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I’m not one for cruises. I’ve never been attracted to the gaudy amenities, mass-produced food, or skyscraper-sized ships. (If that’s your style… let’s discuss sometime!) I did recently discover, though, my love for “expedition cruising” — boarding a small ship that’s made to explore the world’s remote locations. I went on a week-long adventure in the Arctic with Lindblad Expeditions, touring the southern tip of Greenland, crossing the Denmark Strait (in a storm and 25-foot waves, I might add), and exploring the west coast of Iceland. It was an epic voyage complete with whale sightings, cultural education, a polar plunge into the icy waters, and even a show of the Northern Lights — a moment I’ll cherish forever.
Everything about this trip screamed “bucket list.” Nothing about it screamed “chaotic mega cruise.”
We sailed on Lindblad’s National Geographic Endurance ship, which was designed specifically for arctic environments and holds up to about 130 guests. While the experience itself is adventurous and outdoorsy, the actual ship offers comfort and luxury. It’s the best of both worlds — spend the day kayaking through iceberg-filled fjords and wandering around Viking ruins, then come home to a spotless hotel room, incredibly attentive staff, and a three-course gourmet meal with an open bar. In short, my type of “sailing” as the cruisers call it.
I’ll keep it real — this kind of expedition trip is expensive. The tour I participated in — South Greenland Exploration: Fjords, Waterfalls, and Fishing Villages — starts at almost $14K. But it’s the type of once-in-a-lifetime trip that’s worth saving for. Worth splurging on. Just take a look at my IG and you can see how many memories it’s given me.
To give you a glimpse of what expedition cruising through Greenland and Iceland is like, I’m sharing a few of the itinerary’s highlights below. That said, the cool thing about expedition travel is that every itinerary is a bit different, depending on weather, time, and various factors. We ended up exploring a fjord that the team had never even entered before — wild spaces demand that sort of spontaneity!
Qassiarsuk — Vikings, Lush Landscapes, & Sheep Farms
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You know how people always joke about the fact that Greenland is covered in Ice and Iceland is covered in greenery? Well, that’s because a Viking nicknamed “Erik the Red” landed in Qassiarsuk on a clear day. Qassiarsuk is a beautiful, lush corner of South Greenland that’s home to Viking ruins as well as reconstructions made to show what life was like back in the day. You can walk through the various reconstructions, such as the Viking’s town church, a stone underground house (that looks like an igloo but made with rocks), as well as a larger fixture that displays how the Vikings might have set up their group homes.
Today, there are about 60 people who live in town — if you can even call it a town. It’s a remote area, to say the least, but that also makes it incredibly peaceful and serene. Between the creek trickling through the hillside, intricate rock formations, and waterside views, this place feels like stepping into an oil painting. You also can’t miss the giant Erik the Red statue at the top of a hill overlooking Qassiarsuk, a symbol of Viking bravery and the foundation of the country as we know it today.
This was one of my favorite stops on the expedition for both its historical significance and its natural beauty. I also have to mention the people who live here. We had the privilege of stopping by a sheep farm and talking with the owners, a family of multi-generational farmers. We learned a bit more about their business and what day-to-day life is like. The farmer’s wife even invited the entire group of expedition tourists in for tea and pastries — homemade, from scratch.
It was a special moment that spoke to the inviting nature of Greenland’s people.
Neria Fjord — Kayaking, Icebergs, & the Polar Plunge
Our day in the Neria Fjord turned out to be our most adventurous day of the trip, starting with the fact that the crew had never even been through it before. We were exploring new places in real-time — well, the team of highly trained professionals was. I was enjoying coffee and views from my balcony hammock, but still. Once we arrived and the crew scoped out the scene, guests had the choice of kayaking or hiking. I’ve kayaked in the harbors of Los Angeles, the Caribbean currents, the swamps in Florida, and the blue waters of Lake Tahoe, but paddling through an arctic fjord surrounded by icebergs might top that list. We even witnessed icebergs flipping while out on the water, which was incredible and also slightly terrifying.
This day also happened to be sunny and about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which was unexpected yet delightful. Because it was so mild, we followed our outdoorsy outings with the polar plunge — jumping into the icy cold arctic waters. I was hesitant about the idea of self-inflicted hypothermia, but when in Rome, right? It ended up being so invigorating and fun that I did it twice. Fortunately, anyone who dared to endure the chill of 48-degree temperatures was rewarded with a shot of vodka and hot chocolate (and bragging rights, obviously).
