Traveling to Iceland and Greenland? Here Are Things You’ll Wish You’d Packed. BONUS: What You Can Leave at Home

IMG_4291At the end of our trip to Greenland and Iceland, I polled our fellow travelers:  “now that you know what you know, what items do you regret not bringing (OR someone else would regret)?”  Of course, you already know to pack binoculars, backpack, underwear, etc.  This is an awesome insightful list of collective experiences.

This was an Overseas Adventure Travel group tour of 14 travelers around Iceland and Greenland.  A shout-out to fellow travelers Robin, Jill, Anne, Ruthie & Ron, Mike & Judy, Rose & Kam, Karen & Jerry, and Vern!  As well as our A+ guide, Hokam, and our A+ driver, Dori.IMG_3324

  • Real hiking boots. Tennies, even with tread, don’t cut it. You need ankle support and grip for uneven paths, lava fields, rocks, snow, ice, gravel. I purchased a used pair on eBay years ago.  Cheaper.  Already broken in.
  • Walking stick. We brought foldable ones; our group had a couple of slips and tumbles. No serious injuries but we were lucky.
  • Wine bottle opener.  Not in your carry-on or risk losing it to TSA. These are expensive countries; after a few days of paying bar prices, the wine lovers in our group found liquor stores.
  • Eye shades/sleep mask.  The sun never sets here in June. Some hotels have good blackout drapes, but many don’t.
  • Swimsuit. Hot springs, river rafting, community pools, hotel Jacuzzi — this is a must.IMG_5100
  • Extension cord. Larry and I set up a “technology center” in one spot of our hotel room. We don’t have to share chargers and this avoids leaving something left plugged behind a dresser.
  • Sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen.  When the sun is out, it’s intense.
  • Rain hat, poncho or windbreaker with a hood. Dress every day for rain. IMG_3656
  • Mosquito face net. Fellow traveler, Robin pulls it off with style. Bug repellant is useless with these black flies and mosquitos. The day of the flies, Larry and I had no nets and freaked an entire hike. In our eyes, ears, mouths, noses – and our guide said “this is nothing!” thanks to wind. YIKES. Greenland, we had nets (thank you, Judy and Mike for the loan!)
  • Books, plural. IPad is great, add solitaire on there, too. This travel is at the mercy of weather; you can easily sit for hours, or get stuck overnight. Our flight from Reykjavik to Kusuluk had us circling Greenland’s tiny air strip for more than an hour waiting for “an opening” in the fog. It was THIS CLOSE to having to turn back. Suddenly, the pilot announces, “Please fasten your belts, we are landing!” and ZOOM. Fellow traveler, Kam, in the plane bathroom at the moment of the announcement FLEW to his seat.  Good times.
  • Refillable water bottle.  Iceland water is the best on the planet. Don’t buy water, just fill up from the tap.
  • Lined gloves. Gets pretty cold.
  • Wool socks. Two pair. River rafting and other activities soak your shoes. WOOL, not cotton. Wet wool keeps warm. Wet cotton is FREEZING. Trust me on this.

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  • Snow pants vs. long johns. We brought both, and ended up wearing the snow pants our 4 days in Greenland, plus a few icy Iceland days. I bought them used on eBay a few years ago for an Antarctica trip. Cheaper. They are toasty.
  • Wool shirts for layering. Merino wool is thin, lightweight, warm. As a California native, this isn’t obvious to me.
  • A second camera battery. Some evenings you THINK you don’t need to juice up, and should’ve. Jill learned the hard way.
  • Maybe a second CAMERA. Ron and Ruthie’s story from another trip: Nepal, tents, freezing, porta potty in another location, pitch dark night, needed to go, camera dropped… IN THERE. You’ve heard other horror stories… jammed camera. Wet camera. Dropped camera. This trip had boat rides, glacier treks, cliffs; surprising all our cameras survived.

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BONUS:  What You Can Leave at Home

  • Umbrella. Too windy.
  • Dress-up clothes. Unless you’re attending a wedding.  It appeared that adventure gear is worn by practically everyone.
  • Too much cash.  Cards get you just about everything except in the remotest villages.
  • Good jewelry. Judy lost a sentimental earring during river rafting. I wear a $35 gold wedding band, and mis-matched loop earrings.
  • Expensive sunglasses. Bring cheap ones; if you’re like me, you’ll drop them often.
  • Flashlight. We brought headband flashlights for this adventure. DUH…  the sun is ALWAYS UP in June.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen August 2, 2015 at 11:11 am

Brought the face nets, but didn’t need them. Windy, rainy, and COLD! Low 40s in the north, so we were bug free. Biggest challenge was the almost constant daylight. Sleep mask didn’t work too well.

2 Worth The Whisk May 14, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Thank you so much, Evelyn. That MOSQUITO NET hat blew us away, we weren’t aware either!

3 Evelyn May 14, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Hi Patti – I just want to let you know how thrilled I am to find you post on Greenland and Iceland! My husband and I will be traveling there in June/July this summer and your what to take/not to bother is wonderful! Thank you (oh my gosh the mosquito net – never in a million years would I have though of that!).
Your pictures are beautiful!!
Evelyn

4 Worth The Whisk June 24, 2014 at 8:05 am

Larry, everything is super costly in Greenland because it is shipped in, with exception of locally caught fish and seal meat. It is an ice-glazed massive rock, basically. No dirt to grow anything. We had an airplane flight, one night in hotel, then helicopter, two more nights hotel. The village where we stayed only gets five shiploads of goods in a year, the first (since October) arrived while we were there. Fresh veggies! Eggs! Real milk! We had local tours (boat ride thru icebergs, for one). Then of course, helicopter flight and plane back to Iceland. From this experience, I would say… do NOT skip the Greenland extension. Fascinating. Authentic. Gorgeous. Humbling.

5 Larry June 24, 2014 at 7:34 am

The cost of the 4 day Greenland extension was almost the cost of the 11 day Iceland trip. What was so costly about Greenland? Helicopters??

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