I took a ferry up the coast of Greenland for under $400, and despite being brutally cold, it was a fantastic way to see some of the most dramatic scenery on earth
- Greenland can be cold and expensive, but a voyage aboard the Arctic Umiaq Line is a comfortable and affordable way to have an unforgettable experience.
- The only ship in operation is the M/S Sarfaq Ittuk, which connects settlements throughout western Greenland.
- The ferry has many of the same conveniences as a cruise ship, like an onboard cafeteria and cinema.
- I recently sailed north on the ship to meet locals and see a side of Greenland I wouldn't have seen had I flown in an airplane, which is often more expensive anyway.
- As much snow and ice as there was, it was troubling to hear locals say there was much less than usual for the time of year.
The Mother of the Sea is in a caring mood.
"The sea is really quite gentle today - it's just like being rocked to sleep like a baby!" says Lars, the friendly man at the Sarfaq Ittuk's information booth on deck three.He's not wrong. The slow rolling - up and down and up again - is pleasantly relaxing, all the more relief for someone who's never been on a passenger ferry at sea before.
Admittedly, visiting in Greenland is not for everyone. While global warming is causing a worrying (and increasingly rapid) melting of the vast island's icecaps, it's still too cold for many people's comfort almost year-round. There are no large cities. Because of its remoteness high up in the North Atlantic, Greenland also has a reputation for being incredibly expensive. Almost everything has to be imported; a single loaf of bread in the capital Nuuk (by far the largest city) can cost more than $3 at a supermarket.
Yet there are ways to have the experience of a lifetime without breaking the bank. One of the best ways: sailing up the coast on the Arctic Umiaq Line's M/S Sarfaq Ittuk, like I did earlier this year for less than $400.
Sailing up and down the more populated western side of Greenland, the ship plays an important role in connecting coastal communities that otherwise are only accessible by plane or helicopter - which can be even more expensive. Not only that, but a journey aboard is a great way to meet locals outside of a package tour or cruise.
Here's how to see Greenland in a much more intimate way for much less than what international cruise companies charge while supporting the local economy: