Tag Archives: Greenland

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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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Helicopter Summit Flight – Sermitsiaq – Nuuk

Sitting in a helicopter flying towards the iconic Sermitsiaq Mountain at sunset is by far one of the most amazing things you can do in Nuuk. The only thing that could make it better – actually land near the summit and have time to explore!

An interesting fact about Greenland is that flying in a helicopter is a relatively common way of getting around. Greenland has no roads between its towns, which means that the only year-round option to get from place to place is by air (you can’t sail in winter).

Although helicopters provide a vital cog in the transportation infrastructure for Greenland, it is also possible to take some tourism-oriented flights. The main options are in Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Qaqortoq and Nuuk – with the HelicopterSummit Flight being the pinnacle in Greenland’s capital city.

Safety briefing

My 4 fellow passengers and I met our pilot at Nuuk’s small airport at 5pm. Geir led us out to the helicopter, gave us a safety briefing and asked who wanted the front seat. While everyone else was being nice and pausing before putting their hand up – I just jumped right in 🙂

pilot giving safety briefing before we board the helicopter for the Nuuk Summit flight to Sermitsiaq - West Greenland
Geir pointing out all the important bits

With the others squeezed into the back of the helicopter (there’s not much space when you get 4 adults in there) and our headsets on, we took off in the direction of Sermitsiaq.

Taking off in the helicopter for the Nuuk Summit Flight. The runway at Nuuk airport and Sermitsiaq - West Greenland
Taking off towards Sermitsiaq

Flying around Sermitisaq

It is a short flight from Nuuk to Sermitsiaq mountain – but absolutely stunning!

Aerial view as we approach Sermitisiaq on the helicopter summit flight from Nuuk - West Greenland
Love the different perspective on this mountain when seen from the air

On a day like this – the views go on forever – and you really can appreciate the spectacular beauty of the Nuuk Fjord.

Looking beyond Sermitsiaq's peak further into the Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
Looking over the top of the peak of Sermitsiaq further into the Nuuk Fjord
Other peaks in the Nuuk Fjord that are very close to the city - West Greenland
The Nuuk Fjord is stunningly beautiful. This is the doorstop of Greenland’s capital city

I had actually done this helicopter summit flight earlier in the year during Winter.  Back then, the entire mountain was covered in snow and you couldn’t see any of the details. Those of you who have been following for a while know how much I am in love with rocks in Greenland – and being able to see the rock coming through the dusting of snow on the peak was a highlight for me.

Rock detail of sermitisiaq mountain - Nuuk - West Greenland

As was discovering unexpectedly that there is a large lake between the ridge and the summit!  I had absolutely no idea that was there as it was completely covered in snow and ice the last time I visited.

Hidden lake between the ridge and the peak of Sermitsiaq mountain - Nuuk - West Greenland
I had no idea this was here!

To ensure that everyone ended up with a fantastic view of the mountain, Geir took us on 2 circuits of the summit – first one direction and then the other. Both the amazing views and the slightly disorienting feeling of manoeuvring in a circle in a helicopter brought a massive smile to my face.

Summit landing on Sermitsiaq

After we’d all taken about a million photos of the mountain, Geir bought us in to land on the ridge below the peak of Sermitsiaq.

Really – it doesn’t get any better than this!

helicopter and people on the ridge in front of the summit of Sermitsiaq - Nuuk - West Greenland
Our landing spot. You can see the actual summit of Sermitsiaq in the background

There was not a breath of wind (the wind was coming from directly behind the peak so we were sheltered) and we had the next 25 minutes to explore our incredible surroundings and try to take in where we were and what we were experiencing.

Contemplating the experience on top of Sermitsiaq - Nuuk - West Greenland
Contemplating the experience

I couldn’t get over the existence of the hidden lake! And the fact that there was an almost perfect reflection of the golden peak in its waters was just the icing on the cake.

panorama from the landing site on Sermitsiaq including the hidden lake - West Greenland - Nuuk

move mouse over image to see full panorama

The light was spectacular, and becoming more so by the minute as the sun headed towards the horizon. 

Glimpse of Nuuk Fjord and mountains- West Greenland
The Nuuk Fjord is amazing

It didn’t matter which direction I looked – the view in front of me was one of the most beautiful I’d ever seen.

sun setting behind the helicopter on the summit flight - nuuk - West Greenland
Sun setting behind the helicopter – Nuuk is down below

Yes – I know there are a lot of superlatives in this post – but it really was beyond incredible!

me standing on Sermitsiaq mountain with the Nuuk fjord behind - West Greenland
So happy!

