Kayaking Amongst Greenlandic Icebergs


During my research on Ilulissat prior to starting my trip, I came across pictures of people kayaking amongst icebergs and knew instantly that I wanted desperately to do the same. Booking a kayaking trip turned out to be difficult as I was to arrive in Ilulissat after the season for kayaking trips had ended. However, with some persistence I found a company that was running two last trips while I was in Ilulissat, and I wasted no time in snapping up an available slot!

After emailing about six companies, World of Greenland finally got back to me and said that there was one last kayak trip I could join. World of Greenland (or WoG) doesn’t run the trips themselves, but instead sells them for another company, PGI Greenland. Trips cost around $285 AUD which seems exxy, but this kayak was one of the coolest things I have ever done in my entire life, so it was worth every dollar.

Kayaking around sea ice is not as simple as just jumping in a kayak and setting off, there is a lot of special equipment need. Not only did I have to work my way into a drysuit – which is never an easy task – I had to wear a snapback and special shoes and gloves suitable for the cold climate. The water is several degrees below freezing and as such, if you were to capsize, you’d need protection so that you wouldn’t freeze to death; or at least you wouldn’t freeze in the first few minutes!

There was only four of us in a group, so we were sharing double kayaks. I was sharing with our Barcelona-born kayaking guide, who was extremely energetic and fun to be around. As the sun started to disappear from the sky, we launched from the rocks below the Zion Church and were off!

Now, I am a pretty proficient little kayaker, but kayaking through sea ice took a little bit to get used to! There were huge chunks of ice that we had to dig our way through, and occasionally we would hit a super thin layer of surface ice and have to break it up with our oars. It didn’t take too long until I got the hang of it, and soon I was pushing through the ice like I’d been doing it forever.


As the sun set and cast an orange glow over the bay, I remember feeling that kind of happiness where you feel like you’ll burst from the intensity of it. I couldn’t stop smiling, I said the word “wow” so much that I started to feel like the character Cassie from UK television show Skins and I really didn’t want it to end.

Looking like a hunchback with my huge life jacket

Though we were happily breaking our way through the smaller bergs, we kept our distance from the really huge ones, as if they were to calve while we were too close, a big tsunami wave could prove somewhat promblematic!

About halfway through our kayak, just before the sun set completely, our awesome guide pulled some bacardi out of his life jacket and insisted we do some shots to celebrate the end of the kayaking season. This was completely unexpected but a more than welcome surprise! After a couple of warming shots, the -3Β°C temperature didn’t feel quite so biting any longer!

It’s interesting to note that the word ‘kayak’ originates from the early Greenlandic Inuit language, coming from the word ‘qajaq’. The entire practice of kayaking originated in Greenland as an essential tool for survival. As the Greenlandic landscape is far too harsh to forge roads between towns; long before large boats and air travel were invented, kayaks were the only way to travel between towns to trade goods in the summer months. They were also integral in allowing the Inuit people to successfully hunt whales and seals.

The Ilulissat kayaking season is restricted to the summer months as in the winter, all the sea water will completely freeze over. During these months, the sea water freezes so densely that people can safely travel on the sea ice with dog sleds and snowmobiles.

Once the sun had set completely and the sky started turning black, it was time to head back to shore. I didn’t want it to end, but I also knew that kayaking blind in a sea of huge icebergs probably wouldn’t end well. At the shore, the rocks are covered in algae and super slippery to climb on. As I went to get out of the kayak I would have definitely slipped into the water if it weren’t for a small group of local Greenlandic teenagers who came to my rescue and helped give me some balance as I stepped out. People do not get friendlier or more helpful that native Greenlanders.

Getting to Ilulissat: Air Iceland has direct flights from Reykjavik to Ilulissat twice weekly in the summer months
Ilulissat Kayak: Kayaking trips costs between around $250-$600 AUD depending on the length of the trip and can be booked in person at the World of Greenland office or through PGI Greenland
Camera: GoPro Hero; tour guides also take photos and send them to participants via email
Remember: That Titanic was a great film but not all icebergs will sentence you to death!

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

107 thoughts on “Kayaking Amongst Greenlandic Icebergs

      1. I thought about your story as I put on my heavier coat this morning to step out into the predawn to move my car from the covering closer to the house. Thinking of your bravery to go off to do something like this in cold climate. As I stepped out the east door, the sun broke the horizon, and I could only imagine what you experienced seeing the sun as it set over the ice. Your photos are memorable. Your experience felt. Your story remembered:) Thank you:) Still thinking “WOW!” πŸ™‚

      2. Wow! These are my absolute favourite type of comments to get 😊 I’m so so so happy my story and pictures resonated with you so much. I hope one day you get to see all Greenland has to offer in person 😊

  1. Fantastic post. I did my own ‘bucket list/dream trip’ this past summer (John Muir Trail) and know that feeling of wanting to ‘burst’ and saying ‘wow’ every single moment. πŸ™‚

  2. How flippin cool!!! (I mean that literally and figuratively!) I couldn’t do it since I’m not a huge fan of the cold, but I definitely love the idea of it! How awesome! How do you come up with these ideas!!!! Seriously? Can you just plan a vacation for me? Ha ha

    1. I think it’s 50% sheer dumb luck, 30% word of mouth and 20% research haha
      I love travel planning- maybe if I ever want a change from midwifery that can be another career path 😊

      1. I think you’d be good at it! πŸ˜€ Being a midwife (at least here in the states) is a very rewarding job as well though!!! I LOVED my midwife and will not go back to a regular dr (if I ever have more kids) and refer everyone to her!

        I wish I had your sheer dumb luck. I always find out about cool things after I travel!

  3. TLdr. But that picture , when you are looking directly INTO the sun is nothing short of miracle. You can feel that you are sitting on sphere i.e our earth. It is terrific feeling. It gives a hint of the cosmos we part of. Simply wow.

      1. Oh Alaska is spectacular! It was teeming with wildlife. I spent a wonderful week there last summer; check out my post when you have time.
        I hope to go back again next year.

  4. This looks just totally amazing and like so much fun! Greenland definitely is on my list (and from now on kayaking is, too)! Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

      1. Well, my girlfriend wants to go to Iceland and Greenland for a long time. Sadly, we got several other upcoming trips till mid 2016, but maybe we’ll be able to make it happen in summer. Would definitely be an amazing experience πŸ™‚

  5. This looks amazing! Love your photos as well. I can’t imagine how cold the water is– and to think that it’s summertime! I would love to visit that place one time. Thank you for yet another inspiring blog post! Happy travels!

    1. Oh the water is super cold! I put my fingers in for a second to pick up some ice and they felt like icicles immediately! My absolute pleasure- I look forward to sharing lots more with you 😊

  6. OMG that looks incredible! What an amazing experience… Just blogged that Wanderlust blog I let you know about with your influence on Greenland its definitely now at the top. Thank you for letting me use the image as well.

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