Sailing in Nuuk Fjord around Mount Sermitsiaq

By Verified Expert

Taking a boat tour in the Nuuk Fjord is one of the highlights of visiting Greenland’s capital city.  Read on to find out about my 2.5 hour trip all the way around Sermitsiaq mountain on a beautiful, blue-sky winter day

I arrived at the harbor a little before our departure time and was met by our captain for the adventure, Thue, and Aputsiaq, our guide.  Both are native Greenlanders who were super-keen to take us out and show us how beautiful the Nuuk Fjord is – even the section that is closest to the city.

Thue and Aputsiaq
Thue and Aputsiaq ready to welcome us on board

“Be careful, it’s really slippery”, advised Aputsiaq as he helped me down onto the back deck of the boat.  

He wasn’t kidding!  The temperature was -10 degrees Celsius and although I couldn’t see any ice, there must have been a very thin film covering the floor as it felt like I had ice skates on!  

I managed to make it into the small 6-person cabin with the help of handles that are strategically located all over the boat and soaked up the warmth as I waited for my fellow passengers. Once they arrived and were settled in, Thue cast off and we were on our way up the Nuuk Fjord.

Into the Nuuk Fjord

It was such a glorious day, I simply could not stay inside the cabin.  So I rugged up in my expedition down jacket, windproof fleece pants, buff, beanie, gloves, and insulated boots to brave the elements outside.  With the wind and motion of the boat, I estimate there was a wind chill of about -1,000,000 degrees.  But it was totally worth it!

The view in front (top) and behind (bottom) as we headed up the fjord.

We sailed past several of the “weekend homes” that are dotted along the fjord,

and although it was still quite early in the season to see icebergs this close to Nuuk, Thue found an impressive one!  I love how from one angle, it really looks like a person.

Large icebergs with Sermitsiaq mountain in the background (bottom)
Large iceberg!  With Sermitsiaq in the background (bottom)

Around Sermitsiaq Mountain

Sermitsiaq mountain is the iconic mountain you can see from Nuuk.  What is not obvious from that vantage point is that it actually forms its own island, which you can circumnavigate on a 2-3 hour boat tour from the city.  Having marveled endlessly at the classic view of the mountain, I was fascinated to see it from all its different angles.  Not surprisingly, it looks completely different depending on where you are.

boat view of sermitsiaq
Different views of Sermitsiaq

Aputsiaq explained that the name “Sermitsiaq” means “a piece of ice” because you will find ice on the mountain all year round. This is especially true during the winter months when the massive waterfall that cascades over the back of the mountain freezes into a solid river of ice with beautiful “stalactites”.

Sermitsiaq’s frozen waterfall. It turns back into the water during the Summer.

As we continued our journey around the mountain, one of my fellow passengers came out to join me on the decks to admire the stunning views and take photos.

backside of sermitsiaq

With the backside of Sermitsiaq in shadow and too close to see fully, we turned our attention to the other mountains in the fjord, which were equally as impressive.  Qingaa (meaning “the nose”) mountain was particularly captivating and even more so when seen alongside its neighbors.

Qingaa mountain

Time for coffee and tea

I cannot describe how beautiful it was as we stopped the boat to enjoy a cup of kaffi (coffee) or tii (tea) in the cold sunshine.  The blue skies.  The snowy mountains.  The silence of being out on the water.  It was a perfect Sunday outing in February.

About 20 minutes later after I had impressed both Thue and Aputsiaq with my fledgling Greenlandic (it is a tough language!), Thue kicked the engines to life again and we started down another arm of the fjord back towards Nuuk.  

I had ample opportunity to admire the Greenlandic rocks I’m so obsessed with

and the scenery continued to amaze.

Nuuk from the water

The views of Nuuk’s Colonial Harbour were stunning as we passed slowly by on our way back to our dock

Part of the Colonial Harbor of Nuuk as seen from the fjord

as were the views of the large houses in front of Ukkusissat (Store Malene). Oh, how I’d love to live here!

Explore the Nuuk Fjord for yourself

If you are planning a trip to Nuuk, I recommend reading the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk.

You should definitely get out on the water with one of the many fjord tours on offer.  There are options that are based solely around the scenery (like this one that I did), and others that include fishing (some also have professional chefs cook whatever you catch for your lunch!), visiting an abandoned village or experiencing life in a small Greenlandic community.

A million “qujanaat” to Thue and Aputsiaq from Nuuk Water Taxi for an incredible trip! And even though it took the better part of an hour for my toes to defrost (they would have been fine if I’d spent more time in the cabin of course), I can’t wait to get out on the fjord again!

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