Author Archives: lgermany

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Day trip to Upernaviarsuk – South Greenland

Upernaviarsuk Research Station is an experimental farm and school, and important component of the Kujataa UNESCO World Heritage-listed areas of South Greenland. They have managed to grow everything from root vegetables to iceberg lettuce to strawberries here, despite the sub-arctic climate.

The regular green fields of Upernaviarsuk near Qaqortoq
Green fields and farm sheds at Upernaviarsuk

Read more about this Government initiative to expand the range of produce that can be grown locally on my Upernaviarsuk blog post at Guide to Greenland.

Inside a greenhouse at Upernaviarsuk research station near Qaqortoq
Inside one of the greenhouses at Upernaviarsuk
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Day trip to Hvalsey Church – South Greenland

The best-preserved Viking (Norse) ruin in Greenland, Hvalsey Church is a must-see for visitors to the southern part of the island.

UNESCO Heritage Listed Hvalsey Church near Qaqortoq - South Greenland
UNESCO Heritage Listed Hvalsey Church near Qaqortoq – South Greenland

Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of Kujataa (5 areas of South Greenland protected for their evidence of sub-arctic farming practices spanning several centuries), it is a wonderful half-day trip from Qaqortoq and a step back in time.

Read more about my trip to this remarkable site (Qaqortukulooq in the Greenlandic language) in my Hvalsey Church blog post on Guide to Greenland.

You can also read about my explorations of other Viking ruins in South Greenland during my first trip to the island in 2017 – including Gardar (Igaliku) and Brattalid (Qassiarsuk).

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The abandoned settlement of Kangeq near Nuuk

The abandoned settlements of Greenland are fascinating places. They stand as quiet, melancholy reminders of Government policies in the 1960s and 70s to consolidate the infrastructure of Greenland. During this period, many of the small settlements where hunters and fishermen lived were closed and their residents forcibly moved to the larger towns and cities – often with devastating effects on the people.

I had visited the old settlement of Assaqutaq near Sisimiut a couple of years ago and had spent ages wandering around the derelict buildings and peering through the broken windows at the disintegrating interiors. The peeling paint and weathered buildings are magnets for photographers such as myself and I’d wanted to visit Kangeq – the abandoned settlement near Nuuk – ever since I moved here last year.

Sailing to Kangeq

After an extremely wet Summer with endless rainy days, we managed to pick an absolutely beautiful day for our excursion. There was no wind, and our boat “Ivik” was an older, slower people mover which meant we could comfortably sit upstairs on the roof around the picnic table for panoramic views while we were sailing.

Sitting around picnic table on Kang Tourism closed boat heading to Kangeq-Nuuk-Greenland
Sitting around a picnic table on the top deck of “Ivik” – loving the views!

One of the great things about a trip to Kangeq is that you sail in a different direction to almost every other boat tour that departs from Nuuk. Rather than heading into the Nuuk fjord, you head out towards the open sea. This gives wonderful views of Nuuk with the iconic Sermitsiaq mountain rising up behind it, but can also cause issues for those who are prone to sea-sickness. If you do get queasy on a boat – it is a very good idea to take precautions as the swells can be quite large.

Nuuk city and Sermitsiaq Mountain as you head to Kangeq-Greenland

Kangeq

It took us a little over an hour to sail from Nuuk to Kangeq, passing icebergs that had made their way down from the Nuuk Icefjord and approaching ever closer to the low-lying islands that make up Akia (Nordlandet).

Icebergs and the low-lying Akia - Nordlandet-Kangeq-Nuuk-Greenland
Icebergs on the way towards Akia / Nordlandet

Kangeq is tucked into a sheltered harbour and it is clear, even from a distance, that the settlement has been abandoned. Houses stripped of paint, the skeleton of a roof exposed to the sky, and the old dock at the fish factory falling into the fjord are just some of the sights that greet you upon arrival.

Sailing into the abandoned settlement of Kangeq-Nuuk-Greenland
Sailing into the abandoned settlement of Kangeq

Given that the dock had gone, our captain nudged Ivik over to a large rock and we all scrambled out over the bow for our 45-minute exploration of Kangeq.

Scrambling ashore at Kangeq – there is no dock anymore

It was amazing! Though 45 minutes is nowhere near enough if you are a keen photographer.

Graveyard and house in the abandoned settlement of Kangeq near Nuuk-Greenland
The crumbling buildings of the abandoned settlement of Kangeq near Nuuk-Greenland

Once I disembarked I headed to my right to see what I could find over a small rise. It turned out – this is where the church, bell tower, and the old graveyard were located.

church and belltower at the abandoned settlement of Kangeq nearNuuk-Greenland
Church and bell tower of Kangeq

I wandered around as many of the buildings as possible and also tried to see inside if I could. The mostly empty interiors with their pastel paints and fallen ceilings were just as interesting and, in a couple of the houses, I could still see the old iron stoves.

