A Village at the End of the World

   “Sheltered by a horseshoe of snow-capped mountains and ice-cut fjords the tiny village of Tasiilaq defines isolation. In previous years, travel routes to this remote region have been limited, making Tasiilaq feel cut off from the rest of the world. But with more flights and travel packages added yearly this area is now more accessible than ever”
Greenland
Most tourists don’t immediately think of Greenland as their next travel destination but Greenland promises the adventure of a lifetime. Tasiilaq Greenland is an icy wonderland inhabited by teams of sled dogs, colossal glaciers, and home to the world’s second largest ice sheet. Despite its remote location, Tasiilaq is considered one of the most scenic and populated towns in Greenland. Just 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle, this traditional hunting and fishing village is characterized by it’s brightly colored Monopoly-style houses.

Tasiilaq Hotels and Attractions

Visitors will enjoy a stay at Hotel Angmassalik, one of the three hotel options in town. This arctic style inn sits on a craggy rock at the highest point of the village. Both the rooms and the restaurant boast a stunning panoramic view of the town and marina. The restaurant specializes in traditional Greenlandic fare, making this a popular dining destination for both tourists and locals. The hotel provides shuttle service, tour arrangements, full service bar and satellite.

Hotel Greenland

Best View in Tasiilaq; Hotel Angmassalik

Tour the Ammassalik museum to see how villagers lived in the not so distant past. Located in the town’s historic church, the museum houses a variety of authentic hunting and fishing relics. Learn about the traditional Inuit way of life and view a replica of a real turf house.

Visit the Stunk workshop where Inuit artisans demonstrate and sell their craft. The workshop is the best place to find handcrafted Tupilaks; Traditional carved statues made from antler or bone. Bargaining over prices is frowned upon as expert skill is required to produce these intricately carved masks and statues. Souvenirs made of antler or bone are fine to bring home, but most countries will not allow items made of fur or sea mammals to be taken through customs.

Dog Sledding Tours and Excursions

Dog sledding is the preferred mode of transport in Greenland during the colder months. It not unusual to see large white wooden sleds scattered randomly throughout town. The husky dog population actually outnumbers that of people in some areas of Greenland. Although cute and furry, the Greenlandic Huskies are tough working dogs. Their heavy coat and enduring temperament helps them survive life outside during the harsh winter months when there are up to 24 hours of darkness and the temperatures plummet.

sledgreenland

Dog Sledding Greenland

A number of dog sledding tours and excursions draw visitors outside the confines of the village. One exciting mushing adventure is a day trip is to visit Ikateq; an outlying settlement West of Tasiilaq. Another option is to become certified as a licensed dog musher. During a two day instructional tour, students will learn the basics of dog sledding and get certified to drive their very own team of six to eight huskies. Tours arrangements can be made through Destination East Greenland.

Remote Wilderness Hiking

Nature lovers can set out on a variety of remote wilderness hikes. Experience the pure solitude and stillness that characterizes Greenland on a hike to the Valley of the Flowers. This single track trail is easily accessible from the far end of the village past the town’s cemetery. Following a pristine river, the trail meanders through a number of small hills and valleys. Tiny pink and purple arctic flowers dot the landscape. At the trails end, hikers are rewarded with a sweeping panoramic view of the surrounding snow-capped mountains shrouded in an icy curtain of fog.  Visiting the viilage during the summer solstice when the sun remains bright nearly around the clock will allow more time for a hike in the midnight sun.

One concern in arctic climates is the possibility of encountering a polar bear. Although Tasiilaq is inhabited by a large polar bear population, chances are unlikely that you will see one. During the summer months the bears tend to follow the drifting ice and coastlines. Hikers are more likely to see the white arctic foxes that frequently roam the countryside foraging for food.

Hike

Valley of the Flowers Hike; Midnight

Greenland’s Melting Ice Sheet and Global Warming

Greenland’s melting ice sheet has been making global warming news as measurements show it’s melting rapidly. Greenland has the second largest ice cap in the world, covering about 80% of its land mass, making it particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Studies report losses up to 47 cubic miles of ice per year, with significant losses in the southeastern region. Putting the tiny village of Angmassalik in the center of thye global warming controversy.

Greenland

Helicopter Ride Back to Kulusuk

The highlight of any trip to Greenland is a cruise or helicopter ride to view the magnificent glaciers or the ice cap.

One option is to take an iceberg cruise, which weaves through a surreal maze of massive floating icebergs, while a Minke or Humpback whale sometimes surfaces and spouts. Another option is a full day cruise to view the ice filled Sermilik fjord with a stop over at Ikateq village. Most tours provide the shelter of a heated cabin and the comfort of a hot chocolate, as the arctic winds out on the open waters can get a bit rough.

