The settlement of Qeqertarsuatsiaat


By Verified Expert

If you come by boat to the settlement of Qeqertarsuatsiaat on a summer day, you will be captivated by all the beautiful green islands that can be seen as you enter the small harbor. By Greenlandic conditions, the settlement is easy to get to, as it is only 130 km (81 miles) south of the capital Nuuk.

The settlement was officially established at the beginning of the 18th century and was called “Fiskenæsset” in Danish (fiskeri nés in English), as it was the focal point for a large fishery according to the conditions of the time. Today, the Greenlandic name “Qeqertarsuatsiaat” is used, which means “The Fairly Big Island”.

stairs at Qeqertarsuatsiaat

Facts and history about Qeqertarsuatsiaat

  • Qeqertarsuatsiaat has been inhabited by the Inuit for over 400 years.

  • In the 17th century, there was the first contact with Europeans, and a small trading post was built on the site.

  • In the middle of the 18th century, the place was named “Fiskenæsset” by the Danes and it became a major official trading station when missionaries came to the area in the same century.

  • In the 19th century, the last egret in Greenland was shot near the settlement. Although similar to penguins, it was more closely related to the much smaller Alk still seen in the Arctic.

  • In the 1950s and 1960s, a policy known as G60 was implemented, which was to concentrate Greenland’s people in fewer towns and settlements. Therefore, the inhabitants of the smaller settlements Kangillermiut, Akunnaat, Uugarsiorfik, and Kangerluarsussuaq (Grædefjorden) were moved to Qeqertarsuatsiaat.

  • When Qeqertarsuatsiaat was largest, around 500 people lived in the settlement. It had fallen to approx. 235 in 2010, and with the current urbanization has fallen to around 170 people in 2020.

  • Close to Qeqertarsuatsiaat is a ruby mine.

  • The settlement of Qeqertarsuatsiaat is located geographically between the two cities of Nuuk and Paamiut with approx. 130 km to each city.

Everyday life in Qeqertarsuatsiaat

The settlement is a good example of the mix of traditional occupations and new modern times that large parts of Greenland live through. Here, small boats are still seen sailing out daily, to fish or hunt. At the same time, most modern smartphones use streaming services on the Internet like everywhere else in the world, as the primary entertainment in the evening.

harbor in Qeqertarsuatsiaat

With only one store, the options for shopping are limited. You can buy the most necessary daily goods, but the selection is limited. It is an experience in itself, in a world where we are all used to having more choices regardless of what we want.

If you have allergies that require special food, or things you cannot live without, it is a good idea to bring your own items if you are going to be in the settlement for a few days.

How to get around in the settlement and what to expect

From the harbor, a tiled path leads up through the settlement. The path is a good starting point for a walk around between the colorful houses.

Some residents have privately owned snowmobiles or ATVs for their own use, but there are no cars and therefore no taxis or other public transportation.

colorful houses

The historic Church, built in the middle of the 19th century, is very cozy inside and beautiful outside. If you take a walk around the settlement’s small lake, you can try to go a little higher. Here you are rewarded with a fantastic view of the fjord, the many islands, and the beautiful mountains that surround Qeqertarsuatsiaat.

Qeqertarsuatsiaat with snow

Tourism in Qeqertarsuatsiaat

Despite Qeqertarsuatsiaat being close to Nuuk, it is very limited how many tourists come to the settlement. If you sail with a passenger ship, there is only approx. 7.5 hours sailing from the capital.

There are rental houses if you want an authentic experience of life in a Greenlandic settlement. By visiting the settlement and shopping locally, you can help ensure that Qeqertarsuatsiaat continues to survive.

Do you want to visit?

Contact Guide to Greenland for planning a stay.

We also advise you to read about the best clothing to pack for a trip to Arctic Greenland.

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