Kangerlussuaq Travel Guide
Kangerlussuaq is best known as being the main transportation hub of Greenland. However, it has several unique features that make it a fascinating destination for Nature Beings to spend time when they come to visit
|Name:||Kangerlussuaq means “big fjord”|
|Founded:||1941 (military), 1992 (civilian)|
|Activities||biking, city tours, dog sledding, glaciers, hiking, ice fishing, ice sheet, kayaking, northern lights, scenic flights, trophy hunting, wildlife observation|
|Kangerlussuaq Photo Gallery|
Why you should visit
- It’s the country’s only “inland” town, lying ~160km away from the main West Greenland coastline at the end of a long fjord (hence its name)
- It has Greenland’s most extensive road system, spanning ~50km from Kellyville all the way to the edge of the Ice Sheet
- It has the most diverse terrestrial fauna of anywhere in Greenland outside of the restricted Greenland National Park, including musk oxen
- It lies at the eastern end of the largest stretch of ice-free land in Greenland making it a hub for adventurers (including those undertaking the Arctic Circle Trail – Greenland’s most famous long-distance hike)
- It hosts the coolest marathon on Earth – the Polar Circle Marathon – each year
- It lies just south of one of Greenland’s UNESCO World Heritage listed areas – Aasivissuit-Nipisat: an inuit hunting ground between ice and sea
- It has a history unlike almost anywhere else in Greenland. It was initially established as a US air force base (Bluie West-8 / Sondrestrom Air Base) in 1941 and was only converted into a civilian town/airport in 1992
- It is home base to many scientific programs, especially those related to climate change
Year round, there is a wide range of activities for visitors to experience, as well as several tour operators and accommodation options.
How to get to Kangerlussuaq
|International Flights||1) Copenhagen -> Kangerlussuaq (Air Greenland)|
2) Billund -> Kangerlussuaq (Air Greenland summer)
3) Reykjavik/Keflavik -> Nuuk -> Kangerlussuaq (Air Greenland or IcelandAir + Air Greenland)
|Domestic Flights||Direct flights from/to Ilulissat, Aasiaat, Sisimiut, Maniitsoq, Nuuk, and Narsarsuaq|
|Cruise ships||Several cruise ships call into Kangerlussuaq each season|
|By land||For the super adventurous, it is possible to hike (summer), ski, dogsled or snowmobile (winter) from Sisimiut to Kangerlussuaq|
Once you have arrived in Kangerlussuaq, you can either walk, call the taxi (+299 55 23 23), or catch the city bus around town. Visitors staying at Old Camp will be picked up from the airport terminal upon arrival and transferred to their accommodation. Both Hotel Kangerlussuaq and Polar Lodge are right by the airport terminal. Guests at other accommodations need to make their own transfer arrangements.
Due to its inland location, Kangerlussuaq’s climate tends to be more extreme than other places at similar latitudes in Greenland.
The below are mean temperatures in degrees Celsius. Keep in mind that maximum temperatures can be much hotter, and minimum temperatures much colder – especially when wind chill is also factored in.
|Av Max (C)||-13.5||-14.8||-10.8||-0.9||8.4||15.3||16.8||14.0||7.7||-0.8||-7.0||-10.5|
Visitors to Kangerlussuaq can expect very cold winters (down to -55C with wind chill) and relatively mild summers. However, over the past few years we have experienced increasingly abnormal and unstable weather conditions so it is not unusual for temperatures to rise beyond 20C during the summer and for it to rain more often.
We recommend watching the following videos to understand what you should pack for your trip to Greenland. And remember to bring sunscreen and sunglasses, even if you are planning a winter visit.
Where to stay
There are accommodation options to suit all budgets in Kangerlussuaq. We encourage you to stay at least a few nights to fully experience the different activities and attractions of Greenland’s only “non-coastal” town, some of which can only be done from here.
