Greenland October 2021 - Nuuk and East Greenland

Greenland 2021 - busy Nuuk and amazing East Greenland

Many places in Greenland I had visited during the last years. The South with the amazing sailing ship Rembrand van Rijn and lots of places on the west coast up north to Kullorsuaq by boat, plane, sledge, helicopter and towing a pulka. Not only during summer, but also during winter! I always wanted to include East Greenland in one of my trips, but it never happened mostly as it is easier to go to East Greenland from Iceland than from Greenland itself.

Basically you have only one bigger town on the east coast of Greenland called Tasiilaq. About half of the population of East Greenland is living there. And there are only two airports of reasonable size, one is Kulusuk the airport of Tasiilaq and the other is Contable Point or Nerlerit Inaat, which is further up north. I did not manage to go there as, there are no regular flights from the major airports in the north west of Greenland like Ilulissat or Kangerlussuaq to the East Coast. There are flights from Iceland and from Nuuk, thats it.

Therefore it was just close to impossible to include Tasiilaq in an itinerary when the focus of your trip are the hotspots in the north west.

In 2021 everything was different. We had to cancel all our workshops to West Greenland and to the Falklands/Antarctica due to Corona. Iceland was open for double-jabbed persons with an additional negative pcr test from early summer onwards and Greenland followed in late summer, but it was already to late for a workshop in West Greenland. I had to change plans.

The decision was easy, first go to Iceland and after Iceland fly to Tasiilaq for photography and to prepare a workshop we are offering in 2022.

I tried to get flights to Tasiilaq during August and early September, but seats had been restricted due to Covid regulations and direct flights from Reykjavik where cancelled. We tried but we simply could not get a single seat on an airplane, neither from Reykjavik nor from Nuuk!

The plan had to be changed again. First go to Iceland, focus there on the interior highlands and the west fjords and then fly to Nuuk and to Tasiilaq beginning of October.

October is already winter in East Greenland, or if you are lucky late autumn. I knew that, but I took the risk and I was rewared by a spell of amazing weather in Nuuk and in the Tasiilaq area. Sometimes you simply have to take risks and hope for the best!

Nuuk - the capital of Greenland

The government of Greenland decided, not to allow direct flights from Reykjavik to Kulusuk/Tasiilaq. That was fact during August, when we booked our flights (later they opened the air link from Reykjavik to Kulusuk). As I liked Nuuk quite a bit when I visited it during winter it was fine for me to stay some days during a season without snow cover. I did not regret it. Nuuk is the only "city" in Greenland, it is a strange mixture of greenlandic traditions and international flair and habits. And it is a boom town. Constuction is going on in every corner of Nuuk! The city changes very quickly!

On my way to and from Tasiilaq I stayed some nights in Nuuk. If you know or come from northern Greenland, Nuuk is a strange place. Poeple walk their dogs on a leash, there are streets with traffic and lots of cars including traffic lights, you have more than one restaurant and so on. There is a kind of nightlife, people hang out on Friday nights in bars and restaurants, I even did not find a place in a restaurant and had to eat a burger in a cafe. But you find tradtional elements as well. A severed head of a reindeer on a balcony, markets which are selling seal and whale meat.

As I said it is an interesting mixture!

This time I had an accomodation closer to the old center right on the shore of the fjord. 15min to the old town and not much more to the center and pedestrian area. It made the life of a photographer much easier, especially as I was lucky with northern lights in Nuuk as well.

Most of the time I strolled around in old Nuuk and in the pedestrian area. I especially had fun with a clever monument, which appears and vanishes with the tides. Sassuma arnaa, the goddess of the sea in Inuit culture. By artist Christian "Nuunu" Rosing. A very clever idea and a great location for it!

