Search Results for: "south greenland"

Qooroq Ice Fjord – South Greenland

My final excursion in South Greenland was a boat trip out to the Qooroq Ice Fjord to see the calving glacier.  Unfortunately, I was the only one going on this particular day, so it was a small, fast boat out, and a rather solitary experience 🙁

Qooroq Ice Fjord boat tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Just me and the captain!

On the way across to the glacier, however, we did swing by some of the larger icebergs in the Tunulliarfik Fjord for a closer look.   Although I’ve see a lot of icebergs in the past couple of years both in Patagonia and Antarctica, I never get tired of them.

Large icebergs - Qooroq Ice Fjord Boat Tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Then it was on to the glacier itself.  Apparently, we got a lot closer than what most trips get (having a smaller boat and all), but we were still 6km away! 

Qooroq Glacier - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

As close as you go. And we got closer than most!

I had expected to get right up to it like you do with the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, so I have to admit I was a little disappointed.  Thank goodness for zoom lenses!

Qooroq Glacier - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

But, just because I was the only passenger didn’t mean that I missed out on my cocktail with a chunk of million-year-old ice in it.   I initially opted for water, but then thought “stuff it” and had a very small sip of the proffered pre-mixed martini.   Hmmm… I don’t think I’ll be ordering one of those anytime soon … I admit, most of it got tipped overboard!

Million-year-old ice in a drink - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

After enjoying the peace and quiet for a little while, it was back to Narsarsuaq to get ready for my flight to Nuuk.

Qooroq Ice Fjord Boat Tour - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Goodbye South Greenland.  It has been a lot of fun!

Time: ~1.5 hours (though if you have other people, you get a bigger boat and it can take up to 3.5hrs)

Notes:  You don’t really get that close to the glacier.  If you have the chance – I’d suggest doing the boat trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentinian Patagonia.  It is infinitely more spectacular.

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

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!
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Sillisit – South Greenland

Leaving Igaliku turned out to be quite difficult, thanks to the bad weather that had kicked up the day before on my return from the Waterfall hike.    There were 6 of us scheduled to leave, and although we hiked over the King’s Road to be at the dock at Itilleq at the appointed time, they ended up taking us back to the Igaliku Country Hotel, as the boat had been delayed due to the wind and they weren’t sure how long it would be.

We eventually left 3 hours later, but the wind was too strong to drop me at Sillisit – the sheep farm I was meant to be staying at for 2 nights, which is located just across the Tunulliarfik Fjord

Rough seas - South Greenland

Rough seas!

So I ended up back in Narsarsuaq, where I was greeted very enthusiastically by David and the 2 German couples who happened to be having beers in the Blue Ice Café.

It was determined that I would stay the night in the Narsarsuaq Hostel (another awesome, awesome hostel and another dorm room to myself) and, hopefully, the wind would die down overnight so I could be dropped at Sillisit the next morning.    In the end, I had a great night with the gang having dinner at the Hotel Narsarsuaq, so I wasn’t too bummed about missing a night across the fjord 😊

Reunion of friends - Hotel Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Next day dawned clear-ish and not too windy, so was dropped at Sillisit at 10am and shown to the Sillisit Hostel.  Yet another room to myself – I’m scoring well with these rooms!   Sat out on the front deck – which has the most amazing view over the fjord across to Itilleq – and just couldn’t bring myself to move from that spot.  

View from Silisit Hostel - South Greenland

Grabbed a chick-lit book I’d just started reading, and stayed put for the whole day.  Heaven!

Also talked for ages with a girl from Spain who was working at the farm.  We switched to Spanish pretty quickly and it was awesome to be able to have a long conversation and realize that I haven’t lost too much of my ability to speak that language, even though it’s been 5 months!

We both also had dinner with the owner of the sheep farm, Elna, and her family – amaaaaazing roast lamb with couscous salad and pasta, finished off by banana cake!   I think I ate more in that one meal than I’ve eaten in the past 3 days!  It was absolutely delicious though.

And sunset (at around 11pm) wasn’t too bad either!

