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The world’s biggest island and least populated country on the planet. I’d chosen Greenland as my big, cold, Arctic adventure.

“It’s dark 24 hours a day,” “Your eyeballs will freeze,” “I hope you like preserved whale meat,” were three of the least extreme reactions I got on announcing my plans to travel to the one of the coldest places on earth, in the middle of winter (little point going in the summer, right). I’d seen the pictures; glaciers, huskies, the sheer heart-stopping beauty of the kingdom of snow and ice and decided that I had to go. 

Most of Greenland sits above the Arctic Circle and although it’s closest geographically to Canada, its political and economic ties are with Denmark. A popular way to get to Greenland from the UK is via Copenhagen and that’s the route that I decided to take advantage of. Two holidays for the price of one. 

At a chilly three degrees celsius the Danish capital was positively Saharan compared to the big freeze ahead. The week before travelling I got kitted out with various layers, mostly incorporating wool, fleece and the biggest, sturdiest boots I could find. On staring out the window on the flight into Greenland’s only international airport, Kangerlussuaq, the aerial view was of a vast whiteness; stark, beguiling and not to be messed with. I pulled on another layer of ski socks.

Getting off the plane I felt a strange nasal tingle. The mucus in my nose was freezing. From Kangerlussuaq, I was transferring to the capital Nuuk and stepping on to a propeller plane I wondered if the softly falling snow would delay the flight. Not a chance. As the fleece-wearing air stewardess offered me a hard boiled sweet it became obvious Greenlanders are made of pretty stern stuff. Unlike me. As the propellers juddered into action I shook like a human milkshake and eyed the emergency exits.

Gratefully I arrived in one piece and greeted at the airport by local Nuuk expert Grace Nielsen who’d kindly agreed to show me around.

“It must be about minus 10,” I murmured.

“Yeah, it’s kind of warm isn’t it?” she smiled. She wasn’t joking.

Nuuk is south of the Arctic Circle and gets around five hours of sunlight in mid-December, not the perpetual darkness I’d been warned about. Hurrah! Grace powered up her four by four and we drove round town, past the postcard-pretty central square with its pastel coloured wooden houses, to the starkly modernist university into downtown. I was curious to see if Greenlanders did indeed subsist on fermented whale and bits of frozen reindeer so we popped into a supermarket. I was secretly disappointed to see that the shelves were instead replete with familiar foods - pasta sauces, lemons and peanut butter. There was the odd bit of blubber and a packet of caribou sausages, but examples of this more traditional fayre were vastly outnumbered by oven ready chicken and cous cous.

Culinary surprises were in store at our dinner destination.

“There are two restaurants, a casual one which does big portions of Danish-style food and the posh one which specialises in Greenlandic cuisine,” explained Grace.

“What the hell, let’s go posh,” I replied, high on cold air and strong coffee. We were soon sitting at a table in the Sarfalik restaurant.

As soon as the bread basket came I knew we’d hit the jackpot. A beautiful selection of home-made baked products were placed in front of us, including a small blackened roll flavoured with seal fat. Seven courses of gastronomic heaven followed, including musk ox tenderloin, reindeer and Atlantic red fish from the local fjord. 

The meal wouldn’t have looked out of place in London or New York and signalled Nuuk’s intent to present itself as an outward looking, quietly confident city. It’s this kind of attitude that’s made it the destination for the 2016 Arctic Winter Games, something I was devastated to miss. It’s a unique mixture of the traditional - finger pull, snowsnake, stick pull and pole push - and the modern including skiing and snowboarding.

Another highlight of the capital is the imposing cultural centre. Its awe-inspiring structure is inspired by the Arctic northern lights. It’s used as a theatre, concert venue and cinema but my personal highlight was the cafe. Keen to fill up for my onward flight I ordered a dinner plate- sized croissant filled with salad and tuna. I had no idea what inspiration lay behind that marvelous invention but who cares, it was delicious.

There are no roads connecting the cities so in summer Greenlanders travel by boat and in winter they fly. My next stop, Sisiumiut was 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle and around an hours flight from Nuuk. I arrived at the Hotel Sisimiut in the early evening. It was just before Christmas and the office parties were in full swing. The raucous laughter, singing and general merriment from every corner of the room created a wonderfully warm atmosphere but despite the pull of the bar I got an early night; the morning’s activities required full concentration. 

The next day I was up at 8am for a decent breakfast ahead of a trip I’d been looking forward to for weeks.


Snow more snow and huskies in glorious Greenland
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