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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 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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2019 Akisuanerit Festival – Nuuk

After 2 long years of waiting, I finally got to see my absolute favourite band in all the world – Nanook – play as part of the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk. Featuring both domestic and international artists and a wide range of musical styles, this 3-day music festival is one of the biggest in Greenland and a great place to discover musicians from the world’s largest island.

My favourite band – Nanook

Nanook were one of the first acts to be announced for this year’s festival, and I think I may have been first in line to buy a ticket to the Saturday night when they were released. There was no way I was going to miss them this time! The added bonus was that another of my favourite Greenlandic performers – Kimmernaq – was also scheduled to play the same night, as was the headline performer – Danish artist, MØ.

Akisuanerit Festival – arriving at Katuaq

Months after buying the ticket, the big night finally arrived.  Determined to reclaim “the spot” I had occupied for the Ole Kristiansen concert in the Katuaq Foyer earlier in the year (one of the best places for short people like me), I rushed my friends through dinner and out the door so that we would arrive early.

Lineup poster for the Akisuanerit Festival 2019 in Nuuk, Greenland
Program for Akisuanerit 2019

Unfortunately, I had not read the schedule very closely and we found the doors still firmly locked when we arrived at 8:30pm. I thought the first act was scheduled for 9pm, but it turned out that was when the doors would be opened.

Oops! 

I wasn’t the only one to be making my friends stand out in the cold, however. Elaine – a 68 year old lady from Florida and another enormous Nanook fan – was also stranded outside.  When we were finally let in, I headed straight for “the spot” and claimed it with no worries at all. But I think my friends will double-check anything written in Danish next time before taking my word for it 🙂

Akisuanerit Festival – Kimmernaq and Adam

The first performers of the night were Greenlandic singer Kimmernaq and her brother Adam. I’d come across Kimmernaq about a year ago and immediately fell in love with her amazing voice and many of the songs off her two albums. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given her second album was written by Frederik Elsner from Nanook!

Covers of Kimmernaq's 2 album

I had heard her songs performed by many local musicians in towns and settlements around Greenland, but I was really excited to actually hear her in person. She was fab!

Kimmernaq and her brother Adam playing at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk 2019
Kimmernaq and Adam

She sang a mixture of songs during her performance, including many of her own as well as a few Radiohead covers that allowed her and her brother to harmonize gloriously. Adam turned out to be an incredible singer in his own right, performing a solo, melancholic folk-style song that aligned exactly with the type of music I love. What an incredible start to the night!

Adam, Kimmernaq and Nathan performing at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk, 2019
Adam, Kimmernaq and Nathan

Their set culminated in an amazing hip-hop collaboration with several other Greenlandic artists, including Nina Kreutzmann Jørgensen, Pilu Lynge and Da Bartali Crew. Something very different to her usual stuff – and seriously, seriously awesome! Yes, even for someone who is not into hip-hop music.

Adam, Kimmernaq, Nina, Pilu and Da Bartali Crew performing a hip-hop collaboration at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk, 2019
Adam, Kimmernaq, Da Bartali Crew (back), Nina and Pilu performing their hip-hop collaboration

Buy music from Kimmernaq at: Atlantic Music Shop, iTunes


Akisuanerit Festival – Nanook

Next up was the band I had come to see – Nanook. I discovered their music about 2 years ago when I was living in Ecuador and have listened to almost nothing else ever since! If you’ve been following me for a while, you will have seen my blog posts about them both here and on Guide to Greenland 🙂  I had been trying to see them play live since 2017 (I missed them by less than 12 hours in Sisimiut in 2018) and I finally got the chance here in Nuuk.

Nanook official image

The wait was totally worth it!

They started out with the amazing soundscape of Minguitsuugami – one of my favourite tracks off their latest album, Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq – and played a mixture of old and new songs from their 11-year career.

Greenlandic band - Nanook - performing at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk, 2019
Nanook

There is something really special about seeing your favourite musicians play live, and it can only be surpassed when they actually give you a shout-out/name-drop in the middle of their performance 🙂  One of the highlights of my year!

I love these guys!

Buy music from Nanook at:  Atlantic Music, Amazon (Pissaaneqaqisut, Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq), iTunes, Spotify


Akisuanerit Festival – Tarrak

A surprise addition to the program was Greenlandic rapper, Tarrak. Performing with KimoJax, they sang his controversial hit “Tupilak” – a song that highlights some of the difficult aspects of the relationship between Greenland and Denmark.

