The Great Northern Island Escape: Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands

by Sarah Sekula

If you’d like to get away from it all, an adventure to the West Nordic region of the world is the way to go. In Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, it’s easy to find solitude and breathtaking nature steeped in rich history.

If you’re a “Game of Thrones” fan, then you’re already familiar with the sweeping landscapes of Iceland. Even if you’re not a fan, you still probably have some dramatic images in mind when it comes to this primordial locale. Beyond the Blue Lagoon and trendy Reykjavík, there’s plenty to explore. Like black-sand beaches, boiling mud pools, waterfalls and moss-covered lava fields. With this otherworldly landscape, it’s no surprise that five Hollywood movies were filmed there in the past year alone.

Must dos:
-Walk to the valley of Reykjadalur, where hundreds of boiling hot springs send their fumes to the sky. (Note: Bring your bathing suit and a towel for a dip in the hot springs.)
-Stroll around Hveragerði village, a neat little town with many hot springs and greenhouses.
-Hike along the trail that goes behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall, one of the most famous waterfalls in the country.
-Stop by the Gígjökull glacier where a big flood washed half the glacier away during the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010.
-Take photos of the canyons and valleys of Þórsmörk, at the very foot of the famous volcano.
-Stay the night in a cozy mountain hut.
-Do dinner at Fishmarket, where adventurous eaters can dine on smoked puffin, grilled whale meat, Icelandic vodka and reindeer.
-Strap on crampons and traipse across Sólheimajökull glacier.
-Visit of the Skógafoss waterfall, one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland.
-Have dinner at Kopar, the first restaurant in Reykjavík to serve Icelandic rock crab.
-Get a massage while floating in the Blue Lagoon.
-Stop at SS pylsur for a taste of Iceland‘s famous hot dogs.

This isolated archipelago made up of 18 small islands, halfway between Norway and Iceland, is beloved not only for its grass-covered roofs (yes, they get mowed regularly), its towering sea cliffs and its fun foodie scene, but also for the fact that it’s relatively undiscovered. In fact, there are many maps that don’t even include the Faroe Islands. As for the weather, sometimes it’s sunny and other times it’s “like living in a glass of milk,” says Marni Simonsen, a local langoustine fisherman. The maritime climate can certainly get foggy, but it only adds to the dreamlike ambiance of the island.

Must dos:
-Take a hike on Mykinesholmur, where you will be surrounded by hundred of birds.
-Go sightseeing in the cheerful harbor town of Tórshavn, the old part of Reyni and Tinganes.
-Visit the brilliant designers at Guðrun & Guðrun where you’ll find gorgeous knitted sweaters, salmon-skin sneakers and stylish dresses popular with glitterati like Helena Christensen and Naomi Campbell.
-Pop into the record store, Tutl, to purchase some local tunes.
-Dine on fabulous Faroese seafood on board Norðlýsið, an adorable wooden sailboat.
-Visit the farm at Kirkjubø, home of the Paturssons, a 17th-generation family.
-Dine at Koks, a fine-dining eatery at Hotel Føroyar, where chef Leif Sorensen will serve you creative dishes using local raw materials.

Greenland is extreme in every way you can imagine. For starters, the only method of travel on the massive island (more than three-quarters ice and roughly 20 times the size of Great Britain) is by helicopter, ATV, dog sled or boat; there are no paved roads. Then, of course, there’s the magnificent scenery with enormous icebergs in the Arctic Circle region, dogsledding trips, spectacular nature with fjord after fjord completely untouched and multi-colored houses in every town along the cost. Not to mention the ever-changing weather.

Put Kulusuk and Tasilaq on your itinerary. Kulusuk is a small Island in a group of Islands on the east coast of Greenland. From the tiny airport, it’s an easy walk to Kulusuk, a village of 350 people, many of them still living from traditional hunting. Tasilaq, a town of about 1,900 inhabitants, actually means “looks like a lake,“ since the fjord in front of the town is very sheltered and often calm like a mirror.

Must dos:
-Stay the night in Sermilik fjord in a mountain hut.
-In Kulusuk, hike to the hills for a dreamy view of thousands of icebergs that grace the Sermilik fjord.
-Go sailing in Tasilaq, the capital of East Greenland.
-Hike to the lakes north of Tasilaq and from there down to the Kong Oskars fjord.
-Visit a local inuit family and learn about their ancient traditions.
-Stop by the local folk museum in the old wooden church.
-Take a helicopter ride for a bird’s eye view of the striking landscape.

Keep in mind, the weather can change on a dime in this part of the world. You might experience many different kinds in the same day, so come prepared. Layers are important; windproof and waterproof jackets, hats and gloves and water proofed hiking boots are a necessity. With that said, the unpredictable weather and rough and rugged terrain mean it is best to hire a tour operator like Icelandic Mountain Guides, which specializes in trips to the two countries.

Waterproof hiking boots
Layers of warm clothes
Mittens/gloves, hats and scarf
Windproof and waterproof coat/jacket
Outdoor/exercise clothes and sneakers
Swimsuit and towel

Hotel Reykjavik Marina
Hilton Reykjavik Nordica
Hotel Reykjavik Natura

Faroe Islands: Hotel Føroyar

Greenland: Hotel Angmagssalik


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