Monthly Archives: February 2020

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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 5 – Sisimiut – Ilulissat

On the final day on board Sarfaq Ittuk, I awoke to the ship pulling into Aasiaat (population = 3164). Greenland’s 5th largest town is located on an archipelago of low islands and is the only place I’ve been in Greenland that doesn’t have a mountain standing over it!

Approaching Aasiaat - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Colourful houses but no mountain near Aasiaat

Given I would be returning to Aasiaat later in my trip, I decided to stay on board and take photos of the very photogenic abandoned fish factory in the harbour during our 30 minute stopover.

Abandoned fish factory in Aasiaat harbour  - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
An abandoned fish factory in Aasiaat harbour

We departed Aasiaat under gorgeous blue skies for our crossing of Disko Bay to Ilulissat. Everybody was out on deck soaking in the Sun – though it was still a bit chilly so we were all rugged up. Some even wrapped themselves in sleeping bags 😀

Everybody out on deck for Disko Bay crossing  - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Everybody was out on deck for our crossing of Disko Bay. Gorgeous weather!

We sailed past many giant icebergs that would have originated quite close to our destination – in the Ilulissat Icefjord

Huge icebergs in Disko Bay - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Disko Bay is home to huge icebergs

and were eventually rewarded in our lookout for whales.

Disko Bay home to whales in the summer  - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Disko Bay is also home to many many whales during Summer. Especially Humpbacks

Final destination of Sarfaq Ittuk – Ilulissat

The approach to Ilulissat (population = 4632) was spectacular as we sailed across the mouth of the Icefjord.

Unfortunately there was not a huge amount of ice outside of the Icefjord itself on this trip. Clearly the large icebergs were keeping all the smaller ice trapped behind them.

Enormous icebergs block the mount of the Ilulissat Icefjord  - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Enormous icebergs block the mouth of the Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat is the northernmost town on the epic journey of the Sarfaq Ittuk along the West coast of Greenland. Here I had to bid adieu to my home for the past several days and all the wonderful people I met aboard her, but I very much look forward to my next voyage with Arctic Umiaq Line.

Summary

The Sarfaq Ittuk passenger ferry from Qaqortoq (South Greenland) to Ilulissat (North Greenland) is one of the best ways to experience the world’s largest island. Travelling by sea (as the Inuit did) offers a true perspective of the enormous size of Greenland, and encourages you to slow down, relax, enjoy nature, and really appreciate where you are.

For a more practical look at the journey, I encourage you to read the Go-to Guide to the Sarfaq Ittuk journey that I wrote for Visit Greenland (soon to be published).

And if you have the time – I highly recommend that you include at least a part of this journey in your itinerary for Greenland.

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog or on my Greenland-specific blog at Guide to Greenland.

For more information about Greenland, the best websites are Guide to Greenland (which is also a one-stop-shop for many of the tours available), and Visit Greenland, the Government tourism site.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 4 – Maniitsoq to Sisimiut

On the day I desperately hoped would be clear, I was greeted once more with grey skies, low clouds and drizzle. This was definitely not what I wanted as we approached Maniitsoq and what is supposed to be an incredible hiking area just beyond it.

Low cloud over Maniitsoq - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Noooooooo! Low fog obscuring the mountains around Maniitsoq

Even our welcoming committee was not quite enough to lift the disappointment I felt, as I had been hoping to get a good look at the terrain.

Welcoming party at Maniitsoq - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
So cute!

The access from the port to the town of Maniitsoq is quite long, but an estimate by Maps.Me indicated that an hour should be enough to do a quick loop through downtown and past the church, and still make it back to the ship before it set sail. So off I set with Eric – a young Kiwi I had been talking to quite a bit.

Eric descending to Maniitsoq - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Eric leading the way

It is VERY quiet at 7am on a Saturday morning in Maniitsoq!

Various views of Maniitsoq - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Views of Maniitsoq

Around Hamborgerland on Sarfaq Ittuk

The next couple of hours were spent sailing through the inner fjord North of Maniitsoq and around Hamborgerland (no, it doesn’t mean what you think). There were glaciers everywhere and impressive-looking, half-hidden mountains. Oh, what I would have given to see this in amazing light!

Hamborgerland near Maniitsoq - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
I sooooooo want to come back here and hike!

Actually – I did end up “seeing” it in amazing light when my good friend and fellow photographer Miki did the trip about 6 weeks later. OMG!

Hamborgerland panorama taken by Miklos Varga from Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland

Photo: Miklós Varga (@0miklos_varga0). Move cursor over image to see full panorama

2020 hiking/kayaking expedition anyone?

Kangaamiut via Sarfaq Ittuk

Our next port was Kangaamiut – population 287. This small settlement is the gateway to the Eternity Fjord – apparently one of the most picturesque fjords in Greenland (that’s really saying something!) and part of my plan for my hiking/kayaking expedition sometime soon.