Tarrak and KimoJax performing Tupilak at the Akisuanerit Festival, Nuuk 2019
Tarrak (left) and KimoJax (right) performing “Tupilak”

The linked YouTube clip includes an English translation of the lyrics, and although I am not a fan of rap, I think this song is amazing.

Akisuanerit Festival – Julie

Julie Berthelsen is one of the biggest Greenlandic pop singers, and insanely popular judging by the reaction of the masses who had packed into the foyer of the Katuaq Cultural Center by this time.

Julie singing her very popular songs at Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk, 2019
Julie

Personally, her music is not my cup of tea. But I have to admit to liking the song “League of Light” which she sang with Nina Kreutzmann Jørgensen as Greenland’s entry to the Danish qualifier for Eurovision 2019. Nina joined her on stage again at the Akisuanerit Festival to finish off her set with this number.

Akisuanerit Festival –

The headline act for the 2019 festival was internationally famous Danish singer, . To be honest, I had no idea who MØ was or what her music sounded like (yes, I can be a little behind the times), but given I was there I figured I should stay awake, stick around and give her a go.

She. Was. Amazing!

MØ performing at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk 2019
MØ was fabulous

She didn’t appear until about 1:20am, but when she did, her energy and stage presence were amazing and her vocals were flawless. I’m now a massive fan!

MØ and her band playing in Katuaq, Nuuk

Summary

For a person who normally goes to bed around 10pm, this was a huge night! MØ finished at 2:30am and I had a 30-minute walk to get home afterwards. Even then, I found it difficult to fall asleep. Between the ringing in my ears and the high of finally seeing Nanook play live – my brain would not let go of the awesome night.

If you are a music lover and also interested in visiting Greenland – perhaps try to plan your trip for end-September/start-October so you can catch the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk. Like the festival’s Facebook page to stay up to date with the latest news, and check out the Ultimate Guide to Nuuk to discover what else there is to see and do while you visit Greenland’s capital.

Discover more about Greenland

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk provides a complete list of festivals that take place throughout the year in Greenland’s capital. It also has loads of practical information on how to get to Nuuk, how to get around, where to stay, where to eat, and what to do once you arrive.

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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Sarfalik Restaurant Tasting Menu – Nuuk

The Tasting Menu at Sarfalik Restaurant in Nuuk offers a fine-dining experience that allows you to enjoy a wide variety of Greenlandic produce in the one sitting. Professional chefs take the abundances of the season and prepare innovative dishes using a variety of modern techniques for a truly unique taste of Greenland.

In the 2.5 months I’ve been based in Nuuk, I’ve not once been out to a restaurant or café to eat. Cooking for myself is so ingrained (it has to be after more than 3 years of traveling and watching every cent) that I usually forget that going out for a meal is even an option!

However, having written the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk where I relied on restaurant reviews and the recommendations of my friends and colleagues in order to write the “Where to Eat” section, I decided that I had to go out and try one of these places before leaving. I chose to head to the top of the Hotel Hans Egede and indulge in the “Greenlandic Tasting Menu” at Sarfalik Restaurant.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while now know how much I love eating and trying new foods. For example, the Traditional Greenlandic Buffet at the Hotel Sisimiut and the Foodie Tour with Your Friend in Reykjavik were two of my travel highlights for 2018. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to the experience as Nicolai (from Denmark) seated me at a table by the window with a view to one of the well-known mountains near Nuuk – Store Malene.

Sunset over Store Malene from Sarfalik Restaurant - Nuuk- West Greenland
Sunset on Store Malene (the tallest of the peaks) as seen from Sarfalik Restaurant

Before the Tasting Menu begins

As I unwrapped the napkin from its strip of binding sealskin, Nicolai placed a “snack” down in front of me. Humpback whale with soy marinade and mustard mayo, and seaweed with a little onion mayo.

Humpback whale snack at Sarfalik Restaurant - Nuuk - West Greenland
Humpback whale with soy marinade and mustard mayo, and seaweed with a little onion mayo

Although many people would balk at eating whale, it is very much a part of life in Greenland. Mattak (the raw skin of certain types of whale) used to provide the Inuit with several important nutrients, and is still a delicacy that is served at Kaffemiks (celebrations) in modern times.

I’ve tried whale meat on a few occasions in both Greenland and Iceland and have always really enjoyed it.  This was no exception. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender with a subtle soy flavor. It was a great start to what I expected to be an amazing experience.