Peeling paint in colourful rooms at the abandoned settlement of Kangeq near Nuuk-Greenland
The coloured interiors of the houses of Kangeq – now dilapidated
An old stove in one of the abandoned houses at the settlement of Kangeq near Nuuk-Greenland
An old stove in a house that has collapsed in on itself

Unfortunately, I took so much time over in this part of the site, that I didn’t even get to the other section of Kangeq that lies across the harbour and the shattered bridge. Ah well – you always need an excuse to come back, and I would very much like to revisit the settlement on another occasion!

The abandoned settlement of Kangeq near Nuuk-Greenland
Looking across to the part of Kangeq I didn’t get to explore. Some of the houses have been restored and are now summer cabins for people in Nuuk

The “Island of Hope” and Hans Egede

From Kangeq, we headed a little further around the “Island of Hope” on which it sits to the point where the Danish-Norwegian missionary Hans Egede established his first settlement in Greenland in 1721.

A stone monument celebrating the 200 year anniversary of the settlement and the foundations of Hans Egede’s house are all that mark the site

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The monument to Hans Egede at the Island of Hope
Remains of the foundations of the house of Hans Egede at Island of Hope near Nuuk-Greenland
The remains of Hans Egede’s house

So I had plenty of time to climb the nearby hill for spectacular views over the lakes and nearby islands. It is difficult to imagine living in this remote outpost for 7 years!

Looking inland on the Island of Hope near Nuuk-Greenland
Looking inland on the Island of Hope
Looking out to see on the Island of Hope near Nuuk-Greenland
Looking out to see on the Island of Hope

Return to Nuuk

After 30 minutes, we re-boarded Ivik and ended up circumnavigating the island on our way back to Nuuk. Once again, the views of Kingittorsuaq (the “reindeer antlers”) and Sermitsiaq crouching over Nuuk were spectacular during the hour-long sail home.

Sailing through the narrow channels of Akia Nordlandet - Kinngitorsuaq in the background near Nuuk-Greenland
Sailing back to Nuuk through the narrow channels of Akia / Norlandet. We are heading straight towards Kingittorsuaq – the big mountain in the background

Million thanks to Kang Tourism ApS for an awesome day of exploring!

Explore the Nuuk Fjord for yourself

If you are planning a trip to Nuuk, I recommend reading the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk.

You should definitely get out on the water with one of the many fjord tours on offer.  There are options that are based solely around the scenery, and others (like this one) that include fishing, visiting a small settlement, or experiencing life in a small Greenlandic community.

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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!
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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!
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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!
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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!
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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!
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Trekking Iceland – Hornstrandir Summary

When planning my solo multi-day hike in Hornstrandir, I found there was lots of conflicting information on the web and I was quite nervous about what to expect.   

Here are a few logistics and some thoughts based on the trails I took.

Transportation

The easiest way to book your transfers to and from Hornstrandir is with Westtours.  They have the timetables for the two boat companies operating out of Ísafjörður published on their website, and instructions about the information you need to send them to make the booking.  Note: if you are hiking for more than 1 day, you need to send them your hiking itinerary.

One of the transfer boats between Ísafjörður and Hornstrandir
One of the very comfortable transfer boats between Ísafjörður and Hornstrandir

Hiking Map, Gas and Supplies

Although Westtours sell a “hiking map” of Hornstrandir for 1500ISK, it is not really a proper topographical map.  It has no magnetic declination marking and the scale is too large to really constitute a proper hiking map. It also shows trails that either don’t exist or that the Park Rangers strongly advise against.  It is kind of useful … but kind of not at the same time.  Apparently they are working on a proper map.

Navi
Navigation aids – Garmin InReach SE+, Suunto Ambit3 Peak watch, map and Suunto M3 compass

The place to buy gas canisters is the N1 petrol station just as you come into the downtown part of Ísafjörður.

Although it is cheaper to bring food with you (I actually bought a lot of mine in the Czech Republic!), the Netto Discount Supermarket (right near the N1 petrol station) has a pretty good range of basics and is not too badly priced (for Iceland).

Trail conditions

Note: I believe I hiked the most popular parts of Hornstrandir on this trip.  Trail conditions in less-popular parts may be different.  

I thought the trails were pretty obvious for probably 98% of the hiking I did.  There is either a trodden track, and/or large stone cairns, and/or wooden poles to guide you, and I found it was rare to be wondering where to go next.

