All roads lead to Iceland, from where it is just a short flight with Air Iceland to Greenland’s east coast. A Bell212 from Air Greenland flies the last ten minute-trip between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq, but this is where every normal description falls short, because you are enthralled even before you disembark from the helicopter and its rotors stand still. It is unbelievably beautiful and you are in no hurry to get onto the hotel bus because it takes time to absorb all the impressions.
Everyone greets everyone and you are met with big smiles by the staff at Hotel Angmassalik, which is located high above Tasiilaq town. At check-in, the view from the reception area shows many houses in bright colours and snow-topped mountains on the other side of the blue fjord. Enthralling.
The hotel is one of Greenland’s most well-established tourist hotels. It is hard to believe that they have celebrated their 40th anniversary, but the hotel has undergone renovation, so everything is new and modern.
The reception melts together with the bar and café and from here, the staff can service the reception, lounge area, bar, café and restaurant. It is a brilliant concept when you are running a business in a place where resources must be exploited to the full. Here, everyone has several functions. Even the cook comes to the reception to take the telephone if everyone else is out with the tourists.
From the café area, there is access to the conference room and a big, new terrace with a fantastic view. There are also several other, smaller terraces, so it is easy for the guests to sit out and enjoy the sun or the view, perhaps with a cappuccino or a drink from the bar.
There are rooms to suit all tastes and budgets. The hotel has cheap, hostel-type rooms with shared bathrooms and toilets as well as ordinary, comfortable rooms with a small desk, satellite TV and private bathroom with shower. In the top wing, there are luxury rooms with more space and fine furnishings, all with the best view.
Mike Nicolaisen, who is the manager, is the second generation at Hotel Angmagssalik, which was started by his parents.
- We are part of Arctic Wonderland Tours, which also has Hotel Kulusuk, a tour operator and the newest addition, the Greenland Copter helicopter company, he says.
- My daughter also works here and we have about 30 employees, slightly fewer in the winter. Mike Nicolaisen’s parents built the hotel in 1973 and they still come every summer, when his father sails with tourists in a boat specially built for tourist trips, with comfortable seats and big windows. The mother has also left her mark on the hotel with colourful paintings and purchases of all kinds of Greenlandic art that can be seen all over the hotel.
Although Mike Nicolaisen is the manager, he also helps out when it is busy and gives a hand where he is needed, whether it is with clearing tables or something else.
- Most of the employees are multi-functional. They work in the bar and reception or as guides and they wait on a table. So I have to be versatile too, he smiles.
- The hotel was totally renovated in 2013 with the help of an Icelandic architect, says Mike Nicolaisen.
In addition to the functionality, part of the outcome is a modern lounge area with fireplace and sofas where it is natural for guests to sit after a good meal. All the ordinary rooms, as well as those that are a little larger, are of a higher standard that you would normally expect in a hotel.
In several places, the halls are interrupted by small, cosy alcoves with sofa groups and tables, where guests can sit together after the day’s excursions or work.
- We always try to ensure that the guests are happy. We offer excursions and activities every day so our guests have something to choose between for entertainment. In the peak season, from June to September, up to 90% of our guests are tourists.
- In the winter, they are mostly business travellers but we have so many guest that the only time we close is between Christmas and New Year, he says.
Kulusuk Airport in East Greenland has a lot of visitors. From here there are connections to West Greenland and Iceland. In the summer, in particular, there are many tourists from Iceland and there are often 2-3 Air Iceland aircraft at the same time. Many of these tourists choose to stay at Hotel Kulusuk or at its sister hotel Hotel Angmagssalik in Tasiilaq just a ten-minute helicopter flight away.
There is a road that runs between the airport and the village of Kulusuk. In the summer, you can either walk or get a ride. In the winter it is more of a challenge. There is usually a lot of snow and the banks of cleared snow that line the road can be several metres high. The length of the winters here varies, but in recent years there has still been snow on June 1st.
Between the airport and the village lies Hotel Kulusuk and the road from the hotel to the village cannot always be kept open all winter. This is why the road from the airport ends in a huge pile of snow, when greenland today visited the hotel in March 2014. Further on, where the road goes into a ravine the snow lies 8-10 meters deep.
If you want to go to the village, you must order a snowmobile or take one of the »dog sled taxies« that wait at the airport. Kulusuk may be the only place in the world, where you can do this at an international airport.
The only time the hotel is closed is from December 20th to January 2nd every year. In the winter, there are always many visitors. These include technicians and others who visit Kulusuk for work. There are also a number of airline passengers who get stranded when the weather is bad.
Throughout the summer season, Hotel Kulusuk is fully booked from about June 1st until October 1st. Guests typically only have one overnight stay here, in combination with a trip to Island.
Most of them are from the Far East and many of them are pensioners, typically from Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China. Some of the guests are American or German, but only a few are from Denmark.
Hotel manager Jesper Krogh has the day-to-day responsibility for the hotel. There are four full-time staff members and two extra employees in the summer. Jesper was really only supposed to stay here for one month as a guide, but he has now been here for more than six years. His girlfriend from the village of Kuummiut also works at the hotel.
- I was taking a study break in Copenhagen and I had a friend from Greenland. We were both a little tired of Denmark, so we came up here, says Jesper.
- After a month, I felt that I had not seen very much, so I started to work. The years have just gone by since then and I moved the date for starting my studies in Denmark twice, until I dropped out completely.
- It is a good workplace and I am really happy to be here, he says.
- There are not many places where you can experience what you can here. Nature and the weather are unique, changing from season to season. Of course, it helps that I have a girlfriend here too, he grins.
- In 2009 there was a big polar bear on the runway at the airport and in 2013 a polar bear with two cubs walked past out on the fjord ice. Where else could you see something like that? asks Jesper Krogh.
Winter, with its huge amounts of snow and weather conditions with extremes of temperature and wind, is a great experience for many people. Furthermore, the Northern Lights are abundant, both spring and autumn. Snowmobile tours and dog-sledding trips are also very popular with tourists.
The chance of spotting a Polar Bear is not very great and it is not something the hotel advertises. But it is hard not to think that you are in Polar Bear country when you walk alone on the road from the airport to the hotel, between the high mounds of snow. All year round, you can visit the village of Kulusuk and the small but interesting museum.
The village store is also worth a visit to see the selection and the prices and especially to meet the friendly villagers. In the centre of town, there is a lot of shouting and laughter during school recess. A couple of dogs also take turns to yip a little, but otherwise, there is no noise in Kulusuk. You are followed closely by the smiling eyes of the older citizens when you walk around as a tourist in the village and here people still say hello – even to strangers.
Hotel Kulusuk is a part of the Arctic Wonder Group so it offers a wide range of tours and excursions. In the winter there are dogsledding tours or snowmobile trips, in the summer boat trips on the fjord, sailing among the icebergs, drives out to the former American DYE 4 station, hiking trips to the nearby glacier, tours of the village and many other excursions, with or without a guide.
Regardless of where you are in the Kulusuk region, the views of the surrounding mountains are fantastic. Here, the Ice Age ice sheet has not cut off the tops of the mountains, so the pointed peaks stretch to the sky as far as the eye can see.