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Norse ruins

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The Norse ruins are pieces of history scattered among stunning surroundings. Greenland's Norse are Viking culture lies among ice and green fields.

Follow in the footsteps of the Norse! In the year 982, Erik the Red came to “the country west of Iceland” and called it Greenland. This has later been dubbed the world’s first marketing stunt, but there was some truth to it. South Greenland is very lush in the summer, and the Norse could continue their lives as farmers, while also being able to fish and hunt seals in the deep fjords.

Norse residents in Greenland

Erik the Red had been convicted an outlaw at home in Iceland so to stay alive he had no choice but to escape from the country. In fact, Erik became the first non-native to settle in the North American continent, and he arrived 500 years before Christopher Columbus found a place he named America.

During the following centuries, more and more settlers arrived from Iceland and Scandinavia. They were called the Norse and settled in an area ranging from Cape Farewell to the south and up to the Nuuk Fjord. Here they lived until approximately 1500, after which they disappeared from the area.


Easy to get around

Compared to other places in Greenland, towns and settlements are relatively close to each other in South Greenland. Sheep farms are also spread over most of the area. Thus, you can experience the remains of the Norse culture in many locations in South Greenland.

To get around in South Greenland, you have to sail or hike – or combine the two. In this way, you get to feel the ambiance of the area. You cannot take a boat every day, so you have to arm yourself with patience or plan from home. But that is also ok. You have probably come here to get away from your everyday life and to enjoy a quiet atmosphere, created by a mix of blue icebergs and green hills, broken by deep fjords and pointed mountains.

Qassiarsuk and Igaliku are settlements, situated where the Norse first settled. Both settlements give you rolling hills and lots of green pastures. The soil layers are reddish, making a beautiful contrast to the green meadows and blue icebergs.

The meeting between Inuit and Europeans

Inuit of the Thule culture, which had immigrated to North Greenland north of Qaanaaq, gradually began to approach the southern parts of Greenland. They had come here from the areas that later became known as Canada and Alaska.

This unique blend of Inuit and Norse lifestyles, which you can still find in the area, has made large parts of South Greenland declared UNESCO World Heritage.




North American mainland “discovered”

Not long ago, history books told us how the continents were discovered and settled by Europeans, often without much mention of the fact that lots of people were living there before the Europeans went on their raids, which were often camouflaged as expeditions.

In the year 1000, Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red, returned to Greenland after visiting Norway. He brought with him the first Christian missionary. Not long after, the first Christian church on the North American continent was built in Brattahlid, Erik the Red’s hometown. The church was built by Thjodhildur, Erik’s wife, who had converted to Christianity.

It was about the same time that Leif Eriksson and his men sailed even further west than his father had. They landed at and named places located in today’s Canada: Helluland, Markland, and Vinland.

When you are walking in Qassiarsuk today, you can experience a reconstruction of Tjodhildur’s church, Erik and Tjodhildur’s long farm, and an Inuit winter house along with the remains of the Norse settlement.

In nearby Igaliku, formerly known as Norse Gardar, you will find the remains of a Norse diocese and, close to Qaqortoq, you will find the Hvalsey Church Ruin, the best kept ruin of the Norse.