Next to appear on the table was a basket of warm bread. The white rolls had a wonderfully crusty exterior, and the malt rolls had a more cake-like texture with a rich taste that was enhanced by the salt crystals sprinkled on top. When loaded up with chive butter, keeping my hand out the bread basket was very difficult, even though I knew I had to.

Two types of bread at Sarfalik Restaurant - Nuuk - West Greenland
How to resist?!

Now for the Tasting Menu

The first real course of the Tasting Menu (no, we hadn’t even started yet!) was delivered by Åsmund from Norway. It was an Italian-inspired musk ox empanada with rosemary mayo. There had been an “Italian Takeover” of Sarfalik Restaurant during the previous two weeks by visiting chefs, and this dish was created based on what they showcased during their stay.

Musk-ox empanada as part of the Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk - West Greenland
Musk ox empanada with rosemary mayo

One of the interesting things about the Tasting Menu is that it changes several times per year according to the produce that is in season. However, because it is made up of several small portions, there is also the flexibility to mix it up when an interesting opportunity arises.  

Åsmund (who has a touch of an Australian accent despite never having worked in Australia?!) also presented me with the next dish – reindeer tenderloin with celeriac. The tenderloin was cured with sage and the half-ring of celeriac underneath it was pickled in red wine vinegar and hibiscus. Celeriac cream, crunchy sage “chips” and sprinkled dried Angelica topped off the dish. Åsmund explained that normally the celeriac cream would also have had fresh sage in it, but they were having supply issues. One example of the challenges faced by even a high-end restaurant in Greenland.

reindeer tenderloin with celeriac  on the tasting menu at Sarfalik Restaurant - Nuuk - West Greenland
Reindeer tenderloin with celeriac

The reindeer was very smooth and tender with a mild taste of jerky. Delicious! I was less a fan of the celeriac, but that’s just because I don’t enjoy the taste of wine. The cream gave me a hint of what celeriac tastes like (I’d not eaten it before) and I look forward to another opportunity to try it in its more natural state.

Next up was cold smoked humpback whale with turnip presented in 3 ways.

Cold smoked humpback whale - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk -West Greenland
Cold smoked humpback whale with turnip

The whale was smoked in-house and had a texture more like that of raw fish than what I would normally associate with meat. Its colour was also very dark and Åsmund went on to explain that while this is a general characteristic of humpback whale meat, the cold smoking process (and lack of exposure to heat) actually makes it darker.

The turnips offered 3 completely different experiences of this root vegetable. The fermented turnips (triangles) were quite acidic and sharp, the pickled turnip (julienne) was also quite sharp but somehow had a sweetness to it too. The roasted turnip puree was very creamy and, for me, had the strongest and most recognizable turnip flavor.

My next course was bought out by Matthias from Argentina. Nicolai had told me that Matthias usually doesn’t get to do front-of-house because he is not very confident with his English. But given I speak Spanish…

The plate that Matthias put in front of me was burnt cod with Greenlandic herbs and roasted tomato sauce. Matthias introduced it to me in Spanish, wished me pleasant eating, and disappeared quickly back into the kitchen.

Burnt Cod - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk Greenland
Burnt cod with Greenlandic herbs

The cod was perfectly cooked and the roasted tomato sauce very creamy. Like everything that had come before, it was delicious, though I was starting to worry about the fact that portion sizes seemed to be growing! I crossed my fingers I would be able to fit everything in.  And yes. I was still managing to resist the lure of the bread.

Meeting the head chef – Simon

The next person to appear at my table with an orange granatine palette cleanser turned out to be the head chef, Simon. He is originally from Sweden (the kitchen is very multicultural) and had been working at Sarfalik for 2.5 years, 1.5 of those as head chef. He was much younger than I expected and I was looking forward to chatting with him about the inspiration for and challenges of putting together a Tasting Menu such as this in Greenland.

Orange Granitine - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk - West Greenland
Orange granatine

He returned with my main dish – musk ox with grilled sweet potato, musk ox souffle and musk ox glace – and said he’d be happy to chat after I’d enjoyed my meal.

This dish was fantastic! The musk ox was like a fine steak cooked to perfection. The glace, beautifully rich. And the elements on the plate aligned with the Greenlandic tradition of not wasting anything.  The glace was made using the bones of the musk ox. The puree and chips were made from the castoffs of the grilled sweet potato. I love this approach.

