Excursion to the Russell Glacier
The Russell Glacier is a leg of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which towers in the landscape. With its 60-meter-tall vertical wall of ice, it is an impressive sight. The interesting route to the spectacular glacier goes through a partially off-road terrain. It is a beautiful drive sitting in a four-wheel driven vehicle or custom-built bus. You can get quite close to the glacier, but you cannot get onto the ice like at Point 660.
Standing there on the edge and viewing the colossal mass of ice twinkle in white, blue and green shades is nothing less but fantastic. You can spend hours letting your eyes wander all over the vertical, rugged ice wall with ridges made by melt water. Maybe you will also experience the loud crashes when pieces of ice break off. It is a sight and a sound that you will never forget.
If you are up for it, in good shape and a nature lover, head out towards Greenland the Ice Sheet on a hike or on a mountain bike in the summer. Pack your backpack and saddlebag with a tent and some food.
Explore the tundra
In many aspects, Kangerlussuaq is simply unique, and in terms of terrestrial wildlife, no other place in Western Greenland can compare. Especially musk oxen have a unique and interesting history in the area. Moreover, it is an impressive animal. On this trip through the beautiful tundra in a custom-built bus, the guide will tell you all about the musk oxen, how it came to Kangerlussuaq (believe or not; it flew here) and about the Arctic tundra. Musk oxen are free to roam about in the area. We cannot promise that you will get close to the animal. You might have to suffice with watching it from afar. The guide always brings binoculars to improve your chances of catching a look at these impressive animals or some of all the other wildlife in the area.
Guided excursion in and around the settlement
Joining a guided tour in a new place is always a great way to get familiar with it, and Kangerlussuaq is no exception to this rule. The settlement once was an American air base, but is now Greenland’s principal airport. On the guided tour through Kangerlussuaq, you will learn more about the interesting story starting in World War II, continuing via the Cold War to today’s international airport. The area around the village has Greenland’s longest network of roads, and we take some of these roads to see several interesting places and meet the astonishing Greenlandic nature.
The excursion will also take you to the harbor to see the fjord, past the earlier Kellyville research facility about 12 kilometers from the airport and of course around the former base area. A visit to the local kennels is also part of the excursion allowing you to get close to the Greenlandic sled dog. Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut are the two southernmost places on the west coast, where keeping sled dogs is permitted. Further south there simply is not enough snow throughout the year. This guided tour is an excellent opportunity to get an overview of the settlement and the surrounding area.
The local museum
Kangerlussuaq’s museum is home to a fine collection describing the area’s history as an airbase as well as the history of aviation in Greenland. It is impressive to see how a bunch of pioneers built a community on this plain, where the winters are ice cold and the summers warm and mild. We recommend you to use a spare hour or two at this museum.
Kangerlussuaq is made for summer hiking – when the snow has melted and the green grass shoots up to our pleasure as well as to the joy of the many animals in the area. Whichever direction you choose, you are in for a great experience. Due to its state as former base area, you will find a lot of roads here compared to elsewhere in Greenland.
Hiking to Garnet Mountain
This is a wonderful all-day excursion. The local excursion office will drive you to the top of Tacan – the mountain south of Kangerlussuaq – from where you will enjoy a splendid view. Now the hiking begins, and we start by circling the Great Salt Lake. Most of the way, we will be descending, although we will obviously come across some hills that we ascend on.
After approximately 2½ to 3 hours of walking, we will arrive at Garnet Mountain. Now it is time to get out the hammer and chisel and begin searching for red garnets. In between the hammering, there will be time to eat our pre-packed lunch. Peregrine falcons breed near the mountain, so perhaps we are fortunate enough to hear and see them. We will often also spot musk oxen in the area.
We continue back alongside the beautiful Lake Ferguson where we are likely to see great northern divers who have nests along the lakeside. At the end of the lake, our group will be picked up by a car/bus that will take us back to Kangerlussuaq. You are obviously also able to do the hike on your own, but you might want to be driven some of the way – otherwise it will become a rather long all-day excursion.
