Why You Should Go Dog Sledding in Greenland

 
Two Greenlandic men drink hot coffee while waiting next to their team of Greenland husky dogs in a snowy landscape near Ilulissat in West Greenland
 
 
 

Greenland is a Western European country you rarely hear of people traveling to, but its beautiful landscapes similar to those of Iceland and its longstanding history of dog sledding make it a destination worthy of your bucket list. An autonomous territory of Denmark, Greenland has a population made up of mostly indigenous Inuit, the culture from which the dog sledding tradition stems. The Inuit people have used dog sledding as a mode of transportation for over five thousand years and not only view it as a fun activity, but also as a way of life. Participating in a dog sled journey can be an exciting way to see Greenland and also an interesting look into the Inuit culture and the art behind the sport.

A Cultural Tradition Thousands of Years Old

 
Greenlandic sled dogs near Sisimiut in Greenland
 

Greenland’s dog sledding excursions take place in both the eastern region and towns above the Arctic circle during the winter and spring seasons, specifically February and March. There are countless local tour groups that run dog sledding experiences, ranging from two-hour trips to multiple week journeys. A common feature of many multi-night dog sledding experiences is looking for the aurora borealis, or northern lights, which can be seen from many areas in Greenland. Many packages even include flights to and from Iceland and Copenhagen if you want to experience dog sledding while also traveling throughout different countries. Greenland’s official travel board recommends multiple tour groups with excursions of varying degrees and locations throughout the large country. The most common dog sledding towns are marked on a map, here:

 
 
 
Northern lights in Kangelussuaq, Greenland
 

What to Expect

The tour guide and commander of the dog pack is referred to as a musher and is responsible for leading the group of typically sixteen dogs with only a few commands and a whip. Mushers begin training at an early age and many children in Greenland will have small sleds and a few dogs of their own. The breed of sled dogs, known as the Greenland Dog, is the only breed allowed to pull sleds and is very pure due to the high energy levels and endurance required. There are about 17,000 sled dogs in Greenland and you will notice that these dogs have special training, like stopping when they sense the ice is too thin to cross. Many of these dogs even participate in Avannaata Qimussersua, an annual racing competition.

As a guest on a sled dog trek, you can expect a cold atmosphere and the wind on your face, so come prepared with high-quality winter gear. The mushers also usually provide thick reindeer blankets and warm food and drink to keep you warm. Although it can be chilly, dog sledding offers an incredibly unique traveling experience. The slow pace of the dogs, compared to a car or train, allows you to soak in the scenery fully and see the country as the Inuit did thousands of years ago. You will not only come away from your experience in awe of Greenland’s natural beauty and the cultural background of dog sledding, but also have incredibly special travel stories to share once you return home!

 
A Greenlandic man tethers a team of Greenland husky dogs in a snowy landscape near Ilulissat in West Greenland
 

Other Things to Do in Greenland

The adventure doesn’t just stop at dog sledding in Greenland -- there is no shortage of other activities and things to see while you are there. Nature plays a large part in tourism, as snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, diving, biking, and climbing are all popular attractions. Many visitors enjoy learning more about Inuit culture and Greenland’s history in the various museums and tour groups, as well as stepping out of their comfort zones on a Greenlandic gastronomy tour. This could also be your chance to see unique wildlife like polar bears, reindeer, humpback whales, and oxen in their natural habitats. 

Getting There and Logistics

Getting to Greenland may take some creative planning because it is not a common commercial destination. If you’re already visiting neighboring Iceland, there are short 2 and 3-hour hopper flights from Reykjavik to small town airports Nuuk, Kulusuk, and Ilulissat. If you’re coming from Denmark, there are daily four-hour flights from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, where dog sledding is prevalent. Regardless of where you are coming from, you will need to take a connecting flight in either Reykjavik or Copenhagen, which can be tricky to coordinate and is where travel agencies, like Jubel, can help.

Depending on which dog sledding package you choose (they can be as short as a day and as long as a few weeks), it’s recommended that you spend at least two to three additional days exploring the other areas of the country and trying some of the other unique activities Greenland has to offer. In terms of transportation once you’re there, Air Greenland offers flights to many different towns, however the unpredictable weather often affects flight schedules. Cruises are a popular option during the summer months, but can also run into problems depending on ice conditions. Also note that rental cars are not a practical option for visitors as there are no roads connecting the towns throughout Greenland and the icy weather can be difficult to navigate. It’s also important to remember that similar to Iceland, transportation and traveling expenses in Greenland are very pricey, so be sure to have your wallet ready before embarking on an adventure here.

 
Kulusuk village, east Greenland
 

If you’re a nature or animal lover, dog sledding in Greenland is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience you cannot pass up. The dog sledding experience offers a unique perspective of Inuit culture and some of the best scenic views in Greenland. You may even be able to witness the northern lights while on your excursion; and what’s the only thing better than checking off one bucket list item? Checking off two at the same time!


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