Do you prefer to be outdoors in the fresh air? See and learn more about Arctic wildlife and flora? Find beauty in the mountains and some of the oldest rocks of the world? Discover how best to experience Greenland’s natural beauty while visiting the capital in this Nature Lovers Guide to Nuuk.
You are never very far from nature in Greenland, and that includes when you standing in the middle of its capital city, Nuuk. Surrounded by water and mountains and host to the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk has plenty of opportunities for you to get back to nature and learn more about the Arctic wilderness.
Lille and Store Malene sit just behind the University fo Greenland
Looking out the window of the plane as you fly into Nuuk, it is clear that the city is surrounded by amazing backcountry. Nature dominates almost every view and, combined with the colorful houses, makes for a photographer’s dream.
Sermitsiaq mountain and the colorful houses of Mosquito Valley
Sermitsiaq mountain, in particular, is a Nuuk icon that can be seen from several different viewpoints. Watching the light change and play over this dramatic peak can keep you enthralled for hours!
The great news for nature lovers (and photographers) is that many of the best viewpoints are within walking distance from the city center. Others are easily accessible via Nuuk’s modern bus system, which is easy to navigate and surprisingly cheap!
Sermitsiaq mountain as seen from the old cemetery in Nuuk
For those who want to discover the best spots around Nuuk and improve their photography skills at the same time, join a tour with a professional photographer to make sure that all your images are as good as they can be.
Nuuk is situated at the end of the world’s second-largest fjord system - the Nuup Kangerlua Fjord (otherwise known as Nuuk Fjord). Not surprisingly, one of the key highlights for nature lovers is to explore the backcountry along this water highway.
Some of the many mountains that line the Nuuk Fjord
There is the possibility to see seals and icebergs on the many half or full day tours that depart from Nuuk. And although there are no specific tours for whale-watching, there is always the possibility of spotting them any time you head out into the fjord. Some of these fjord excursions focus purely on natural beauty and include a short hike or a visit to the Narsap Sermia Glacier, which flows down off the Greenland Icesheet. Others include a visit to one of the abandoned villages of Qoornoq or Kangeq, or the small settlement of Kapisillit.
Guide to Greenland has brought together all the Nuuk fjord tours in the one place so that you can easily select which ones appeal to you most. Also pay attention to the type of boat you will be transported in, as some have cabins while others are open decks.
Both open and closed boats are used on Nuuk Fjord tours
If you really want to get away from it all, you should consider spending more than one day up in the fjord. This allows you to hike the hinterlands, fish or simply chill in the remote Greenlandic wilderness. Accommodation is available at Qoornoq, Qooqqut, Kang Skicenter, Præstefjord and Kapisillit if you don’t feel like camping, and transfers can be arranged either through the accommodation itself or in a private boat charter.
Cottage accommodation in the Nuuk Fjord, surrounded by nature
If you plan your trip to Nuuk for the winter months (Oct - Mar), you will have a very good chance of seeing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). On clear nights, they are usually visible from the Colonial Harbour, though for the best experience, we recommend that you join one of the Northern Lights tours that will take you to the darkest sites on the outskirts of the city or even up into the fjord on a boat.
Northern Lights over apartment buildings in Nuuk
If you are traveling to Nuuk during the summer months (Jun-Jul), stay up late to witness an eternal summer twilight. How many places in the world can you see kids playing outside after midnight and fishermen heading out in their boats in the middle of the night?
It is not actually possible to see the Midnight Sun from Nuuk, as the capital lies south of the Arctic Circle. However, the beautiful pinks, blues and other pastel colours of the never-ending twilight make for a really lovely stroll around town when you would normally be tucked up in bed.
Midnight in Nuuk during the Summer
There are several great day-hikes that start from the outskirts of the city. You can pick up a free hiking map at Tupilak Travel, though we recommend going on a guided tour unless you are already an experienced hiker. And even then - don’t go alone. The routes can be a little tricky to discover and the weather can change very quickly in the Arctic!
Lille Malene (Quassussuaq) is the most accessible of the mountains around Nuuk with wonderful views of the fjord and several of the nearby mountains. There are routes around (easier) and over the top of the quite steep mountain (440m), which can be hiked in summer or snowshoed in winter.
Snowshoeing around Lille Malene
For experienced, independent hikers only (there are no tours), Kuanninnguit peak (480m) offers an alternate view of the Nuuk fjord system and a more distant view of both Lille and Store Malene in a fabulous 360 degree panorama.
Another trail for experienced, independent hikers is Isikkivik (Udsigten), otherwise known as “The Viewpoint” (660m). On a clear day, there is an incredible full-circle view of the fjord and mountains stretching as far as Maniitsoq, more than 160km away.
Only recommended for summer hiking, the summit of Store Malene (Ukkusissat) offers one of the best birds eye views of the area. Its summit lies 760m above the city of Nuuk and it is a very steep hike to get there. Be prepared for a fantastic workout!
View of Sermitsiaq from the top of Store Malene
Although it is possible to hike independently, given the steepness of the trail and vertical drops we recommend you either hike with a local who knows the route or join the hiking tour to the summit.
Note: winter climbs are very technical and require the use ropes, ice-axes, and crampons.
This hike is accessed via a 30 minute boat transfer from Nuuk. From the drop-off point, it is a 15km hike back to the city, which essentially follows the edge of the fjord.
Hiking along a river in the backcountry near Nuuk
If you are planning to stay a few nights in the Nuuk Fjord, don’t hesitate to venture out and explore your surroundings. Easy excursions include a hike along the river to the lake near Qooqqut, and hiking to the tops of the hills or to the Icefjord from Kapisillit. This hike to the Icefjord can also be done on a day-long boat tour from Nuuk.
For experienced trekkers that are self-sufficient, enjoy multi-day hikes, and are good with navigation, hiking from Nuuk to Kapisillit is an excellent way to experience the fjord.
Hiking alone the Nuuk Fjord
Alternatively, pick up a copy of “Trekking Around Nuuk” at Atuagkat bookstore (select English at the top) to find 36 different possibilities for hiking, and either catch the Nuuk Fjord Shuttle (if appropriate) or hire a private boat charter to take you to where you want to go and pick you up again.
For those who enjoy being out on the water under their own power, it is possible to go kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) near Nuuk during the Summer. The tours generally take place on a large lake on Northland (the land you can see across the fjord when you are standing at the Colonial Harbour), and some also include a spot of Arctic Char fishing!
Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on Northland
Northland is also a great place to spot Arctic Fox and Reindeer (Caribou) so keep an eye out as you hike to the lake and while paddling.
The main scientific institute in Greenland includes the Department of Fish and Shellfish, the Department of Birds and Mammals, the Department of Environment and Mineral Resources, and the externally funded Climate Research Center. It’s role is to monitor and conduct research into Arctic ecosystems, and advise the Government and other authorities on the sustainable exploitation of resources, while at the same time safeguarding the environment.
Main public hall in the Institute for Natural Resources
Rather than hiding behind closed doors, the Institute invites guests to learn more about current and historical scientific research in Greenland on a public tour. In addition, having the opportunity to explore its unique architecture and the permanent “Paasisaqarusuppunga: Science and Society” exhibition, provides a fascinating cultural aspect to the visit.
Although some of the experiences we’ve highlighted in this guide can be done independently, Guide to Greenland has made it easy for you to book nature oriented tours near Nuuk by bringing them all together in the one place.