Follow Greenland in the news (well, you might!), and all you’ll hear is depression: SAD (season affected disorder) to be precise, an illness thought to be bought on by the relentless darkness of winter, as well as depressing pieces on the slow erosion of Inuit culture.
The far north’s certainly not an easy place to head for in winter, but in the summer this miles from the beaten track destination offers some truly surreal delights. A visit to the local supermarket, for example, will reveal seal and whale steaks, while travel from town to town usually involves either a boat or a dog pulled sled.
UUmmannaq’s summer midnight sun reveals its houses ramshackle spread along craggy coastlines, backed by panoramic, snow-capped peaks. Icebergs float by outside the window, and locals offer boat rides in and out of the fjords, or dog sled rides in the dead of night to stare at some of the clearest star-scapes in the world. An invite to a traditional sod house – which looks like little more than a muddy hill with a wooden door from the outside – is an extraordinary aside.
Aappilattoq’s fjords are still more astonishing, while Qassiarsuk’s wilderness hikes take you down some bitingly cold paths for a close up look at an unimaginably alien landscape. Taslilaq, with its sporadic houses and emerald green hillsides, offers a true taste of the traditional side of Greenland, where you can stay in Norse Houses, sample potent imiaq brew and munch on local huckleberries.
If the exotic names and icy imagery aren’t enough to draw you to Greenland, then cold climes probably aren’t your thing. That’s your loss: these arctic landscapes are like nothing else on earth, and the welcoming local culture seduces, as do the everyday things, which seem startlingly alien to outsiders. Tiny children going to school in national dress, and whale steaks cooked over an open fire, for example. You’ll never forget them.