Other hiking options
Kangerlussuaq offers many great hiking options of various lengths. Popular hiking destinations include the waterfall as well as the Sugar Loaf Mountain with an incredible view across the ice and the entire area. The Fossil Plain near the Old Camp and walking up into the Kitchen Mountain make for short but excellent hikes. Very active hikers can obviously fill their backpack, bring their tent and set out for several days and hike all the way to the ice.
Get on board a sightseeing flight and view the rear area of Kangerlussuaq and the Greenland Ice Sheet from above. The flight goes up through the Sandy Valley towards the Russell and Leverett Glaciers. From there, you will fly across the Greenland Ice Sheet and around the Navigator’s Rock – a very distinctive rock surrounded by the Ice sheet. Here you can really see the force of the vast icy landscape pushing against the rock.
The flight continues through the Dessert Valley heading in the direction of Garnet Mountain where you have good chances of spotting musk oxen along the way. And then we return to Kangerlussuaq. The flight takes place in a comfortable twin-engined Partenavia with a capacity of five passengers with window seats for everyone and headphones with built-in noise reduction.
All-day hike on the Ice Cap
On this exciting excursion, you will follow the schedule of the four-hour excursion to Point 660 on the Greenland Ice sheet, but get an additional four hours to explore the actual Ice Cap. Only a few people go further than 200 meters on the Greenland Ice sheet, which is a shame as it is an incredible icy landscape that unfolds in there. You will be hiking among hills and valleys surrounded by crystal blue torrents, rivers, waterfalls and lakes – all made by melt water from the ice.
Equipped with crampons (spikes) and staffs, everyone can take this hike. The Ice sheet is not more challenging than regular hilly terrain. With several hundred meters of ancient ice underneath our feet, we will find a beautiful spot on the Greenland Ice sheet to eat our pre-packed lunch. Water is included… directly from a glacial lake!
Camp Ice Cap – two amazing days on the Ice sheet
The most adventurous travelers can experience summer nights in a tent on the Greenland Ice sheet. Walk in the footsteps of Fridtjof Nansen and other Arctic heroes and spend two days on the Ice Cap. Along with an experienced guide, we will walk out onto the Ice sheet, and after a light hike, we arrive at Camp Ice Cap.
After shedding the baggage at the camp, we will enjoy a cup of coffee and the total silence in the world of ice that surrounds us. We will settle for the night below the light skies in our warm sleeping bags. On the next day, we will be going on an adventure and experience interesting phenomena such as glacial rivers and lakes.
Read more about the ice sheet in Greenland.
The wildlife of Kangerlussuaq
Kangerlussuaq is home to a rich wildlife. The most famous species are probably musk oxen and reindeer. The musk oxen in the area were actually moved here from North-Eastern Greenland in the 1960s. A total of 27 musk oxen were imported from North-Eastern Greenland. The project has been a staggering success.
The milder climate and the large pastures of the west have meant that, instead of giving birth to only one calf every second year, the average musk oxen now typically produce two calves per year. And the population is now one of the largest in the world, counting 10,000 to 25,000 animals.
You will not always be lucky to encounter musk oxen. But if luck is on your side and you spot them, however, remember to keep a safe distance of at least 30-40 meters. They may look peaceful but they are not to be taken lightly. If the oxen feel threatened, they will start to run. Despite weighing 300 to 500 kilos, they are very athletic and fast.
Rudolph is probably the most famous reindeer in the world. His cousins live a more withdrawn life near Kangerlussuaq, and they appear to be enjoying it fully. The reindeer are numerous in the area where a count in 2007 reached approximately 98,000 reindeer. Reindeer are Greenland’s only species of deer and the population varies from season to season. When there are too many animals, they overgraze, causing the population to dwindle. This is because it takes a long time for the Greenlandic flora to recover following such overgrazing. Consequently, the population is also regulated by hunting, in order to ensure reindeer and musk oxen can be hunted part of the year. And therefore, you will find many local delicacies made from these animals on menus in Greenland.
Greenland has a rich wildlife particularly when considering how cold it becomes part of the year. Arctic foxes, gerfalcons, eagles and ravens are some of the other animals you can be fortunate enough to come across in the Kangerlussuaq area.
