The Arctic Circle Trail is a 160km/100 miles trail discovering the mesmerizing backcountry of Greenland. The trail runs between the towns of Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut or better known as running from the ice cap to the sea. During the hike, you will come across a lot of untouched wildernesses. The best time to hike the Arctic Circle Trail is between June and September, and while it has gained in popularity, the chances of seeing other hikers are still very slim. It is an authentic wildness and remote trail, which you will have some wildlife though - ox, arctic hare, arctic fox, reindeer, and caribou. Due to the remoteness, there is no cell phone reception, so when hiking the Arctic Circle Trail, make sure to be properly prepared. And only having a small town at the beginning of the trail, it is highly recommended that you have your food and gear all prepped and with you before setting sail to Greenland. Having said that due to its beauty the ACT is often listed as one of the best long hiking trails in the world!
And someone who agrees with this is Giudi! She hiked the ACT and was willing to share her amazing experience with us, for which we are extremely grateful. So, let’s not postpone any longer and dive into the interview.
*All pictures in this post are from Giudi’s hike, thank you for sharing these with us to make the interview more alive and personal!
To start, would you be able to tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I am also beyond excited, as this is my very first interview for a blog! I am Giudi, a Swiss girl with a huge passion for long-distance hiking. I am soon turning 27 and I work in the field of Biotechnologies. Once or twice a year, I take off and attempt a thru hike, trying to slow down, to spend time in nature and to forget about the hectic rhythms of everyday life.
How did your passion for hiking and the outdoors start?
My story began in 2017, when I decided to take the leap and head out for my first adventure, a solo hike on the Camino de Santiago. One step after the other, I was captured by this special feeling of freedom, a feeling which is difficult to describe unless you experience it. Hiking brought me happiness. I really enjoy exploring new places by foot, carrying all I need in my backpack, feeling the strength of my body, and loving my simple self. Well, this is when it started, my endless chase for this feeling… I simply can’t get enough of it.
You hiked the Arctic Circle Trail; what a fantastic achievement! It is a unique trail in which you explore the backcountry of Greenland and it is often listed as one of the best long-distance hikes in the world. And we would love to hear how your experience was on the trail?
The Arctic Circle Trail allowed me to explore Greenland in a unique way, while experiencing a very deep contact to nature. I completely disconnected from the real world and forgot about annoying alarms, social media and email notifications, as there was zero phone signal. I will never forget the emotions I felt while admiring the vastness of the landscapes. The peaceful stillness of Greenland made me slow down, taught me how to appreciate the sound of my breath and of my thoughts, and more importantly made me feel alive.
Although the ACT is becoming more popular over the years, it is not a highly frequented trekking. I hiked this remote trail together with my boyfriend, and for the very first time we found ourselves in complete solitude. In the beginning, we struggled to cope with the silence surrounding us, but we quickly got used to it and we really enjoyed this kind of isolation, which gave us a chance to better get to know ourselves.
How did you discover the Arctic Circle Trail - what was the reason to hike this specific trail and in which season did you hike the trail?
While on trail, I always create special friendships and try to take inspiration for my next adventure from the hiking community surrounding me. The idea of hiking the Arctic Circle Trail actually came to my mind as I was on the Tour du Mont Blanc the previous year. I was sitting at a campfire and a guy from the Netherlands couldn’t stop talking about his dream of hiking the ACT. I interpreted it as a sign of destiny, and this idea slowly carved his place into my heart, so I had to!
The Arctic Circle Trail is typically considered a summer trail and can be mostly hiked from mid-June until mid-September to avoid snow, cold weather and dangerous river crossings. We decided to thru hike it beginning of September, because we heard that mosquitoes could become very annoying during the warmest months. Moreover, we wanted to have a higher chance to spot the northern lights.
In Greenland it seems that you are allowed to wild camp, while they also offer some sleeping huts along the trail. What had your preference?
Yes, wild camping is allowed anywhere and there are also very basic huts along the trail, which are only intended to provide shelter for hikers and are minimally equipped with some sleeping platforms or bunk beds. We decided to bring our tent with us, to alternate wild camping and huts. In the end, we preferred sleeping inside the huts, because the nights were getting quite cold in September and we wanted shelter in case of bad weather.
With a trail so far up north, the weather is very unpredictable and can change quite quickly with significant temperature drops. How did you pack for this to ensure to stay warm and dry?
Unpredictable weather is always a struggle, especially on a remote trail like the ACT. In order to stay warm, I followed the “onion principle” while hiking. I therefore packed long hiking pants, thermal shirts, fleece, puffy jacket and rain jacket. My winter beanie and gloves also proved to be very useful on the trail. Moreover, I made sure to keep my sleeping clothes always dry in my backpack. Warm socks and my fluffy and warm sleeping bag were of course also included in my equipment list!