Approaching Kangaamiut - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Approaching Kangaamiut

Kangaamiut itself was actually a really picturesque place – with its brightly coloured houses and racks for drying fish greeting us as we approached.

Kangaamiut - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland

As with Arsuk, the harbour in Kangaamiut is too small for Sarfaq Ittuk to dock – so the whole procedure with offloading the zodiac etc was repeated.

Transfer at Kangaamiut - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Transfer at Kangaamiut

After lunch I went to see if I could have a peek in the bridge. 2nd officer Tuperna was on duty and did a wonderful job of explaining how the radar and all the other instrumentation worked.

Tuperna on the bridge of Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Tuperna on the bridge of Sarfaq Ittuk with plenty of screens and maps, and the best view on the ship

When I asked her what were the spots of colour I could see on the radar – she explained they were waves. And here I was worried if they would be able to see the icebergs on my first night on board!

We spent about 2 hours chatting about sailing, navigation, working on ships, travel, music and life in general.   At one point, I tried to guess how long it would take for an approaching ship to reach us (failing dismally), and asked her what was the most amazing thing she’d ever seen from the bridge. Her answer: rainbows and whales playing. And the most boring? Fog. If it is foggy you can’t see anything and you have to watch the radar very closely.

view from the bridge - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
View from the bridge of Sarfaq Ittuk. Not much out there at the minute…

Community atmosphere on board Sarfaq Ittuk

When Tuperna went off on her break, I wandered back down to the Café Sarfaq to discover that a local musician from Paamiut – Pevia Geisler – had set up a keyboard and was cranking out tunes.

musician playing an impromptu concert in Cafe Sarfaq - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Pevia entertaining the passengers

He sang a mix of popular Greenlandic and international (have you ever heard “Julie, if you love me truly” sung in Greenlandic?) classics, and the Café was full of local Greenlanders knitting, chatting and encouraging him with every song to keep going.

This wasn’t scheduled as part of the trip. It was just an impromptu performance. But it is these random experiences and the community feeling on board that make the trip so special.

Sisimiut in 2 hours – Sarfaq Ittuk

The skies were almost clear when we arrived in the second-largest town in Greenland (and one of my favourites) – Sisimiut.

approaching Sisimiut harbour - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Sisimiut, with Nasaasaaq mountain in the background

5477 people call this home, and a good crowd turned out to greet us when we docked at the harbour.

Welcome at Sisimiut harbour - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Sisimiut welcome

We had 2 hours in Sisimiut so I went to take a photograph I had forgotten last year when I was here

Fisherman sculpture in Sisimiut
Fisherman sculpture in Sisimiut

and then wandered over to the large church, which was actually open! I had not seen it open in the 9 days I spent here last year after hiking the Arctic Circle Trail.

Sisimiut church
Zion Church – Sisimiut

OMG! This is the most beautiful interior of a church I have ever seen! The wooden panelling. The chandeliers. The artwork made of sealskin. I stayed there for about 20 minutes just marvelling at its beauty.

Inside Zion Church - Sisimiut
Inside Zion Church. The image in bottom right is made out of coloured bits of sealskin

Two hours later, everyone was out on deck in the beautiful light to farewell Sisimiut and the impressive Nasaasaaq Mountain that dominates over it,

leaving Sisimiut - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Farewell Sisimiut – until next time

and to watch yet another impressive Greenlandic sunset.

Sunset from Sarfaq Ittuk near Sisimiut - West Greenland

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog or on my Greenland-specific blog at Guide to Greenland.

For more information about Greenland, the best websites are Guide to Greenland (which is also a one-stop-shop for many of the tours available), and Visit Greenland, the Government tourism site.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 3 – Nuuk

When I went to bed, we were sailing just north of Qeqertarsuatsiaat. When I woke up – We were arriving in Nuuk.

Sailing into Nuuk on Sarfaq Ittuk
Sailing into Nuuk

On the northbound journey, the Sarfaq Ittuk spends 14 hours in the capital city of Greenland. This is the longest stop it has anywhere during its week-long circuit – I imagine so that it can be cleaned thoroughly and any repairs can be made.

There is a large turnover of passengers here, but for those of us staying on board – there was plenty of time for one of the many day-trips available from Nuuk – either sailing up the incredible Nuuk Fjord, hiking Lille or Store Malene or simply exploring the city and its many attractions.

As for me – well I just hung out with friends the whole day, eating far too much food and catching up on all that had happened since I left at the end of April 🙂

At 21:00, once the ticketing booth had been reloaded, we continued on our journey north, heading towards Maniitsoq.

Departing Nuuk on board Sarfaq Ittuk
Until next time Nuuk!

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog or on my Greenland-specific blog at Guide to Greenland.