Main dish – Spring Tasting Menu

Musk Ox with Grilled Sweet Potato - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk Greenland
Musk ox with grilled sweet potato

Once I’d finished eating, Simon joined me at my table while we waited for the dessert to be ready. He explained the idea behind the Tasting Menu – to create high quality food that works with the abundances and limitations of the current season in Greenland and neighboring countries.

For example, February is musk ox hunting season in Greenland, so the main today was a musk ox plate. Later in the year during reindeer hunting season, the Tasting Menu would instead feature a reindeer-based main dish. Right now, root vegetables (the staples of Nordic countries) support whatever meat is available (though this, too, will change as the seasons change), and locally sourced herbs that grow wild in the backcountry around Nuuk (like Angelica) are used whenever possible.

“The goal is to tell a story with the Tasting Menu”, Simon tells me.

A story that is dictated by the season.  A story that features local produce sourced directly from the fishermen and hunters while acknowledging Nordic influences on Greenland. A story that showcases the multicultural nature of Nuuk through the use of different cooking techniques drawn from the countries of origin and experiences of the kitchen staff of Sarfalik Restaurant.

I was very much looking forward to how the last chapter of today’s story would unfold!

Spring Tasting Menu dessert

When Simon returned, he came bearing a magnificent Chervil-based dessert. The menu describes it as the following: “Chervil and cream cheese ice cream with yoghurt crisps, liquorice sprinkles, and chervil grass”, but I prefer the story that Simon told me about it.

Nuuk Spring - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - West Greenland
Nuuk Spring

It symbolizes Spring in Nuuk. The green represents plants starting to grow and the brown (burnt white chocolate), the dirt that is slowly revealed by the melting snow. However, just like the Spring we have been experiencing during my stay, a period of warmer weather is abruptly interrupted by a cold snap, and fresh snow (the white fluff) once again covers the landscape.

Brilliant!

And delicious!

The chervil cream cheese ice cream was silky smooth and creamy with a mild flavor that was offset by the much stronger chervil syrup. The yoghurt chips were crisp and almost toffee-like, and the thyme snow (it was meant to be chervil snow, but again, supply problems) was lighter and fluffier than sherbet and disintegrated immediately upon contact with my tongue. I didn’t think anything could dissolve more readily than sherbet, but I have been proven wrong!

It was a spectacular end to an amazing meal that was further enhanced as the setting sun momentarily peaked out from underneath the cloud layer to bathe the restaurant in incredible golden light. Moments like this are truly magical.

Golden sunset through Sarfalik Restaurant on top of the Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk - West Greenland
Golden sunset through Sarfalik Restaurant on top of the Hotel Hans Egede

Recommendation

The Tasting Menu at Sarfalik Restaurant in Nuuk is a wonderful way to try local Greenlandic ingredients prepared in innovative ways. The small portion sizes and large number of courses mean you get to taste a wide range of produce, all prepared with the imagination and ingenuity of top professional chefs. There is also the option to pair the menu with a carefully chosen wine selection.

A million thanks to Simon, Åsmund, Nicolai and Matthias for looking after me and a wonderful experience. I look forward to returning again in September to try to the Autumn version of the Tasting Menu!

Discover more about Greenland

For recommendations on where to eat in Nuuk, check out the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk – the best resource on the web for those planning a trip to Greenland’s capital. It also has loads of practical information on how to get to Nuuk, how to get around, where to stay, and all the things to do once you arrive.

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

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

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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Australian victory in Greenland’s Arctic Circle Race

Video: Mads Fridolin Vejlby

The Australian National Anthem playing in Greenland.

Wait, what?!

Yes. Much to everyone’s surprise, Phillip Bellingham (a fellow Aussie from Victoria) beat local legend Martin Møller to the finish line of the 2019 Arctic Circle Race by a mere 3 minutes and 18 seconds.

This 160km, 3-day event near Sisimiut is widely renowned as the toughest ski race in the world. Greenlander Martin Møller has won it for the past several years and it was a very close race to be beaten by such a short margin over this distance!

Phillip explains his strategy for the race at breakfast on Day 2.

Video: Mads Fridolin Vejlby

And it proved to be a good plan, as the deciding factor ended up being a sprint to the finish line between Phillip and Martin.

