Uummannaq is the perfect destination for those wanting a more rugged arctic experience where nature is the highlight and tourism is still developing. But where exactly is Uummannaq? How do I get there? And what should I do once I arrive? Read on to discover everything you need to know in order to plan an incredible travel experience in and around Uummannaq.
Colorful houses cling to the precarious slopes of a heart-shaped mountain that rises straight out of the ocean.
Welcome to Uummannaq! The heart of Greenland.
Aerial view of Uummannaq Island on the helicopter transfer from Qaarsut
A population of 1,406 (Jul 2019) means that Uummannaq is the most northerly town in Greenland with sufficient infrastructure to comfortably cater for adventurous visitors. While fishing is still the primary industry, tourism is growing – with both the Summer and Winter seasons offering unforgettable excursions in the Uummannaq Fjord.
This Ultimate Travel Guide to Uummannaq contains all the information you need to plan and get the most out of your vacation to this spectacular part of North Greenland.
“Uummannaq” means “heart-shaped” in Kalaallisut (the Greenlandic language). Like many place names in Greenland, it gets this name from a physical characteristic of the area. In this case – the heart-shaped mountain that dominates the small island upon which it sits.
Enjoying the sunset over the heart-shaped mountain of Uummannaq
It is located 460km north of the Arctic Circle at 70º 40’N 52º 08′ W, which means that the sun never sets in Summer (it experiences the midnight sun for 2 months between June and August) and never rises above the horizon in Winter (there is an eternal twilight instead).
Uummannaq has two main seasons for tourism. The Summer season generally runs from June to mid-September, while winter activities mostly take place between mid-February and mid-April. The exact seasons are determined by the freezing of the fjord during the winter, and may start/end earlier or later, depending on the extent and thickness of the sea ice.
Weather forecast from Yr, delivered by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and NRK
During Summer, the temperature is usually around 5 – 8 degrees Celsius during the day. But if there is no wind and the sun is shining – it can feel a lot warmer! Summer is the time for hiking, fjord tours, and whale watching, all of which can be done at any time of day thanks to the ever-present Midnight Sun. Greenland National Day also occurs during summer, and if you are in Uummannaq on June 21, you can join in the town’s celebration!
Sailing in the Uummannaq Fjord is the perfect way to spend a Summer
During winter, average daytime temperatures hover around -15 degrees Celsius, but it is a dry cold – so not as bad as it sounds. Dogsledding, ice fishing and snowmobiling are the main activities during the winter, and while it will feel much colder while out on these excursions, the local providers are equipped with special clothing to help keep you comfortable. There is also the possibility of seeing the magical Northern Lights during the winter months - an added bonus thanks to the pristine dark skies of Greenland.
Dogsledding across the sea ice is one of the most popular activities during Winter
When you are planning your trip to Uummannaq, particularly if you are traveling in winter, it is also useful to know the time of sunrise and sunset. Enter your date of travel into the Uummannaq page at meteogram.org to discover how much daylight you will have, as well as the times of the different twilights, golden hour (for photographers), and a lot more.
The season you are visiting and what you plan to do while in Uummannaq will largely determine what you should pack for your visit.
Regardless of when you plan to visit Uummannaq, you will have the best chance of staying comfortable if you follow the layering principle with your clothing. All buildings are heated to a pleasant temperature, but when you are out and about you need to be prepared with at least a mid-weight hoodie/sweater and windproof/waterproof jacket during Summer. Additional warmer layers (top, bottom and insulated boots) are required during winter.
At the same time, don’t forget your sunscreen! The sun can be very strong (Summer and Winter) and it is easy to get sunburned when you are spending the whole day outside enjoying nature. Insect repellent and a head net may also come in handy during the warmer months.
If you do forget something or discover that you have not brought sufficient layers, head upstairs in the Pilersuisoq supermarket for a very limited selection of outdoor clothing options.
