Wild Photography Holidays - Photographic Adventure Travel: Greenland in Winter – Icebergs, Aurora and Inuit Settlements

Sunset over Disko Bay

Greenland in Winter – Icebergs, Aurora and Inuit Settlements

Highlights Include…

  • Hotel overlooking the Icefjord
  • Wild winter landscapes
  • Spectacular glaciers
  • Sunset by boat in the Icefjord
  • Possibility of aurora borealis
  • Superb short walks to fine viewpoints
  • Oqaatsut village settlement
  • Colourful wooden houses
  • Aerial photography (optional)
  • Dog sledging (optional)
  • Greenlandic local life

Introduction

Wild Photography Holidays are pleased to add a new look winter trip to West Greenland. The dates of these departures have been chosen to make the most of the fabulous winter landscapes and low light that can be found in Greenland at this time of year. The sunrises and sunsets tend to be spectacular and the big arctic skies are dark enough for the possibility of aurora. Our main Greenland base, Ilulissat (formerly Jakobshavn) means “Icebergs” in the West Greenlandic language. Each year, the massive Jakobshavn Glacier calves some 35 billion tons of icebergs into the sheltered waters of Disko Bay and the Icefjord. It is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the world’s largest island. Towers, arches, and walls of ancient blue ice thrust skyward from the water’s surface. The whole fiord gives an ever-changing vista as huge icebergs float past in dramatic light en route to open sea. It’s believed that an iceberg that calved from this magnificent glacier sank the Titanic itself. A first sighting of this unique arctic wonderland is guaranteed to make your photographic heart beat faster. In wintertime the snow cover means that dog sledging becomes a normal way of transport for the local people who hunt and transport fish. A huge country, it is populated rather sparsely only around the coast. Indeed, there are no roads to anywhere except in and around the settlements and the only way to travel is by boat, air, dog sledge and foot. Travelling by boat, we navigate the ice filled waters at sunset. We sail to a small settlement with under 50 inhabitants, it is still alive with ancient traditions and a culture still very much tied to the ocean and the prevailing weather conditions. Spending two nights in one settlement allows us to really get ‘under the skin’ of daily life there. Brightly coloured wooden houses sit on snow covered rocky bluffs; small fishing boats bring in Halibut, Crab plus the occasional Seal. There may be an optional opportunity to experience some aerial photography and dog sledging. We start and finish this trip in Ilulissat Greenland giving participants the possibility of choosing their own route, generally via Copenhagen, Denmark or Reykjavík, Iceland. The start/finish dates coincide with the Air-Iceland Connect flights operating only out of Reykjavík and Air Greenland who fly regularly from Copenhagen. This is a truly an inspiring adventure exploring locations that are only now becoming more accessible to photographers. This will be the fifth year that we have been running our Greenland departures and it is fair to say that we have a great sense of all the best locations for photography

Photographic Tutors

Contact the WPH office for Information regarding the tutors on your departure.

Brief Itinerary

For full details please download the trip description PDF

Day 1: Arrive Ilulissat Greenland

A flight north over Greenland’s vast Ice Cap brings us to Ilulissat on the West Coast where an airport transfer is included. Our hotel is perfectly situated and directly overlooking the Icefjord. The hotel is modern and well run with a great selection of food including many vegetarian options. If you are early you may choose to take an initial stroll to the nearby locations for photography. The town is littered with colourful houses, a picturesque church, sledge dogs, a couple of nice coffee shops and an assortment of shops. Our first meeting as a group will be at 16:00 in the reception of Hotel Icefiord for introductions, an image presentation and a trip briefing. We will have an early evening meal followed by a spectacular sunset sailing on board a private boat to photograph icebergs at close quarters in the dramatic evening light.
Hotel Icefiord (D)

Day 2-3: Around Ilulissat

Over the next two days we will explore Ilulissat and it’s surrounds. There are many fabulous view points overlooking the Icefjord. Sunrises and sunsets can be special from many areas close by the hotel, even from the veranda! The amount of ice floating in the vicinity is variable and reliable in the Icefjord itself, it is always awe-inspiring to witness the giant ice structures floating by. In the mornings and evenings we hope for a spectacular showing of the pastel blue/pink skies that are common in these parts, lighting up the landscape in a manner that is special to Arctic Greenland. During the daytime participants will be free to explore the area by foot or maybe take an optional helicopter ride or a dog sledge excursion. We have not included this in the cost of the trip as weather conditions can be fickle and aerial photography is not for everyone. A two-hour sledge ride could also be an option. The dog sledge is one of the strongest icons of Greenland. An Inuit tradition, dating 2000 years back in time! There are not many other means of transportation surviving for so long without change. The basic principle is still the same as in the Viking age; dogs tied to a simple construction of wood. Whilst photography on the ride itself is tricky, there will good photo opportunities before and after the ride. Dogs and sledges are everywhere, the town comes to life in Winter with an energy that is tangible, punctuated by the howls and yapping of these very attractive albeit non-domestic dogs. The amount of walking each day can be adjusted to an individual energy levels. Ski poles are a very useful aid for walking in snow.
Hotel Icefiord (B,L,D)

