walked, our guide told us about life in the tiny settlement of barely 300 residents. Here fishing and hunting are the way of life, supplemented by the bit of tourism the airport brings to the settlement.
The hotel has two luxuries: running water and flushing toilets. Most families living in Kulusuk draw their water from the centrally located lake of potable water all year round. The shipment of gas had just been delivered and was likely the last before the harsh winter sets in. The families will come to get their gas for heating and cooking from the tank, purchasing it by the liter.
A sea of white crosses and plastic flowers dot the cemetery on the jagged coastline. Keeping with Inuit tradition, the crosses lack any names; the names are passed on in death to live on to the next generation.
As we carry on, we start to notice dead seals bobbing at the shore. The Inuit people live mostly off the land and this includes eating seals, which is considered the most important meat in their diet. The water is cold enough to preserve the seals until they are ready to be eaten and this method allows some of the proteins to ferment into carbohydrates. And no part will go unused: the skins are used for clothing, some seal meat is used for dog food, the fat can be rendered into an oil used for heat, and the bones can be made into tools.
The dogs are a companion in survival, so it’s no surprise that we would encounter some in the settlement. The adult dogs are napping and chained to their houses or the rocks; the puppies are napping in a box but as soon as they hear us, they’re climbing over one another and vying for our attention. We give them belly rubs before moving on.
The settlement has one grocery store and we stop there for a look around and to pick up some snacks for lunch. Now the little market is stocked up, but as the winter wears on the supplies on the shelves will dwindle while the residents of Kulusuk wait for the sea ice to break up enough so that ships can bring fresh supplies again.
Now that we’ve walked the village, we board a small boat to get an up close look at the glittering icebergs that almost always dot the Angmassalik Fjord. They calve off the Apusiaajik Glacier and float through the fjord before drifting out to the sea. As we weave among the massive floating ice sculptures, I remind myself that what we see is actually only about 10% of the iceberg that is visible above the water.
“That one looks like a Viking ship,” I point out to Tim. Each is unique and form different shapes as they go through phases of melting and freezing. This is also why parts of icebergs, or sometimes entire icebergs, are blue. One in particularly has a striking blue section of ice and if it weren’t for the wind stinging our cheeks, this wouldn’t feel real.
As the boat bounces over the water back toward shore, we gaze out over the fjord with chunks of old glacier floating beneath jagged saw-toothed mountains. Life might be harsh here, but with such unspoiled beauty surrounding them, we can see why the Inuit have made this place home.
Our day tour to Kulusuk was an excellent introduction to East Greenland, but at the same time it was like an amuse-bouche that left us wanting more. You can bet we’ll be back someday.
Know Before You Go
Our Kulusuk Day Tour was provided by Air Iceland in cooperation with Nordic Visitor in order to bring you this story. As always, Luxe Adventure Traveler retains full editorial control over this site and all opinions are entirely our own.