Autumn colours on a boat tour through the Uummannaq fjord
If you are planning to do extensive backcountry hiking in the Uummannaq Fjord, you should bring all of your own equipment with you to Greenland. For shorter hiking trips or wilderness camping trips where you leave from and return to Uummannaq, it is possible to hire tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats and other equipment from the local tour providers. You may also be able to rent kayaks. For camping gas, head to the hardware store in the port.
Greenland uses the Standard European Plug (230 V) for its electrical outlets so make sure you pack at least one of these if your electronics have a different type of plug.
Don’t forget your camera and make sure you pack at least one spare battery! Colder temperatures drain camera batteries more quickly so make sure you don’t miss a shot at the end of the day by bringing along a powerbank charger if you use your phone, or spare batteries for your camera. If you are planning to photograph the Northern Lights, you will also want to bring your own sturdy tripod if you have one.
We are big fans of the Maps.Me app here at Guide to Greenland. Download the app and the map of Greenland while you still have internet access (internet is not prevalent and very expensive in Greenland), and you’ll be set to find your way around during your stay. The app shows streets, places of interest, restaurants, accommodation and even some hiking trails. It can also tell you the best way to walk, drive or cycle from where you are to where you want to go - just remember to turn on your GPS when you arrive!
If you plan to photograph the Northern Lights with your phone, download both the SpaceWeatherLive (Android, iOS) app to monitor the likelihood of the lights appearing, as well as one of the Northern Lights photography apps that allow you to set long exposure times on your phone.
Uummannaq is located on a small island that is only reachable via helicopter, boat, or dogsled/snowmobile. By far, the most common mode of arrival is by air.
Approaching Uummannaq on a helicopter transfer from Qaarsut
Getting to Uummannaq requires several flights, the last being a helicopter transfer. For both domestic and international flights to Ilulissat, and onward flights to Qaarsut and Uummannaq, departures vary depending on the time of year. It is best to check the schedule on our flights page to see who flies where and when, but the following will give you an idea.
Air Greenland helicopter at the Uummannaq helipad
Flying internationally, you must first get yourself to Ilulissat with either Air Greenland (via Kangerlussuaq from Copenhagen or direct from Reykjavik during Summer) or Air Iceland Connect (from Reykjavik during Summer). From there, Air Greenland operates flights to Qaarsut and then helicopter transfers to Uummannaq.
Flying domestically, again, you must get yourself to Ilulissat first. Air Greenland have direct flights from Kangerlussuaq, Nuuk, and Aasiaat.
Although most people arrive via helicopter, it is possible to arrange a boat transfer from Qaarsut to Uummannaq or visa versa. The trip takes 30 minutes and there is the possibility of spotting whales along the way.
If you are taking a cruise to Greenland, Uummannaq may be part of your itinerary. If so, your cruise ship will typically only dock for only a few hours – enough time to explore the town and perhaps do a short hike.
Passenger ships are not the only vessels to dock in Uummannaq. Here is the local supply ship, bringing all manner of necessities for the town
Uummannaq is not a large town and most people walk to wherever they need to go. The added advantage is that this is a great workout, as Uummannaq is built up the side of a mountain! However, if you want to save your legs – there are a few taxis available.
Downtown Uummannaq - the center of town
If you want to explore the Uummannaq Fjord or visit one of the nearby settlements, you should contact one of the tourism providers to discuss options. Their boats are licensed to carry passengers, and they offer tours via boat, dogsled and snowmobile. They also provide private boat charter services.
Dogsledding across the sea ice to get from one place to another
An alternate way to visit the other settlements in the Uummannaq area is via helicopter. Air Greenland has flights between Uummannaq and Niaqornat, Ukkusissat, Saattut and Ikerasak on certain days of the week.
Whether you have 3 days or 3 weeks, there is plenty for an adventurous visitor to do, both on Uummannaq Island and also within the Uummannaq Fjord. Here are some suggestions:
Uummannaq’s past is well-preserved with many historic buildings easily accessible around the harbour area. The best way to get your bearings and learn more about both past and modern times, is to take a guided City Walk through the town.