Video: Mads Fridolin Vejlby

One of the reasons the Arctic Circle Race is so tough is because Sisimiut is surrounded by very mountainous terrain. Another is because participants have to camp out with minimal equipment for 2 nights, preparing their own food and taking care of themselves. You need a strong mental attitude to be able to cope with this on top of a grueling day on skis in cold temperatures!

Unfortunately I wasn’t in Sisimiut to see the race for myself. However, I do know the terrain around Greenland’s second largest city as I spent over a week there last year hiking and exploring the area during the Summer. It is a spectacularly beautiful part of the world as the following drone footage courtesy of Mads Fridolin Vejlby shows.

Video: Mads Fridolin Vejlby
Music: Nanook

Congratulations Phillip!

Are you coming back next year to defend your title?

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

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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Qoornoq settlement in the Nuuk Fjord

Abandoned in the 1960s as part of the Danish government’s G60 program, the small settlement of Qoornoq has found a new lease on life as a Summer getaway for the families of its former residents. Exploring this small village on a boat tour from Nuuk offers a wonderful 1/2-day trip into the Nuuk Fjord from Greenland’s capital.

The weather was not looking brilliant as we rounded the 3 sides of Nuuk to start our journey up the Nuuk Fjord to Qoornoq.

Looking out the windscreen of our boat towards Sermitsiaq mountain with its top lost in cloud - Nuuk - West Greenland
The top of Sermitsiaq is still just visible

And although some of my travelling companions decided to brave the cold for a brief period, we spent most of the journey inside the warm cabin of our Nuuk Water Taxi, chatting and watching the spectacular scenery slide by through the large windows.

Passengers sitting outside the warm cabin (top) and inside with the captain (bottom) - Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
We didn’t last long out on the front deck of the boat (top). It was lovely and warm inside the cabin though (bottom)

Fortunately the clouds were high enough that we could still see the peaks of most of the mountains, and the overcast day created a more subdued feeling than the bright sunshine I enjoyed on my first trip up the Nuuk Fjord. Perfect really for exploring an abandoned settlement.

Move cursor over image to see the full panorama

It took us about an hour to make our way up the fjord, and it turns out Sermitsiaq is not the only mountain with a frozen waterfall!

Frozen waterfall in the Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
This one was much smaller than the frozen waterfall behind Sermitsiaq, but still…

Arriving at Qoornoq

Our first view of Qoornoq was a string of brightly coloured houses spread out over a peninsula.

Colourful houses of Qoornoq line the fjord - Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
The colourful houses of Qoornoq lining the fjord

and our landing point was around the back at a set of wooden stairs.

Our boat approaching the wooden stairs leading up to Qoornoq - Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
There was no dock as such. Thue just nosed the boat into these wooden stairs and held it there while we jumped off

Our captain, Thue, dropped us off and said to be back in an hour … then headed off to go fishing for his dinner.

Nuuk water taxi in Nuuk Fjord near Qoornoq - West Greenland
Thue leaving us temporarily so he could catch some dinner while he waited for us

This early in the season (mid-March), there is nobody at Qoornoq. In fact, I was asked later in the week by a person who owns a home there about how much ice there was and where we had made our landing.

Exploring Qoornoq

It was absolutely silent as we headed our separate ways to explore this hibernating village, footsteps muffled by the sometimes quite deep snow that covered the ground.

Colourful houses of Qoornoq and a path leading through the settlement - West Greenland
A path leading through the settlement

The bright, colourful houses really stood out against the white landscape

Some of the bright, colourful houses of Qoornoq - Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
I love the colourful houses of Greenland

but all were locked up for the winter.

Padlock and decoration on the exterior of one of the houses of Qoornoq - West Greenland

The cemetery was a poignant reminder that there used to be a permanent community here. People who hunted and fished and lived out their lives in this remote place.

The cemetery at Qoornoq and one of its houses set against the mountainous backdrop - Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
A white landscape

It was very easy to imagine that they left only yesterday.

Unlike in Assaqutaq near Sisimiut, almost every house in Qoornoq is very well maintained and there are no derelict buildings. I could see solar panels adorning most of the houses

Solar panels on a green house in Qoornoq - Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
Most houses had solar panels

and other evidence that this small village comes alive during the summer months.

Kids soccer field in need of repair, but waiting for the Summer months - Qoornoq - West Greenland
I’m sure the nets will be repaired come Summer

It was a strange feeling to be wandering around a well maintained settlement with not another soul in sight. Almost like I’d only just missed the zombie apocalypse!

