Luxury Travel in Greenland
There’s an old traveller’s adage – “when you’ve been everywhere else, there’s always Greenland…” This is a little harsh, as Greenland has always had significant appeal for those who are adventurous of heart, and has appeared on the traveller’s radar more and more in recent years. But can it appeal to those looking for luxury adventure?
Until recently, the answer was probably no. Adventure – yes. Comfortable adventure – hmmmm, possibly. But luxury adventure, not just in the towns, but in areas where the greatest sightseeing experiences are to be had – nope. There are lovely hotels in the capital Nuuk, and in Ilulissat the Hotel Arctic is “the world’s northernmost 4 star hotel”, but beyond these two centres, upmarket accommodation options have been basically non-existent.
In the last few years, two new ventures have emerged that have really changed the landscape in Greenlandic tourism, and are paving the way for those looking beyond cruise ships or mediocre hotel options. And while the luxury adventure market is still in its nascent stages, it can only be hoped that the success of these two projects brings on more high-end travel experiences and lodgings in years to come.
The first of these two options is the one that saw Greenland rocketing up the next-on-our-agenda destination list – the “Comfort Huts” at Glacier Lodge Eqi.
Images of a massive glacier viewed through expansive picture windows in a beautiful hut were captivating and irresistible. And admittedly, availability at this incredibly hard-to-secure accommodation was what determined our entire itinerary on this trip.
Glacier Lodge Eqi is one of the world’s most unique lodgings. Located a four hour boat journey north of Ilulissat, in Greenland’s Disko Bay, Glacier Lodge Eqi is perched on the sloping edge of a rock-face, opposite Equip Sermia, one of the most active glaciers on earth.
Initially the basecamp for explorers venturing on to the inland icecap, with just a few wooden huts to store provisions, the camp was ambitiously converted in 2011 to a tourist camp, with eleven red wooden huts dotted over the hillside, and a central café. All shared an incomparable view over the Equip Sermia glacier and the iceberg-studded bay, but facilities were modest, with just small windows to observe the view, no heating, electricity or running water, and communal bathroom facilities.
This all changed recently with the creation of four “Comfort Huts”. Located right at the front of the camp, these four architecturally-designed cabins have an unimpeded view of the glacier through massive picture windows, and have an interior aesthetic that would not look out of place in a Scandinavian design magazine. Whitewashed walls and blonde-wood furniture contrast with dark cushions and shaggy rugs (perhaps musk-ox?), while historical artwork adorns the walls. There is a double bed, small dining table, expansive L-shaped couch and, crucially, a powerful gas heater. The bathroom is small but eminently functional, with toilet, sink and solar hot water shower. But it is the view that is the scene-stealer here, and deservedly so – the entire front wall of the cabin is windows, and the view can be seen from every corner of the room. And at the front of the cabin, a central door opens onto a full-length balcony, and comfortable deck-chairs are perfectly positioned to drink in more of that spectacular vista.
So much of travel in Greenland is about epic views of the iceberg-studded ocean. And the creators of Greenland’s only other luxury adventure lodging are well aware of this, designing fifteen villas perched on the edge of Disko Bay just south of Ilulissat – the brand new Ilimanaq Lodge. Here, the small village of Ilimanaq (home to just 52 local residents) plays host to travellers keen to soak up more of those views. Architect-designed A-frame huts are perched across the headland, and floor to ceiling glass frontages ensure that the view is always available, from the downstairs lounge or the upstairs mezzanine bedroom. Inside, the interiors are stylish, with light walls, wooden floorboards and warm furnishings. And outside, a deck extends the length of the building, and recliners can be set up to relax when the weather is warm (enough), to drink coffee, watch whales in the bay, or just gaze as the icebergs float past.
The lovely lodgings are complemented by a masterful restoration within the main village, of two of Greenland’s oldest buildings. One houses the lodge reception in what was historically the village store. The other is home to the startlingly good Restaurant Egede – in a country full of slightly bland buffets, this fine dining restaurant has a three course menu that is divinely prepared and presented, and is quickly becoming an attraction in its own right.
Two high-end lodges are not sufficient to say that Greenland has arrived on the luxury travel scene entirely. And these two properties, while incredibly lovely, and leagues above other properties in Greenland, are still not ultra-luxurious, in terms of service and amenities. But an itinerary that incorporates Iliminaq Lodge and the comfort huts at Glacier Lodge Eqi will ensure that your adventure in Greenland is as luxurious as it can possibly be.