Kulusuk Villlage, East Greenland
Greenland may be the biggest island in the world, and if you've been to North America you could well have flown over it, but have you thought about what might be involved in stopping off there?

There are two distinct parts to Greenland  - the east coast and the west coast.

The west coast is the more developed part of the island and most of the population live here, mostly around Nuuk, the capital city.  Most of the flights to Greenland flying to the west coast are either from Copenhagen or from Canada.  Many fly into Nuuk from where there numerous flights linking the towns elsewhere on the west coast, with a few crossing the Greenland ice cap to reach the airstrips on the East coast. Others fly into the town of Kangerlussuaq, a converted military base at the top of the Kangerlussuaq fjord.

If you want to get to the east coast (referred to by the Greenlanders, presumably on the west coast, as the "Back Side") you can either fly to the west coast, and then fly back to the east, or you can fly to Iceland before flying across the Denmark Strait to reach little airports like Kulusuk or Scoresbysund.

I've been to both coasts in the last few years.

Air Greenland helicopter service
To get to the east coast, I flew with Air Iceland to Keflavik  (Iceland’s main international airport) before transferring to the domestic airport in Reykjavik to join an Air Greenland flight to Kulusuk.  To make this connection you're going to have to plan on staying overnight in Reykjavik in both directions.  The bulk of the passengers on flights between Reykjavik and Kulusuk are day-trippers wanting the experience of getting to Greenland. This means that the flights to Greenland are early in the day with the return flights getting to Iceland in the late afternoon. The long runway at Kulusuk, like most of the airfields in Greenland, is a legacy of US military operations during the Cold War and the network of radar stations operating here. If you want to get to other places along the east coast you will need to fly on by helicopter or look for a local boat-owner to ferry you to your destination. The east coast, like most of Greenland, has very limited road networks and the rough roads in town peter out very quickly once you reach the town boundaries.

For my west coast visit, I flew from Europe to Ottawa then picked up a charter flight to Kangerlussuaq (another US-provided airfield), before joining an expedition cruise ship travelling up the west coast.  For independent travellers there is also a scheduled ferry service, operated by the Umiaq Line, that runs up and down the coast between Ilulissat and Narsaq.

There are links to images from my first visit to Greenland, to the east side on this blog post.

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