Gorgeous Greenland: A Quick Guide

One of my favourite things about adventure travel is getting to explore different parts of the world in a very different way. Through the ‘quick guide’ series I’m going to talk about some of the lesser travelled places I’ve been to and highlight how to get there, what to do and what to eat!

Greenland is the world’s largest island, an autonomous territory that is a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Though it is technically a part of the North American continent, it is politically and culturally more associated with Denmark and Norway. The local people in Greenland are called Innuits, and interestingly enough they will be offended if you call them ‘Eskimos’- the name you might popularly know them by. 

How To Get There

  • Only two airlines (Air Greenland and Air Iceland) offer flight options to Greenland. You must first fly to Copenhagen or Reykjavik and then take a flight to Greenland. 
  • The easiest and biggest airport to fly into is the Kangerlussuaq Airport. There are flights available to Kangerlussuaq from Copenhagen year-round. 

What To Do

  • The Northern Lights: Visit Greenland from September to April to experience one of the most magical sights our world has to offer. Be aware that this is the Arctic winter, however, it will be extremely cold and the daylight hours are very short during this time. 
  • Explore the Icecap: With difficult terrain and harsh conditions, most of the activities in Greenland include an element of adventure! Options to explore the icecap include dog sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and skiing. You can also take scenic flights over the icecap if you prefer to do something less active. 
  • Ocean Adventures: You can explore the coast of Greenland while kayaking or scuba diving. 

Wildlife cruises and boat tours are a great option for those who want sightings of seals, whales and seabirds. 

Must-Try Foods

  • Suaasat: This is the national dish of Greenland – a traditional Greenlandic soup. It is often made from seal, whale, reindeer, or seabirds.
  • Seafood: The majority of Greenland is covered with permanent glaciers, and hence most of the food you get is from the sea. Dishes that you can try include fish such as Ammassat or capelin (often smoked), mussels, and shrimp. 
  • Uncommon Meats: The harsh terrain in Greenland means you will have the opportunity to taste some of the most uncommon meat! Including whale meat which can be eaten raw, smoked, or cured (Arfeq Nikkui). Other meats that are a part of traditional Greenlandic cuisine includes that of musk ox, Eider sea ducks, seal, and narwhal blubber. 

Greenland is incredible- with much more to do and eat! This is meant to be a quick guide so I haven’t gone into as much detail as it deserves. Comment if you’ve been to Greenland or have any recommendations about more to do/ eat!

Originally written by Deeya Bajaj for Onmanorama

How to Get to Antarctica

While we’re stuck at home dreaming of post pandemic travel to new frontiers – what better journey to dream about than a voyage to the end of earth – Antarctica! Interestingly enough with strict protocols in place about who can and cannot visit, Antarctica remains the only continent in the world with zero Covid cases. Until the pandemic ends (or a vaccine is found) tourists will be unable to travel to Antarctica. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why Antarctica
Antarctica’ in Greek literally translates to ‘the opposite of North’. The continent consists of  over 90% of all the ice on our planet – so needless to say it is extremely cold. In fact, it is the coldest, windiest and driest continent of all. With such conditions, Antarctica might not seem appealing at first, but the stunning landscapes, white mountains and views of a neverending expanse of  ice and snow, make for an absolutely incredible scenic experience!  

With a population of barely 5000 people (consisting of mainly scientists, researchers and their support teams) on the continent, Antarctica is one of the few true wilderness experiences on our planet. 

A word of caution
Due to the extreme weather conditions a trip to Antarctica is only recommended for those who are comfortable with the cold. Temperatures on the coast usually don’t rise beyond  0 degrees celsius, even at the peak of summer. The interiors usually never get warmer than -20 degrees celsius.

When to go?
The best time to visit is in the Antarctic summer –  November to February where you get close to 24 hours of daylight.

How to get there? 
Getting to Antarctica is easier than one might imagine.

The most popular way to get to Antarctica is on a ship, the best option for those interested in experiencing the incredible wildlife in the continent. 

For those who are more interested in experiencing the Antarctic icecap and it’s terrain, you can also take a flight straight to the interior of the icecap. 

Ushuaia to Antarctica (via ship)  
Ushuaia in Argentina is a three and a half hour flight from the more well connected Buenos Aires airport. Cruises that start at Ushuaia go via the Drake Passage – a 1000 kilometer body of water that separates Antarctica from South America. It usually takes 36 hours to make the journey to the Antarctic Peninsula. This journey is a wonderful opportunity to get some albatross sightings. Trips that start at Ushuaia range from 9 – 20 days.  

