More than a thousand years ago, the legendary Viking Erik the Red set sail from Iceland to Greenland, exiled to a stark and spectacular land of endless ice, rocky pinnacles, and steep-sided fjords. On a voyage aboard National Geographic Explorer, follow his route from Iceland’s magnificent Westfjords peninsula across the Denmark Strait to the ice-sculpted shores of Greenland. Trace the coast of the world’s largest island from the rugged eastern fjords to the fishing villages of the western coast. Search for walruses, whales, and caribou; and use our ship’s exploration tools to discover the undersea. Visit archaeological sites of Viking and Thule settlements and learn about everyday life near the Arctic Circle in charming coastal villages from Flatey Island to Nuuk.
Spot thousands of seabirds on the Látrabjarg cliffs
See the incredible glaciers along Greenland's ice-carved coast
Experience Inuit culture through visits to fishing villages
Enjoy tasting tours of traditional Greenlandic and Icelandic foods.
Arrive in Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital, which lies just south of the Arctic Circle. Take a walking tour of the Old Town, and venture into Hallgrímskirkja, a modern, Nordic-style church whose steeple soars to 210 feet, making it the tallest building in Iceland. Learn about Nordic culture at the National Museum and browse a collection of unusual whalebone carvings and Viking treasures and artifacts. In the afternoon, settle into your cabin on the National Geographic Explorer.
Follow Iceland’s western coast north, stopping for a visit to the historic trading post of Flatey Island. Take walks around the charming hamlet that sprung up here over the centuries and explore the coast by Zodiac. Continue to the Westfjords peninsula, and sail past the towering Látrabjarg cliffs, which mark the westernmost point of Iceland. Rising almost 1,500 feet, these cliffs harbor millions of breeding seabirds, including puffins, guillemots, and a huge population of razorbills. For centuries, locals would rappel down the sheer cliff face to gather eggs and hunt birds—a risky practice that ended in the early 20th century.
Early this morning, glide into beautiful Arnafjörður, an inlet that reaches deep into the northern Westfjords. If you wish, disembark early and hike several miles along the shore to the fjord’s end, where the spectacular Dynjandi Waterfall tumbles some 300 feet over many tiers of rock. Alternatively, join our expedition staff on the deck of the ship to watch our approach to the falls and go ashore by Zodiac to see them close up. There’s a chance we’ll spot nesting arctic terns along the way. Later this evening, enter Ísafjarðardjúp and land at Vigur Island, a privately owned island that is home to numerous species of seabirds, including a large colony of eider ducks. Visit the family farm to learn how they process and clean eiderdown sustainably, without harming the birds.
The capital of the Westfjords, Ísafjörđur lies on a tiny spit jutting out into the fjord against a backdrop of steep hills. Take a culinary tour of the town, stopping to taste local produce and Icelandic specialties. Alternatively, hike through pristine landscapes to a remote waterfall or cycle along the fjord to a charming maritime museum at Bolungarvik.
Follow in the wake of the legendary Viking Erik the Red as National Geographic Explorer makes its way across the Denmark Strait to Greenland. Listen to talks by our experts, relax with a book in the lounge or the observation deck, and keep an eye out for wildlife
The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest body of ice in the world after Antarctica and covers roughly 80% of Greenland’s surface. The island’s coast is etched with thousands of fjords, some of which reach the ice’s edge. Spend the day exploring the islands and inlets of the eastern coast, using our underwater cameras and Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to discover marine life and fascinating underwater geology. Venture deep into Skjoldungen fjord or Napasorsuaq fjord and take a Zodiac or a kayak for a foray among the icebergs.
Sail into Prins Christian Sund, which cuts far into the southern tip of Greenland, passing between soaring pinnacles and glaciers. Anchor off the small fishing village of Nanortalik, and go ashore to explore Greenland’s most southerly town, and meet some of the residents for a performance of local folk music and dance. In the tundra outside of town, walk among multitudes of wildflowers, or explore Greenland’s only natural forest, where full-grown trees are only a few meters tall. Visit reconstructed longhouses and learn about the construction of traditional umiaks and kayaks.
