Summer vacation under the midnight sun | Qaanaaq | North Greenland
Has it been your dream to visit Qaanaaq, the northernmost town of Greenland? This is a basic accommodation plan, with a lot of free time, tips on what to do on your own, and optional tours to take if you wish.
Here, the sun circles high above your head all day and night, from April to August. Large glaciers tumble down into the sea. This is one of the few places in Greenland where you may have a chance to see narwhal, the legendary whale with a tusk like the unicorn. The local Inuit culture, such as hunting with the kayak and harpoon, and daily use of traditional fur clothing, is also an experience special to Qaanaaq.Click on the Itinerary tab to read more information about each day of the tour, and then reserve your exploration of North Greenland by clicking on Book Now.
Arrival to Qaanaaq
Your flight from Ilulissat will take you over Melville Bay, with the inland ice on your east and countless icebergs below. You may be able to spot the heart shaped mountain of Uummannaq, the towering rock of Kullorsuaq, and the flat mountain-top beside Pituffik.
Upon arrival, we will pick you up at the airport. Settle in to your accommodation, and explore the small town. The sun is up all the time, so you can take a long evening walk under the midnight sun. In August the sun starts to get low, so there will be beautiful colours at midnight.
Take a walk along the beach, where there are kayaks, meat racks, and dogsleds parked for the summer. Hunters come and go in their boats, and children are playing around. Families depart on summer vacation into the fiord. There might be some young ones practicing their kayaking skills. The kayak here is a hunting tool, the only place on our planet where it is still used to sustain daily life. Locals will tell you that it is much more effective to hunt narwhal by the silent kayak, rather than motor boat.
In front of the supermarket Pilersuisoq, which also serves as post office and bank, there are always people meeting, talking or just enjoying the sun. With the municipality across the street, this is the central road in town, and as you walk up you will pass the sewing workshop Tikeq, the red school, the church, and the blue elders’ home at top, with the yellow hospital across the street, and the small white house that serves as the museum.
Contact the school or municipality to get an appointment to have the museum opened. The sewing workshop is a nice friendly place, but they are open more frequently during the dark winter months. If you join the church service on Sunday, you will see the altar painting with the children in North Greenlandic clothes.
Siorapaluk, the northernmost settlement
Today, we will visit Siorapaluk, the northernmost settlement in Greenland. Our boat trip goes past icebergs, and lands on a white-sand beach in front of a small cluster of houses.
The population of Siorapaluk is around 40. Children may be at the playground or the beach, and you will meet locals in front of the store. A stream of glacier melt runs through the settlement. It is a beautiful walk along the coast in either direction. The hills behind the houses is a nice place to go too, and you might spot some arctic hare if it’s early summer.
A half an hour walk or 5 minute boat ride will take you to Atikerdluk, where thousands of little auk nest. The glacier at the bottom of the fiord is a beautiful place. You can spend a day in the fiord, watching out for seals, listening to icebergs and glaciers, or stretch your legs on a walk to get a nice view over the fiord. The mountains are lush and green here, because the birds fertilize the land. Discuss plans with your local guide and enjoy the summer day!
A day at summer camping grounds
The cape east of town, Inersussat, is a summer camping grounds for some local families, and a favourite look-out point for narwhal. Bring lunch and spend a day out in the nature.
Walk up the hill from Pilersuisoq, the local store, and turn right between the blue elders’ home and yellow hospital building. Some dog teams are having summer vacation, and the land on both sides may look barren from far away but are full of tiny arctic flowers when you get there. The big sandy field used to be the old landing bane, which is a soccer ground now. On the other side is the cemetery, and as in all towns in Greenland, has a beautiful view over the fiord. Further on, the dirt road goes down towards the beach and disappears. You may hear the gushing sound of a glacial stream.
There might be some tents and kayaks, and children playing. If you can cross the stream there is a small beach with beautiful white sand, and perhaps some icebergs on the beach at low tide if the wind direction is right. On a sunny windless day, it can be so warm that you can sunbathe in shorts and T-shirts. Walk up the hill and there are small terraces and arctic flowers. Just sit and watch the day flow by.
Bring your binoculars if you have one. You might spot some narwhal from here. The sun is high up in the sky all night, so enjoy your long summer day.