- Hotel Kangerlussuaq – private rooms, suites, private bathrooms
- Polar Lodge – private rooms, shared bathrooms, shared kitchen and common area
- Old Camp – private rooms, shared bathrooms, shared kitchen and common area
- Kangerlussuaq Youth Hostel – private rooms, dorm rooms, shared bathrooms, shared kitchen and common area
There are also accommodations in Kangerlussuaq on Airbnb
Where to eat
As with accommodation, there are several dining options ranging from basic fast food through to fine-dining a-la-carte experiences.
- Restaurant Muskox: a fine dining, gourmet restaurant that uses fresh, local ingredients and offers an extensive wine menu
- Restaurant Roklubben: a high quality restaurant on the shore of Lake Ferguson with seasonal traditional dishes
- Hotel Kangerlussuaq Cafeteria: Well-priced food and an extensive selection of pastries in a relaxed, casual atmosphere
- Nordlyset Pizzeria-Thai-Grillhouse – used to serve food, but is now a chill bar with a pool table and foosball
- Café Ishuset
- Kang Mini Market – hotdogs and french fries
What to do in Kangerlussuaq
All year round
Given its close proximity and easy access to the Greenland Ice Sheet, Kangerlussuaq is the best place in the country from which to explore this unique landscape. A 35km drive and ~1km hike over glacial moraines will transport you into a surreal landscape with ice as far as the eye can see. This trip can also be combined with a visit to the impressive Russell Glacier, where it is possible to walk to within 100m of its ~60m high face. This glacier is one of the most studied in Greenland and is unusual in that it terminates on land. Almost all other glaciers terminate in a fjord.
Along the way, you might be lucky enough to spot musk oxen, reindeer, arctic hare, and arctic foxes – just some of the wild species of animal that inhabit the backcountry around Kangerlussuaq in large numbers. However, a better way to see these creatures is on a dedicated wildlife observation tour where your guide will take you to the best locations and get you as close as safely possible to the animals. It is also possible to join one of the area’s highly regulated trophy hunts where all parts of the killed beast are brought back to town and utilised for other purposes.
To learn more about the history of Kangerlussuaq, we recommend you join a city tour as some of the historically important locations are situated outside of the town’s limits, and you can also visit the Kangerlussuaq Museum to explore imagery of its past.
Winter / Spring (Jan – Apr)
With clear skies for most of the year, visitors to Kangerlussuaq have a very good chance of experiencing the magical Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Although it is possible to see them from in town, joining a tour into the backcountry will give you a much clearer and brighter view away from any light pollution.
Kangerlussuaq is also the perfect place to begin for first time dog sledders. The relatively gentle terrain makes for a smooth and easy journey where you can just focus on the peaceful nature of this ancient mode of transportation. Of course, if you have been dog sledding before, there are longer journeys you can undertake, including the 3-day expedition along the Arctic Circle Trail to Sisimiut.
Winter is also the time to try your hand at a different style of fishing – ice fishing. Just because the fjord is frozen doesn’t mean the fish aren’t biting, and visitors can experience first-hand how Greenlanders keep themselves (and their dogs) fed with fish during the colder months.
Summer / Autumn (Jun – Oct)
Kangerlussuaq’s enormous backcountry contains several hiking trails that range from short, easy hikes along gravel roads, to long, multi-day hikes where navigation and first aid experience is essential. Several tour operators offer hiking excursions, and there are also marked trails that you can do on your own. The most famous of these is the >160km long Arctic Circle Trail, which is suitable only for experienced backcountry hikers.
For those that prefer other forms of outdoor activity, it is possible to go kayaking on Lake Ferguson or to hire an e-bike (from 2023) to explore Greenland’s longest road system.
Meanwhile, = marathon runners will want to visit right at the end of Autumn for the Polar Circle Marathon. The route for this unique marathon goes over part of the Greenland Ice Sheet before heading back to Kangerlussuaq along the Ice Road.
Another way to explore the Kangerlussuaq area between March and November is to treat yourself to a scenic flight. All routes take you over the Ice Sheet and the glacial river valleys, and the pilot flies as low as legally possible to give you the best view of the landscape and wildlife below you.
Kangerlussuaq Tour Operators
Kangerlussuaq has several tour operators that can arrange excursions for private individuals, large groups and everything in between. Explore all their offerings below.