Old Nuuk is rather small, in 10 minutes you are able to walk leasurely through it. Most buildings are listed or a museum and therefore very well preserved. Nuuk as a colonial trading place was founded around 1730 by Hans Egede, a name you encounter very often in Greenland. The local Inuit used this place already for many generations as well as the vikings during their time on the island. But only during WWII Nuuk started to be seen as one of the main towns of Greenland and it became the capital around 1980. Greenland is still danish territory (former colony), but has its own elected government and a far reaching self rule agreement with Denmark.

Old Nuuk in pictures

The not old Nuuk

New Nuuk for me is devided. First the quarters which have been build during the last 20 years including the shopping centers, the community and cultural center and the many colorful and modern appartment blocks. Then you have the old buildings from the 50ties and 60ties, which are looking quite run down and "outdated". Sometimes they are already replaced by new appartment blocks. As Nuuk is growing very fast, it grows in any directions. Suburban highrise areas are developed as well as quarters with smaller one/two family houses. This time I stayed only close to the administrative center and did not venture into the more remote quarters. I was a bit lazy after the weeks in Iceland....

Northern Lights over Nuuk

I was treated with excellent northern lights in Nuuk. As I was living right on the fjord looking towards west and north into uninhabited area, I just had to wait in the living room..... Northern lights over the fjord are nice but more demanding and more fun was to try to inlcude the city into the composition. So good to have so many choices within 20 min of walking! have a look!

East Greenland around Tasiilaq

Tasiilaq in the district of Ammassalik, which is also the old name for the town and the name of the island where Tasiilaq is located, is the only town in East Greenland. And the area close to Tasiilaq is the only region with a reasonable cluster of villages  in East Greenland. Besides Tasiilaq only Scoresbysund or Ittoqqortoormiit (further north) exists as permanent settlement areas. The distance between these two settlement areas is 800km! If you are looking south the situation is similar.

This is a very, very remote place!

In terms of landscape it is of course dominated by ice and rock. The climate is harsh, much harsher than on the same latitude on the western side of Greenland due to cold currents from the arctic. Without the resources of the sea, life was and still is impossible!

Subsistance hunting for sea mammals (on land no reindeer or musk oxen exist, only birdlife and predators like polar bears and arctic foxes) is daily life and commercial fishing is the base for the economy.

In terms of landscape I would divide the area roughly into two parts. Of course everything is coast and fjords and lots of ice, but there are major differences. West of the Sermilik Icefjord is the huge ice cap of Greenland, the landscape was covered completely by the ice during the ice ages and is therefore characterized by rounded hills.

East and northeast of the Sermilik Fjord the landscape is dramatically different. The landscape is dominated by alpine peaks, valley glaciers flowing down to the sea and forming a network of glacial streams. It is like our Alps had been during the ice age (without the fjords.....). The highest peaks are higher than 3000m and most of them have never been climbed. Part of the area is called Schweizerland, you guess the reason why..... This area is part of  King Christian IX Land, whose boundaries are not clearly defined, as far as I know.

It is a very attractive place for landscape photography, if you accept that you do not have any higher vegetation. The only greater "green patch" was the football field in Tasiilaq and this is synthetic turf.... Of course this is an exaggeration, but besides some grasses, flowers, cottonballs in swampy areas and lichens you will not find much. But you will find ice, lots of ice in all shapes and colors. The ice cap, valley glaciers, cirque glaciers, icebergs and so on!

Sermilik Icefjord and the Inland Ice

Next year in our East Greenland Workshop we will have our base on the shore of Sermilik. This fjord deserves its name. It is full of icebergs of all sizes. If I compare it with the Icefjord near Ilulissat on the western side, there are differences, but it is hard to choose which fjord is "nicer". Both are awesome and deserve to be visited (like in our West Greenland Workshop).

But I was impressed by Sermilik. It is more accessable, is closer to the ice cap and has a beautiful village on its shore.

Access to outlet glaciers coming down from the inland ice is difficult. Here at Sermilik you can have an (quite) easy access to some of these glaciers. This is really unique. Outlet glaciers and a fjord full of ice and rather accessable - you find it in the Sermilik area!

