Greenland is one of the most photogenic regions in the Arctic. Endless fjords—some of them, such as Tasermiut Fjord, are among the longest in the world. Alpine lakes. Viking ruins. Inuit settlements. Icebergs. Glaciers. Mountains. Vast stretches of wilderness. The incredible Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. And wildlife scenes: polar bears, muskoxen, humpback whales, walruses, sea eagles, and reindeer. Not to mention the vast Greenland Ice Sheet which is the second-largest ice mass in the world after Antarctica.
A Quark Expeditions guest hikes near Sermilik Fjord, Greenland. Photo: Mads Pihls/Visit Greenland
Plus, there are the cultural and architectural highlights of Nuuk, the capital of Greenland—and one of the smallest capitals in the world—and perhaps a rival for the most picturesque. Imagine a waterfront lined with rows of brightly colored houses with the Sermitsiaq mountain in the background. Guests can photograph waterfalls and icebergs while on a visit to Nuuk.
The world-famous Ilulissat Icefjord, which runs west 40 km (25 miles) all the way from the vast Greenland Ice Sheet to Disko Bay, just south of Ilulissat town on the west coast, is one of the best places in the world to photograph glaciers and glacier-calving.
Greenland has long appealed to photographers because of its contrasts: the blue of the ocean against the massive expanses of mostly white ice. The green fields in the fertile agricultural areas in South Greenland and rolling meadows in one view, but then the visitor turns around and sees the snow-covered peaks. There’s also the vision of polar bears or muskoxen to photograph one morning—and then rocky landscapes that dwarf the viewer the next. And there’s the glorious light-play which is an intrinsic part of the Arctic environment.
View of the town of Ilulissat in Western Greenland. Photo: Acacia Johnson
All of this explains why travelers are researching how to plan a Greenland photography vacation, which can involve traditional photography and, increasingly, short videos. Imagine returning home to share videos of crashing glaciers as they break off into huge chunks and plummet into the seat with an audio soundtrack that is among the most dramatic nature sounds in the Arctic!
How to plan a Greenland photography vacation
One of the first steps to undertake when researching how to plan a Greenland photography vacation is to determine where in Greenland you wish to travel, and then you can choose your polar voyage accordingly. Because it’s by ship you’ll be able to best explore the most scenic areas of Greenland. For instance, should you wish to photograph glaciers and icebergs, then an itinerary like Quark Expeditions’ Essential Greenland: Southern Coasts and Disko Bay will help you achieve that. Then there are other photographers, both experienced and amateur, who long to test their nighttime photography skills in capturing the Northern Lights. In that case, you’d want to consider a journey such as Under the Northern Lights: Exploring Iceland & East Greenland.
The next most important step in determining how to plan a Greenland photography vacation is to make sure you have the right camera and gear and to get some sense of what it’s like to shoot images in the Polar Regions. The climate, of course, is perhaps colder than any other region in which travelers may have traveled with their cameras. Colder temperatures, snow, moisture, and ocean water means protecting your camera is even more important, but also the sunlight is different.
A towering iceberg off the coast of Greenland. Photo: Aningaaq R. Carlsen/Visit Greenland
And, of course, everyone wants to shoot a few good videos—especially of wildlife—while on a Greenland photography voyage. That herd of muskoxen in Greenland National Park for instance, or the reindeer on a mountain slope, the walruses sunning themselves on an ice floe, birds nesting near a cliff, a flock of Arctic terns in flight, a whale surfacing the waters in a fjord or alongside the ship.
A few resources to help you plan a Greenland photography voyage could include our helpful guide How to Shoot Awesome Video on a Polar Voyage; award-winning photographer and expedition guide Acacia Johnson’s round-up of savvy tips in The Art of Polar Photography: How to Take You Best Travel Pics; and our popular Polar Wildlife Photography: Tips from an Arctic Expert.
Best time to visit Greenland for photography
Typically, the best time of the year to go on a Greenland photography tour would be during the months of July, August, September, and early October. That’s when seasoned polar operators offer amateur and seasoned photographers the best opportunities to truly explore the various parts of Greenland, whether you want to capture the wildlife on the east coast or the wild west coast of Southern Greenland. To help choose the best time to visit Greenland for photography, it’s best to get a sense of what wildlife is going to be most visible—if, of course, wildlife images are your goal. There are lots of great tips in our Explorer’s Guide: Can You Visit Greenland.
Best Places to Visit for Greenland Photography
A Greenlandic woman in traditional clothing. Photo: Sam Crimmin
Photographers will have a wealth of choices on a Greenland photography tour. Favorite destinations are always subjective, and inviting suggestions from seasoned Greenland visitors for the best places to visit for a Greenland photography tour will net you a diverse range of options.
Some of the best places to to consider.
• The vast Greenland Ice Sheet: few Arctic landscapes match this incredible expanse of ice, which you can visit by helicopter with Quark Expeditions.
• Ilulissat Icefjord: The Ilulissat Icefjord is not only one of the best places to visit for Greenland photography but it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
• City of Nuuk: the capital of Nuuk offers up all kinds of opportunities (houses, waterfront, background scenery) for Greenland photography buffs.
Photographers are drawn to the colourful buildings of Nuuk, such as this bright red church. Photo: Sam Edmonds
•Kangerlussuaq: Along with the rainbow array of colored houses, Kangerlussuaq is also known as a prime destination to photograph the Northern Lights.
• Tasermiut Fjord: The 70-km long Tasermiut Fjord, surrounded by towering rock-walled cliffs, can be visited on the Greenland Adventure: Explore by Sea, Land, and Air voyage.
Guests photograph a polar bear from the deck of their ship during a voyage in East Greenland. Photo: Acacia Johnson
•Prins Christian Fjord: This 105-km fjord is perfect for Greenland photography especially if you’re eager to capture photographs of rivers, rugged cliffs, and calving glaciers. For icebergs specifically, you can also peruse the list in the Where to See Icebergs in Iceland and Greenland blog.
These suggestions represent only a handful of the best places for Greenland photography. You can discover more in our Greenland Explorer’s Guide.
Best way to visit Greenland: Choosing the right Greenland cruise
Because of its remote Arctic destination, and the fact that Greenland’s rugged terrain doesn’t allow for roads, the best way to visit Greenland is to choose a Greenland polar cruise that matches your photography goals. Quark Expeditions, for instance, operates small polar vessels that can navigate the deep fjords. Because they go places where those other larger ships cannot, these ships are the best way to visit Greenland for a photography experience. Plus, Quark Expeditions’ new ship Ultramarine has two twin-engine helicopters that can fly you to remote parts of Greenland to photograph scenes in remote areas where few humans have ever set foot.
The following five voyages include Greenland in their itinerary.
- Essential Greenland: Southern Coasts and Disko Bay
- Greenland Adventure: Explore by Sea, Land, and Air
- Three Arctic Islands: Iceland, Greenland, Spitsbergen
- Under the Northern Lights: Exploring Iceland & East Greenland
- Best of the Western Arctic: Canada and Greenland.
Any of these voyages will satisfy a traveler who’s looking for an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind Greenland photography experience.