Hiking trails in Hornstrandir are indicated in different ways - Iceland
The hiking trails I followed in Hornstrandir ranged from non-existent (top), to sometimes visible (less so when it is just sticks in the ground (middle), to very clear when indicated with stone cairns (bottom)

The snowdrifts early in the season (I was there at the end of June) do obscure parts of the trails, but so long as you aren’t the first through (unlikely), it is a good bet to follow the boot prints made by others.

View up to
Follow the boot prints

The main concern I would have for finding my way in Hornstrandir would be if it were foggy.  I didn’t experience this at all, but I don’t doubt the veracity of the many stories of it being difficult to navigate in foggy conditions.  You really need to be able to see the next cairn/pole as the trail does disappear depending on the terrain you are walking on! 

On a different note – these hikes are not suitable if you are at all concerned about heights or very steep uphills/downhills.  Although the maximum altitude I reached was less than 500m, there are sheer drops beside many of the trails, and some tricky descents because of their steepness.

One of many steep descents

I highly recommend that if you find a Park Ranger (e.g. at Hornvík), have a chat with them about your hiking plans and ask about trail conditions.  Vésteinn was very helpful and full of information and suggestions that really helped me get the most out of my hiking.

Weather

It is Iceland. 

You need to be prepared for anything and everything.  In my 8 days in Hornstrandir, I had blue skies and sunshine, rain, loads of drizzle, and very strong winds. 

It can look like this. But often it doesn’t.

Make sure that you have:

  • a very good tent.  The night of the high winds (70km/hr) saw 2 of the 5 tents pitched at Hornvík destroyed
  • a very good waterproof shell.  Jacket, pants, and gloves.  You are going to need them so keep them easily accessible!
  • very good waterproof boots with ankle support.  The waterproofness because of the weather, but also because there is quite a lot of boggy/marshy ground that you hike through.  Wet feet are the worst!  The ankle support because you are often walking across stony ground which is a killer on the ankles
Me in all my gear - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina
OK – this was actually taken in Patagonia, but I used the same outfit in Iceland.  Just the pack was different.
  • plenty of warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag.  It was nowhere near as cold as I was expecting (it only got down to about 1 degree during the night), but having warm clothes to change into after being in the rain/drizzle all day is a luxury on a long hiking trip.
Listenting to music in my tent
Love my Enlightened Equipment sleeping quilt!

Other Recommended Gear

  • Hiking poles.  I am only a recent adopter of these things, and now I really couldn’t do without them.  They take some of the weight while you are hiking uphill, they are critical for steep descents (of which there are many in Hornstrandir), and they provide 3rd and 4th points of contact when rock-hopping across rivers (another thing you’ll be doing a lot of while hiking in Hornstrandir)
Hiker struggling up a steep snowdrift on the trail from Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Daniel leaning heavily on his hiking pole to get up a steep snowdrift on the way from Veiðileysufjörður to Hornvík
  • Neoprene socks.  Having frozen my feet off in Greenland last year and Patagonia this year, I finally invested the $15 in a pair of neoprene socks for river crossings.  I was skeptical – until I used them.  I don’t know how … but they are absolutely magic!  Crossing freezing rivers (which you will be also doing in Hornstrandir) holds no fear for me now 🙂
I love my neoprene socks!

Favourite Scenery

Definitely Hornbjarg, Hornbjargsviti and Kirfi!  The scenery in this area is absolutely spectacular, and if I return to Hornstrandir, this is where I will start.  I could easily spend several days just exploring this small region.

Hornbjarg
View over Hornbjargsviti Lighthouse from the south at slightly higher elevation - Hornstrandir -Iceland
Hornbjargsviti
Kirfi

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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Trekking Iceland – Around Hesteyri – Hornstrandir

Yesterday while hiking from Hlöðuvík to Hesteyri, I managed to convince myself to change my plan for the 3rd time and just stay in Hesteyri and do day hikes for my last 3 days in Hornstrandir.  This was to take the weight off my lateral femoral cutaneous nerve to see whether that would help with the numbness I was feeling in my outer left thigh (at this point, I hadn’t been able to consult Dr. Google to determine that this was a condition known as Meralgia Paresthetica and that it will likely take months to rectify). 

And even though it was the sensible and obvious thing to do, particularly as I still have 4 months of trekking ahead of me, it took the majority of the hike to convince my ego to let it go!  I’m a huge fan of Ryan Holiday, and clearly I need to re-read his book “Ego is the Enemy” for the third time! It’s a great book – read it if you haven’t already.