On the eastern side of Sermilik the peaks are looking already different, a foretaste of the alpine area of Knud Rasmussen glacier, Karale glacier and Schweizerland. This is quite unique and further up north of Semilik the peaks should be even more pronounced.

I neither had the time to venture further into the northern parts of Sermilik nor was the ice situation good enough. Fjords with lots of icebergs and meltwater from glaciers have a lower salinity and therefore start to freeze earlier in the parts with no currents. When we cruised in Sermilik large patches close to the shores have already been frozen and we had to crush the ice with our boat. Tedious but no severe problem. As I said in the beginning, October is already very winter like around Sermilik.

You might think, that fjords of the type of Sermilik freeze over completely during winter. This is not the case, as most fjords have very strong currents, which prevent freezing and lots of big icebergs do the same. Icebergs produce meltwater with no salinity, but create also strong currents around them. If the water freezes around huge icebergs it is most often not recommended to be to close! Ice is probably thin and they can also turn during winter. Not recommended.....

I did not focus to much on iceberg photography this time, as time was limited and the exploration of suitable landing sites for my workshop next year had higher priority. But it was sometimes hard to pass an iceberg.... Next year we will have more time!

Back to the landscape on the eastern side of Sermilik close to village Tinit and our Icecamp next year. The exploration of the north has to wait!

Even if most people come here for nature and wildlife I find it essential to try to understand how people live in these remote areas. I am not talking about "living history places" but the normal life the the Greenlanders of the Ammassalik area.

As a tourist it is difficult to get an understanding, you must be happy, if you scratch the surface. In the Sermilik area you can stop at Tinit, a little village of about 80 people, right at the shore of the fjord.

Tinit is very photogenic! I stayed there in a house of a local and enjoyed it a lot. It is Sermilik's other dimension! Postcard like pictures of colorful houses with icebergs in the background, but also a shop, school and the fuel tanks, which are so charakteristic for greenlandic towns and villages.

It is a great place to try to understand Greenland, if you immerse in the atmosphere!

Here some more pictures of Tinit and the Sermilik area before we move on to the next location.

Towards Karale and Knud Rasmussen Glacier, into the alpine landscape

After Tinit you sail through a maze of fjords before you arrive at the glaciers. You notice at once that you encounter less and less icebergs. Of course these glaciers produce icebergs, but just not such a huge amount as Sermilik, the" icefjord" deserves its inuit name. When you arrive close to the glaciers the scenery is breathtaking. Within maybe 20min boat drive you can watch how three huge glaciers push their ice into the fjord.

I was extremely lucky with the weather. At Karale I had no wind at all, it was a unique day. Sometimes we had to crush through new ice, but it was a day with perfect reflections. Due to the new ice we could not get very close to the glacier, but nevertheless it was one of these days, when everything worked!

It was absolutely amazing and I just coud not stop taking pictures, which are all very similar, but I just could not stop. After a while my sense of duty forced me to look for landing spots near Karale for our workshop, which in fact was quite easy. I found a place in a safe distance (I could not get closer due the ice anyway) with very nice polished rocks and nice little nooks.  Very promising for good pictures. Lets keep the fingers crossed, that next year we have similar weather!

At Knud Rasmussen Glacier I was still lucky, but the reflection was gone. To much wind flowing down the glacier, really cold wind..... All the same it was awesome. It has a nice icefront with lots of activity, you hear the glacier rumbling nearly all the time!

To take pictures of the glacier flowing down the valley into the fjord, you have to climb up to a suitable vantage point. This sounds easy, but we are in (nearly) untouched wilderness. There are no paths and the sides of the valleys are often very steep. You also need a safe place to go ashore in the right distance for good pictures. Knud Rasmussen is quite huge as you see in the next pictures and the valley is wild and steep.

