Nordafar – abandoned fish processing factory near Nuuk

The image of a large, grey, two-story abandoned building with hints of red around its window panes had haunted me ever since I first moved to Nuuk. I desperately wanted to visit this building and see what else the site contained (other images were few and far between) and finally had my chance on a trip to Nordafar (Færingehavn / Kangerluarsoruseq) with Greenland Cruises.

The days are very short in Greenland in December, and it was still completely dark as we rendezvoused with our captain, Uli, and his helper, Anja, at the Tidewater Stairs at 9am.

Greenland Cruises boat at Tidewater stairs in Nuuk

It was a heavily overcast day with snow falling gently, so there wasn’t much to see as we took about 1.5 hours to sail ~50km south to the abandoned fishery. A good opportunity to chat to Uli and find out a little more about where we would be visiting.

View out of the cabin windscreen on our way to the Nordafar Abandoned Settlement near Nuuk

Nordafar started out as an emergency Faeroese fishing base in 1926 and was expanded in 1937 to become an international fishing port. At its height in the 1950s and 60s, the Norwegian-Danish-Faroese company (hence the name NorDaFar) received daily catches from over 1000 fishermen and employed the more than 200 people who lived here with their families. But a 2-decade dream run came to an end as cod stocks suddenly dwindled and all but disappeared. The company was liquidated in 1990 and its assets sold off. The last person left permanently in 1998 and the remaining infrastructure abandoned.

Arriving at Nordafar

It is an eerie scene sailing quietly past the crumbling factory buildings that line the fjord. Judging by the state of decay, it won’t be too much longer before whole buildings fall into the ocean.

Approaching Nordafar Abandoned Settlement near Nuuk
Crumbling factory building at Nordafar Abandoned fish processing plant near Nuuk
Coming into Nordafar Abandoned fishing plant near Nuuk

I caught a glimpse of the building that had drawn me here through a gap in the buildings

Nordafar - the Abandoned Fish processing plant near Nuuk

as we navigated to a point where we could climb (literally) up onto land (the fishery’s long jetty no longer exists).

Entering Nordafar Abandoned Settlement near Nuuk

We then followed Anja through knee-deep powder snow to explore the site.

Off to explore Nordafar Abandoned fishing village near Nuuk

Exploring the settlement of Nordafar

The first building we entered was a warehouse/store – its shelving mostly empty and the remaining items slowly fusing to rust.

Warehouse shelves - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Ledger - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Scale - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Rusting stock - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

Then, the postcard building that I had come to see – which turned out to be the admin building.

Admin building - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

We explored both downstairs and upstairs – rooms full of peeling paint and wallpaper with broken windows overlooking the whole of the site.

View from admin building - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Inside admin building- Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Bathroom inside admin building -Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

Next up was the community hall, with it beautiful, wood-lined main hall, complete with stage and podium.

Walking to community hall - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Inside community hall - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

And then the Seamen’s Home – a hotel where visitors could stay.

Walking to Seamens Home - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

Inside was industrial kitchen equipment, a few scattered tables in the old dining hall with a piano slowly disintegrating in the corner, bedrooms (some with furniture still in them), and long spooky corridors.

Inside Seamens home kitchen - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Inside Seamens Home dining room - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Bedroom in Seamens Home - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Window in Seamens Home - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Corridor in Seamens Home - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

Tell me this doesn’t look like the perfect place for a horror film to be shot!

Seamens Home - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

We also poked our noses into one of the houses on the site

Workers house - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Inside a house - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

before heading over to the factory area through the now reasonably heavy snow.

Exploring - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

Here, I stopped for a moment to let the others go ahead. As I stood in the falling snow – I could have been the last person on Earth – such was the deafening silence of this abandoned place where we were the only visitors.

The Nordafar fish processing plant

The buildings that make up the processing plant are numerous and vast. We didn’t get to see everything – but it seemed as if we found the inhandling area, the packing area, the machinery room, one of the large freezer houses, and the workshop.

Looking out through the ruined front of the fish factory - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Inside fish factory - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Inside fish factory snowmobile - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Scales inside the fish factory - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Machinery room - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

We probably spent about an hour exploring these buildings, keeping well away from their front wall which used to adjoin a large quay. Now fallen into the fjord, we didn’t want to follow in after it! In fact, we were a little wary the whole excursion and followed in each other’s footsteps for the most part, as the snow made it impossible to tell if there was solid ground beneath us or only a decayed part of the building that we would fall through.

I particularly loved finding bits and pieces that were stamped with the factory’s name and which showed the “daily life” of the plant.

Packaging inside the fish factory - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Freezer room in fish factory - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Sign in card holders inside the fish factory - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Time cards - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk
Work cards - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

All up – we spent 2 hours exploring the site. This is nowhere near enough time for a photographer and a lover of abandoned places, but is a good amount of time to see most of the key parts of Nordfar.

Back on board, we carefully backed away from our “docking” place through the thin surface layer of sea ice

Leaving - Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk

and watched as the derelict buildings of this abandoned ghost town disappeared into the falling snow.

Looking at Nordafar Abandoned fish factory near Nuuk disappearing into the snow

A surprise on the way back to Nuuk!

On the way back to Nuuk, the snow was heavier and there was even less to see than on the way out. But our eagle-eyed captain Uli had spotted a water spout in the distance, and we changed course to take a closer look.

It was a Humpback whale!

Humpback whale in December near Nuuk

December is extremely late for a Humpback whale to still be hanging around in the waters of Greenland (they migrate to warmer waters during the northern winter) so this was a special treat indeed! We followed at a respectful distance for about 20 minutes, watching this graceful giant of the sea. Then, with a final flick of its tail, he bid us adieu and dived – leaving us to continue our journey back to Nuuk.

Humpback whale tail in December near Nuuk

Explore the Nordafar for yourself

Visiting Nordafar is possibly my favourite excursion from Nuuk. Unfortunately, it does not run very often, and even this trip had been postponed twice due to bad weather. But if you get the chance, you should definitely go see it for yourself – especially as there are plans to demolish the site and clean it up in the near future.

Although we had 2 hours to explore on this excursion, I could have easily stayed 2 days! There is so much to see, and I’d love to return in Summer when other elements that were hidden under the snow on this trip would be revealed.

Thank you Greenland Cruises for an amazing trip!


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