Greenland Travel and Flight Arrangements

A good time to visit is during the warmer months of March through September. The highlight of the summer solstice is in mid-June with almost around the clock sunshine and moderate temperatures up to 60 F. Keep in mind, routes to this village are limited, one must fly via helicopter from Kulusuk airport, for this reason purchasing a tour package is highly recommended.

The easiest option is to use a travel agent; Nordic visitor offers the most affordable and organized travel packages to Tasillaq from; listed as Ammassalik. A tour package from Reykjavik includes all flights, helicopter transport and accommodations at Hotel Angmassalik. Air Iceland offers stand alone daily flights from Reykjavik airport to Kulusuk during the summer months. From there arrangements must be made through Air Greenland for the helicopter ride to the village. There are not many other options as roads do not connect the town to other cities and a ship would take too long.

Tasiilaq is an unspoiled artic refuge filled with colossal icebergs, towering ice-cut fjords, and the unique culture of the Inuit. A trip to this remote village is an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.

Copyright Christine Zenino

Get Ready for a Wild Ride…Dog Sled Style

I was enjoying the ride as the dogs now were trotting along consistently and the mushers were skijoring effortlessly beside us. I was surprised when all of the sudden the sled dogs took off and ran quickly out of control at full speed. Yann yelled “Whoa! Whoa!” repeatedly, but they didn’t stop. I was laughing hard but also was kind of scared that they would run off the side of the glacier!

Huskys!

Iceland is a land of unparalleled beauty with rushing waterfalls, active volcanoes and immense glaciers. An exciting way to tour Iceland’s glacial landscape is by taking an adventure dog sled trip. Depending on the time of the year, the tour may be offered on a number of different glaciers both located within a short distance from Reykjavik: Langjökull glacier or Mýrdallsjökull. Both of these glaciers are in close proximity to Eyjafjallajokul; the volcano that spewed a massive ash cloud over Europe in 2010 shutting down air traffic for weeks. Although these glaciers rest on an active volcanic mountain range called Katla, travel to and from the glaciers are relatively safe.

Glacier roads

Tour Arrangements for Dog Sledding in Iceland

Getting to the dogs is an adventure in itself. Only super truck 4×4’s can make it up to the glacier due to the extreme road conditions. For the dog sledding adventure I made arrangements through “Eskimos,” a reputable company that provides extreme adventure tours. At 10 a.m. sharp Halli, our tour guide, picked us up from the hotel in a super truck 4X4 equipped with a snorkel. Are we going underwater? I said jokingly. I had no idea what to expect as I had never been on a glacier or dogsledding, but I figured that underwater submersion wasn’t part of the deal.
 
waterfallAfter about an hour, we made a quick but exciting stop at Seljalandsfoss waterfall where we got out and followed a little path that led behind a 200 foot gushing cascade. The scenery is wonderful, but be prepared for an icy cold blast of spray from the waterfall once under the cascades. After the hike, we piled back in the truck and were quickly engrossed in one of Halli’s interesting stories. Fairly soon he announced we were getting close to the dog sled kennel. Suddenly, the truck turned onto the rocky deserted road that leads up to Mýrdallsjökull. As we ascended, the sky seemed to disappear and was replaced by thick dark clouds. We could barely see around the truck. Yet once we reached the top of the glacier the sun was shining brightly.

Dog Sledding Near Reykjavik

There at the top sat a little red house. Two young guys from Dogsledding Iceland, Yann and Markus, the dog mushers came out to greet us. We went inside and they issued us warm, puffy snowsuits. They warned we would need them as the temperature higher up on the glacier is significantly colder than ground level. Soon we all squeezed into another 4×4 for the final ride up the snowy road to the sled dogs’ kennel.

Einstein

Barking and howling greeted our crew as soon as the twelve excited huskies saw the 4×4. These tough but adorable dogs are purebred Greenlandic Huskies, Yann told us. They appear quite larger than their furry cousins the Siberian huskies. The dogs spend a majority of their lives outside and their thick heavy coat helps them to endure the harsh temperatures and prolonged darkness of the Icelandic winter. Despite their tough exteriors these dogs are friendly, affectionate and well cared for. The tours only last about two hours per day making this a fun run for the dogs as opposed to hard work.

Soon we climbed onto the long white wooden sled. We were warned we should sit as far back as possible to leave enough space in the front for them to stop the sled in case of emergency. Though I was not quite sure what that meant, I did as instructed. My dreams of an energetic start failed to materialize as the dogs were off to a slow start. The lead dogs would run a little then stop and look back at the mushers as if waiting for direction.