It turned out that hanging out in Hesteyri was a great idea for another reason as well … the weather was crap! 

So what did I get up to?

Listening to Music

I’m very careful with battery management and so still had heaps of charge on my phone.  I spent many hours curled up under my sleeping quilt listening to my favourite band in all the world – Nanook from Greenland (of course 🙂 )

Listenting to music in my tent
Rugged up and listening to Greenlandic music

Reading Books

I used to use my travels to catch up on reading books.  I would churn through them like there was no tomorrow, and it was how I spent every spare second on vacation. 

Then I started this blog…   

Given I didn’t have my computer with me, it was a great opportunity to break out the Kindle (one of my favourite inventions ever) and read “The Greenland Trilogy“, three action-packed fiction books set in Greenland by author Christoffer Peterson.

Reading my kindle in my tent

I’d been wanting to read these for a while, and certainly before I headed back to Greenland. So perfect timing, as I arrive in Kulusuk (East Greenland) next Monday!  They are a fun read and I recommend them for a bit of light entertainment set in a really cool place 🙂

Eating

One of the things that Hesteyri is famous for is the Cafe at the old Doctor’s House that operates during the Summer months. 

The old doctors house in Hesteryi is the heart of the village - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The Old Doctor’s House in Hesteyri is the heart of the village

After eating trekking food for 5 days, I was super-keen to have a proper home-cooked meal, and so headed there for dinner on my first night.  Honey Rye Bread, Icelandic Lamb Soup, and Rhubarb Crumble … soooooo good!  In fact, I ended up having 2 enormous bowls of the soup, and I most definitely would have had two portions of dessert and eaten a whole loaf of the bread, if there had been the opportunity!

The chimney of the old whaling station at Sekkeyri  is visible from near Hesteyri - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Amazing dinner!

The next day, after some strenuous reading in my tent, I wandered over during a break in the rain to sample the Cafe’s famous Icelandic pancakes.  Light and fluffy and full of sugar … just what you need on a grey, wet day!

Icelandic pancakes t
Icelandic pancakes at the Old Doctor’s House cafe – Hesteyri

And I might have also returned for more of the tart-but-oh-so-sweet Rhubarb Crumble (this time with custard) just before catching the boat back to Ísafjörður😉

Rhubarb Crumble and journaling at the Old Doctor's House cafe - Hesteyri
How I spent my last few hours on Hornstrandir – eating Rhubarb Crumble and journaling

Thank you Michael Wolf for the awesome food!

Chatting

Those who have met me during the past 15 years have a hard time believing that I used to be very shy.  I can talk to anyone and (like the donkey in Shrek) it’s often getting me to shut up that’s a problem. 

So I spent a lot of time at the Cafe chatting with Matt Taylor – a fellow Aussie who was helping out there for 6 weeks on a break from his studies in Neuroscience (as you do), and Hrólfur Vagnsson who was managing the place for the summer.  Thanks for the great conversation guys!   It’s a pity we didn’t have more time!

Exploring the village of Hesteyri

After 2 days of rain, the weather improved for my last day in Hesteyri and I finally ventured beyond my tent and the cafe 😀

I went for a bit of a wander around the town, which has been abandoned since 1952 but is now used by the original families for summer vacations. 

Some of the buildings of Hesteyri - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Some of the buildings of Hesteyri

It would have been great to learn more about the history of this isolated place, and I did half think about sneaking along on one of the guided tours but resisted the temptation.

Hike to the old Whaling Station at Sekkeyri

I saw the remains of the chimney as I hiked down into Hesteyri from Hlöðuvík the other day, and it is also visible from Hesteyri itself. 

The chimney of the old whaling station at Sekkeyri  is visible from near Hesteyri - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The chimney of the old whaling station at Sekkeyri

Turns out it is a very flat, ~3km hike out to the old whaling station at Sekkeyri along the edge of the inlet.  I even managed to see seals along the way! Almost every rock had one flopped upon it.

Seals resting on the rocks near the trail to the old whaling station at Sekkeyri near Hesteyri - Hornstrandir - Iceland
Hello!

I spent quite a lot of time exploring and wandering around the ruins of the whaling station, but again, it would have been great to have a guided tour to know exactly what I was looking at.  I had to turn to my imagination instead and make up my own stories 🙂

The old whaling station at Sekkeyri near Hesteyri - Hornstrandir - Iceland
The old whaling station at Sekkeyri

Really nice for the “Ye Olde” sailing boat to visit at the same time … more fuel for my imaginings of the whalers actually using the station back in the day.

Sailing boat visiting the old whaling station at Sekkeyri near Hesteyri - Hornstrandir - Iceland

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.