Sunset views from Silisit Hostel - South Greenland

Sometimes you need a rest day 🙂

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

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!
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Igaliku – South Greenland

“Don’t walk on the grass!”

This is the first thing you are told when you arrive in Igaliku, and it is an anathema to an Australian who loves walking on grass.  Of course, there is a valid reason for this directive – Igaliku is a sheep farming town and the grass is fodder for the sheep.  But they could have at least made a narrow path between the Igaliku Country Hotel (the local hang-out joint and where I had to check-in) and the Gardar Hostel (where I am staying), rather than having to always walk the long way around a very big paddock that sits right in the middle of town.

Igaliku - South Greenland

View of Igaliku and fjord. You can see the circular area in the middle of town with no buildings? That’s for sheep!

I’d arrived in Igaliku having caught my boat transfer up the fjord from Narsaq

Blue Ice boat transfers - South Greenland

This is how you get from place to place in South Greenland – boat transfers. The boats are very nice actually!

and after having walked the 4kms along the very pebbly “Kings Road” that links the dock at Itilleq (located in the same fjord as other key centres in the area) to Igaliku (which lies in a different fjord). 

The dock at Itilleq which provides access to Igaliku. Two of the red and white Blue Ice transfer boats are visible as is a private yacht

The red and white boats are those owned by Blue Ice, and were how I got around in South Greenland when not hiking.

Fortunately, luggage transfer is included in my trip so I only had to carry my day pack 😊

Hiking across King's Road to Igaliku - South Greenland

Views from King’s Road on the way to Igaliku

Igaliku was one of the most important sites in Greenland during the Norse era, having been settled by Einer (Eric the Red’s best friend) in ~985AD.  The parliament and court were located here, and, once Christianity arrived, the Episcopal residence was also located in Igaliku.  The ruins of this residence, the cathedral and associated buildings (including barns that would fit 100 cattle) are located right in town, and apparently there are other Norse ruins scattered all around the area.

Norse ruins - Igaliku - South Greenland

Also, and unlike elsewhere in Greenland, many of the houses in Igaliku are constructed from the same sandstone that the Norse used 1000 years ago (literally – they raided the ruins).  Though more modern buildings, built after the introduction of the Preservation Act for Greenland in 1937, are constructed of wood.

Stone houses - Igaliku - South Greenland

Gardar Hostel is fantastic (I even have a dorm room to myself 😊), and I found packets of stew (designed for hikers – you literally put the closed packet in boiling water for 10 minutes to heat the contents up) in the Pilersuisoq (grocery store chain) here. 

Guess what is for dinner for the next 3 nights?!

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

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:

From Iceland to Narsarsuaq – South Greenland

After 25 years of waiting to visit, I seemed determined not to make it to Greenland!   For the second time in as many days, my brain was an hour out on timing and I went very, very close to missing my flight from Iceland to Greenland!

The first occasion was in Tehran, where I was sitting one gate over from where my flight was departing and was engrossed in writing emails.  Fortunately, it was ridiculously early in the morning and ours was the only flight leaving from that part of the terminal, so the nice Ethiad Airways man came over and asked me if I was on the Ethiad flight – and if so – well, they were going to offload me!  I was completely stricken (and must have looked so) and I pleaded with him not to do that as I had 4 interconnecting flights.  His response, “Well, you are going to miss all of them”…  But then he let me on the plane 😊

This second occasion, I had decided to catch the local bus from the Smart Hostel (fantastic hostel and dorms if you want to stay near the airport in Keflavik) so decided on a departure time in order to make it with plenty of time to spare.   Then, when I was waiting at the bus stop, I looked at my watch and suddenly had a heart-attack with the realization that it was only an hour before my flight took off!   Panic ensued, and I ended up waving down a passing car and offering them 2000ISK (~AUD$30) to take me to the airport immediately.  Fortunately, it was a lovely young lady and she did just that.  Ran into the check-in area and the lady didn’t seem anywhere near as stressed-out as I was as she tagged my bag and handed me my boarding pass.

