East Greenland

East Greenland, where you come closest to the original Greenland.

THERE are only two towns - and the world's largest national park - on the 2,700 kilometre long east coast. There are both historical and natural reasons for this very sparse settlement.
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Mountain cabins act as a base for glorious hikes.
There are magnificent views across the harbour, fjord and mountains from the hotel in Tasiilaq.
The altar of the new church in Tasiilaq
Tourists can stay overnight in the mountains.


People have indeed lived in East Greenland for certain periods during the last several thousand years, but the period when the area is ice-bound and the wide belt of field ice that lasts throughout the spring and summer have made this area very isolated - both from the rest of Greenland and from the rest of the world. The first Europeans came here only just over a hundred years ago, and this separation from the rest of the country is clearly reflected in the language and culture of the region.
The language of East Greenland is substantially different from that of West Greenland both in its pronunciation and its vocabulary. And the mythical inspiration deriving from its traditional culture is expressed clearly both in the region's handicrafts and in the figures carved from tusk and bone.
The handicrafts in East Greenland are generally of a very high quality, so there is a demand for them on the west coast of Greenland as well.
The town of Tasiilaq, also known by its former name of Ammassalik, lies just south of the Arctic Circle. It is situated on a fjord which is protected from the open sea by a narrow mouth, and the first sight that welcomes arriving guests looking out of the helicopter window is of the many brightly-coloured houses built along the mountainsides.
The population of Tasiilaq reached such a high level during the 1920s that there was not enough employment for everybody. In other words, there were too many people and too few seals. It was therefore decided to build a new town at the mouth of the world's largest fjord 900 kilometres further north. It was originally named Scoresbysund and is now called Ittoqqortoormiit. The town has only around 550 inhabitants, and can only be reached by helicopter from the small airfield at Nerlerit Inaat/Konstabel Pynt.
The main occupation in both towns and the outlying settlements is seal hunting. The kind of industrial fisheries familiar on the west coast have not on the whole been established here. Old traditions associated with the division of the catch are still observed in East Greenland. The skin of the polar bear, for example, is given to the person who first sighted the animal rather than the hunter who actually killed it.
The National Park, which has a larger area than any other park in the world, lies in the far north. It is not a park in the traditional European sense, however, since there is no admission for the public. No humans live within its borders apart from the personnel at a couple of weather stations and a Danish army patrol. The only people who have free access are the Ittoqqortoormiit hunters. However, many international scientific studies and expeditions take place here every year, attracted by traces of dwelling sites from earlier times along the coast and by the fact that this area contains nearly all of Greenland's flora and fauna.
Most of the visitors to Greenland's east coast come via Iceland. A return flight to Kulusuk Airport and the settlement of Kulusuk makes a popular one-day excursion for tourists visiting Iceland, but many people prefer to stay for several days at the newly-built hotel in Kulusuk. Or they continue to the town of Tasiilaq only eight minutes flying time from Kulusuk by helicopter.

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