Hiking Greenland – Icefjords and Remote Villages – Kulusuk

As with the Unplugged Wilderness Trek in 2017, I was already in East Greenland this year before starting the 10-day Icefjords and Remote Villages tour with Greenland Adventures.

Therefore, at the appropriate time, I hiked out to Kulusuk international airport and met Andrea (our guide, originally from Switzerland but living in Iceland for many, many years) and my fellow travelers for the next 10 days: Eric and Alan (Nova Scotia, Canada), Fiona (Australia), Rhonda (USA), Jorge and Martine (Switzerland), and Linda (UK). 

Given the logistics of our arrival, Swiss Andrea (female) handed us over to Italian Andrea (male) who also works for Greenland Adventures to join the Kulusuk Classic Day Tour (the best way to learn about Kulusuk), while she transferred all our luggage to the Kulusuk Hostel in a trailer attached to a quad-bike.

Our guide transferring our luggage from the airport on a Quad-bike - Kulusuk - East Greenland
There is only one car in Kulusuk, but several quad-bikes

Given the lack of cars in Kulusuk, this tour involves hiking the ~3km road from the airport into town.  As Italian Andrea led us on this journey, he explained a little about Kulusuk, Kulusuk Island and the Ammassalik area of East Greenland – which is very different to the South and the West of Greenland.

Our guide explaining a little about East Greenland as we hike in from Kulusuk airport
Italian Andrea explaining a little about Greenland, and East Greenland/Kulusuk in particular.

Kulusuk’s New Cemetery

On the way into town, we stopped by Kulusuk’s “new cemetery” that was full of colourful but faded plastic flowers adorning semi-raised graves that were typically identified by unmarked white crosses.  This is an interesting juxtaposition of Christian and Inuit practices – the ideas of the cross and flowers are Christian in origin, whereas the absence of names and dates reflects the Inuit belief that names should be passed on in death to live within the next generation.

New cemetery - Kulusuk - East Greenland
The new cemetery in Kulusuk features many crosses without names, and artificial, faded flowers held in place with netting.  It gets very windy here!

Kulusuk Viewpoint

Walking up through the cemetery we reached a lookout point with an amazing view down over Kulusuk, its harbour and the mountains beyond.

Hiking group at the viewpoint overlooking Kulusuk - East Greenland
One of the best views over Kulusuk

From this vantage point, Andrea explained that Greenlandic houses are essentially Danish “IKEA” houses that come in 3 different styles.  He also told us a little about the historical context of the colours of the buildings.  Traditionally, red indicated a government or commercial building (e.g. a school, supermarket, church), yellow indicated a building related to health/medicine (e.g. a hospital or nurses clinic), blue indicated a fish processing plant, etc.  However, these days anybody can paint their building whatever colour they wish, so this colour-coding doesn’t necessarily hold true 100% of the time.   

Colorful houses of Kulusuk - East Greenland
The colours of the buildings in Greenland originally identified their purpose

Kulusuk Museum

Our next stop was the amazing Kulusuk Museum, which I had also visited last year on the last day of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek.  Unfortunately Frederik (the owner and main guide for the museum) was on holidays, but Andrea did an awesome job of explaining the exhibits in his absence.  You can read more about this amazing family-run venture in my post from last year.

Exterior of the Kulusuk Museum - East Greenland

Town Infrastructure

From there, we headed past the sled dogs and through the main part of town.  We passed by the harbour (complete with a dead seal in the “Greenlandic refrigerator” – ie floating in the water, tied up to the dock), the Pilersuisoq (supermarket), the generator for the settlement, and the “service house”.  This latter provides the community with hot showers and laundry facilities, as most houses in Kulusuk do not have running water.

Service buildings - Kulusuk - East Greenland
The Pilersuisoq supermarket and Post Office (top), town generator (middle) and Service House (bottom) for Kulusuk

Kulusuk Church

At the far end of town, we arrived at the Kulusuk church.  Built in 1925 from the remains of a Danish fishing boat that had become stranded in the area, this was the first institutional building in Kulusuk.  There is even a model replica of the boat hanging from the ceiling at the front-left of the church.

Replica of boat in Kulusuk Church - East Greenland
It is unusual to find a replica of a boat in a church – but it is part of the story of the Kulusuk Church

It is lovely and simple inside, with seal skin and a square of a polar bear skin adorning the floor around the alter, geometric stained glass windows highlighting the colours of the houses, and bibles in the West Greenlandic language (East Greenlandic is actually a non-written dialect of this).

Kulusuk Church - East Greenland
The Kulusuk church is a beautiful building with a fascinating story

Greenlandic Drum Dancing

Our final stop on the tour of Kulusuk was a demonstration of Greenlandic Drum Dancing near the statue of one of its most famous practitioners – Milka Kuitse.  Unfortunately this tradition is quickly disappearing, and the Kulusuk Classic Day Tour is one of very few ways visitors can now witness it!

Drum dancing in Kulusuk - East Greenland
Dressed in traditional clothes, Kristina is one of very few remaining drum dancers in Greenland

Dressed in traditional Greenlandic clothing, Kristina Boassen – one of only two remaining Drum Dancers in the region – performed two dances for us.   The first told the story about kids that play and fight, but in the end always find a way to get along.

To me, the sound is haunting.  And the simple accompaniment of the drum makes it even more so.  It is a beautiful experience in a remarkable location.   

The second song has a twist to it, so I won’t spoil the surprise 😉

An afternoon stroll around Kulusuk

At this point, it was 1pm so we headed to the amazing Kulusuk Hostel for a light lunch of fresh bread, cheese (brie, blue, havarti), processed meats, cucumber and tomato.

Exterior of Kulusuk Hostel and lunch inside - East Grednland
The Kulusuk Hostel (top) and our “getting to know one another” lunch (bottom)

Swiss Andrea outlined the plan for the rest of the afternoon and we each introduced ourselves in more detail.  Then we headed out into the sunshine for a short hike to the old harbour of Kulusuk.

It has been a long, cold winter in Greenland this year and so we got our first taste of hiking through snow drifts – yes even in the middle of town!  The views from the abandoned fish processing plant at the old harbour, and the rocky ridge we took to get back to town were incredible as always – and it was glorious to be out and about hiking under bright blue skies.

Hiking around Kulusuk - East Greenland
Walking through town (top), one of the views from the old fish-processing plant (top-middle), and hiking along the ridge (bottom-middle), back to town (bottom)

Back at the hostel, the group unpacked their bags in the dorm room upstairs and hung out on the deck, before being called in for a dinner of salad, fish, rice and chocolate cake.  Seriously delicious!

Dinner at the Kulusuk Hostel - East Greenland
Dinnertime! The food provided by Greenland Adventures on all their treks is amazing!

Andrea then pulled out the maps to explain the plan for tomorrow and the next several days before everyone headed off for a relatively early night.

Our guide explaining the plan for the next 9 days using the map of Kulusuk Island - East Greenland
Andrea explains the plan for the next 9 days

Looking forward to hopefully getting all the way to DYE-4 tomorrow (unlike last year)!

Read more about the Icefjords and Remote Villages Tour

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in East Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure on the 10-day Icefjords and Remote Villages tour with Greenland Adventures:

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.

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