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Kulusuk, Greenland, Denmark

GPS: 65.568295091933, -37.187084612504

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Although only a two-hour flight from the Icelandic capital Reykjavík, Kulusuk remains one of the most isolated localities in the world. Fully blocked by ice in winter, this small hilly Danish island in southern Greenland is inhabited by some 250 people a year.

The Vikings are the first Europeans to discover Greenland in the 10th century. They settle on the eastern coast of this virgin territory thanks to the navigation skills of Erik Thorvaldsson (better known as Erik the Red), a Norwegian explorer who had to flee Iceland. A few years later, his son Leif Erikson will realize the feat of reaching and colonizing the coasts of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. These events are part of a long Viking saga described in a manuscript by an Icelandic cleric in the 13th century. Attached to the Kingdom of Denmark since the 1700s, Greenland has enjoyed the status of an autonomous region since 1979 (like the Faroe Islands) but is not part of the European Community. This vast territory is 50 times bigger than the mainland of Denmark but has 100 times fewer inhabitants. It is home to 56,000 Greenlanders, the majority of whom are Inuit (with an infinitely low density of 0.03 inhabitants/km²) compared with 5.8 million Danes living on the Jutland peninsula.

Kulusuk Island is located in an area of Greenland where one of the first camps in Inuit was discovered in 1884. These are the Inuit of Ammassalik, established in the region since the 13th century, and known for making tupilaqs. These figurines finely carved from different materials (including animal bones), symbolize spirits and bad spells. Living mainly from fishing and hunting, this people managed to settle permanently in this region with extreme climatic conditions (unlike the Vikings who disappeared in the 15th century). In 2009, the village of Kulusuk celebrated the centenary of the establishment of permanent habitats on its lands, symbolized by the village church. The construction of this monument dates back to 1908. It is the work of the crew of a Danish sailing boat, having run aground on the neighbouring coast, which used the remains of the woods of their ship to erect it. Timeless destination, Kulusuk offers a unique experience and breathtaking landscapes to its visitors. This rocky island is surrounded by high mountains and vast fjords. Gateway to Greenland, it allows a real immersion in the heart of Inuit culture.

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  • Boat excursions along icebergs, glaciers and surrounding fjords
  • Hiking, mountaineering, climbing, kayaking, dog sledding, snowmobiling, skiing
  • The introduction to traditional fishing and hunting in the middle of whales and polar bears
  • The coloured wooden houses of Kulusuk
  • The visit to the wooden church (Kap Dan) and the local history museum
  • The panorama from the hill where the new village cemetery is located; the breathtaking view of the coastline from the top of Mount Isikajia (300 metres high)
  • The overflight of the region by plane or helicopter (landscapes and spectacular views from the sky)
  • The show of the northern lights (November to March); the midnight sun (visible from the end of June to the beginning of July)
  • The discovery of Inuit culture, refined local craftsmanship, Drum dancing (Qilaut)
  • The wooden houses of Kulusuk are historically painted in different colours, which allows the inhabitants to find their way in case of very bad weather (visibility can be reduced to a minimum during snowstorms).
  • Greenland is considered by some to be the largest island in the world (2,130,800 km² of area including 80% of ice cap) if one excludes from this honorary classification the mainland of Australia (more than 7,600,000 km²). Second place goes to New Guinea (more than 775,000 km²) whose island territory is almost three times smaller than Greenland.
  • If Greenland saw its entire ice cap (Inlandsis) melt and disappear, the water level of the oceans would rise by 7 metres. A recent study of the world’s ice caps shows that the melting of Arctic and Antarctic ice is 6 to 7 times higher than in the 1990s. Greenland, for example, saw its ice cap shrink by 33 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s compared with an average of 254 billion tonnes per year over the last decade. These losses are an important factor in global sea level rise.
  • With global warming, ice formations last less and are more fragile. They no longer allow the Inuit to earn a living and practice their traditions. The same is true for mushers (snow sled pilots) and their Greenlandic dogs who can no longer go out or hunt as they would like with the shortening of winter. This phenomenon encourages more and more inhabitants to migrate to the capital Nuuk to look for work.
  • The retreat of the glaciers and the melting of the ice could eventually reveal unknown petroleum and mineral resources (Greenland is warming twice as fast as the other regions of the world). But their potential exploitation could only be envisaged in coastal zones, the other parts of the island being covered with a layer of ice up to 3 kilometres thick (this territory is submerged with ice up to 85% of its area).
  • In a sign that Greenland is particularly affected by global warming, rain was observed for the first time at altitudes above 3,000 metres. This occurred on 14 August 2021 when temperatures remained above 0°C for several hours at a time (this is the freezing point of water in liquid form). Earlier, in July, an unprecedented heat wave caused a massive melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Temperatures were more than 10 degrees above seasonal norms, with a peak of 23.4°C in northeast Greenland (the highest level since the Danish Meteorological Institute began recording).
  • The Arctic region, of which Greenland is a part, is coveted by the world’s biggest powers, including Russia and China for its strategic and geopolitical importance. The 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, openly affirmed in 2019 his desire to acquire Greenland and was opposed to an end of non-acceptance both by the leaders of Denmark and by the authorities of the autonomous territory.
  • Equipped with an international airport considered one of the smallest in the world, the village of Kulusuk can also be reached by boat from Reykjavík (Iceland).
  • May to September generally coincides with the end of the summer melt season.
  • Due to its strong geographic isolation, the cost of local life is one of the highest in the world (therefore plan to leave with as much food as possible).
  • On site, you will be able to reach Tasiilaq, the seventh largest city in Greenland with its 2,000 inhabitants (about 20 kilometres west of Kulusuk). Transportation can be done by boat (1 hour) or by helicopter (10 minutes flight).

Where to eat

  • Brauð & Co
    (tempting bakery)
  • Svarta kaffið
    (soups with an original concept)
  • Old Iceland Restaurant
    (tasty Icelandic food)

Where to go out

  • Ammassalik Fjord
    (beautiful wilderness)
  • Apusiaajik Glacier
    (adventure area)
  • Scoresby Sund
    (largest fjord in the world)

Where to sleep

  • The Red House
    (fine place in Tasiilaq)
  • Hotel Kulusuk
    (in the heart of Kulusuk)
  • Apotek Hotel by Keahotels
    (nice Icelandic stopover)

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