Flight back to Nuuk

I used every second of my 25 minutes exploring the ridge and taking photos in all directions. But eventually we had to leave.  This time I sat in the back of the helicopter – which still offers awesome views as you fly.

looking out the front window between the pilot and passenger on Nuuk helicopter summit flight - West Greenland
Even from the middle-back seat the views are amazing
pastel light view looking out the side window of the helicopter summit flight - Nuuk - West Greenland
Looking out the side window

Our return flight took us past the airport

view of airport and store malene from helicopter summit flight - Nuuk - West Greenland
Nuuk airport with Store Malene in the background

and over the city of Nuuk itself

Passenger taking photo as we circle over Nuuk center on helicopter summit flight - West Greenland

before circling around

view of private harbour, airport and sermitsiaq from helicopter - Nuuk - West Greenland

to land back at Nuuk airport.

Nuuk airport terminal from the tarmac - West Greenland
Nuuk airport terminal

A must-do helicopter scenic flight

If you are looking for something really special to round out your trip to Nuuk, doing a remote helicopter landing on an iconic mountain peak has to be right up there. I highly recommend the Helicopter Summit Flight from Nuuk – and it is even more spectacular if you time it for about an hour before sunset.  You won’t be disappointed!

Discover more about Greenland

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk is the most comprehensive online guide for planning your vacation to Greenland’s capital. Definitely a must-read for anyone thinking of visiting.

You can read more about my experiences in Greenland both here and 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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Sletten//Narsarsuaq – Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival 2019

Sletten//Narsarsuaq is the most powerful piece of theatre I have ever seen. The highlight of the Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival in 2019 for me, I am still deeply affected by these stories and the remarkable performances I experienced.

The Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival (also known as Nuuk Nordisk) is a biannual week-long festival that brings together artists from throughout Nordic countries.  As soon as the early-bird tickets were released back in April, I bought mine – allowing me unlimited access to almost everything that would happen during the festival week.

I had no idea what to expect. But when the program came out several months later, my eyes were immediately drawn to a series of performances that would be held in the “Blocks” – old, run-down apartment buildings that still occupy prime real-estate in central Nuuk.

The official poster for Narsarsuaq // Sletten

Nuuk’s Apartment Blocks

I have a strange fascination with the Blocks. Particularly Block P, which was the largest and has become the most famous of them. It was demolished in 2012, 5 years before I visited Greenland for the first time. But that has not stopped me from seeking out information and pouring over the display about it in Nuutoqaq – the Nuuk Local Museum, which features photographs and other items rescued during the demolition. I even found and bought a book about Block P in the Nuuk Art Museum during the week of the festival!

Part of the exhibition about Block P in Nuutoqaq - Nuuk's local museum
Part of the exhibition about Block P in Nuutoqaq

The Blocks were built in the 1960s/70s as part of the Danish Government’s G60 program to urbanize Greenland and move people from the small settlements into larger towns and cities. The aim was to give the Greenlanders the same standard of living as that which existed in Denmark – an admirable aim to be sure. However, having to transition from an Inuit hunter to an apartment-dwelling city worker essentially overnight was too much for many of the displaced locals, and the social ramifications are still felt throughout Greenland.

Some of the Blocks in downtown Nuuk
Some of the Blocks in downtown Nuuk.

Narsarsuaq//Sletten

This is exactly what the Narsarsuaq//Sletten multi-performance theatre was about. The description of this large production was essentially as follows:

Narsarsuaq//Sletten. The Blocks 1-10. This area tells the newer story of Nuuk, and of Greenland.

In the 70’s the urbanization of Greenland took place and many small settlements were forced to close. Fishermen and hunters came with their families from beautiful areas along the coast, and were suddenly put into small apartments. What happened? How was it. How is it?

Some were happy (they had all the modern conveniences) and were able to build good strong families. Others lost themselves and their identities.

The Narsarsuaq//Sletten today is full of memories and stories – beautiful, hard, fulfilled, unfulfilled, warm and devastating stories. Stories of the lives that have been lived over the past 30 years and continue to be lived.

Nuuk Nordisk Program 2019

Pink handprints adorn one of the walls of an apartment in Block 1 - currently being demolished in Nuuk
Pink hand-prints adorn one of the walls of an apartment in Block 1. This Block is currently being torn down – erasing more stories of the lives that have been lived there.

The 5 performances making up this epic show each touched on different aspects of this urbanization project. A production by Teater FreezeProductions, directed by Hanne Trap Friis and featuring some of Greenland’s best actors, dancers, writers and storytellers, I couldn’t wait until they played in English during the last 3 days of the festival (they were in Greenlandic during the first 3 days).

“The View”

“Out this window I have a view of one of the Blocks. Out my other window, I have a view of another of the Blocks. Where I used to live, my views went on forever…”

The View

So begins the monologue of an old Greenlandic lady sitting at her kitchen table in her apartment in Block 2. Makka Kleist delivered an extraordinary solo performance, drawing us in with her storytelling as she reminisced about her life in the settlement with her beloved Kali. At intervals, these happy memories were interrupted by noises from neighbouring apartments, and both she and the audience would abruptly return to the new reality. That of city life in a small apartment.  