Even in case of good weather, the trail often goes through very buggy and muddy terrain. It is therefore not easy to keep dry feet. We therefore decided to wear our mountain boots and to pack additional socks. Moreover, there are some river crossings along the trail, and we advise to wear sandals for crossing them, to keep the hiking shoes dry.
Unpredictable weather could however create other types of struggles, including navigation on trail. The cairns present on the ACT could indeed become very difficult to spot in case of bad weather. We therefore made sure to pack our GPS devices and even brought paper maps with us.
The trail looks amazing and leads you from the ice cap to the sea at the West Coast. With it being very remote and challenging, how did you prepare for the hike?
My advice is to always test your backpack and equipment at home before heading into the unknown, to get used to walking with a heavy pack and to adjust your equipment list accordingly. Since we live in Switzerland, we are never short of nice hikes, so we made sure to go for multiple overnight weekend adventures in the wild and tested all our equipment.
In general, I would not recommend the Arctic Circle Trail as a first-time thru hike, but I think that anyone with experience of being self-sufficient for several days while hiking, with the right equipment, enough planning and a moderate fitness level, will be able to hike this trail.
Even though you prepared well for the trail, did you come across any (major) challenges that you would never have thought of beforehand?
As I already mentioned, the solitude on trail hit us hard in the beginning of our adventure. The complete silence surrounding us was at times too much to take in, because we were not used to trails which are so remote. However, one step after the other, we quickly got used to it and we started to really enjoy it. As a consequence, another major challenge we faced included the re-adaptation to the busy normal life at the end of our adventure. As we arrived in Sisimiut, the noise of the roads, the cars, the people, the covid masks and SMS notifications were at first a bit too much to take in, after spending a week surrounded by nature, out of civilization. A new adventure began right away, as we struggled to come back to reality.
What is your best memory of the trail?
The first night on trail is definitely my best memory of the ACT. We followed the advice of some people we met the day before and set an alarm at 23:00 for trying to spot the northern lights… waves of blue, green, and pink colours were dancing in the sky above us, a magic moment that will stay with us forever.
Before starting on the hike, you must have probably gone through your gear checklist a dozen times. In the end, did you take any gear with you that you eventually felt you could have done without? Or was there any specific gear that you wished you had with you on the trail?
I couldn’t have enjoyed the trail without a warm pair of gloves. The mornings and evenings along the Arctic Circle Trail were getting very chilly, and I was glad I had gloves with me. I was also happy about my decision to switch off the phone and to use a camera for capturing pictures and collecting memories. Aside from pictures of great quality, the battery of the camera did not consume my power bank. My GPS device also proved to be very important on the ACT, as it allowed me to feel safer, to communicate and to share my location with friends and family, so that they didn’t have to worry all the time.
What I wished I had on trail was a pair of sandals for crossing rivers. As we didn’t want to cross rivers barefoot, to avoid injuries, we decided to keep our hiking boots on and we never managed to fully dry them until the end of the trail. Moreover, I also wished I had packed an additional e-book reader, all for myself. We indeed had plenty of time to relax in the evening and our favourite activity was reading!
After this amazing achievement and crossing the Arctic Circle Trail off your bucket list, do you have any other trails on your bucket list which you plan to hike in the (near) future?
There are so many long-distance hikes that inspire me… I don’t even know where to begin! In the near future I definitely want to enjoy more time in the mountains, and the Alta Via n.1 in the Dolomites is definitely a very good candidate. However, my biggest dream is to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mexican border up to Canada! I still don’t know when, but one day you’ll find me there for sure 😊.
For all those inspired by your story and experience on the trail, what is the one tip you would like to give them?
This will sound very cliché, but “Hike Your Own Hike”! A thru hike will always provide a different and unique experience to every hiker. It is important to listen to your body, and most importantly to have fun and enjoy that trail.
Lastly, when our hiking-lovers want to know more and follow your adventures, where can they find you on social media (if you are, of course, happy to share this info 😊)?
A few months ago, I started developing a website about hiking, in the format of a blog. My very first post is about our adventure on the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland: https://www.talesofatrail.com/act
With this blog, I hope to inspire trail friends and help overcoming the many doubts arising in the planning phase of a long-distance hike. The website includes different sections about trekking, day hikes, trail food and equipment. It is still work in progress, but I am working hard so that people can soon find many great information.
Otherwise, I can be found on Instagram as well, where I regularly post updates about my hikes, life and blog: https://www.instagram.com/giuditss/
Giudi, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us, it was an absolute pleasure!
Do you have an amazing story about one of your trail adventures which you would like to share with the community? Please reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org as we would love to hear from you.
Jay & Maud