Hacking Greenland

It’s the worlds largest island that’s not a continent and the least populated country by size in the world. There’s hardly any roads and most of the country is a giant ice cap. So, why go there? Good question.

You might have heard the story that Greenland was given its name by Erik the Red (Leif Erikson’s dad) to attract more people, but anyone in modern times with a map, can see that the country is anything but green. Most of the population lives in small towns along the fjords, so the only way to get from one settlement to another is to fly, dogsled or take a ship. Roads are virtually non-existent.

In my quest to visit every country in the world, Greenland has been left in my last 10 percent due to its difficulty and expense. A cruise to Greenland runs $1000-2000/day and flights are around $2000 from Europe. However, if you dig a little deeper, you can get there without refinancing your home.

There’s a few direct flights that service Greenland, but the least expensive option is to fly from Copenhagen on a Friday to Ilulissat (JAV) on a Tuesday, Thursday or Friday for $220 one way. To get the same fare returning, you need to fly on a Monday or Wednesday. There’s one other catch. To get this low fare, there’s a long stopover in Kangerlussuaq (SFJ) both ways. The inbound segment gives travelers an entire day/night in Kangerlussuaq and the outbound flight arrives in the evening and returns to Copenhagen the following morning. Kangerlussuaq is mostly used as a base for those who are hiking the ice cap and for flight connections. Other than that, there’s a not lot going on. It’s a free stopover though and nobody hates that.

Ilulissat is famed for its UNESCO site Disko Bay and has more tourist facilities than Kangerlussuaq. Nuuk is the largest town in Greenland and can be reached by air in about 2 hours from Ilulissat for prices starting at $286 one way. If you’d like to be a little more adventurous, there’s a ferry that leaves Ilulissat on Sunday (during certain months of the year) and arrives in Nuuk on Tuesday. It stops in 4 towns for about 15 minutes each. The 2 day ferry ride costs the same as the plane if you take the couchette option. Pricing and schedule can be found here. I usually book my flights with Trip.com. Their pricing matches the lowest deals I find on Skyscanner and Google and the app has all my information saved so I don’t have to enter it 19 times. Yes, in case you’re wondering, this trip has 19 flight segments.

There’s not a lot of great deals for hotels in Greenland, but you can get an adequate place for around $120/night or sleep in a shared dormitory for around $30 with your own sleeping bag. Kangerlussuaq only has about 4 options online and most of them are basic at best. I use hotels.com, airbnb.com and booking.com.

I decided to combine my few days in Greenland with some other places that I haven’t visited in Europe. By using Skyscanner and Google Flights, I found some super cheap options including a flight from Copenhagen to Gdansk for $18. I also found that I can rent a car in Gdansk and drop it off in Krakow with no drop-off fee for around $20/day. Krakow has a flight to Rovaniemi, Finland for $105. Rovaniemi is the official town for Santa Claus’ home. Located at the arctic circle, it’s Christmas 365 days a year. It’s a great combination if you’re looking for more arctic adventures after visiting Greenland or Norway’s Snow Hotel. To get back to a lower latitude, the least expensive option is a $45 flight to Helsinki. I discovered I could get to Dublin for $75 to celebrate St. Patty’s Day. From Ireland, it’s only $25 to get to London on Ryan airlines. Keep in mind that these lower prices are usually at odd or early times of the day and don’t include luggage or extras. If you’re new to cheap flights, my best advice is to get a backpack that looks deceptively small and don’t roll it on the plane. Luggage can cost more than your flight.

If you’re coming from North America, the cheapest flights I’ve found to Europe are with Norse Atlantic. They fly to Berlin for prices that start at $130 each way as well as Oslo for a bit more. They also have flights to and from Fort Lauderdale. If you’re booking New York or Oslo flights be careful that you don’t end up in Torp, Norway (TRF) or New York Stewart (SWF) unless you have time to kill. Both airports are less expensive and hence, tempting options, but they’re 60-90 minutes away and a badly timed flight can cost a lot more than what you save to make your JFK or OSL connection if you arrive after the buses have stopped running.