Accommodation in Kangerlussuaq
Polar Lodge is centrally located, less than 100 meters from the airport buildings, near grocery shops and eateries. Behind Polar Lodge, the steep Mount Hassel rises. In colloquial speech, Mount Hassel is called the Kitchen Mountain, because many locals can view the mountain from their kitchen.
Polar Lodge has 13 double rooms and three single rooms with bathrooms and toilets placed in the corridor. The rooms are spacious and cozy. Polar Lodge has a nice dining and living room, where breakfast is served, as well as a modern kitchen where you can cook your own food. Wireless internet is available against payment. Moreover, Polar Lodge accommodates a souvenir shop.
Old Camp is a traditional and cozy hostel in Kangerlussuaq, located 2 kilometers away from the airport. Old Camp occupies the former military barrack units that have been turned into a classic hostel. The hostel has a TV room, common facilities, a souvenir shop, and you can also book excursions here. The rooms are nice and neat with toilets and showers in the corridor. Bedding and towels are included. Breakfast is served in the dining room every morning.
Located inside the airport building, Hotel Kangerlussuaq could not possibly be placed at a more central location. You just have to take your baggage from the conveyor belt and carry it to the reception. All rooms are spacious and overlook either the so-called Kitchen Mountain or the setlltment and its surroundings.
Hotel Kangerlussuaq has more than 150 beds in 70 rooms (single and double rooms as well as suites). The hotel also disposes of an annex with 40 rooms and 100 beds. Each year, more than 15,000 guests check in at Hotel Kangerlussuaq.
Book your accommodation well in advance
During peak seasons, often all rooms and beds are occupied, so we recommend booking well in advance. This applies to other places in Greenland too. The capacity is limited, so rooms are in great demand.
Places to eat in Kangerlussuaq
You eat well in Greenland, and Kangerlussuaq is no exception. With nature’s own larder right on the doorstep, tasty and fresh produce is highly accessible. This includes musk oxen, reindeer and seafood.
Restaurant Roklubben (Rowing Club)
Restaurant Roklubben serves great meals. Roklubben (the Rowing Club) is beautifully situated on Lake Ferguson, approximately 5 kilometers outside Kangerlussuaq. For several years, locals as well as tourists have dined here. The restaurant gives you a taste of the best the Greenlandic kitchen has to offer in a relaxed atmosphere.
The menu at Roklubben follows the seasons and always consists of fresh, local produce. In the shoulder season (1 February – 30 April and circa 20 September – 28 November), the restaurant only serves a daily special. During summer, you can also eat à la carte. A free bus will transport you from Kangerlussuaq to Roklubben and back again.
From 1 February to 30 November, a Greenlandic buffet is served on Wednesdays and Sundays. It is a lavish experience with more than 30 different dishes. Including: Shrimp, fish, home-smoked musk oxen and reindeer, mattak (whale blubber), scallops, roasted musk oxen and reindeer, cake and much, much more. Almost everything is made from local produce. The location in itself is worth a visit. The restaurant is situated on Lake Ferguson in a totally unspoiled area. Read reviews of Restaurant Roklubben on Trip Advisor.
Restaurants at the hotel
There are several places to eat at Hotel Kangerlussuaq.
The newly-opened restaurant at the hotel serves high-quality food, prepared by some of the most competent chefs in Greenland. They offer seasonal menus, widely using Greenlandic ingredients of best quality.
The hotel’s cafeteria is Greenland’s most visited cafeteria. It is a legend in the country and open every day from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Choose between some Greenlandic food, something healthy or perhaps a quick musk oxen burger with sides. The options are plentiful, but remember that it is no gourmet restaurant but a cafeteria.
The new Café Isikkivik on the first floor in the departure hall offers a wide range of food and drinks. The café is located behind the security area, so you can only use it when you leave Greenland.
Pizzeria and other fast-food restaurants
Right behind the airport, you will find a wonderful pizzeria, and on the base side of the airport, a fast-food restaurant is located. The opening hours are subject to change – depending on the season. We therefore recommend that you look into these upon your arrival.
At the reception of Hotel Kangerlussuaq (which is located in the airport building), a notice board advertises current events taking place in Kangerlussuaq. You will find a great mixture of both public and private notices.