Today, explore two remarkable sites on the Viking Trail. On the shores of Qaqortukulooq fjord lies the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hvalsey, one of the best-preserved Nordic sites in the world. Part of the settlement founded by Erik the Red’s cousins in 986 AD, Hvalsey has yielded fascinating clues to the daily life of the Vikings and their mysterious disappearance. Explore the church constructed in the 14th century, possibly by Norwegian stonemasons, and the living quarters and banquet hall for celebrations. Continue to Qaqortoq, inhabited since the Viking era and now the largest town in South Greenland—with just over 3,200 residents. The Scandinavian influence is apparent in the wooden houses painted primary colors and scattered on the hillside, and colonial architecture dating back to the late 1700s can be found in the town center. Stroll through the town square and visit the museum, where Greenlandic kayaks, hunting equipment, and local art and handicrafts are on display. Sample traditional Greenlandic food this afternoon.
Follow the waterway known as Eriksfjörd to Brattahlíð, where Erik the Red established his farm in 982 AD after his exile from Iceland. Erik’s wife, Þjódhild, built the first Christian church in the western hemisphere here. Visit replicas of the church and Erik the Red’s longhouse and see the shores from which their son, Leif Eriksson, launched the first voyages to North America—500 years before Columbus.
Perched on the seaside in the shadow of ice-capped Sermitsiaq Mountain, Nuuk is the world’s smallest capital city by population, with some 18,000 inhabitants. Watch for harp seals as we enter the harbor and take a walking tour with local residents to learn how the community has changed over the generations. At the National Museum, examine the extraordinary 15th-century Qilakitsoq mummies found near Uummannaq—a discovery that was featured in a National Geographic magazine cover story in 1985. The Arctic ice preserved these mummies so well that researchers have been able to study their tattoos, their medical conditions, and even what they ate.
In the early morning, the ship enters Evighed Fjord, which winds picturesquely past steep mountains and stunning tidewater glaciers. Take a Zodiac cruise along the face of one of the many glaciers or hike over glacial moraines to a waterfall. In the afternoon, visit the small fishing community of Kangaamiut. Climb the small mountain behind the village to take in the views or walk through the village and photograph the colorful houses clustered on the seaside slope.
Dozens of deep fjords carve into Greenland’s west coast, many with glaciers fed by the icecap that covers much of the island. At Sisimiut, a former whaling port, visit the museum and stroll among its 18th-century wooden buildings. Choose from a variety of walks to explore the town and its surroundings.
Sail into Disko Bay and encounter the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Ilulissat Icefjord, a tongue of the Greenland ice cap that calves enormous icebergs into the bay. Take an extraordinary cruise among these towering sculptures in ice. Enjoy views of the bay on a visit to the town of Ilulissat, and hike to an archaeological site in the Sermermiut Valley.
Spend the day cruising Disko Bay as we make our way north. Ice conditions permitting, we’ll follow the inside passage past Disko Island to the Nuussuaq Peninsula. As we sail, join our expedition team in the lounge for presentations about Greenland’s Thule people.
The colorful village of Uummannaq sits on a tiny island in the Uummannaq Fjord. The dramatic peak that rises abruptly from the island's center is so remarkable that it has been depicted numerous times in paintings and drawings. Visit the excellent community museum to learn about the area's archaeology and history and see traditional Inuit clothing and tools along with scenes of everyday life. Then cross the fjord to the archaeological site of Qilakitsok, where the eight Thule mummies were discovered in 1972.
Enjoy a full day to explore the beautiful Ataneq Fjord by water and on foot. Walk the metamorphic rocks at Tunúngassoq, covered in spongy tundra, and look for Arctic foxes and, with luck, caribou. Paddle a kayak along the steep sides of the fjord or ride a Zodiac to see the glacially carved landscape up close.
Day 17-18: Kangerlussuaq | Reykjavik | Keflavik | Home
We are so glad that we chose Adventure Life. The service is top-notch. Everything is well taken care of and we just have to print the documents and go. Franny even gave us timely updates on possible airport strike.