Ilimanaq in Greenland

Ilimanaq | Traditional Greenlandic village culture in the Disco Bay

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Facts about Ilimanaq in Greenland

Luxurious comfort. Unspoiled nature. Development. Cultural heritage. Tourists. Local people. In Ilimanaq, contrasts meet beautifully.

Ilimanaq means ”expectations” or ”likelihood” in Greenlandic. And you can easily expect unique natural and cultural experiences in Ilimanaq.

Ilimanaq in Greenland
Ilimanaq is one of the smallest settlements in the Discobay

Ilimanaq is located 15 kilometers south of Ilulissat and has approximately 50 inhabitants. Ilimanaq offers the entire color palette from village houses in many bright colors to the changing nuances of the surrounding landscape, all depending on the seasons. Ilimanaq is a traditional Greenlandic village where the main industries are still hunting and fishing.

The local school named Lars Hansenip Atuarfia (Lars Hansen’s School) has approximately 10 students and, in addition, Ilimanaq has a nursing station, a helistop, a service building complete with laundry facilities and a workshop, a community hall and a football field.

Ilimanaq in Greenland
Ilimanaq is situated next to the Ilulissat Icefjord and offers great hiking possibilities

Ilimanaq Lodge at Ilulissat Icefjord

Imagine yourself waking up in a small cabin to the sound of a whale diving into the Disco Bay. Your dream can come true. In 2017 Ilimanaq opens up for tourist to stay in Ilimanaq Lodge. 15 cabins, all beautifully located at the Ilulissat Icefjord are available for an overnight stay.

Read more about Ilimanaq Lodge in Greenland

Ilimanaq Lodge in Greenland
Enjoying sunset from a cabin in Ilimanaq Lodge

Ilimanaq Lodge is comfort on the rocks - literally

Imagine that you wake up in a nice bed and open your eyes to the sight of majestic icebergs. You step down into the living room, sit on the couch and watch the fishing boats chug by on the crystal-clear water. You enjoy a coffee on your terrace and wave to a whale that blows a nice ‘good morning’ through his blowhole.

Ilimanaq in Greenland
One of the locals in Ilimanaq

Meet the locals in Ilimanaq

Ilimanaq is one of the smallest settlements in the Disco Bay in Greenland, but the village is rich in history, natural wonders and, not least, friendly people. Hunting culture is still a big part of the Greenlandic way of life and it is particularly evident in the Greenlandic settlements. The hunter gets up early and takes his boat out to sea and, later in the day, he comes home with seals and fish.

Some local inhabitants might invite tourists into their own homes for kaffemik, a traditional Greenlandic get-together with coffee and cake. You will hear about their lives and they will ask about who you are and where you come from. It puts things in perspective to hear about life in Greenland in a small village with 52 inhabitants.

Glacier in Ilimanaq in Greenland
Glacier in the back country of Ilimanaq

World class icebergs in Greenland

The trip to Ilimanaq is an adventure in itself. Most people sail from Ilulissat to the settlement, past the famous UNESCO Ilulissat Icefjord where thousands of icebergs reach towards the skies. One of the most popular excursions in Greenland is a boat trip to the mouth of the Ilulissat Icefjord. As an added bonus, you will get that experience when sailing to Ilimanaq.

Church in Ilimanaq in Greenland
In Ilimanaq traditional Greenlandic traditions are part of everyday life

Experience history in Ilimanaq

The original name for Ilimanaq is Claushavn (Claus's Harbour) and it is named after the Dutch whaling skipper Klaes Pietersz Thorp, who was whaling in the Disco Bay in the years 1719-1732. At the time, the area was the most densely populated in Greenland and small settlements were found all along the coasts.

Church in Ilimanaq in Greenland
The old church in Ilimanaq

Ilimanaq host some of Greenland’s oldest colonial buildings

Ilimanaq offers some of Greenland’s oldest colonial buildings in addition to those already mentioned. The Church in Ilimanaq is from 1908 and is renovated so it appears beautifully in its lovely location. In addition, there are a fish house, a few warehouses, a former coal house, and a building that was used to boil blubber.

When you arrive at Ilimanaq you will be welcomed by the black-painted restaurant set just next to the port area. Next to the restaurant you will find the reception for Ilimanaq Lodge.

The reception was built in 1778 as a grocery store and a trading station where the hunters could sell skins, blubber and the like. The building served in this function until the opening of the local Pilersuisoq store which now sells many everyday necessities.

The restaurant building was originally the residence of the former village manager. The property is from 1751 and, over the years, it has had many functions: It has been home to pastors, missionaries and merchants, and it has functioned both as a village office, fur workshop, and much more. The village manager residence was originally built by master carpenter J. C. Suhr in Copenhagen. Then it was disassembled and sent to Ilimanaq where it was reassembled.