In all my years of travelling, I’ve only gone close to missing a flight once (when they changed the gate on me and I was again distracted working on the computer) – now twice in 2 days??!!   Pay attention Lisa!

Once I was actually on the plane, the flight from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq in South Greenland was uneventful.  The bonus was that the plane was less than ½ full so we each had a window seat 🙂  Fortunately, the clouds cleared as we approached our destination (the weather was really crappy in Iceland) and the views were incredible!   So much ice!

Views flying from Iceland to South Greenland

Middle-right picture – can you tell what is ice/snow and what is cloud?

Then, suddenly, the uninterrupted ice and snow was replaced with a glacier and mountains that lined our approach to our landing destination: Narsarsuaq.

Approach to Narsarsuaq Airport - South Greenland

The Narsarsuaq airport actually has an interesting history.  It was originally code-named Bluie West One, and was built in 1941 (along with many of the buildings in Narsarsuaq) to as a key base of operations for US aircraft on supply missions between America and Europe during WWII.   These days, it is the second-longest runway in Greenland and so several international flights (from Denmark and Iceland) land here in the high season for tourism.

Narsarsuaq Airport - South Greenland

I met the lady from Blue Ice Explorer at the airport, took possession of my book of vouchers and information for the next 14 days and headed off to the harbor to catch my boat to Narsaq.

My voucher book and brief information brochures from Blue Ice Explorer

You have to be comfortable traveling independently with only this much information!

There were 6 of us heading there and, given the weather was stunning, I decided to sit out on the back of the boat as we made our way down the fjord.  It did get a tad chilly, but was totally worth it for the views.

Up the fjord to Narsaq from Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Our boat (top left) and some of the views heading up the fjord from Narsarsuaq to Narsaq

Arrived in Narsaq and was picked up at the port and taken to the Hotel Narsaq – it turns out I’d been upgraded 😊   Time for an early night (even though it is still broad daylight outside at 9:30pm) to see if I can catch up on some of the sleep I missed while travelling from Iran.  Time to start hiking tomorrow!

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

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 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 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:
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Trekking Iceland – Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík – Hornstrandir

When you are a little nervous about something, it always makes you feel better when the sun is shining 🙂   

boats in Ísafjörður harbour
Glorious morning!

I arrived early at the Borea Adventures dock to catch my boat transfer from Ísafjörður to Veiðileysufjörður and was beginning to think I may have been the only passenger.  However, with 5 minutes to go, 2 guys from the US (Sean and Daniel) and a group of about 15 people on a day tour showed up and we set out on the ~1 hour journey to Hornstrandir.

Views from the Borea Adventures boat transfer from Ísafjörður to Veiðileysufjörður - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Great journey, but unfortunately no whales

Boat transfer to Veiðileysufjörður

It was a very calm crossing in glorious weather, so I sat on the back deck enjoying the views and chatting with some of the other passengers.  We dropped the group of day-hikers off as we entered the Veiðileysufjörður inlet, and then continued on to a triangular structure (which turned out to be a pit toilet) that identifies the locations of campgrounds in Hornstrandir.

The crew launched the small zodiac off the back of the boat to deposit myself, Sean and Daniel on dry land, and then headed back to Ísafjörður.  There was no turning back now and I had 8 days to get to my pickup point in Hesteyri.

Images of the zodiac transfer to Veiðileysufjörður campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Lowering the zodiac (top-left), en route to Veiðileysufjörður campsite (top-right), and there is no turning back now! (bottom)

It turns out Sean is an award-winning professional wildlife photographer (a give-away being the enormous lens that was permanently attached to his camera) who had come to Hornstrandir to photograph a personal project on Arctic Foxes.  He and Daniel (also an amazing wildlife photographer) had met the year before in Alaska and were spending the next 5 days in the Hornvík area (my destination for the day) to capture the images.  Given we were heading the same direction and had similar interests we decided to hike together. 

Although there was a sign pointing in the direction of Hornvík, there was no obvious trail to follow.  So we simply set out across country in the general direction of the waterfall that we could see at the end of the inlet – the direction we should head according to the map. 