During summer local agencies from Tasiilaq are offering day trips to Knud Rasmussen/Karale. Therefore the skipper did know some places, with a good view. I picked one, the landing was a bit more tricky (much more) but I guess the group will manage next year. The reward is unique views over the fjord and the glacier. But you have to climb quite a bit in easy but steep terrain! But this view is hard to beat!

You can watch the ice flowing down filling a huge valley with ice and terminating in a fjord. Knud Rasmussen is quite active and calving happens regularly with all the sounds involved. Definitly a place nobody will forget easily!

It is quite a journey from Tasiilaq to the above described area. Therefore we will stay a night at Kumit next year, as I did this year as well. Kumit is in size right in between Tasiilaq and Tinit, it is again an interesting place to see. This year I will remember Kumit however for the nothern light display. The best I had seen for years (similar to the Lofoten a couple of years ago).

Like in Nuuk you have all the options for Northern Lights. Just the view over the fjord, with the village or a single house. I had a very, very short sleep this night!


My stories come to an end and I guess you have seen enough pictures of ice, rocks, glaciers and deep blue water in the fjords.

But one chapter is still missing, Tasiilaq as a town deserves to be covered as well!

It is a nice little town and you feel at once that this is the center for everything on the east coast. Supermarkets, schools, administration, hospital and so on. It has a beautiful location and is a rewarding little photo project on its own. I strolled for many hours through the streets exploring this town and got not tired!

I was very tired when I returned to Tasiilaq from fjords, and somehow I hoped, that the gods of the northern lights will have mercy and do not show the green light show again. But again it was a very good display and again not much sleep. In a bright city like Tasiilaq good pictures of aurora are not easy, as the brightness of the street lighting is much higher than the northern lights and often burns out the highlights in the file. I tried and it payed of, but you need a bit more postprocessing.

I think that's it for the moment. The East of Greenland is well worth a visit and I had lots of fun and little sleep during my stay. I just can say: I will be back, next year three weeks earlier......

I finally want to thank Lars from Arctic Dream for his help, and Sivert for his boat driving skills. I hope that I am able to show this area to some more motivated photographers, who are willing to accept the challenge to create stunning images of ice, fjords, glaciers and scenic towns and villages. Greenland is something very special and unique!

What is next? I am still on vacation, recovering from the little sleep in Greenland, but I hope that there will be some nice days at the beginning of November on the southern side of the alps. I want to revisit some places in the Dolomites. During winter some trips to the arctic are in the pipeline, more about that later.

Moreover I have to write my Blog about Iceland, prepare many pics for the agencies and feed some direct marketing channels.


The final word in german, next workshops

Das Sommerprogramm 2022 führt uns nach Grönland und Island. Drei sehr spannende Reisen!

Die Ostgrönlandtour geht in die Region um Tasiilaq, in etwa so wie in diesem Blog beschrieben. Nuuk wird nicht besucht, sondern wir fliegen direkt von Island nach Tasiilaq.

Islands Westfjorde sind ein einsames Fjordland mit einsamen Stränden (nicht so wie in Vik.....), wilden Pässen und Hochebenen. Und dann gibts noch den Dynjandi, den viele für den schönsten Wasserfall Islands halten! Wir fahren im Herbst, eine gute Möglichkeit neben der Landschaft auch Nordlicht zu sehen und zu fotografieren.

Im Westen Grönlands besuchen wir neben dem touristischen Zentrum Ilulissat noch zwei andere Regionen, die seltener oder (fast) nie von Touristen besucht werden. Es ist eine intensive Tour, die unterschiedliche Landschaften und Orte beinhaltet. Dazu gehört auch wieder Uummannaq meine Lieblingsregion in Grönland.

Take care and all the best!


Szentendre, end of October 2021



Unsere Fotoreisen und Foto-Workshops, ein Klick auf die Reise bringt Sie zu einer Beschreibung der Reise

Thats it for the moment! Stay tuned and healthy!