Inspiration / Towns and settlements / ILULISSAT

ILULISSAT

Ilulissat is Greenland's most famous town, and when you get here, you will understand why. This thriving town is located at Ilulissat Ice Fjord, the first place in Greenland to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

WHAT TO DO: IS, UNESCO World HERITAGE, INUIT CULTURE, DOG SLEDDING, AND COTTAGE STAYS

A lot has been written about Ilulissat over the years and understandably. The area has been inhabited for 4,000 years due to the unique fishing and hunting opportunities created by the impressive Ilulissat Ice Fjord. The Ice Fjord is the focal point for your stay in the town, but also general life here. Not only is it unbelievably beautiful, but you find wide-ranging wildlife with lots of fish, seals, birds, and whales. And let’s not forget about the sled dogs!

Ilulissat is very special

Can you imagine how it was for the early residents who came to the Sermermiut area at Ilulissat Ice Fjord 4,000 years ago? Were they equally captivated by the beauty of the area, or was it more the thought of food and, thereby, survival going through their heads? Whatever motives, the place has always been popular and rightly so.

Even when approaching Ilulissat, you will understand that this is something very special. As you fly north along the coast from Kangerlussuaq, you fly above the Disco Bay, and, eventually, you will see more and more and larger icebergs in the water (a piece of advice: try to get a seat on the right side of the airplane as you board Air Greenland’s Dash-8 aircraft in Kangerlussuaq).

The Ice Fjord is a fantastic sight, and if you look towards the head of the fjord, you might see Kangia Glacier, the most productive glacier in the Northern Hemisphere.

Ilulissat Ice Fjord

It is an incredibly beautiful experience to see Ilulissat Ice Fjord, and when you are here, you owe it to yourself to experience the Ice Fjord in every imaginable way. You have traveled a long way to experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site, so make the most of it while you are here.

Head out to the abandoned settlement of Sermermiut and see Nakkaavik (where, in the old days, older people would jump off the cliff in times of hunger) and see the icebergs from the shore. Walk around the town and observe the huge icebergs at the mouth of the fjord. Go on a boat trip to the mouth of the fjord and experience the huge icebergs up close. Do it again at night and experience the ice which now shines in the most beautiful golden hues under the midnight sun.

Ilulissat Ice Fjord is pure magic, and it is constantly changing. Ice comes, and ice goes, but you can always be sure that there are a lot of large icebergs that are stranded at the mouth of the fjord. The fact that they are sitting on a sandbank at the mouth of the fjord makes it safe for the boats to sail relatively close to the icebergs.

However, Ilulissat is a lot much more than ice, which you will hear several times a day as the dogs howl towards the sky.

Dog sledding

There are 2,500 sled dogs in Ilulissat, and the dog sled culture is cherished here. And it’s not just that it is cherished; it’s a necessity. The dog sleds are used by the many fishermen who, in winter, ride out on the ice fjord to fish and load their dog sleds with large halibut. It is a practical means of transportation, as it has been for over a thousand years, but fortunately, it is also possible for you to go on dog sledding trips when the fishermen are not working on the fjord.

In the winter, you can try short one-hour dog sled trips, or you may want to try longer trips, which last several days. On these longer trips, you almost get to experience life as it has been lived for centuries, though with some modern conveniences, so it’s not a survival trip, but an adventure trip.

The birthplace of Knud Rasmussen

Culturally, Ilulissat is an exciting and very cultural town. It was here that the world-famous polar explorer Knud Rasmussen was born and grew up. At Knud Rasmussen’s childhood home, you can visit the town’s museum, and it is definitely worth a visit. Knud Rasmussen was born here in 1879. Right opposite his birthplace, you find the Zion Church, one of the most photographed churches in Greenland; a selfie in front of this brown wooden church with the large icebergs in the background is a favorite instamoment. You will also find an exciting art museum in Ilulissat.

Local arts and crafts

There are many places to see and buy Greenlandic crafts, and the number of souvenir shops in Ilulissat is huge compared to all the other towns in Greenland. They sell exciting souvenirs and handicrafts, and you can get tupilaks made from bones and tusk, sealskin purses, and even locally inspired USB memory sticks. Start your visit at our daughter company, World of Greenland, and hear about all the possibilities of the area.

The harbor and the food

A harbor is a central place in all towns in Greenland, and Ilulissat is no exception. From early morning, there is a buzz of life. Up the hill from the harbor, you will find the local fish market, the place where you can buy the catch of the hunters and fishers.

Speaking of good food, you will find several very good restaurants in Ilulissat. Hotel Arctic’s two restaurants offer good food, prepared by award-winning chefs. Here you will get exquisite food while enjoying an unbelievable view. The hotel is located so that you have a great view of the town itself and, not least, the icebergs at the mouth of the fjord.

At Hotel Hvide Falk, you can try a Greenlandic buffet once every week. Here you get all the delicacies of the Greenlandic cuisine. 

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