Houses of Qoornoq settlement with the fjord and mountains in the background - Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
It was like a recently abandoned ghost town

Unfortunately, an hour is nowhere near long enough to fully explore Qoornoq and I didn’t manage to get down to the fish processing plant, nor discover the remnants of the abandoned railways that used to transport fish wagons. Clearly I’m going to have to return for another visit, and also spend some time searching for the Norse and ancient Inuit archaeological ruins that are meant to be in the area.

Move cursor over image to see the full panorama

A fishing interlude on the way back to Nuuk

When we returned to our boat, we were all very impressed by Thue’s fishing haul. So we stopped off for 15 minutes on the way back to Nuuk to try our own luck.

Catching cod on a Nuuk Fjord trip - West Greenland
Success! Many times over

Cod fishing in Nuuk Fjord is so ridiculously easy! You simply drop an unbaited line overboard, and within minutes (sometimes seconds) you have a sizable fish! This was my second experience of cod fishing (when I went around Sermitsiaq a few weeks ago we also dropped lines in) and it is crazy how quickly you can catch your dinner!

On the return journey to Nuuk, Thue took us quite close to mountains that towered above us and dropped more than 1000m straight into the Fjord.

Detail in the mountains in Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
I love Greenlandic rock

It is an immense and rugged wilderness surrounding Greenland’s capital city and I can’t wait for my next chance to explore it further.

Explore the Nuuk Fjord by boat

If you are heading to Nuuk as part of your trip to Greenland, make sure that to head out on one of the many fjord tours available. There are actually several small settlements in the Nuuk Fjord (not just Qoornoq), so take your pick of whichever one interests you the most and go exploring.

Temporary dock for Qoornoq with the colourful houses waiting above - Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
Final view of Qoornoq

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

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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From Sydney Australia to Nuuk Greenland

Ask any Australian and they’ll soon tell you …

It’s a bloody long way from Australia to pretty much anywhere!

This was once again brought home to me as I awoke 4 hours after taking off from Sydney to find myself still over the continent of Australia. *sigh*

I was flying to Copenhagen on my birthday to start my 2019 adventures. This year they are primarily focused around one country. You might be able to guess which one if you’ve been keeping up with the blog posts and my obsessions, otherwise the home-made board game and birthday gift “Sah’s 40-something Travel Quiz – 2019 Edition” might give you a clue.

2019 version of the Travel Quiz made by my brother and his wife - featuring Greenland
These home-made board games are some of my favourite gifts ever! The last one (for when I left Australia 3 years ago) had a map of Latin America on it … where I would spend most of my time during that year

Toni, Bill – you guys are awesome! I love my board games! Though I think my questions were a little on the hard side this time 🤔 I really loved playing the night before I left, and I have to admit the pizza was bloody good😉

Playing my home made board game with my brother sister in law and niece  while eating home made pizza
Playing the latest edition of my awesome board game! One of the many brilliant things about this game is that the questions are specifically written for each person. Which means a 4 year old has as much chance of winning as a trivia buff!

Copenhagen is one of the two stepping stone options you have to get to Greenland. Previously, I’d always flown from Reykjavik in Iceland, but I’d never been to Denmark and it was a good opportunity to visit the Visit Greenland offices (I collaborated with them and wrote most of their Go To Guide to the Arctic Circle Trail last year), and catch up with a friend I’d not seen in 18 years!

Images from our visit to the Visit Greenland offices include the amazing building, a polar bear, dog sled and other traditional Greenlandic items
The Visit Greenland offices are in an awesome building that also hosts representatives from Iceland and Faroe Islands. There is a very cool Greenland store and museum there as well.

Well, actually, it turns out we had caught up once in that time, but neither of us had remembered it until I mentioned that I’d been to Geneva once for about 8 hours. It suddenly dawned on me that the only reason I would have done that was to catch up with him! We had both forgotten! Ah … failing memories 😧

I didn’t have a lot of time in Copenhagen, and Enzo and I spent the vast majority of it chatting. But we did manage to make it to the Lego shop (very cool), to watch Russ’ last IMAX Movie “The Story of Earth” at the Tycho Brahe Planetarium, and teach me that Tivoli is much more than just a venue that my favourite band, Nanook, play most years.

image of me at the lego shop and tivoli gardens in copenhagen
Me at the Lego Shop (L) and walking past Tivoli (R). Who knew it was an amusement park and not just a music venue? BTW the snow is fake

48 hours after arriving, I was back at CPH (Copenhagen airport) and boarding Norsaq – Air Greenland’s only jet – for the 5 hour journey to Kangerlussuaq – Greenland’s primary international airport.

