Although Greenland is justifiably an attraction for its landscape and unique culture, those who seek fulfilment of the culinary variety won’t be disappointed.
I visited Greenland to experience an Arctic spring, sail between the icebergs in Ilulissat, bounce along the waves in Nuuk harbour, and discover Greenlandic culture and history – but when I encourage people to visit the country (as I find myself doing frequently), it’s often the food I highlight. As visitors increasingly want to enjoy “authentic” experiences and the interest in farm-to-plate (which would be more appropriately called ocean-to-plate in Greenland) offerings only grows, restaurants in the capital and elsewhere have responded by incorporating local Greenlandic ingredients into modern, internationally-inspired dishes. This is a nation where food preparation from scratch still permeates everyday life (who can afford all that imported frozen pizza anyway?). Almost everyone has a favourite cooking method for reindeer, knows how to salt their own fish, and boil their own jam.
DON’T FORGET TO SAMPLE THESE DELIGHTS:
Whaling is an important part of the Greenlandic lifestyle, and whale meat, skin or fat features on most menus. The most surprising is perhaps the varieties of ways to serve mattak, or blubber, the thick, nutrient-rich layer of fat and skin that insulates the mammal from the chilly North Atlantic waters. My favourite were the ribbons of delicately boiled mattak served with red sorrel, lemon and celery at Restaurant Ulo in Hotel Arctic, Ilulissat.
If you are fortunate enough to be in Greenland during lumpfish roe season, as I was, you’ll be served these tiny, delicate coral spheres at almost every meal. More attractive to the eye and less salty than their Caspian caviar cousins, the roe can be mixed with salads, or even paired with frozen yogurt, as I had it at Sarfalik in Hotel Hans Egede, Nuuk.
BERRIES AND HERBS
On an island where it’s difficult to cultivate even potatoes, the vitamins supplied by foraging for berries and herbs are vital to both good health and good flavour in dishes. You’ll find angelica, sorrel, Arctic thyme, and more. In season, rhubarb is also ubiquitous.
The muskox carpaccio I enjoyed at the now-closed Nipisa restaurant in Nuuk is a perfect example of local source, global format. But this rich meat is also served in burgers, delicately grilled fillets, or slowly braised.
… AND TO DRINK
Nuuk is home to the Godthaab micro brewery, which produces a variety of delicious ales. North of the Arctic Circle, stop by Mamartut in Ilulissat, where owner Kim Sander Pedersen famously offers a range of homemade schnapps-style liqueurs, each flavoured with local herbs … or even ptarmigan crop!
The Greenlandic food culture is closely linked to the Greenlandic feeling of identity. If you want to feel like a genuine Greenlander eat like the locals! This will give you a unique insight into a food culture that has traditionally been dependent on what can be caught in the wild.
How to Get To Greenland
Commercial airlines are the only way for travelers to get to Greenland, served by airports in Denmark and Iceland unless you arrive with a cruise ship.
Air Iceland Connect
flies year round from Reykjavik Domestic Airport to Kulusuk in East Greenland and the capital Nuuk in West Greenland. Air Iceland Connect also operates seasonal flights to Narsarsuaq in South Greenland, the capital Nuuk, Ilulissat in the Disko Bay and Kangerlussuaq in Destination Arctic Circle. Nordlandair from Akureyri in Iceland, also operates to Constable Point in North East Greenland.
By Air To Greenland From Denmark
The Greenlandic airline Air Greenland flies all year around from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq in West Greenland and to Narsarsuaq in South Greenland in summer time. In the winter period there are four flights a week to Kangerlussuaq and up to ten flights a week in the summer. Narsarsuaq is served up to twice a week during the summer. The flight time to both destinations is just 4.5 hours.
Onward transport to the towns on Greenland’s west coast takes place by airplane or helicopter, and there are frequent connections that ensure that it is normally possible to reach your final destination the same day. Contact your travel agency or Air Greenland for more information.
By Air To Greenland From Iceland
Air Greenland flies from the international airport in Keflavik to the capital, Nuuk, all year round, and from Keflavik to Ilulissat from March to October. Furthermore, the Icelandic airline Air Iceland Connect (not to be confused with Icelandair) has a service all year round from Reykjavik to Kulusuk and Nerlerit Inaat on Greenland’s east coast. Kulusuk is served twice a week in the winter season and every day during the summer. This is a very common travel route to East Greenland. Nuuk is served twice a week whole year round.
During the summer period Air Iceland Connect also flies to Narsarsuaq and Ilulissat several times a week, and to Nuuk from two to four times a week and to Kangerlussuaq. Air Iceland Connect also operate the route to Nuuk, Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat in the winter time. The flight time to Kulusuk and Narsarsuaq is two – three hours from Reykjavik. Contact your travel agency or Air Iceland Connect for more information.
BY SEA TO GREENLAND
There are no ferry connections between Greenland and Iceland, Denmark or Canada. However, more and more cruise shipping companies are choosing to include Greenland on their itineraries, whereby it is possible to begin the voyage from Iceland or go onboard at, for example, Kangerlussuaq. Some shipping companies also sail from the USA and Canada or a country in Europe.