With spectacular glaciers, soaring fjords and vibrant communities, the west coast of Greenland will leave you breathless.
Nuussuaq (formerly known as Kraulshavn) is the only mainland community in the Upernavik Archipelago. Founded in 1923 as a trading station, it’s one of the most traditional hunting and fishing villages in Greenland.
It’s not surprising that the red-hued, heart-shaped mountain that rises up behind Uummannaq gave the traditional community its name (Uummannaq means “heart-like” in Greenlandic). As your ship approaches the shore, you’ll want to be on deck to take in the incredible view of the twin peaks towering over the vibrantly painted wooden houses dotting the rocky terrain below. The settlement was established as a Danish colony in 1758 on the mainland, but it relocated five years later because seal hunting was more plentiful here.
In the nearby archaeological site of Qilaqitsoq (also known as Qilakitsoq), you’ll visit the ruins of an ancient settlement, where the remains of eight fully dressed mummies were discovered under a rock outcrop in 1972 by a pair of hunters. The famous Greenlandic mummies, which date back to 1475 A.D., are on view at the Greenland National Museum in Nuuk.
Cruising farther south rewards with spectacular views of Eqip Sermia. The jagged, blue-tinged glacier soaring out of the crystal-clear water is one of the most beautiful sights in Greenland, and we hope to Zodiac cruise along its massive front from a safe distance. We may also go ashore to explore nearby.
Just south of Ilulissat, which means “iceberg” in Greenlandic, is the impressive Ilulissat Icefjord. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to Sermeq Kujalleq, the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere. As we Zodiac cruise at the mouth of the fjord, you may be lucky to witness the wonders of calving ice (listen to the loud roars as the ice breaks off). Founded in 1741, the traditional town, which boasts more sled dogs than people, is famous in its own right: it was the birthplace of explorer Knud Rasmussen, the first to traverse the Northwest Passage by dogsled, in the early 1920s . Hikes here lead out to stunning views of the young icebergs as as they float out the fjord to Disko Bay.
In Sisimiut, you’ll be treated to a traditional kayaking demonstration.
The kayak (an Inuit word that the English borrowed) is Greenland’s national symbol and can be traced back to the country’s first immigrants, who used vessels that resemble the narrow one- or two-person boats. The town has several 18th-century colonial buildings, including the oldest surviving church in Greenland, so take time to wander through the historic area. You’ll also have a chance to hike amongst the area’s surrounding mountains.
Situated in a scenic hollow on a small island with no freshwater, the colorful community of Itilleq, which has about 130 inhabitants, is surrounded by sea, mountains and fjords. The final excursion of your Arctic adventure may be a hike around Itilleq Fjord.