Veiðileysufjörður campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Veiðileysufjörður campsite. The pyramid-shaped building is the dry toilet

From Veiðileysufjörður to Hafnarskard Pass

After wading through knee-high shrubbery for much of it (very reminiscent of several of the hikes I did in South Greenland last year), we arrived at the waterfall, and found our first marker and the trail.

Views heading from Veiðileysufjörður campsite to the waterfall - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Bush bashing towards the waterfall from Veiðileysufjörður campsite

From there, the route to the Hafnarskard Pass was obvious and marked by large stone cairns stretching off into the distance.  It was also clear to us looking ahead that there was going to be snow in our very near future!

Large stone cairn - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Nice and obvious cairn, finally

As we climbed higher, the views behind us down to the inlet became more and more spectacular

Cairn and view back down to Veiðileysufjörður - Hornstrandir - Iceland

and indeed, we started to hit patches of snow that we had to cross.  This wasn’t entirely unexpected given how early it was in the season (the boats had only start running a couple of weeks earlier at the beginning of June), and this was one of the things I’d read about online that was adding to my concerns about hiking alone.  However, we weren’t the first people to pass this way and there were boot prints that seemed to be a few days old marking the trail across each of the snowy patches.

Following other people's bootprints in snow drifts - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Daniel leading the way through the snow, following in the boot prints of others

The fun really started towards the top of the pass, where we could see we would have to conquer a very steep snow slope to gain our destination.  

View of bootprints in the snow we would have to conquer leading up to Hafnarskard Pass - Hornstrandir - Iceland
A trail of boot prints leads to Hafnarskard Pass – it was going to be quite a climb

It was every bit as steep as it looked and, given I was in the lead, I ended up having to kick snow-stairs into the slope with my boots in order to make progress.  Good thing that I’d seen Maxime do this last year in East Greenland!  It seemed that trekkers coming from the other direction had had much more fun – bum-sliding down the slope rather than hiking it!

bum trail and bootprints in the snow leading to the pass - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Boot prints and what I took to be the imprint of a bum-slide on the climb to the pass

But I made it eventually

Me at Hafnarskard pass looking back towards Veiðileysufjörður - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Me at Hafnarskard pass looking back towards Veiðileysufjörður

and watched as the others struggled their way up.  I had no idea how Sean was going to manage carrying that enormous lens of his, but he eventually joined us and explained that he basically used it as a trekking pole all the way up!

Trekking companions making their way up to Hafnarskard pass through the snow - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Daniel (top) and Sean (bottom) struggling up the snow towards Hafnarskard pass

The view back to Veiðileysufjörður was amazing of course

View of Veiðileysufjörður from Hafnarskard pass - Hornstrandir-Iceland
Final view of Veiðileysufjörður from Hafnarskard pass

but it was also very exciting to see what lay ahead of us.  No surprises – it was another beautiful vista!

Me looking towards Hornvik from Hafnarsgard Pass - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Looking towards Hornvík, our destination, from Hafnasgard Pass

Hafnarskard Pass to Hornvík

We tucked ourselves behind a rocky ridge out of the wind to eat lunch, relax, soak up the sunshine (after all, it’s not often you get weather like this in Iceland!) and admire the views.  Then it was time to continue on to Hornvík through the snow that lay on the northern side of the pass.

Trekking companions heading across the snow in the direction of Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Daniel and Sean leading the way to Hornvík through the snow

My guess is that we were walking in snow for about 1/4 of the hike from Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík.  It wasn’t terribly deep for the most part but it was a little slushy, and again I’m very happy with my Lowa boots that kept my feet blissfully dry and warm 🙂

slushy snow and great hiking boots
So happy with my waterproof boots!

We stopped for another rest much further down the slope, though really it was just an excuse to get the packs off and lie in the sun for a while.

Taking a break on the way to Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Taking a break on the way to Hornvík

Not too long after, we reached a steep drop-off that revealed the river valley leading down to Hornvík.