Punta Arenas to Antarctica (via ship)  
If the idea of the Drake Passage and 36 hours of travel in a ship to get to the peninsula doesn’t appeal to you, you can opt to start your journey from Punta Arenas, Chile. The journey from the southern tip of Chile only takes a couple of hours to reach the Antarctic Peninsula. Due to the shorter distance to get to Antarctica, cruises starting at Punta Arenas offer short 4 day trip options. 

Punta Arenas to Antarctica (via flight)  
A flight to Antarctica is the best option for those who get seasick and prefer to experience the vast icy wonder of Antarctica’s ice cap (and perhaps even visit the South Pole). This flight to Antarctica takes 5 hours on a Russian Illushian plane. The flight itself is an incredible experience as the plane lands on a blue ice runway at a small settlement on the ice cap called Union Glacier. Delays due to weather conditions flying into the glacier are common and you should set aside at least 15 days for such a trip. 

What to do in Antarctica

Cruise: Once you reach your destination, you spend your nights on the ship itself. The days are spent exploring the surrounding areas on smaller boats with options to get on the icecap and even spend a night in a tent.  This option is highly recommended for those interested in wildlife. There is a high probability of amazing sightings of  seals, penguins and whales.

Flight:  When you fly directly onto the glacier you spend your days hiking, using snow scooters and snow cycles to explore the area surrounding Union glacier. You also have the option to venture further towards the center of the continent by taking another flight to the South Pole. 

Photo by Dick Hoskins on Pexels.com

Service Providers/Travel Agents
While there are many service providers offering cruise options to Antarctica, there is only one company, Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE), offering the flight option. You will, therefore, have to book well in advance for flight and accommodation on the icecap, if that’s your preferred travel option. Once you get there, ALE will provide comfortable tented accommodation for you to stay in. 

Regardless of which company you choose to go with, the company will provide for your food, accommodation and activities throughout the duration of your stay. As Antarctica is barely inhabited, you will not be seeing towns or restaurants during your journey there. Due to your sole dependence on your provider, I suggest that you spend your time researching and choose wisely before you pick who you want to book with.

Note on what to Pack
Because of the extreme temperatures in Antarctica you will need specialised gear to ensure that you’re safe and comfortable. While the company you choose to travel with will share a detailed list, there are a couple of items that you will certainly need and should plan for:

  1. A good down jacket:  To ensure that you stay warm during the colder parts of the day. 
  2. A pair of sunglasses:  The sun’s rays are very harmful for your eyes in these extreme regions. 
  3. A good pair of boots: So that you can move about comfortably once you are off the ship/ plane. 
  4. Sunscreen: The Antarctic sun is very harsh, sunscreen is a must for any part of your body that is exposed. 

Antarctica is an absolutely incredible part of our planet. Experiencing the incredible wilderness of the coast or the stark beauty of the landscape are journey’s like no other. Step a little out of your comfort zone for an experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life. 

Originally written for Onmanorama

Making Friends Outdoors

Doesn’t it sometimes feel like a majority of our life is now driven by technology? Most of our communications with friends and family happen on a screen. Even when we are out for dinner we spend more time communicating with people far away on our phone than we do the people we are eating with (I’m totally guilty of doing this myself.) By forcibly removing technology from your life the outdoors helps you build connections that are actually real. A ‘ digital detox’ every now and again is great for the human soul!

When I was 17, my father and I embarked on a cross country skiing expedition across the Greenland Icecap. (We had been to Greenland before on a sea kayaking expedition and had seen the Greenland Icecap. There was something mesmerizing about the vast icy expanse that had us talking about returning as soon as possible). We spent months training for the expedition which  entailed cross country skiing for a total distance of approx 600 kms, from the west to east coast of Greenland, close to the arctic circle. We would be on the Greenland icecap, the second largest chunk of ice on the planet for up to one month with an ambient temperature of – 20 degrees Celsius, dropping to -40/-45 C with the windchill factor. At 17, I was a typical high school student, my life revolved around academics, friends and of course social media. So, one of the things that worried me the most was that I would be so bored during the evenings- stuck in the middle of nowhere for 3 weeks with no access to the internet or people my age (everyone on the expedition was much older than I was). However, I had the opposite experience.

The days were long, we would spend about 8 hours skiing every day and spend the first part of our evenings setting up camp. We would then all gather in a kitchen tent, melt snow, cook food together, sing songs (Bohemian Rhapsody was one of our favorites) and tell jokes. Though our expedition team of 8 members had people from 5 different countries (Greenland, USA, Belgium, New Zealand and India) we all bonded through our love of outdoors (and Queen, got to love Freddie Mercury for bringing the world together). Our two Inuit guides barely spoke English, but through the 3 weeks we spent with them we realized language is only one form of communication and that not speaking the same language is never a barrier to making a friend.