Day 4-5: Oqaatsut Inuit Settlement

Just one generation ago the majority of the Greenlandic people lived in the many small settlements along the coast. Today most of them live in the cities. The municipality of Ilulissat still has four settlements that are thriving; Oqaatsut is one of these settlements. After lunch we board a small private boat sailing to the tiny settlement of Oqaatsut. This settlement has only around forty permanent inhabitants, a school with approximately four pupils, a small grocery shop and a community house. Oqaatsut, formerly Rodebay, is an Inuit settlement in the Qaasuitsup municipality; the modern name of the settlement is Kalaallisut or “Cormorants”. There is not a single road here, just colourful wooden houses on stark rounded snow covered rocks. Each little house is uniquely built and painted in a different colour. Around the houses we find all the paraphernalia associated with Greenland in winter; sledges, dogs, fish racks, animal skulls, sealskins and furs. Fishing and hunting are the main occupation of the inhabitants, often we find fishermen trying their luck through holes in the local sea ice. To the south is a small harbour where a multitude of small fishing boats are moored or frozen in the sea ice. Our boat will drop us at the sheltered harbour, we will probably have to walk a short distance across the sea ice to get to solid land and our hotel. Our tiny hotel is in the middle of the settlement and is owned by Ole a local man who used to be the mayor of Ilulissat! The rooms are warm, comfortable, well furnished, we share the bathroom. There is an excellent windowed dining/meeting area with fine views of the surrounding settlement and mountains. Hot showers are available in the community house next door to our accommodation but one needs to be prepared for the fact that sometimes the water pipes freeze rendering the showers useless. We spend the following two days exploring and photographing Oqaatsut settlement and the surrounding landscape. Ice from the fiord makes it’s way here and is often lit up with a spectacular light. The local inuits are friendly and are very happy for the contribution that we make to the community. Our food will generally be sourced and cooked by a local person. The light pollution is minimal and we are easily able to find great aurora locations in our immediate surroundings.
Settlement Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 6: To Ilulissat

Late afternoon we board our boat for the return journey to Ilulissat and the Icefjord. Arriving back mid morning we are in plenty of time for exploring Ilulissat further. There will be a last chance to photograph magnificent icebergs in the sunset followed by dinner and a presentation of images taken during our fabulous arctic adventure.
Hotel Icefiord (B,L,D)

Day 7: Around Ilulissat

Today we continue to explore the surrounds of the Icefjord, there is still so much toes and photograph. The energetic may want to the ancient settlement area around Sermermiut. For 4000 years, different Inuit cultures lived in the settlement sustained by the rich fishing to be had in the Icefjord. Even today, you can still see the mounds of the dwellings indicating times gone by. The vistas from here over the Fjord are superb, although it is wise to keep to the high ground as turning Icebergs often cause spectacular waves. In the evening we meet for a final celebratory dinner followed by a presentation of our best images.
Hotel Icefiord (B,L,D)

Day 8: Homeward flights

After breakfast participants will have some free time. Transfers are included to Ilulissat’s small airport for homeward flights whenever these are scheduled. Check out from the hotel will be around 11:00 am. You may be thinking of extending your stay in Greenland for a few days or perhaps a some days in Iceland, if this is the case just get in touch and we may have some ideas to help you plan this!
(B)

Aurora

This is the ‘aurora time’ of the year and wherever possible we will try to capture this incredible phenomenon. All of our tutors are experienced ‘aurora shooters’ and will be passing on their expert knowledge to ensure that you go home with some good high quality images. We will need clear skies for aurora photography.

What’s Included

  • Transfers from/to Ilulissat airport
  • All meals
  • All accommodation
  • Boat tours in as per itinerary

What’s Not Included

  • International flights
  • Beverages, alcohol or additional items ordered during meals
  • Anything not mentioned in the included list
  • Aerial Flights
  • Dog Sledging

Extra Activities

During our stay in Ilulissat we can organise optional activities such as a whale watching trip or some aerial photography. We have not included these outings in the price of the trip as often in the past the weather has proved inclement and participants have been disappointed.

Accommodation

Accommodation is included in the price of the holiday and all have en suite facilities with the exception of the settlement hotel in Oqaatsut. The rooms are warm, comfortable, well furnished and we share the bathroom. Hot showers are available in the community house next door to our accommodation although one needs to be prepared for the fact that sometimes the water pipes freeze rendering the showers useless. A single supplement is available for this trip but this does not include the Oqaatsut Settlement where participants will share a room.

Our main base in Ilulissat is Hotel Icefiord. Check out their website for images and videos.

Complete Itinerary and Full Details

This page is only a brief summary. A complete itinerary and more details can be found in our trip description PDF
It is important that you read this full day-to-day description and further information for this holiday before making your booking.