Amazing view of the bright green  river delta at Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Amazingly green!

Wow!  We were not expecting such a verdantly green reveal, made even more so by the bright sunshine and blue skies!  Being photographers, we had a great time here playing with the composition of the river and small lakes as they punctuated this vibrancy.  

Water patterns in the green of the Hornvík river delta - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Nature is an artist

We could also see our home for the night – the Hornvík campsite – which was located just past the yellow house on the edge of the inlet.

View of Hornvík campsite and the Horn - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The campsite is located just past the yellow house

The path became a little boggy as we descended into the valley, but we finally arrived.

Path and signs on the final stretch to Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The final stretch…

Hornvík Campsite

Given that Hornvík is the most popular destination in Hornstrandir, the campground is large and really well set up.  There is a bright orange emergency shelter (you don’t want to have to go hunting for it in an emergency), a sink, flush toilets, and a permanent Ranger station. When the Icelandic flag is flying, the Ranger is in 🙂  

Images of infrastructure at Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The rangers station with flush toilets (top), fresh water (bottom-left) and the emergency shelter (bottom-right) at Hornvík campsite

It was here that I met the extremely helpful and lovely Vésteinn Már Rúnarsson and talked him through my hiking plan for the next week.  He gave me updates on the status of the trails (especially pertaining to bogginess) and made several suggestions given I was wearing hiking boots and not gumboots 😀   He also had the latest best guess as to what the weather would do tomorrow…

Ranger at the rangers station at Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The ranger is in!

Armed with this information, I found a place to pitch my tent with an awesome view (it wasn’t difficult as there were only 7 people camping here this night), and went for a walk along the beach admiring “The Horn” where I would be heading tomorrow on my hike.

view of the horn from my tent - Hornvík campsite - Hornstrandir - Iceland
My view 🙂

Million thanks to Sean and Daniel for hiking with me today!  Loved hanging out with you guys and I hope you have a ton of luck with your Arctic Fox photography!

My trekking companions for the day
Sean (left), Daniel (centre) and myself at Hornvík campsite

Trekking Information

Distance = 9.9km

Time taken = 7 hours and 20 minutes.  But probably 2 hours of that was spent chilling in the sunshine and taking photos 🙂

Map

Basic map of the route from Movescount

Altitude Profile

Altitude profile of the route from Strava

Download track as .gpx

Read more about my solo trek in Hornstrandir

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure in Hornstrandir:

Alternatively, check out my other posts about hiking and trekking in Iceland and around the world.

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Greenland – Sisimiut rock and mineral collection at KTI

I talk a lot about the beauty of Greenlandic rocks in my blog posts.  I also keep bemoaning the fact that I didn’t end up studying geology at university (it was either that or astronomy – I chose astronomy) and that I’m not wandering around Greenland with a geologist by my side.  So it should come as no surprise that I had to go check out the rock and mineral collection while in Sisimiut!

Housed in the foyer of the local technical college, KTI (Kalaallit Nunaanni Teknikkimik Ilinniarfik – Greenlandic is an amazing language), this is the largest collection of minerals in Greenland. 

Rock and mineral collection is location in the foyer of the technical college - Sisimiut - West Greenland
Yes, it really is located in the foyer – you just wander in! There were a bunch of students sitting at the other tables while I was visiting

It was established by Bjarne Ljungdahl (a former employee of the college) to display samples he’d collected from all over Greenland during his geological work from 1972-1981

One of the display cabinets featuring rocks and minerals in Sisimiut, West Greenland

and has expanded significantly since its inception.  The 21 display cases now include minerals from all over the world, and there are also 12 low pillars showcasing large rock samples. 

Image of the many display cases at the rock and mineral collection in Sisimiut, West Greenland
You can see the large rock samples on the blue pillars between the display cases

There is one display case specifically dedicated to fossils

Display case of fossils at the rock and mineral collection in Sisimiut, West Greenland

and another to meteorite fragments.  Please tell me Australia didn’t name a meteorite after a chocolate maker!!