The best part is that the boat is equipped with two jacuzzis and two saunas, so warming up post-dip wasn’t so bad.
Nuuk — The Capital & Cultural Artifacts
We couldn’t visit Greenland without spending a day in the nation’s capital, Nuuk, which has a growing population of about 17,000 people (making it the world’s smallest capital city by population). Considering Nuuk is home to about a third of the country’s entire population, it’s the cultural, social, and industrial hub of Greenland — it’s even home to The University of Greenland, the nation’s only university. Throughout our time in the city, we stopped by several viewpoints on our way to the Greenland National Museum.
The small yet fascinating museum features compelling exhibitions that cover all of Greenland’s 4,500-year-old history — from artifacts of the Arctic Stone Age and the Norse settlements to Inuit traditions, tools, and clothing. The museum’s most famous, interesting, and eerie artifacts are its 15th-century Qilakitsoq mummies, originally found near Uummannaq. The mummies, frozen in time by the Arctic ice, were found in 1972 and include two adult women and a six-month-old baby. (The original discovery included six women and two children.)
The discovery of these bodies isn’t even the craziest part…the ice preserved these mummies so well that researchers have been able to study their tattoos, their medical conditions, and even what they ate. In other words, this exhibit is 100 percent worth seeing for its historical and cultural significance, but you should be prepared to witness a somewhat morbid scene.
Iceland – Waterfalls, Hot Springs, & the Northern Lights
Iceland has been on my bucket list for years, and this trip proved why. We only spent a couple of days in Iceland since it’s the airport you have to fly in and out of. But it was enough time to leave me awestruck and wanting to come back for more — if you’re able to, I’d recommend extending your stay to explore more of Iceland. While we were short on time, we were still able to hit some popular Icelandic hotspots.
I mean that literally, as one of our stops was to the Seltún Hot Springs — a geothermal hot spring system in the Krýsuvík volcanic area.
We also visited Djúpalónssandur Beach, which is covered in black sand and lined with rocky cliffs. Kirkjufell Mountain, the most photographed mountain in Iceland, was as crowded as you’d expect but still worth the visit. I was also excited to visit the Bridge Between Continents, a 50-foot bridge in the Reykjanes Peninsula that links the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The rift between each plate lies directly on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and increases slightly every year.
What drew me in most about Iceland is the fact you can stop at these well-known sights or just pull over on the side of the road and see something just as spectacular. Iceland looks like another planet, from its rocky terrain to its grass-covered mountains dripping with waterfalls. The highlight of our time in Iceland, though, was on our final night when we were able to witness the magic of the Northern Lights. That alone made the whole trip worth it, in my opinion. It was the cherry on top of an already bucket list-worthy adventure.
Sea Days – Science Lectures, Saunas, and Climate-Inspired Cuisine
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While the most memorable adventures of expedition cruising will happen when you’re off the ship, Lindblad also did an amazing job of keeping us entertained on the ship. Sea days — full days spent traveling on the water to the next location — were filled with educational lectures by real scientists and travel industry moguls. Glaciologists, biologists, researchers, and National Geographic photographers hosted sessions in which they shared their areas of expertise. These lectures were especially handy on the two full days we spent trekking through a storm on the journey from Greenland to Iceland.
Being the luxury-adventure hybrid that is Lindblad, the ship is also equipped with classic spa amenities. You can get a massage after a long afternoon of hiking, escape the icy temperature in the sauna, and chill out in the hot tub on the top deck with a view. You can even choose to stay in a see-through, igloo-like dome on top of the ship for a night, so you can sleep under the stars with the chance of looking up at the Northern Lights — then, the staff will bring you warm coffee in bed as you wake up to the sunrise, surrounded by glacial waters and mountain views.
As for the food on the ship, I had low expectations. I mean, how good can food served on a ship in the middle of nowhere be?
To my pleasant surprise, the food served on the ship was well-preserved, sustainably sourced, and downright delicious. The ship’s restaurant featured a rotating menu of luxurious and creative dishes — some of which were fish-focused plates caught earlier that day. The best part of this ship, though, was how intimate it felt. Since there were only a small number of guests compared to most massive cruise ships, you could get to know the other guests and members of the staff. It felt like one big adventurous family by the time it came to disembark.
This trip was hosted by Tourism Greenland but they did not review or approve coverage. Visit here to learn more about the Uproxx Press Trip Policy.