Ilulissat Icefjord from  Ilimanaq in Greenland
Ilimanaq settlement is neighbour to the world famous UNESCO site Ilulissat Icefjord

The Royal Greenland Trade

Today, the Royal Greenland Trade is called KNI. On a trip to Greenland you will see the three letters in many places. KNI mainly operates two types of stores: Pisiffik stores in the bigger towns and Pilersuisoq stores in the smaller towns and settlements. Pilersuisoq has to ensure the transportation of supplies to 66 stores in the settlements along the coast, often located in inaccessible areas. In addition, the stores have functions such as postal services, ship berthing, helicopter landings, etc, so you have to be a very versatile person to be the leader of a Pilersuisoq store.

Hiking in Greenland
Hiking in the Ilimanaq back country

Popular excursions from Ilimanaq

Ilimanaq is located right next to the world famous Ilulissat Icefjord with its huge icebergs and exciting wildlife. You can expect to see both whales and seals and experience the stunning scenery and historic sites. And remember, the experience is just outside the door.

Popular excursions from Ilimanaq

There are many possibilities for beautiful hikes and excursions. With the local tour agency, you can go sailing into the fjord system by Tasiusaq, hike to Ilulissat Icefjord, or go on a trip to an abandoned settlement. Also, you can go on a boat trip to the Greenland Ice Sheet where you will have the opportunity to go glacier hiking and visit a cultural research area.

Three popular excursions

We want to highlight four popular excursions from Ilimanaq that are very unique for the area and also for Greenland in general.


  1. Hiking to Ilulissat Icefjord and the old graves
  2. Glacier hiking at the Tasiusaq fjord system with ATV
  3. Hiking south of Ilulissat Icefjord


Hiking to the Ilulissat Icefjord
Hiking to the Ilulissat Icefjord and the old graves

Hiking to Ilulissat Icefjord and the old graves

’Northern Houses’ are located 4 km from Ilimanaq. It takes a few hours to hike up there. The excursion starts with a magnificent view from one of the hilltops north of the village. You get a fantastic view of the Disco Bay, the surrounding terrain and the colored houses in Ilimanaq. In the other direction, you can see the giant icebergs where you are headed.

Along the way, we see house sites from the Thule Culture and come close to one of the many hidden graves in which skulls and bone pieces still lie among the rocks.

A more ‘modern’ cemetery is situated in the middle of the countryside but the collection of houses surrounding it has disappeared long ago. However, you see the foundations of these. After climbing up on a hilltop, you will now see the largest icebergs in the Ilulissat Icefjord. In good weather, you can see all the way to the glacier front 65 km away. From this view point, you have the giant icebergs lying in front of you. The only thing that breaks the silence is the sound of icebergs as they calve, melt and move.

After our hike, we are picked up by boat from the natural harbor at Nordre Huse, and we sail home along the coast to Ilimanaq. The trip lasts about 4-5 hours and, along the way, we get a light lunch with some snacks. We recommend that you also bring a little refreshment if you need a shot of energy during the walk.

Hiking to the Ilulissat Icefjord
Hiking in the Ilimanaq area offers great views

Glacier hiking at Tasiuaq – sailing and ATV

There are only a few places in Greenland where you can go on an excursion with ATV, but on this trip, we use them to get to the Tasiusaq fjord system and the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet. 

We sail southwards from Ilimanaq until we reach the bay of Itilliup Ilua. We get off the boat on the wide sandy beach and continue as passengers in two large terrain vehicles. Now we drive across a big plain with stunning views of mountains and the wide plain itself until we reach the Tasiusaq fjord system.

At the head of the fjord, we go ashore and walk over to the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Glacier hiking is safe when safety is in focus and, at this point, your experienced guide will inform you of safety and procedures for glacier trekking. All equipment is checked thoroughly before we find a place to step onto the ice to take the obligatory group photo.

Of course, we have brought lunch on the trip, and we will have snacks and sandwiches when we get hungry. A wonderful day and a wonderful trip in an area that few people ever get to experience.


Hiking south of Ilulissat Icefjord
Untouched nature in the back country of Ilimanaq


Hiking south of Ilulissat Icefjord

With the world famous Ilulissat Icefjord as our nearest neighbor you do not have to go far to get great nature experiences. There are many short and long hiking trails from Ilimanaq. We recommend that you buy a map of the area. If you go on longer trips, we also recommend that you bring a compass and that you are experienced in reading a card.


 Ilulissat Icefjord
Sailing to Ilimanaq takes you close to Ilulissat Icefjord and huge icebergs

Sailing to Ilimanaq from Ilulissat

If you are not lucky enough to stay overnight in Ilimanaq on your trip to Greenland, you can still experience this beautiful settlement. From Ilulissat, you can go on a five-hour excursion to Ilimanaq and back. The tour goes past the gigantic icebergs at the mouth of Ilulissat Icefjord before you come to the settlement and get to go ashore. There is plenty of time to walk around and experience the place and the stunning views. The excursion is carried out in the summertime. The boat trip itself lasts about one hour per way.

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