Inspiration / Places to visit / Ilulissat Ice Fjord – UNESCO World Heritage

Ilulissat Ice Fjord – UNESCO World Heritage

The Ilulissat Icefjord is known all over the world, and in 2004 it was listed as UNESCO World Heritage because the Ice Fjord is a very special place. Here you will get an unforgettable experience.

Ilulissat Ice Fjord – also known as Sermeq Kujalleq

Sermeq Kujalleq is the name of the glacier at the base of the Ice Fjord, and it is an impressive one. It is the fastest glacier in the northern hemisphere, moving around 40 meters per day. Other so-called galloping glaciers have periodically moved faster, for instance, the one near Qeqertarsuaq, but they cannot keep the pace for long. Sermeq Kujalleq, however, keeps going and going.

The glacier is huge. It is 6 kilometers wide and 45 kilometers long. That corresponds to 66,000 football fields. The glacier is known for dropping the same amount of ice in the water daily, which equals the annual consumption of water of the entire island of Manhattan. Sermeq Kujalleq produces 10 % of all icebergs in Greenland.


A boat trip into paradise at the Ilulissat Ice Fjord

A boat trip to the mouth of the Ice Fjord is quite an experience. Enormous icebergs have run aground by the mouth of the fjord where the water is shallower than elsewhere in the fjord. The shallowness is a result of a large sandbank being pushed forwards by the huge icebergs, causing the ice to run aground.

The icebergs will not move until they have melted enough to break free of the sandbank, or if a large portion of ice calved from the glacier at the base of the fjord pushes more ice forward, or if they are lifted over the sandbank by large waves caused by the calving of major icebergs.

Sailing near the icebergs is incredible. The captains bring their boats as close to the ice as safety allows – naturally keeping a proper distance to the enormous giants. The icebergs can be tall as a skyscraper and have a vast areal extent.

You should take a boat trip in the daytime and then the second one in the evening when the midnight sun spreads a golden hue. It might seem a little extravagant to go on the same boat trip twice, but we know from experience that people have loved how different the two trips have been.

Hiking to old settlement by the Ice Fjord

On the northern side of the Ice Fjord, you will find the abandoned settlement of Sermermiut. People have settled here for more than 4,000 years. The Saqqaq, Early Dorset, and Thule cultures have settled at Sermermiut due to the rich fishing conditions. Therefore, the area is home to many ruins. The ruins were mainly excavated in 1953 and 1983, uncovering evidence indicating the presence of the many different cultures.

In fact, we know that Sermermiut was the largest settlement in Greenland in 1737, but around 1850, the last person left and moved to Jakobshavn, which had been founded nearby – known as Ilulissat today. Today, getting to Sermermiut is easy; from the old heliport on the southern fringe of Ilulissat, a gangway leads down to the waterfront. From there, you can also continue to Nakkaavik (Women’s Ravine) where it is said that elderly people would throw themselves off the edge if the community was starving. They would thus sacrifice themselves to save food for the younger generations to make it through the hardships of winter.

You can also walk along the fjord further inland on designated footpaths.

Fly over the Ice Fjord and the Greenland Ice Sheet

When you are in Ilulissat, you also have the option of flying above the glacier on a flightseeing trip, which is an incredible experience. Seeing it all from above really gives you a sense of the amount of ice in the fjord. Besides, it is quite fascinating being able to experience the maritime life in the fjord below you where seals bask in the sun, and the whales swim between the icebergs.


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