For more information about Greenland, the best websites are Guide to Greenland (which is also a one-stop-shop for many of the tours available), and Visit Greenland, the Government tourism site.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 2 – Sailing along the south-west coast

I woke up to grey skies, low clouds, and a not insignificant ocean swell. Fortunately, it takes quite a lot to make me seasick!

Arsuk with Sarfaq Ittuk

Our first port for the day was the small settlement of Arsuk – population 77 (1 Jul 2019).

Approaching Arsuk settlement in South Greenland
Approaching Arsuk settlement in South Greenland

Our scheduled docking time here was 15 minutes, and it says a lot about the efficiency of the staff on Sarfaq Ittuk that they can normally complete the transfer of passengers in this amount of time. The harbour is too small for the ferry to enter so they must:

  1. Crane a zodiac off the top of the ship
  2. Load the passengers and gear that needs to be transported to the settlement
  3. Run the transfer to the harbour
  4. Offload the departing passengers etc and collect those who will join the ferry
  5. Run the return transfer
  6. Offload the passengers and gear to Sarfaq Ittuk
  7. Crane the zodiac back to the top of the ship and secure it

All in 15 minutes!

The passenger transfer at Arsuk requires the use of zodiacs
The passenger transfer at Arsuk requires the use of zodiacs

Ours was a very special port call as we had a large group of Danish ex-Navy on board who were in Greenland to visit the old bases they used to work at after more than 30 years.

It took 3 full shuttles and 45 minutes to complete the transfer, during which time I had plenty of opportunity to take in the surroundings.

Landscapes around Arsuk
Landscapes around Arsuk

Once we hoisted anchor again – my daily routine of rotating between my cabin, Café Sarfaq, the aft lounge, and hanging out on one of the outside decks to enjoy the scenery began.

Interior public spaces of Sarfaq Ittuk passenger Ferry
Interior public spaces of Sarfaq Ittuk: Cafe Sarfaq (top), aft lounge (bottom left), cinema (bottom right). Lars (bottom middle) was the Chief Purser for our voyage – a wonderful and helpful guy

Others chose to take a book up on deck to help pass the time – returning to the warm comfort of the ship when the cold became too much.

Person reading a book on the top deck of Sarfaq Ittuk, rugged up against the cold
A great spot for reading if you have enough clothes on!

Stopping in Paamiut on Sarfaq Ittuk

Despite leaving Arsuk 30 minutes late, we reached the next port of Paamiut right on time at 14:00. There is a significant amount of slack built into the schedule for the Sarfaq Ittuk ferry to accommodate the possibility of bad weather and other unexpected events.

The weather had cleared up significantly by the time we arrived, sailing into the harbour past the wreck of an old fishing trawler.

Wreck of fishing trawler on the way into Paamiut harbour
Wreck of fishing trawler on the way into Paamiut harbour

We had a 30 minute stop in Paamiut – population 1326. A small crowd was there to greet the ferry

Welcome crowd at Paamiut dock - South Greenland
Our welcome at Paamiut

and I calculated that I had just enough time for a quick sprint to see its ornate church and duck into the supermarket for a packet of chips, before I had to be back on board or be left behind.

The church at Paamiut is very ornate
The wonderfully ornate church in Paamiut

Fortunately, my calculation proved correct 😀

North to Qeqertarsuatsiaat on Sarfaq Ittuk

It was a long stretch between Paamiut and our next settlement: Qeqertarsuatsiaat, which we would reach at 22:15pm. I had studied the maps in the corridors of the ship (and on Maps.Me) and discovered that we would pass an area where the great Greenland Ice Sheet reached almost to the ocean.

I was super-keen to see that, so I hung out up on deck chatting with whoever I could find. Most of the passengers on this part of the Sarfaq Ittuk journey (South of Sisimiut) were local Greenlanders. I tried out my conversation skills in Greenlandic (yes, I can say a few things – much to their surprise) before switching to English for the rest of the conversation. It never ceases to amaze me how many Greenlanders (particularly on the West coast) speak excellent English. For many of them, it is their third language behind Greenlandic and Danish.

Unfortunately, we were quite a long way out from shore and the light was not great when we finally sailed past the Ice Sheet (Frederikshabs Glacier). Indeed, it did almost reach the ocean and I would have *loved* to have been closer in to see it more clearly.

Distant view of the Greenland Icesheet stretching down to the water
Distant view of the great Greenland Ice Sheet (Frederikshabs Glacier) stretching down to the ocean

Determined not to miss a single call at port, I was out on the upper deck at 22:15pm for our arrival into Qeqertarsuatsiaat – another 15-minute stop. It was surprising to see the number of people who turned out to greet the ferry in the dark and the cold from this settlement of only 185 people!

Welcome at Qeqertarsuatsiaat
Welcome at Qeqertarsuatsiaat late at night

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog or on my Greenland-specific blog at Guide to Greenland.

