Destinations

Small Ship Cruises to Greenland

Why go on a small ship cruise to Greenland?

Greenland may be a country that offers plenty of fascinating sights for the intrepid traveller, but getting from A to B here – like many frontier destinations the world over – is not always straightforward. The main obstacle is the vast Greenland ice sheet, which measures some 660,000 square miles and covers around 80% of Greenland’s surface area. Because of the ice sheet, Greenland’s interior is inhospitable and practically impassable, except from the air. There is nothing here except snow, ice and rock, an untamed and barren landscape visited only by climate scientists and the occasional daring mountaineer.

Even along the habitable coasts, travel is difficult. There are no roads between Greenland’s various settlements - only within them and around them – while railways and inland waterways are non-existent. Snowmobiles and dog sleds are the only viable method of land transportation, but they are slower than travelling by air or sea, and Greenland’s often rugged terrain poses significant obstacles when covering large distances.

Air travel is much faster and easier, but significantly more expensive. In addition, there will be a marked difference in the way you experience Greenland’s natural wonders; although the island’s incredible frozen landscapes stretching off to the horizon make for an awe-inspiring sight from the air, it is only from down below that you can appreciate the intricacies of natural ice sculptures, the glint of sunlight on frigid waters, and the hard eyes of a muskox or polar bear trained upon you.

The best way to explore Greenland at its most magical, where land meets sea, is via a small ship. Our Arctic expedition ships have hulls that have been ice-strengthened to the highest classification, which allow the ships’ experienced captains to safely navigate Greenland’s ice-choked coastal waters. Using these small ships as a base, you’ll be able to sail further into the extensive network of fjords that lie along the coasts, each one offering opportunities for exploration and new discoveries just around the bend.

Small expedition ships are also faster and more manoeuvrable than their larger counterparts, so you can sit back and relax as you travel between destinations overnight. Depending on the season, there may even be a good chance for you to see the Northern Lights when the sun dips below the horizon. Greater speed and accessibility mean that passengers aboard our small ships will be able to see more sights and enjoy a wider range of activities than those travelling by land, air or larger ship.

This type of expedition cruising enables you to really get to the heart of wild Greenland, allowing for greater intimacy with the seagoing mammals that can be spotted while on deck, including fin and bowhead whales. Sailing close to shore, you’ll also be able to scour the landscape for terrestrial animals, like the reindeer and muskoxen that graze Greenland’s tundra. A bevy of birds can be seen roosting along the cliffs that drop into the sea, with your ship the perfect venue for a spot of twitching: here there are guillemots, puffins, auks, terns, gulls, eagles, fulmars and kittiwakes, to name just a few species.

Some people are put off by the term “cruising”, but this type of expedition travel allows for plenty of active adventure as well. Your ship can be used as a comfortable base for land-based excursions, with days spent onshore hiking over the tundra from seldom-visited landing sites. Small ships also lend themselves to a more intimate and intrepid experience than larger ships, which by necessity are used for trips that are more touristic in nature.

There is no country on earth with a lower population density than Greenland. The vast majority of its territory shows little to no sign of human habitation, allowing you to get to the heart of the true meaning of wild. But despite the forbidding mountains, sheer cliff faces and gargantuan icebergs, this is not an entirely unforgiving land. Aboard a small expedition ship you’ll be able to sail along its coastlines and through its countless fjord systems in search of spectacular scenery you won’t find anywhere else, exploring large areas of this remote destination and getting close to its wildlife and wilderness.

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