More than a thousand years ago, Erik the Red set sail from Iceland to explore a stark and spectacular land of endless ice, rocky pinnacles, and countless islands and fjords. With a population hovering around 50,000 and few roads or trees, the place he later settled and named “Greenland” has changed little over the centuries. Follow the route of Erik the Red from Iceland’s beautiful western coast across the Denmark Strait and round the southern tip of Greenland. Encounter the vestiges of Viking settlements and delve into the mystery of their disappearance in the late 15th century. Venture deep into fjords by Zodiac or kayak, and discover glaciers, whales, and seabirds. In brightly painted coastal towns and villages from Flatley Island to Nuuk, learn about everyday life on the Arctic Circle.
Depart on an overnight flight to Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital, which lies just south of the Arctic Circle. Take a walking tour of the Old Town, and venture into Hallgrimskirkja, a modern, Nordic-style church whose steeple soars to 210 feet, making it the tallest building in Iceland. Learn about Norse culture at the National Museum, and browse a collection of unusual whalebone carvings and Viking treasures and artifacts. In the afternoon, settle into your cabin on the National Geographic Explorer.
Navigate Iceland’s wild western frontier, sailing past the soaring Latrabjarg cliffs, the westernmost point of Iceland and home to a huge population of razorbills. Continue to Flatey Island, a trading post for many centuries, and take walks around the charming hamlet that sprung up here. Explore the coast by Zodiac this afternoon.
Follow in the wake of the legendary Viking Erik the Red as we make our way across the Denmark Strait to Greenland. Listen to talks by our experts, relax with a book in the library or on deck, and keep an eye out for blue whales.
The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest body of ice in the world after Antarctica, and covers roughly 80 percent of Greenland’s surface. The island’s coast is etched with thousands of fjords, some of which reach the ice’s edge. Spend the day exploring the islands and inlets of the eastern coast, using our underwater cameras and Remotely Operated Vehicle to discover marine life and fascinating underwater geology. Venture deep into Skjoldungen fjord or Napasorsuaq fjord and take a Zodiac or a kayak for a foray among the icebergs.
Sail into Prins Christian Sund, which cuts far into on the southern tip of Greenland, passing between soaring pinnacles and glaciers. Anchor off Nanortalik, the “place of polar bears,” so called for the polar bears that often pass through here in the summer. Go ashore to explore Greenland’s most southerly town.
Today, explore two remarkable sites on the Viking Trail. On the shores of Qaqortukulooq fjord lies the evocative Hvalsey Church, one of the best-preserved Nordic sites in the world. Part of the settlement founded by Erik the Red’s cousins in 986 A.D., Hvalsey has yielded fascinating clues to the daily life of the Vikings and their mysterious disappearance. Continue to Brattahlid, where Erik the Red established his farm in 982 A.D. Erik’s wife, Tjodhilde, built the first Christian church in the western hemisphere here, and from here his son, Leif Eriksson, launched the first voyages to North America—500 years before Columbus.
Dock in Qaqortoq, the largest town in South Greenland—with just over 3,200 residents. The Scandinavian influence is apparent in the wooden houses painted primary colors and scattered on the hillside, and colonial architecture dating back to the late 1700s can be found in the town center. Stroll through the town square and visit the museum, where Greenlandic kayaks, hunting equipment, and local art and handicrafts are on display.
Perched on the seaside in the shadow of ice-capped Sermitsiaq Mountain, Nuuk is one of the world’s smallest capital cities by population, with some 15,500 inhabitants. At the National Museum, examine 15th-century Qilakitsoq mummies found near Uummannatsiaq—a discovery that was featured in the February 1985 National Geographic magazine cover story.
Spend a day among the islands and fjords along Greenland’s wild western coast, discovering natural wonders far off the beaten path. Take a Zodiac cruise, go kayaking, search for humpback or minke whales, or hike across the tundra.
Disembark this morning in Kangerlussuaq and take a chartered flight to Ottawa. Spend a night at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier before flying home the next day.
Book by July 31, 2014, and receive complimentary charter airfare one-way from Kangerlussuaq to Ottawa.
As senior photo editor for National Geographic Traveler, Dan Westergren is responsible for the magazine's photographic vision. Dan enjoys exploring cold, high places, having photographed the Arctic while on expedition with Will Steger and the summits of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Blanc, and the Matterhorn for the pages of Traveler. He also enjoys leading photo workshops for the Society, and is a popular photography instructor.
Dan will join the following departure:
Jul 19 - 30, 2015
This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single cabin in 2015, add $2,820 in Category 2 and $2,930 in Category 3.
International airfare to Reykjavik and return from Ottawa and airfare between Greenland and Canada is not included in the expedition cost. The group flight between Kangerlussuaq and Ottawa is $1,200 (subject to change).