Meteorite from Australia on display at the rock and mineral collection in Sisimiut, West Greenland
Cadbury chocolate is the most popular brand in Australia

There is also a special display case set into the wall that shows the fluorescence of several minerals.

Fluorescent minerals at the rock and mineral collection in Sisimiut, West Greenland
Minerals fluorescing under UV light

Given my lack of success in finding Tugtupit while clambouring all over Kvanefjeld in South Greenland last year, I was particularly fascinated by the large sample of this rare mineral on display here.  And equally amazed at the sheer number and diversity of minerals that can be found in Greenland.  No wonder the mining companies are trying to get in!

Greenlandic minerals, including Tugtupit, on display in Sisimiut, West Greenland
So this is what Tugtupit looks like!

The collection is very, very well done with everything labelled (in Danish) and carefully arranged in well-lit display cabinets.  If you are rock/mineral enthusiast, I have no doubt you could spend a couple of hours here.  And even if you only have a passing interest, you’ll still find a short visit worthwhile.

Recommendation

I might be biased, but I really enjoyed this collection.  To find it – enter the main door of KTI (yes, it will feel weird walking into a school but go with it) and veer around to your right.  You can’t miss it.  

Keep in mind that because it is part of a school, it is only open during school hours 🙂  And you’ll have students looking at you wondering why you are so interested in rocks!

Time: 5 mins to 5 hours depending on your interest

Cost:  Free

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences and adventures here on my blog.  

Or, if this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland in general, learn more about this amazing country by:

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Trekking Greenland – Arctic Circle Trail – Kelly Ville to Katiffik

Interesting fact about Greenland:  the landscape is completely different depending on which part of the country you are in.

This is something that became abundantly clear to me last year as I moved from hiking through the rolling green sheep-country between Narsaq and Narsarsuaq in South Greenland

Sheep and green grass along the hike from Sillisit to Qassiarsuk in South Greenland
Sheep, green grass and rolling hills are characteristic of hiking in South Greenland

to hiking through the barren craggy peaks and deep fjords of East Greenland.

Hikers exploring the bare, rocky peaks of East Greenland with the Knud Rasmussen glacier and Karale Fjord in the background
Bare rock, ice and jagged mountains are typical scenery in East Greenland

Given that Kalaallit Nunaat (the Greenlandic name for Greenland) is the largest island in the world (technically Australia is a continent), perhaps this should not have come as a surprise to me.  But somehow it did.  And for this reason I was super-keen to expand my geographical and geological knowledge of my favourite place in the world, and explore part of West Greenland this year.

Map of Greenland showing the delineation between North, East, West and South
Usual delineations of Greenland into North, South, East and West.  Credit: Greenland Travel

The most famous hike in Greenland is undoubtedly the Arctic Circle Trail (ACT).  As the name suggests, this trek basically follows the Arctic Circle (latitude 66° 33′ 39″ N) for 160km from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut, allowing you to walk from the Greenland Icefield (the second largest in the world after Antarctica) to the ocean in under 2 weeks.  It has made several “Top 10” lists over the past couple of years and the number of people doing it has risen dramatically from around 300 per year a few years ago to over 1500 in 2018.   Given my love of remote treks with no people, I figured it was now or never to hike this epic trail.

Schematic of the Arctic Circle Trail Route from Destination Arctic Circle
Outline of the Arctic Circle Trail route by Destination Arctic Circle

We started out as a group of 4.  My friend Tyson, who I’d met on the boat to Antarctica back in 2016 and who had heard me talk non-stop about Greenland for over a year, and Rob and Emilio who I had “met” online in the Lonely Planet forums after my initial efforts to entice my friends to join me failed (Tyson was late to the party). 

Having spent most of the previous 2 months doing back-to-back long-distance treks in Iceland and East Greenland with Icelandic Mountain Guides, I decided to skip the initial 16km of the hike along the road (I hate walking along roads) and join Rob and Emilio in a transfer out to start of the trail near Kelly Ville.  

