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