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Cruises to Ilulissat

Ilulissat (Photo:Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock)

About Ilulissat

Ilulissat means "iceberg" in Greenlandic. One look and it's obvious where the town got its name. On a clear day, the landscape is truly surreal. Hundreds of icebergs surround Ilulissat. They vary in shape from flat-topped hunks to jagged mountain peaks and in size from small doghouses to mega-cruise ships and larger. And that's just the part above the surface!

The icebergs originate from the Jakobshavn Glacier, called Sermeq Kujalleq in Greenlandic. It is the most active glacier in the world outside Antarctica. The bergs collect at the mouth of the fjord just outside the harbor.

All this ice has recently put Greenland in the news and on travelers' radar screen with concerns about global warming. The country is officially part of Denmark, though it has been self-governed since 1979. It's the largest island on earth and would stretch from New York City to Denver if tilted on its side. Roughly 85 percent of the land is covered by the polar icecap. The coastal areas, where towns like Ilulissat are located, are free of snow in summer, making exploration by cruise ship a hassle-free way to go. Beginning in 2007, this far off-the-beaten-path destination has become accessible with Hurtigruten's new ship, the Fram, spending entire summers cruising Greenland itineraries.

Ilulissat, the hub of the west coast Disko Bay region, is the country's third largest town, boasting a population of roughly 4,500 people and at least as many sled dogs. Located about 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it is the most accessible place to see both massive icebergs and the polar icecap. For this reason, tourism here is on the rise. The town offers a variety of hotel accommodations and half a dozen tour operators.

No roads lead to Ilulissat. Access is by air or local ferry service. Visiting cruise ships include Hurtigruten's Fram, which calls once a week in summer, and the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov. The midnight sun shines here from late May through July. Having daylight 24/7 is a boon for sightseeing and for navigating through a sea full of icebergs.

  • Why go to Ilulissat?

  • Ilulissat Cruise Port Facilities?

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Ilulissat
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Seabourn Venture
Seabourn Venture (Photo: Seabourn Cruise Line)
Seabourn Venture

28 Night
Cruise to IlulissatDetails

Leaving:Reykjavik
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line
$38,999*pp
$1,393/night • suite

CruiseWise

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Silver Wind
Silver Wind
Silver Wind

16 Night
Cruise to IlulissatDetails

188 Reviews
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
$18,360*pp
$1,148/night • suite

Silversea

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Silver Wind
Silver Wind
Silver Wind

11 Night
Cruise to IlulissatDetails

Leaving:Reykjavik
Cruise Line:Silversea Cruises
$14,040*pp
$1,276/night • suite

Silversea

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Why go to Ilulissat?

Pros:

Stunningly beautiful icebergs from Jakobshavn Glacier surround this off the beaten path destination

Cons:

Do not try to make friends with the local sled dogs -- they are bred to work, not socialize and are not friendly

Bottom Line:

You might visit to see the icebergs, but Ilulissat offers much more including shopping, history and art

Ilulissat Cruise Port Facilities?

Everything is a few minute's walk from the dock -- souvenir shops, hotels, museums, the bank, you name it.

Good to Know?

The sled dogs. They may look like pets, but these dogs are used to pull sleds in Greenland and are bred to work, not to be your best friend. You'll see them by the dozen, snoozing in front of practically every house. By law, they have to be tied up. Even so, if you get too close, they growl and snap at you. Beware of the really cute puppies. They can run free until they are five months old, and they may or may not be the friendly type.

Mosquitoes. Don't let all that ice fool you. Mosquitoes thrive in Greenland, particularly in July and August. Bring your bug spray and keep covered up.

Getting Around?

This is a really small place. Walking is the best, easiest and fastest way to get around. You can circle the whole of Ilulissat in 25 minutes or less. Get a map from the ship or stop by just about any shop and ask for one. Most of the places you're likely to go are marked on the map. You don't need a street address, and you can't get lost.

Yes, there are taxis and occasional van-type buses if you can communicate with drivers who probably don't speak English, and if you have Danish money to pay the fare. Bus fare is 10 DKK (about $2).

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The official currency is the Danish krone (DKK), about 5.5 to the U.S. dollar. Check www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for current rates. There is an ATM at the Bank of Greenland, open weekdays 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. Good news: Many restaurants and shops take Visa and Mastercard. Bad news: Most add a 5-percent service fee for credit card purchases. It's a good idea to carry some cash. Euros are generally okay. U.S. dollars are rarely accepted.

Language?

Greenlandic, an Inuit dialect, and Danish are the official languages. Some children learn English in school, and resident Danes usually speak English. Don't count on being understood if you stop someone on the road. Go to one of the souvenir shops instead. Greenlandic is said to be one of the hardest languages to learn. You can practice by saying "kutaa" (KO'-daa) for "hello."

Where You're Docked?

Ships anchor outside the main harbor where there's a good chance of being right next to an iceberg. The inner harbor is filled with small fishing boats, and your ship's tenders or Zodiacs must travel at slower-than-normal speeds while taking passengers ashore. From the dock, it's a fairly short climb up the wooden stairs to reach town.


Ilulissat Cruise Reviews
A pleasant little Greenland town. There was nothing outstanding here but normal shops, post office etc.... Read More
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SteveJAB

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