The way she tells it, there certainly were advantages to moving into the Blocks (it was warm, there was running water, everything worked at the press of a button), but it is clear that her heart still longed to be out in the fjord living the harder life.

“Sletten”

This was the most powerful piece of theatre I have ever seen! Kudos to Kim Leine who wrote it, and Helene Kvint, Karina Møller and Thomas Knuth who performed it.

The story is about a Danish nurse and his wife who come to Greenland for a 2-year stint in the hospital in Nuuk.  It is a no-hold-barred look at the relationship between Greenland and Denmark that is played out in the interpersonal relationships of this couple and a Greenlandic woman who has an affair with the husband.

A scene from Sletten

What made it so powerful were the subjects that it broached and the way in which it broached them – head on, in your face, with no holds barred. But also, the fact that it was performed in such a small space. The audience was sat along the two long walls of what I imagine was the living room/kitchen in one of the apartments. The room was about 6m wide and perhaps 15m long (probably an over-estimation), and most of the action took place in the middle of the room. The actors were so close to the audience that you couldn’t help but feel as if you were in the middle of what was going on. And the fact that the actors actually acknowledged the audience as part of the play when they entered the room for the first time, cemented the fact that we were all in this together.

Scene from "Sletten" showing how close the audience is to the performance - part of Sletten//Narsarsuaq
You can’t help but feel like you are part of the scene when the stage is this small and you are sat in the thick of the action

I have never been so affected by a performance in my entire life!

And I have no connection with the history between Greenland and Denmark.  I cannot imagine what it must have felt like as a Dane or Greenlander to have your relationship portrayed in such a raw manner. Certainly, there were many eyes that glistened with tears (my own included) by the end of the performance, and the standing ovation the actors received could only begin to express how much we had been all been affected.

In Zombieland

This was another powerful experience based on stories from the collection of novels written by Sørine Steenholdt. Through poetry, dance and music, three young people explored the dreams, fears and hopes of Greenland’s youth while raising to the fore many of the social issues that affect them. Amazing performances by all three actors (Amisuna Berthelsen, Hans-Henrik Suersaq Poulsen and Nukakkuluk Kreutzman), touching on suicide (Greenland has the highest suicide rate in the world), drunkenness and child abuse. No photographs were allowed during this performance.

Boy meets Concrete

I have to admit, I’m a very literal person and not really into interpretive dance. However, I did go to see this performance which apparently explored how “the soft human soul and flesh meet the challenge of the concrete, of the city”. No photographs were allowed during this performance.

Remembering Lisa

The final performance in the series told the story of “Lisa” – a Greenlandic woman who was murdered in Block 6 back in 1985. How many of the current residents of Nuuk remember that this happened? The answer: not many.

And this was the point of the performance. Showing how we should never forget people’s lives, no matter how “ordinary” they may have been.

"Lisa" serving tea in her kitchen to welcome us to the performance "Remembering Lisa", part of Narsarsuaq//Sletten
Lisa serves us tea as she welcomes us to her kitchen in “Remembering Lisa’

The story was told through a re-enactment of what may have taken place on that fateful day. Amidst the certainty of the football game happening at the stadium, the fact that kids would have been playing outside between the blocks, and the knowledge of the weather on the day and who the Prime Minister of Greenland was at the time, it is still unknown who killed Lisa. Possible scenarios for the 3 suspects were played out, with two of them rooted once again in the social issues that are still found in Greenland. 

A light-hearted moment arises about two-thirds of the way through when Lisa decides that she wants to change the outcome of the story and not end up dead. She forces a re-work of each of the scenarios, interacting with each of the potential suspects in a more generous manner to see if that could make a difference.  In two of the scenarios – the outcome was different. But the third…

Lisa consoling one of her suspected murderers in order to try to effect a different outcome in "Remembering Lisa", part of Sletten//Narsarsuaq
Trying to rewrite history in “Remembering Lisa”

Final thoughts on Narsarsuaq//Sletten

I have no idea whether this amazing epic will ever be shown elsewhere or ever again. I am so thankful I was able to experience it.

Staging it in the Blocks themselves was absolutely inspired, and I heard the director discuss this as a conscious (and necessary) choice at an Artist Talk during the Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival.  The performances would still be amazing in another venue, but to be couped up in the heart of where these stories took place was particularly powerful.

I cannot thank Teater FreezeProductions and all the people involved enough for such an incredible experience. The absolute highlight of Nuuk Nordisk for me.

Recommendation

If you are interested in experiencing a wide range of Nordic culture and art, you should time your visit to Greenland to coincide with the bi-annual Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival. Read more about the festival itself in this article about Nuuk Nordisk, and discover more of what there is to see and do in Greenland’s capital city in the Ultimate Guide to Nuuk.

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.

You can read more about my experiences in Greenland both here and 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!