Markus ran up ahead to lead the dogs so they wouldn’t keep stopping and playing with each other. Yann and Markus skijored (skied) alongside the sled calling out commands to the dogs. “Hike!” they shouted to get them to run, “Haw!” they yelled to turn left and “Gee!” to turn right.

I was enjoying the ride as the dogs now were trotting along consistently and the mushers were skijoring effortlessly beside us. I was surprised when all of the sudden the sled dogs took off and ran quickly out of control at full speed. Yann yelled “Whoa! Whoa!” repeatedly, but they didn’t stop. I was laughing hard but also was kind of scared that they would run off the side of the glacier! Mush!

One thing the mushers do to slow the sled down is throw a round set of ropes over the front part of the sled. This braking technique was not working fast enough to slow these wild dogs down. The sled was teetering on the brink of tipping over. It was hard to hold on. Yann let go of the rope to avoid skiing wildly into the side of our sled. Worried that we were careening full speed down an icy track, Markus flung himself down on the front of the sled in an effort to slow it down. Finally with his added weight on the front of the sled, the dogs slowed down and stopped. I rolled off the sled laughing but was secretly relieved the ride was over. I’m sure this was just another routine day at work for Yann, Markus and the huskies, but for us it was an exciting adventure. Whoa!

Greenlandic Sled Dogs

The dogs were tired and plopped down to rest in the snow. It was fun to kneel down and pet each dog as Yann and Markus introduced me to every one of them. Each dog has an important position on the team, I learned. The dogs and the mushers really seemed to love what they are doing. One adorable black and white furry dog in particular; Einstein, was howling loudly and jumping around trying to get my attention. Einstein quickly stole the show when he started posing for me to take his picture. After the dogs rested a bit and got some needed attention they started to get restless again, howling and playing. It was time to get back on the sled and finish the ride.

The dogs sledded back to camp at a relaxing pace, until all too soon we were back at the little red house. I rolled off of the sled, bid Einstein and the other dogs a final farewell, and offered my thanks to Yann and Markus.

Adventure Tours in Iceland Near Reykjavik

Dogsledding Iceland is the kennel company that provides the dogsledding adventure. They are located about an hour south of Reykjavik near Vik. They offer year round dog sled tours and expeditions but do not provide transportation to and from the glacier. It is not advisable to rent a car or truck as many rental companies in Iceland have a disclaimer holding the renter responsible for water damage that may occur on the icy back roads. The entire tour including transportation and waterfall stops can be arranged though Reyjavik-based tour operators; Eskimos. Snow suits are provided but it is necessary to wear complete gear such as winter boots, hat, gloves and sweater. An adventure tour to one of the glaciers is an amazing way to check out Iceland’s natural beauty and the friendliness of these beautiful dogs certainly adds to this great experience.

Greenlandic Husky

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Get Ready for a Wild Ride…Icelandic Style

Iceland is a land of extremes filled with hot geothermal springs, ice cut fjords and sub-glacial volcanoes.  What better way to tour Iceland’s natural beauty than by dog sled?

“Waiting at the top of the Mýrdallsjökull glacier was a team of ten anxiously waiting sled dogs. These tough but adorable dogs are purebred Greenlandic Huskies, Yann our dog musher told us.  Despite their tough exteriors these dogs are friendly and playful.  After playing with the dogs for awhile, we climbed onto the long white wooden sled.  Markus the second musher, warned us to sit as far back as possible and leave enough space in the front for them to stop the sled in case of emergency. Though I was not quite sure what that meant, I did as instructed.

My dreams of an energetic start failed to materialize. The dogs were off to a slow start. The lead dogs would trot a little then stop and look back at the mushers, as if to ask, ”What should we do?”

Markus ran up ahead to lead the dogs so they wouldn’t keep stopping and playing with each other.  Yann and Markus skijored (skied) alongside the sled calling out commands to the dogs. “Hike!” they shouted, to get them to run, “Haw!” they yelled to turn left, and “Gee!” to turn right.

 I was enjoying the ride as the dogs were trotting along now at a leisurely pace. Skijoring effortlessly alongside, the mushers were successfully controlling the team. All of the sudden the dogs took off and ran out of control at full speed.  I was surprised at this sudden change in speed. Yann yelled “Whoa! Whoa!” repeatedly, but they didn’t stop.  I was laughing hard but also was kind of scared that they would run off the side of the glacier!   All of the sudden Yann let go of the rope to avoid skiing wildly into our sled.”

Read my full article online at Dog Sledding Adventure Tours Near Reykjavik Iceland.