First time on Norsaq
Flying towards adventure 
Nanook in my ears.

5 hours to Greenland
The land that captured my heart
And inspires me.

3 months I have there
Living rather than touring
I can hardly wait.

The above is a haiku I wrote during the flight over. I had a window seat and a wonderful view of blue skies and clouds 😀

Views out my window as I fly over Denmark, Norway and Iceland on the way to Greenland
Flying over Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

Which had turned to grey skies and snowy landscapes as we came in to land at Kangerlussuaq. This looked VERY different to when I was here last August to hike the Arctic Circle Trail!

Images of approaching Kangerlussuaq out of the window of the plane
The edge of the Greenland Icesheet (L) and turning into our approach to Kangerlussuaq (R). This latter runs up the (frozen) fjord and the airstrip is on the left-hand-side past where it narrows (you can just see it)

It was -16 degrees C when we landed and the walk from the plane to the terminal was my first taste of walking in icy/slippery conditions. Fortunately I didn’t face plant!

Passengers from Norsaq heading into the Kangerlussaq airport terminal - west Greenland
This is the biggest airport in Greenland. No, there are no aerobridges.

One of the many interesting things about Kangerlussuaq airport is that although it is the primary international airport for Greenland (due to having the best weather and the longest runway), nobody actually stays there. When Norsaq lands, there is a fleet of at least 4 Dash-8 planes waiting to transfer passengers to where they actually want to go in Greenland – in this case Ilulissat, Sisimiut, Narsarsuaq and Nuuk, my final destination for this trip.

Looking out the window of Kangerlussuaq airport. Note the several Dash-8 planes waiting (one had already taken off). Yes, the announcement is in Greenlandic, but there was an English version that followed.

Less than 2 hours later, Norsaq took off again in the direction of Copenhagen, I’d taken a picture of Kangerlussuaq’s famous sign, and I had boarded my own Dash 8 to head to Nuuk.

Kangerlussuaq Airports famous sign with distances to destinations - West Greenland
I’m pretty sure that most signs like this in the world don’t have the distance to the North Pole so close

Despite having mostly lost my voice, I spent the entire flight chatting with the person beside me. This was my second trip to Nuuk, and when it came into view 40 minutes later, I was reminded about how stunning the surrounding landscape is!

View of Nuuk as the plane flys over ready to circle back and land - Greenland
Nuuk from the air. It is surrounded by a fjord and stunning mountains

I am actually collaborating with Guide to Greenland on this trip, so Mads and Lasse met me at the airport and transported me to the small apartment that I would use while in Nuuk. It is plenty big enough for one person, has a great view, and is nice and warm. Perfect for me 😀

Panorama from the balcony of my small apartment in Nuuk - West Greenland

Move cursor over the image to see the full panorama

I’m soooooooo excited about my time here!

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Trekking Greenland – Arctic Circle Trail – Summary

If you love long-distance hiking and want to experience real solitude and untouched wilderness, the Arctic Circle Trail in West Greenland is definitely for you.

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

Stretching for 160km along the Arctic Circle from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut, it is quickly rising in popularity after being featured in several “Top 10” lists in recent years. And while nowhere in Greenland is ever going to feel crowded, if you want to avoid other hikers, I would suggest doing it sooner rather than later.

Perfect reflections of mountains in the lake - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland

[move cursor over the image to see the full panorama]

I have to admit, it is not the most beautiful long-distance hike I’ve ever done (especially the first couple of days out of Kangerlussuaq), but then again I’ve done some incredible hikes and am drawn to tall peaky mountains with snow and ice. This is not the landscape along the Arctic Circle Trail. That being said, there are some spectacularly epic vistas along the way, and it is magical to have the opportunity to hike alone (if you choose) in the middle of nowhere for over a week.

Tyson looking out over Ole’s Lakseelv (Itinneq) Valley on Day 4 – one of several epic vistas along the Arctic Circle Trail

How difficult is the Arctic Circle Trail?

The great news is that it is actually a very easy hike, if you are accustomed to hiking long distances carrying a full pack. There are no technical challenges (the most difficult thing is avoiding the boggy areas), and any difficulties will likely arise due to weather.

When should I hike the Arctic Circle Trail?