The center of Uummannaq has many historically significant buildings to explore on a City Walk
Aspects of the history of the area are also detailed in the Uummannaq Museum, which contains several exhibitions and a small reading library. The director will also open the old Doctor’s House, the whale blubber house, and some of the peat houses near the church for you if you ask.
The main exhibition space at the Uummannaq Museum
The old Doctor’s House is worth a visit for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it usually hosts an art exhibition, and secondly, it contains the office of Santa Claus! Letters that arrive from around the world into the enormous mailbox out the front of the building are responded to from this very Christmasy office space.
Santa's mailbox outside the Old Doctor's House, which now is home to Santa's office
Inside the whale bubber house is an odd collection of things that don’t really have an explanation. It feels a little like a jumble/garage sale, though you can’t buy anything! Make sure you head upstairs to check out the whale artwork.
The bottom floor of the Whale Blubber House contains a wide variety of objects
Uummannaq’s turf houses were used until as recently as 1989. They are fascinating constructions to examine from the outside, and visiting the interiors will give you an idea of the size of the dwelling that the Inuit extended families used to spend their winters in.
Inside of the large turf house in the center of Uummannaq
The church in Uummannaq is an absolutely beautiful building that is built out of granite cut from the hillside behind it. It is the largest stone church in Greenland and an icon of the town. It is rarely open, but if you are in town on the weekend, drop by just before or after mass for a quick peek inside.
Uummannaq's beautiful church
The other landmark in Uummannaq is the football field! In Summer it is worth checking out to see the brilliant green astroturf contrasted against the blues of the sky, fjord and ice. Even better if you manage to catch a soccer game in progress!
One of the most scenic football fields in the world
As you walk around the town, you will come across many Greenlandic sled dogs on the chain. Please keep in mind that these are working dogs, not pets, and you should not approach them without the owner. If puppies off the chain approach you or follow you, that is fine. But keep your distance from the adult dogs.
Sled dogs are everywhere in Uummannaq
Although Uummannaq Island is small, there are several beautiful day hikes you can do during the Summer.
The most well-known is to Santa’s Cabin. Take a guided tour or follow the red dots for a reasonably easy 2km (one-way) hike that finishes at a turf hut overlooking the fjord. From there, you can return the same way or scramble up the waterfall (also marked with red dots) to return via the Tasersuaq Qulleq (water storage) lake to the football field.
Santa's summer cabin is a short hike from Uummannaq
For more experienced hikers, there are also (unmarked/not well marked) hikes around the large Tasersuaq lake, and to the “Blue Lake” towards the other end of the island.
Another option during Winter is to go for a short hike out on the sea ice. Wear appropriate clothing and be prepared for sudden changes in weather, don’t go too close to icebergs, and make sure you ask a local first about any dangers for before heading out.
The Blue Lake is a less well known hike from Uummannaq as it is not clearly marked
If you come to Uummannaq during Summer, you must take the chance to sail further into the fjord on one of the many boat tours that depart from the town. It is one of the most beautiful fjords in Greenland (which is really saying something!) and there are always a large number of enormous icebergs that have calved off the many glaciers in the region.
Exploring the Uummannaq Fjord on a boat tour
While icebergs are highlights in and of themselves, you may want to select a fjord tour that also includes one (or more) of the following.
Just across from Uummannaq Island on the Nuussuaq peninsula is the discovery location of the oldest human remains ever found in Greenland. Although the immaculately preserved 500 year-old Qilakitsoq mummies have been removed to the National Museum and Archives in Nuuk, the site still features several interesting Inuit graves and winter dwellings.
Archaeological remains of inuit houses at Qilakitsoq
The Arctic Desert is an area that is coloured brilliant yellow thanks to a geology rich in iron and sulfur. There are rocks here that are more than 1.5 billion years old, and it is a wonderful place to wander around and find interesting angles of vibrant colour against the blue sky, fjord, and icebergs.