For more information about Greenland, the best websites are Guide to Greenland (which is also a one-stop-shop for many of the tours available), and Visit Greenland, the Government tourism site.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 1 – Welcome Aboard in Qaqortoq!

The Sarfaq Ittuk passenger ferry operates between April and January each year on a weekly schedule that takes it along the west coast of Greenland. I love ferry journeys. And I’d been looking forward to making my way from Qaqortoq in the South to Ilulissat in the North by sea ever since I found out it was an option. Read on to discover more about this alternate and relaxing way to travel in Greenland that allows you to interact with local people and the time to truly appreciate where you are.

I had already spent a week in Qaqortoq, South Greenland, before sighting the Sarfaq Ittuk passenger ferry for the first time. I managed to spy it just as it was coming into dock, where it would spend 3 hours being cleaned and turned over before heading back the way it came on its north-bound journey to Ilulissat.

Sarfaq Ittuk docking at Qaqortoq harbour. The cruise ship in the background is much, much larger!

I had a ticket for the entire length of its voyage – a journey of ~4 days.

Although my ticket said that check-in was 30 minutes prior to departure, ever the early bird, I was down at the harbour with all my luggage an hour ahead of time. A portable cabin had been lowered from the top deck of the ferry and placed on the dock as a check-in booth, and with minimal fuss, boarding passes were handed out to the small queue of people as we boarded our home for the next few days.

The crane from onboard the Sarfaq Ittuk reloading the check-in booth after all passengers aboard  - Nuuk - West Greenland
OK – I cheat. This is actually in Nuuk – but you get the idea

Although I usually stay in dormitory accommodation and the ferry has plenty of that available (Sarfaq Ittuk calls them “Couchettes”), I was going up-market on this trip with a private cabin. On top of having my own space, this meant I had my own private bathroom, and tea and coffee making facilities available to me. Luxury when you enjoy several cups of tea every day.

My cabin on board the Sarfaq Ittuk Passenger Ferry - West Greenland
My cabin on board Sarfaq Ittuk. I had the whole thing to myself, even though it can sleep up to 4 people!

Heading North from Qaqortoq on Sarfaq Ittuk

It was a gloriously sunny evening as as we pulled away from the dock in Qaqortoq, locals waving to their loved ones until we were well beyond their ability to see.

Locals waving goodbye to loved ones from the top deck of Sarfaq Ittuk as we leave Qaqortoq
Locals waving goodbye to loved ones from the top deck of Sarfaq Ittuk as we leave Qaqortoq

Once we were well underway, I set about exploring the ship. It is not a large ferry (especially in comparison to some of the cruise ships we saw), so this didn’t take all that long. I then headed up on deck to enjoy the setting sun as we made our way towards the first port call on the northbound journey – Narsaq.

Sunset from the top deck of Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry - West Greenland
A beautiful sunset

Narsaq from Sarfaq Ittuk

I had visited Narsaq on my first trip to Greenland in 2017. In fact, it was the very first place I spent time on my exploration of this remarkable island. This time around – it was quite dark by the time we arrived at 9pm. In addition, our stop there was only 30 minutes, so I contented myself with simply watching from the decks as we docked and transferred passengers.

Approaching Narsaq on board the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry
Approaching Narsaq. I love the mountains that stand behind the town

The thing about Sarfaq Ittuk is that it is a passenger ferry, not a cruise. Time spent in most ports is usually between 15 and 30 minutes – just enough time to offload/onload passengers and mail. That’s it. It is not about giving passengers the chance to explore each port. It is about transporting them from one place to another as an alternative to flying. Therefore I often found myself up on deck simply watching the greetings take place as families welcomed their loved ones off the ship.

Unloading passengers at the dock in Narsaq - Sarfaq Ittuk ferry - West Greenland
Welcoming people off the Sarfaq Ittuk ferry in Narsaq

I was really hoping to have the opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) from the ship. I figured it would be wonderful to experience this magical spectacle far from all sources of light pollution. But unfortunately I’d timed my journey to coincide with the full moon – one of the biggest sources of light “pollution” there is! No matter. Moon-rise was absolutely spectacular on our first night as we made our way north.

Moonrise surrounded by clouds
Dramatic moonrise from Sarfaq Ittuk

The (albeit small) icebergs that were barely visible in the water gave me a moment of pause

Passing small icebergs on the Sarfaq Ittuk ferry as the moon rises
We sailed past a lot of these small icebergs in the moonlight

but I decided to just enjoy and hope that they had good radar and other instrumentation up on the bridge to keep us safe!

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog or on my Greenland-specific blog at Guide to Greenland.

For more information about Greenland, the best websites are Guide to Greenland (which is also a one-stop-shop for many of the tours available), and Visit Greenland, the Government tourism site.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me: