Flying Over Ilulissat

After a lovely day exploring Nuuk, I was beyond excited to fly to Ilulissat. I love icebergs, glaciers and Greenlandic huskies; and Ilulissat is the place to see them! However, the Greenlandic weather Gods didn’t seem to care too much about my plans to get to Ilulissat in a timely fashion; and what should’ve been a quick 45 minute Air Greenland flight ended up being subject to delays, delays and more delays.

I arrived at Nuuk airport nice and early to check in for my flight. Nuuk airport literally consists of two rooms. One arrivals room which has a tiny baggage carousel and one room with a waiting area, check in bench and small cafe all together. Security checks and super long check-in times don’t exist in Greenland! This first flight ended up being about 70 minutes delayed, so once we finally got up into the air I was pretty ecstatic.

Whilst up in the air I realised that the flight would be making a ‘technical stop’ in Kangerlussuaq, however this is routine for this flight path, so at this point I wasn’t too concerned. I got off the first plane and made my way to the departure hall to board my next flight. This was when I got the niggling feeling that the weather wasn’t working in my favour.

The next flight ended up being delayed another three hours due to poor weather in Ilulissat. After waiting patiently for the next flight we were finally able to board and I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Although that sigh of relief was mighty premature.

What should have been a 20-30 minute flight ended up being close to 2.5 hours! After 45 minutes of flying the captain finally announced that the cloud cover over Ilulissat was extremely dense and extremely low to the ground, meaning that they wouldn’t be able to visualise the ground well enough to make a safe landing. They were going to keep circling over Ilulissat until sunset to see if the clouds would clear enough for the plane to land. Once the sun set it would be far too dangerous to attempt landing.

So we circled, and circled and circled some more.

As the sun began to set the captain announced that he would lower the plane down as low as was safe and attempt to find a way through; if there was no way through, we would have to go all the way back to Kangerlussuaq and try again the following day.

It’s safe to say that by this point I was pretty frustrated.

However, I am a firm believer that there is a silver lining to every story, and I got mine. Whilst lowering the plane down to try and find a way through, I got my first glimpse of icebergs. It did NOT disappoint.

The icebergs were pure white, enormous and they put the smile back on my face in a second! I got a wonderful 20 minutes of these stunning views before we were given the bad news that we’d be heading back to Kangerlussuaq. The stunning views certainly made up for the inconvenience.

We arrived back in Kangerlussauq where the kitchen was reopened and dinner was on the house. After a restless nights sleep in the airport I awoke to see that the weather appeared to have gotten worse. Snow was falling!

Apparently looks can be deceiving though, because although I was scheduled to be on a 1.15pm flight out, I was able to talk my way onto the 11am flight and this time, there were no delays.

The 35 minute flight went perfectly, and the icebergs from the night before were just as beautiful in the daylight.

When we finally got within a kilometre of Ilulissat I could see the town I had to suffer through all the delays to get to, and I knew it would be worth every bit of frustration.

T H E Β  L O W D O W N
Getting to Ilulissat: Air Greenland flies between Nuuk and Ilulissat several times daily; flights can cost between $300 to $950 AUD depending on when you fly
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 12-40mm lens and 52mm HOYA polarising filter
Remember: The weather will do whatever it wants to do, be prepared for delays and remember to go with the flow

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

49 thoughts on “Flying Over Ilulissat

  1. Truly amazing views! I have a thing for snow and winters. A suggestion for your next adventure: You might want to explore Deosai Plateau, Khunjerab Pass and Fairy Meadows; basically the Karakorum part of the Himalayas. πŸ™‚

      1. In winters (November to April), these areas are almost completely covered with snow. The best time would be from June to mid-October. After that, snowfall starts. Deosai is home to the Himalayan brown bear. πŸ˜‰

  2. So true. The Greenlanders have a word called ‘sila’ which describes the elements – and how powerful it can be. In the Arctic you have to bend to the elements, not the other way around. People forget that not too long ago people spent years planning expeditions and some ended up dying getting here. Luckily new technology allows the normal tourist a chance to get here safely and relatively cheaply compared to the past, but the weather still rules the polar regions.

    I’m glad you finally got there in the end. The first day I was supposed to fly to Nuuk I was delayed by 7 hours in Kangerlussuaq. Being without knowledge I had no idea what to do so I just sat in the airport. Little did I know there was an amazing back country – it only took me two years to find out : http://thefourthcontinent.com/2015/07/24/weekend-kangerlussuaq-fishing-hiking/

    Thanks again for writing πŸ™‚ Tanny

  3. Oh wow! That little plane of yours is what we here call a puddle jumper. It’s teenie tiny! I don’t think I’ve ever flown in a plane so small!

    The views that you captured of the clouds and icebergs at night with the sunset are magical! I love it! I get teased for always taking photos out the windows in an airplane! I think I do it every trip. But the coolest and creepiest is over ocean where there’s nothing but water.

    Well….coolest till now! Those iceberg photos were great! Never seen one before either! At least you were on a plane and not the titanic! Ha ha! πŸ˜‰

    1. No kidding! One of the smallest planes I’ve ever been on for sure!
      Ignore the teasing! I totally get it- the views from an airplane window are like no other 😊
      Haha it’s funny you should say that! I’ll be posting in a few posts time about a boat trip I took to a calving glacier and I was making titanic references the entire time haha πŸ˜‚

  4. Safety first! No…you don’t want that plane to attempt landing in iceberg flow fields.

    This morning, I read a post by a friend who titled it “Nature overshadows the human world”. That seems to be the case.

    Cold, stark, and beautiful are words that come to mind. Looking forward to the next parts.

  5. Wow…What a great adventure. Sometimes, things like flight delays can turn into some unexpected fun. Glad all turned out well. Loved the story and images. I’m looking forward to more. Cheers

  6. I remember flying over Greenland on my way back to the states from England, and seeing all of the ice so far below and the dark blue water looked like a galaxy! Like the ice was the stars! It was an amazing experience that I’m super thankful I got a window seat for!

  7. Don’t you just hate it when the windows are all scratched up?! Sometimes they can ruin the focus on an amazing shot, and other times it actually looks good for some odd reason.

  8. A lot of times I read your stories and wish I were traveling with you.
    You’re very good at Travel Blogging.
    I love the writing and the photos are always great.
    And it doesn’t hurt that you’re very attractive, lol.
    Be safe.

  9. This reminds of when I flew to Seattle. We flew over Greenland and northern Canada and it was just the most breathtaking thing ever. The icecaps, the icebergs, the never ending snow/tundra in the middle of Greenland. Other traveller’s wanted to me to shut the blinds (it’s was ridiculously bright), and I’m normally a very accommodating person, but I wast just like “Hell NO, have seen this??!”.

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