Brilliant contrast between the yellow of the Arctic Desert and the blue fjord
There are 7 smaller settlements in the Uummannaq area. While you can privately charter a boat to take you to any of them (or fly with an Air Greenland helicopter), it is possible to visit Ikerasak and Saattut on a regular boat tour. Each of these settlements contain just over 200 inhabitants and offer a fantastic insight into a more traditional way of life in Greenland
The small settlement of Saattut near Uummannaq
While any of the fjord tours offer the opportunity to spot whales while en route, a whale watching tour will specifically set out to locate whales. The tour providers use their own knowledge and experience as well as that of hunters and other locals in the fjord to take you to places where whales are likely to be seen.
If you are visiting during the Winter, you can still head out to explore the Uummannaq Fjord and the surrounding settlements. The only difference is that instead of floating in water, you will be traveling on top of the sea ice!
Driving on the sea ice near Uummannaq
It is possible to actually drive (yes, in a car) many places once the fjord has frozen, though you may also like to try:
Dogsledding is an ancient form of travel in the Arctic and a must-do experience when visiting Uummannaq during Winter. This is the way the Inuit traveled during winter, and it is still a common form of transportation for hunters, fishermen and families once the fjord freezes over. There are dogsledding options that last from 2 hours to 8 days depending on how keen you are to experience this tradition.
Dogsledding on the sea ice
Snowmobiling is a more recent way of traveling quickly across the sea-ice. If you are after a faster adrenaline rush, or wish to explore further in a shorter period of time, there are several snowmobiling excursions to choose from.
Snowmobiling past an enormous iceberg
Ice Fishing is the other main activity locals engage in during Winter. Using lines of 500m or more in length (yes, they are long!) you can try your hand at catching your own dinner of Greenlandic Halibut, Redfish or Wolffish. No matter how many fish you catch, nothing is wasted. Any that you don’t want to cook for yourself will be used to feed the sled dogs.
Preparing the hole for ice fishing
If you visit Uummannaq between September and April, you may have the chance to see the incredible Northern Lights. Uummannaq is quite far North so they are not as prevalent as in other locations further South in Greenland, but it is worth heading out on clear nights to check the sky. The best views are if you are out on a multi-day excursion or overnighting in one of the settlements, as there is less artificial light pollution and the skies are darker.
Northern lights over a small cabin between Uummannaq and Ikerasak
Uummannaq does not have a hotel as such. However, there are a couple of comfortable guest houses available including:
Avani – rooms with shared bathroom and shared kitchen, or whole houses
Cafémma – rooms with shared bathroom and shared kitchen
There are also currently a handful of options on Airbnb.
There are not many places to eat out in Uummannaq. For this reason, most accommodation has at least a shared kitchen for guests to use. However, if you are looking to buy something:
Cafémma is the only cafe in town, serving hamburgers, hot dogs, steak and fries, coffee, cake and cocktails! They also have poker machines if you have some spare Danish Kroner.
Cafémma often puts comfy chairs outside so you can enjoy the view
Ulo is an asian-style takeaway with quite a few different dishes to choose from. Or there is the fast-food cafeteria at the Sports Hall.
For lunch in particular, it is better to shop for picnic items in the Pilersuisoq supermarket and make your own.
Northern Lights dancing above Uummannaq
If you are after a more natural evening out, take a late evening stroll to enjoy the Midnight Sun during summer, or the magical Northern Lights during winter.
Being off the beaten tourist path, Uummannaq does not offer much in the way of souvenirs. You could try the museum, but your best best is to make any purchases in Ilulissat at this stage.
Police: (+299) 701426
Hospital: (+299) 951211
Uummannaq is a spectacular and rugged place to visit on your travels to Greenland. Guide to Greenland brings together most of the tours offered around Uummannaq on one platform and is an easy way to plan and book your travel to Uummannaq.
We invite you to explore all of our tours around Uummannaq and contact us with any questions you may have about them.