The peak hiking season for this part of Greenland is from late-June to mid-September. During this period the average temperature along the Arctic Circle Trail ranges from around 0o Celsius at night to 17o Celsius during the day. However, keep in mind this is the Arctic and the weather can change quickly. You should therefore not be surprised by hotter temperatures, and absolutely must be prepared for colder weather. As always, layers are the secret to comfort on the trail!

Views of different weather conditions on the Arctic Circle trail in late August 2018 - West Greenland
We had terrible (top) and fantastic (bottom) weather hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in late August

Another consideration is that the infamous Greenland mosquitoes tend to be at their worst in July and early August, though it depends on when the weather becomes warm enough for their eggs to hatch. If you don’t want to have to wear a head net the whole way (though I would recommend bringing one with you regardless), try to aim for earlier or later in the season.

I hiked the trail from August 15 – 22, 2018. You can see how the weather changed on a daily basis by reading my other blog posts (linked from the bottom of this post), but the weather wasn’t too bad and we only had one night with a light frost. The mosquitoes didn’t drive us crazy and there were only a handful of occasions where I put my head net on for a while.

How long does it take to hike the Arctic Circle Trail?

This will depend on a number of factors including your fitness, your motivation, your purpose in hiking the trail, etc. However, the average time taken by most people is 8-9 days from Kelly Ville/Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut. This is basically the schedule defined by the huts.

Views of some of the huts along the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Some of the huts along the Arctic Circle Trail

If you want to walk from the Icefield to Sisimiut, add another 2-3 days. You really want to be able to enjoy a decent amount of time at the very impressive Russell Glacier!

Me standing on rocks looking across the river at the 60m high face of the Russell Glacier
Looking up at the 60m high face of the Russell Glacier

Is it possible to do this trek guided/supported?

At this stage, no. This is an independent hiking trail and you need to be self-sufficient and confident in hiking long distances by yourself. That being said, the trail is extremely well marked. You would have to try very hard to get lost!

Stone cairn with reindeer antlers in front of a lake - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Typical route marker for the Arctic Circle Trail – a stone cairn with red semi-circles. They are easy to spot which makes navigation simple!

Where can I go for more detailed information?

Visit Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail: the go-to guide is the most comprehensive web page on hiking the Arctic Circle Trail. It has loads of practical information on preparing for the hike, how to get the most out of the hike, and what to do after the hike.

I know this because I wrote a lot of it 😉

View of Nasaasaaq from the pass - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Another of my favourite “epic vistas”. This one is actually just outside of Sisimiut

Destination Arctic Circle has a web page that contains brief trail notes, and the other detailed reference is the Cicerone guide: “Walking the Arctic Circle Trail”. Many hikers had this book tucked away in their rucksack and it does give a very detailed description of the route for each day. Paddy Dillon (the author) was actually hiking the trail again while I was there and the updated edition is now out.

Should I budget time at either end to explore?

YES! Absolutely! 100%!

Unfortunately I only ended up with one day in Kangerlussuaq thanks to flight schedule changes, but I spent 9 days in Sisimiut and never ran out of things to do!

Images of some of the many things I did after the Arctic Circle Trail while in Sisimiut, West Greenland
Teasers of some of the many, many things Tyson and I got up to while we were in Sisimiut

I had an absolutely brilliant time in Greenland’s second largest town (population 5,500), and even had the classic Sisimiut experience of being stranded for an extra day due to bad weather grounding the flights 😀 That meant I ended up missing out on seeing my absolute favourite band, Nanook, play at the Taseralik Cultural Center by only 12 hours! 😞😭

Me wearing my "Stranded in Sisimiut - Lucky Me!" t-shirt at the Hotel Sisimiut - West Greenland
Wearing my “Stranded in Sisimiut – Lucky me” t-shirt. Lucky me indeed! I had the BEST time in Sisimiut, thanks in great part to the amazing staff at the Hotel Sisimiut.

Search for “Sisimiut” in my blog posts to see what I got up to, and/or follow the links in Visit Greenland’s “Ultimate Guide to the Arctic Circle Trail”.

Two last things…

Million thanks to my trekking buddy, Tyson, for a hugely fun trip. I’m glad that you enjoyed your first Greenland experience after hearing me rave on about the place for more than 12 months! See you back there in 2019!

And for those who have read all my other posts about this trek…

Yes.  I did manage to make it all the way from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut with dry feet 😂

Read more about hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in Greenland, read about 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.