Glacial streams and hiking the tundra
A walk from the west side of town to the airport and beyond, will take you through arctic landscape with rocks left behind by glaciers, arctic flowers, and glacial steams.
Follow the road to the airport, and once you are out of town, explore the land on either side. Depending on the season and the temperature, some of the glacial streams can be too strong to ford. Turn back if you can’t cross safely, and also remember that the streams get larger in the late afternoon after the sun melts a lot of ice. Close to the beach there might be some locals at their summer camps, perhaps tending their nets to catch arctic char. Past the airport, there are beaches of white sand, and you might meet some arctic terns nesting. These small amazing birds migrate between the Arctic and Antarctica, and are extremely aggressive if you get too close to their nests. Wave your hat above your head so that you don’t get pricked!
To the icecap
Qaanaaq is one of the few places in Greenland where you can takd a walk to the icecap. It’s a special experience to set foot on the huge expanse of ice.
Walk up the hill behind town. Be careful of loose rocks, and pick a route that has some vegetation. After a steep but not so-long-climb you will reach a plateau with a great view over the fiord. The large island Qeqertarsuaq is in front of you, and you might hear the thunder of one of the icebergs cracking. Small glacier streams run among the rocks and flowers. Remember to bring a warm layer, as it can be chilly if the breeze picks up.
Continue up towards the icecap. There are some glaciers ground in rocky valleys. As you go up, vegetation grows more scarce - you can feel that the ice has covered the ground more recently. After 2 or 3 hours, you will reach the ice cap, a gentle slope of ice with streams of cold glacier melt running down here and there. Be careful not to slip, and take a walk on the enormous field of ice.
Walking around on your own or making friends is a nice way to come into intimate contact with locals in this small town. You can also take some extra tours, and the local guide will show you a lot of how people live and enjoy summer up here. The below are extra tours that you can book, when you make a reservation for this 8 day trip.
- Quinissut Glacier Front: Visit a glacier front frequented by seals, and take a walk with great views of the glacier and icebergs. You might spot narwhale if you are lucky. (6 hours)
- Picturesque Settlement Qeqertarsuaq: Take a boat trip among icebergs, enjoy majestic scenery at the island Qeqertarsuaq, and explore a former settlement. (6 hours)
- Boat trip among icebergs, searching for narwhal: A tour with icebergs and glacier views, watching out for narwhal. Spend a quiet day out at sea, with the sun never setting. (6 hours)
- Boat trip to the far north: Travel past Siorapaluk and towards Etah, with a view of Canada in the horizon, and possibly seals or walrus sunbathing on ice. (8 hours)
There are many other possibilities including overnight in the fiord, fishing for arctic char, hunting trips, guided hiking, etc. Just write to us at email@example.com.
Depending on the flight schedule, you may have half a day or almost a full day. Some carvers in Qaanaaq are extremely skilled, if you are looking for a souvenir. Contact us if you need advice on this.
Enjoy the view on your flight back south. We wish you good weather!
Let us know if you would like to make changes to this itinerary, or extend your stay in Qaanaaq. We will make a program for you. If you wish to make a stop in Ilulissat or Kangerlussuaq on your way home, we will be happy to make arrangements. Just write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Accommodation: 7 nights in Qaanaaq
- Boat trip to Siorapaluk
What to bring
- Layered clothing. Ideally, you should pack a thermal underwear layer (top and bottom), activity layer (e.g. hiking pants and shirt), insulation layer (e.g. fleece or down jacket), and outer layer of windproof clothing (top and bottom). You may not need all of this on any particular day, but you should have it available. You should always bring a windproof jacket, regardless of the weather.
- Warm hat, gloves, buff or scarf, gloves
- Sturdy shoes (e.g. hiking boots)
- Sunglasses, sunscreen & sun hat (depending on weather)
- Camera with extra batteries
- Day pack
- Water bottle
- Personal items
- It can be cold on the boat in the Arctic. Down jacket, warm over-trousers are recommended. Dress in layers so that you can adjust when you are on land.
- Various arrangements can be added to this itinerary: Flight tickets, extra days in Qaanaaq, stay in other towns in Greenland, etc. Please inquire for anything that you need, by contacting us at email@example.com
- For families with children, we have a discount. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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