Road out to Kelly Ville and concrete plinth that marks the start of the Arctic Circle Trail near Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland
Road to Kelly Ville (top) and the concrete structure (bottom) that marks the start of the Arctic Circle Trail. You can see it heading off into the distance.

We’d passed Tyson on the road (we’d offered him a lift but he wanted to walk “from airport to airport”) and I sat down to wait for him as the others started along the trail.  Fortunately, he’s a fast walker, and it wasn’t too long before we were also heading out into the Greenlandic wilderness.  

Hiker and flowers on the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland

We nattered away to each other catching up on almost 2 years worth of news, as we followed the trail towards Hundesø lake and it’s unofficial shelter consisting of a caravan with various tacked-on structures.  Hmmm…  While it may look kinda cool and funky from the outside, the inside challenged even my low standards of cleanliness and, I have to admit, I’d only stay there in an absolute pinch.  I’d be much more inclined to camp outside.

Hundesø  exterior and interior
Hundesø is the first (unofficial) “hut” you encounter as you leave Kangerlussuaq

The first day of hiking along the Arctic Circle Trail is pretty easy going to be honest.  It is reasonably flat for the most part with innumerable small lakes (mountain tarns really, with no ingress or egress of water) as the main features.

Typical scenery - mountain tarns - on Day 1 of the Arctic Circle Trail, West Greenland
They look like lakes, but are actually mountain tarns

The trail is a foot-width track through Arctic willow, wild blueberries and other low-lying vegetation, and is clearly marked with red semi-circles (a nod to the Greenland flag) painted on stones that are arranged into cairns.  Many of these are adorned with discarded reindeer antlers – something that we would see a lot of over the coming days. In fact, the Arctic Circle Trail could easily be renamed the “Reindeer Antler Trail”!

Reindeer skull sitting atop a stone cairn marked with the red half-circle indicating the Arctic Circle Trail. The trail runs beside.  Near Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland.
A reindeer skull and a stone cairn painted with red semi-circles that mark the route of the Arctic Circle Trail  

The highlight of the day was spotting my first large land animal in Greenland – a reindeer (“tuttu” in Greenlandic)!  I’d never seen one before and, given that we don’t have native deer in Australia, it is always a thrill to see these creatures of Christmas carols and Disney stories.  Although these guys were quite far away, my hope was that it boded well for future wildlife sightings along the trail.  

Reindeer along the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
My first reindeer!

The first official hut of the trail is the small Katiffik shelter at the head of the Amitsorsuaq Lake.  We actually stopped about 3km shy of the hut and set up camp beside one of the small lakes that lined the route.

Our campsite at the end of Day 1 of the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Our first campsite

It was here that we discovered a slight issue…

I had spent the previous day out at the Russell Glacier and had left Rob and Emilio in charge of buying the camping gas for us all for the duration of the hike.  They had bought 4 large canisters (more than enough) but when we actually cracked the plastic seal over the top of the attachment point, they turned out to be “clip-in” canisters rather than “screw-in” canisters. 

Guess what type of stove we all had?!

Fortunately, Emilio had taken a half-full screw-in gas canister from the hostel, which allowed us to have a hot meal at least.  However, given that this paltry amount of gas possibly needed to last the 4 of us for several days, we boiled only enough water to re-hydrate our meals and nothing else.  Tyson and I lamented our lack of hot tea before bed (a simple and basic luxury while long-distance hiking), and I added filtered water to my porridge so that it could cold-soak overnight. 

Ah well.  It could be worse.  And it all adds to the adventure 🙂

Read more about hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure over 8 days on the Arctic Circle Trail:

If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

Trekking Information

Distance = 20.5km

Time taken = 8hr 36mins

GPX File = Arctic-Circle-Trail-Kelly-Ville-Katiffik.gpx

Strava Link = https://www.strava.com/activities/1813015313

Map

Basic map of the route from Kelly Ville to Katiffik Hut along the Arctic Circle Trail - from Strava

Altitude Profile

Altitude profile of the route from Kelly Ville to Katiffik Hut along the Arctic Circle Trail - from Strava
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