Greenland, a pure white wilderness | Original Senses

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Greenland, a pure white wilderness

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It may be remote, but Greenland is huge – over 2 million square kilometres of frozen landscapes. Most of the country is covered by a massive ice sheet, fringed by gleaming ice cliffs that are 100,000 years old. With few roads and no trains, the only way to travel through the jagged fjords and soaring glaciers is by boat, plane, helicopter. Or you could glide across the tundra on a snowmobile or dogsled.

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Polar bears, reindeer, arctic foxes and white-tailed eagles far outnumber humans in this unforgiving habitat. Greenland has a total population of just 56,000, mostly Inuits whose colourful settlements are huddled along the coastline. Since these hunter-gatherers were traditionally nomads, the notion of land ownership doesn’t exist in Greenland. The vast landscapes are open to anyone – if you’re daring enough to venture into this challenging, but mind-blowing, terrain.

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Ruled by the polar night in winter and summer’s midnight sun, the very notion of time and space feels different here. The entire northeast region of Greenland is the world’s largest national park, about the same size as France and Spain combined. Only a handful of rangers and researchers live among the Arctic wildlife.

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Cruise along Greenland’s west coast to witness the impacts of climate change on this precarious environment at the Ilulissat Icefjord, one of the world’s fastest flowing glaciers, where the icebergs rise up to a kilometre high. Most expedition cruises go to East Greenland, where the Ice Cap is ringed by fiercely steep mountains. Or drift in eerie silence through Scoresby Sund, the world’s longest, deepest fjord system, where you will spot humpback whales, playful walrus, and seals sunbathing on floating islands of ice.

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Naturally, there are no fancy resorts or five-star hotels in this pure white wilderness. But we have found the perfect hideaway: Kiattua Camp, a clutch of cosy tepees lined with sheepskin and fur, warmed with wood burners and hot tubs, surrounded by cliffs and waterfalls. Powered by renewable energy, the nomadic camp leaves no trace on this fragile landscape. Dinner is fished from the fjords or foraged from the mossy hills: arctic char with mushrooms, cod with cloudberries. Accessible only by boat or helicopter, with space for no more than a dozen guests, this is the last frontier of luxury adventure.