The Greenland icecap expedition was one of the first expeditions where I experienced the magic of how the outdoors can bond people for life regardless of how old they are, where they’re from or even what language they speak. When you spend 24 hours a day with a group of people and with no communication with the outside world, you are forced to get to know each other. So, whether you want to spend time with old friends or make new ones, the outdoors is one of the best places to do so.


The 7 types of Pictures Dad Takes (A Series)

When I was younger, I used to HATE posing for pictures. I also used to always forget to get my camera out when I was out on expeditions…

Both of these things hold true till date. It’s a pity because I’m often in these incredible places, and while I’m experiencing the situation 100% when I come back home I always think to myself- I really wish I had taken more pictures. 

Thankfully, my father LOVES to take pictures. Once we started going out on expeditions together, he found an extremely unwilling subject to practice his artistic skills on. 

I now present to you….

*drum roll* 

The 7 types of pictures Dad takes –  A Series. 

  1. The Extreme Close Up
    For some reason, my father LOVES to take extreme close ups. In this picture, we’re on a sea kayaking expedition to Greenland. I still know very little about photography, but I’m thinking he could have moved a little bit further away for this one. 
  1. The Unhappy Deeya Picture

Another classic in Dad’s repertoire, he loves to take pictures when I’m in a “mood” aka if I’m a little grumpy . He thinks it’s the best way to cheer me up. (To be fair sometimes when I see how funny I look- it totally works)

While on a hike in Rajasthan, India
On a boat to see Penguins, Chile

Punta Arenas, Chile
  1. The Classic With Prop Picture
    Sometimes to supplement his artistic vision, Dad will ask me to pose with a wide variety of props. In this picture, I don’t think I was really feeling the whole paddle thing. 
Sea Kayaking in Greenland 2009, looking extremly uncomfortable while posing
  1. The Funny (?) Sign

My father LOVES signs. I am often made to pose with any sign that is even vaguely funny.

Lhasa, Tibet 2018
  1. First Thing when I wake up 

Dad usually tends to wake up about half an hour before me on expeditions (logistics are just easier when you’re sharing a tiny tent). He inevitably decides to take pictures of me just as I get up.

Greenland Ice Cap Crossing 2011
  1. When my face is ENTIRELY covered pictures
    Often accompanied with dad making a “smile for the camera” joke.
Mt. Denali Mountaineering Expedition, USA, 2019
Mt Vinson Mountaineering Expedition, Antarctica, 2018
Mt. Vinson Mountaineering Expedition, Antarctica, 2018
  1. The GEMS
    But all things said and done, I’m so grateful to have my own personal photographer on expeditions. What are your favourite pictures from this series?
Greenland Sea Kayaking Expedition, 2009. One of the rare times I was open to taking pictures.

4 tips to take the best care of your Sleeping Bag

Your equipment is your lifeline when you’re out on an adventure and so it’s really important to take care of it. Here are 4 tips on how to take the best care of your sleeping bag to ensure it is a good companion on your next trip.

  1. Be nice to it on the trail/ when you’re outside. This includes things like ensuring you don’t drop stuff on it and don’t place it on sharp rocks! Remember the better you treat your equipment the happier you’ll be. 
  2. Cleaning your bag: If you’ve only used it for a couple of days just leave your bag unzipped in the sun for a couple of hours before you put it in storage. BUT, if you’ve just come back from a looong trek and didn’t shower for days, chances are your sleeping bag can get a little (more like very) smelly. In this instance, do not dry clean your bag BUT you should clean it. Here’s how: Use damp cloth to wipe down your bag and then leave it out in the sun for a couple of hours (make sure you check the weather forecast before you leave your bag out).
  3. Storing your bag: Never store your sleeping bag in the stuff sack that comes along with it because the next time you use it, the insulation won’t be as great. Instead try finding a larger mesh bag to store your bag. This is how I store mine!
  4. Washing your bag?? More often than not you don’t actually need to wash your bag. You can actually use your sleeping bags for years before needing to give it a full blown wash. If certain places are getting dirty- take a drop of non-detergent soap (I recommend castile soap, you can get it on amazon for like 200 rupees/ a couple of dollars) and specifically clean that area using an old toothbrush to remove stains. Do not use bleach or detergent on your bag. If you’re washing your entire bag, do it by hand (no machine please), use that same castile soap and most importantly be gentle with your bag. 

