Siorapaluk: The northernmost inhabited settlement in Greenland
Welcome to Siorapaluk, a small and extraordinary settlement tucked away in northwestern Greenland’s Qaasuitsup municipality! This charming settlement rests along the picturesque shores of Melville Bay, just 125 kilometers (78 miles) northeast of Qaanaaq, the region’s largest settlement.
Siorapaluk is Greenland’s northernmost inhabited settlement and as such stands among the world’s northernmost habitable places in the Arctic! The remote location makes it a very unique and authentic destination, where the original Greenlandic culture still exists, despite modern internet communication, television, etc.
Facts about Siorapaluk
Let us dive into the essence of Siorapaluk with some captivating facts!
- In the Greenlandic language, Siorapaluk translates to “little sands,” while in the Inughuit language, it is known as Hiurapaluk.
- Siorapaluk is a small settlement with less than 100 indigenous Inughuit people, who rely on traditional hunting and fishing for their livelihood as part of the Greenlandic Inuit population.
- Siorapaluk boasts stunning Arctic landscapes with ice-covered fjords, glaciers, and mountains. The region experiences an Arctic climate, featuring frigid, extended winters and cool summers.
- Adding to its unique charm, Siorapaluk’s church serves a dual purpose as both a school and a public library, catering to the educational and literary needs of the community.
- Not too far away, lying 78 kilometers northwest of Siorapaluk, the now-deserted settlement of Etah once held the distinction of being the northernmost settlement in Greenland.
- Located at 78 degrees North, it is dark 108 days a year in winter and has 120 days of midnight sun in summer.
Everyday life in Siorapaluk
Despite the challenges of living in Siorapaluk, the Inughuit people treasure their rich cultural heritage and maintain a traditional way of life deeply connected to the Arctic environment. Historically, their survival relied on hunting marine mammals such as seals, narwhals, and polar bears*.
|*Yes, polar bears are categorized among marine mammals, and the Latin name for polar bears is Ursus maritimus, meaning “sea bear.” Polar bears are around the sea, in the sea, or on the sea ice, where they hunt seals and fish.|
The community of Siorapaluk is mainly skilled hunters, many of whom are descendants of the Inuit that migrated from Nunavut to Greenland in the late 1800s. While some modern technology has brought convenience, Siorapaluk remains one of the prime locations in Greenland to experience the traditional Inuit lifestyle.
Due to its remote location, Siorapaluk has limited infrastructure and public services. The settlement lacks a local school, and children often need to travel to Qaanaaq for education. Basic amenities like healthcare facilities are also in short supply. The settlement has one single store called Pilersuisoq which supplies typically are transported by boat or aircraft and only sells basic items.
Tourism in Siorapaluk
Not surprisingly, it is expensive to travel so far north due to little demand and long distances in harsh arctic conditions. However, Siorapaluk attracts some visitors who are interested in exploring the northernmost parts of Greenland.
Tourists often arrive by cruises on guided tours to experience the Arctic wilderness and learn about the indigenous culture. It is important that visitors respect the local customs and the fragile environment, and not leave anything in nature.
How to get to Siorapaluk
Located 200 kilometers beyond the nearest town Qaanaaq, and a mere 1362 kilometers away from the North Pole, there are no direct flights or same-day connections from neither Europe nor Canada or the United States.
The nearest civil airport lies in Qaanaaq, with year-round helicopter transfers to Siorapaluk. In summer it is supplemented by boat tours, and in winter with dog sleds or snowmobiles from Qaanaaq. Additionally, as climate change opens up these far northern latitudes, occasional expedition-type cruise ships have stopped in Siorapaluk.
For an optimal experience, it is recommended to visit during spring for dog sledding, or in summer when it is possible to see the midnight sun.
How to get around in the settlement
The small settlement is easy to navigate on foot. There are no taxis or other public transportation options available.
When it comes to exploring the captivating surroundings of Siorapaluk, the preferred modes of transportation vary with the seasons. During the summer, boat excursions are the most common and enjoyable way to get around and discover the area.
As for the winter months, the thrilling options of dog sleds or snowmobiles provide efficient means of transportation to explore the picturesque landscape.
Where to stay in Siorapaluk?
In Siorapaluk, formal accommodation options are unavailable. Instead, visitors have the opportunity to arrange their stay by lodging with local families, renting local houses, or the public house where people without running water come to bathe and wash clothes.
For those seeking a more adventurous experience, free camping outside of town is a possibility. It is strongly advised that individuals either possess the knowledge and means to protect themselves or are accompanied by someone equipped with a rifle. This precaution is essential as polar bears have been observed near populated areas in most years.
Where to eat?
In Siorapaluk, visitors who choose not to stay with locals are required to bring and prepare their own food. The settlement does not offer any options for purchasing meals.
Although the local store provides food, it is mostly frozen and rarely with any fresh veggies. So we advise you to come prepared with provisions for most of your stay.
Do you want to visit Siorapaluk?
To visit the extraordinary remote settlement of Siorapaluk in northern Greenland, begin your journey by heading to Qaanaaq. Explore our boat tour from Qaanaaq to Siorapaluk by clicking here.
For additional tours in Qaanaaq, please refer to this link.
We also advise you to read about the best clothing to pack for a trip to Arctic Greenland.