A Sea Kayaking Expedition In Greenland

I’ve adapted this post from an account I wrote when I was 14 years old right after my first ever expedition, a 2 week sea kayaking expedition along the coast of Greenland.

My family’s idea of a holiday is not a typical “relax on the beach and go sightseeing” sort of holiday, it’s more like a “lets climb up this mountain while it’s raining” sort of holiday.

So when dad decided it was time for a father daughter bonding trip I wasn’t too surprised when he suggested a two-week sea kayaking expedition in the fjords of Greenland as opposed to a trip to the mall.

After spending months preparing for the expeditions (including training and logistics) we finally started on our journey to Greenland. The travel involved getting from New Delhi to the starting point of our expedition was intense! From New Delhi we took a direct flight to Copenhagen. We spent a night at Copenhagen and then took a flight to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, from there we took another flight to Ilulissat, where we spent the day shopping for supplies for our expedition.  We got on a helicopter from Ilulissat to Umanaq and spent time there getting all our gear prepared. From Umanaq we got on a motor boat with all of our expedition gear and kayaks and to (finally!) reach our first expedition campsite.

Along the coast of Greenland: A bench overlooking the icebergs

We would kayak along the coast everyday till we got to our next campsite. After we secured our kayaks, we would set up the group tent before setting up any of our personal tents. We would all eat breakfast and dinner in the big group tent together. Our expedition leader Kim would usually be the chef, but sometimes other team members would take over.

On one of the final days of our expedition, halfway to our next campsite, the weather suddenly turned.  We were kayaking along a cliff and there were huge freezing cold salt water waves splashing on us. The salt water made my eyes burn- I could barely keep them open. I remember being cold and miserable, but knowing that we couldn’t stop, all of us had to paddle past the cliff. I was 14 years old, and had never experienced a situation so extreme and challenging before. I  remember my father kept encouraging me from behind and yelling “keep going Deeya, Keep smiling, We will get through this”.

Hearing that positivity in his voice, helped me grit my teeth and keep going. We finally did make it to the next camp drenched and frozen but safe. I think this where I began to realise how important a positive attitude is when it comes to any adventure sport. If the going gets really tough and you think you can’t do it, you definitely will not make it. However, if you plaster a smile on your face and tell yourself you can do it, the going definitely becomes easier. 

Sea Kayaking in Greenland

There are of course difficult moments on all expeditions, but what makes them special are the team members. I remember I was a bit nervous about going on the expedition, because I was going to be the youngest by quite a margin – 28 years to be specific (the closest person to my age was my dad). I soon understood that being outdoors with people is the best way to make friendships that last a lifetime. It doesn’t matter where your team members are from or what age they are, there’s something magical about being outside and facing the wonders and challenges of mother nature together.

The Beginning…

I often joke that my parents first child was not me but Snow Leopard Adventures – our family owned Adventure Tourism company which was conceived before I was born. My father is one of India’s stalwarts in the outdoors (he was the first Indian to kayak and raft down rivers in six continents, as well as the first Indian to complete the polar trilogy- skiing to the North Pole, South Pole and skiing across the Greenland icecap).

Growing up in a family like this, adventure was our normal. I went on my first hike strapped to my fathers back, before I even started walking. Our family holidays would consist of doing something outdoors whether it be hiking, diving or skiing, and I absolutely loved it.

My passion for mountaineering started in the summer before grade 8 at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering’s (NIM) adventure course. Growing up in India’s National Capital Region, the life I lead in NIM was very different from anything I had experienced before. It was simpler, the days were long and the learnings were life changing. I realised that I was happiest in the company of mountains, walking for hours with everything I needed my backpack.

From then on I jumped at every opportunity I got to be outdoors. My parents understood that the outdoors was a big part of my life, and they encouraged me to follow my passion. While supporting your children’s passions might seem like an obvious thing to do, in India girls aren’t often given the same opportunities as boys. I recognised, at a very young age, that what I had in terms of parental support was unique.

I am grateful for the fact that my parents have always supported me and left no stone unturned in helping me pursue my dreams. To my mother for constantly showing me what a privilege it is to be a woman, and to never let me gender define me and to my father for introducing me to the “great outdoors” and being my favourite “adventure buddy”.

Hi! My name is Deeya Bajaj and I am a mountaineer, adventurer and explorer from India. I have been extremly fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore some of the most remote parts of our planet (including to journey to the summit of Mt. Everest with my father, as India’s first father-daughter team). This blog is an attempt to document some of my learnings and experiences on my expeditions. Thank you for being a part of my journey! Keep checking this site (or subscribe to get an instant update) for more posts on my adventures all over the world!