Information about Ilulissat Icefjord

Person taking photo of the enormous icebergs in the Ilulissat Icefjord - summer - Guide to Greenland

The Ilulissat Icefjord (Kangia) is one of the most well known and popular tourist attractions in Greenland.  

Fed by the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, this 61km long fjord is filled with icebergs of all shapes and sizes and was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004. Its protected status is due to its scientific importance. It is “an outstanding example of a stage in the Earth’s history: the last ice age of the Quaternary Period”, and its ease of access means that scientists have been studying it for more than 250 years. It has contributed enormously to our understanding of “ice-cap glaciology, climate change and related geomorphic processes”.

GEUS - Map of the extent of the UNESCO protected area of the Ilulissat Icefjord

From GEUS: Map of Ilulissat Icefjord and surrounding region. The red line marks the limit of the World Heritage Site. 

Structure of the Icefjord

At its Eastern end, the fast-moving Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier flows down from the Greenland Ice Sheet and into the Ilulissat Icefjord. Icebergs break off the face of the glacer and make their way down the Icefjord, which in places is more than 1000m deep.  It usually takes between 12 and 15 months for an iceberg to make its way down the length of Kangia - partially because the fjord freezes during the winter, and partially because of the density of ice in the channel.

When these icebergs reach the mouth of the Icefjord, they encounter an iceberg bank (Isfjeldsbanken) which traps the large icebergs and blocks the movement of ice out into the waters of Disko Bay. Any iceberg that extends 200-300m into the water is likely to become “beached” here until such time that it melts sufficiently to pass over the underwater embankment, or there is enough pressure from the ice in the Icefjord that it forces the iceberg over the bank.

GEUS - 3D representation of the structure of Kangia - the Ilulissat Icefjord

Illustration: Carsten E. Thuesen, GEUS. 3D representation of the structure of the Ilulissat Icefjord.

Given the number of enormous icebergs calving off the glacier, the mouth of the icefjord is often completely blocked by large icebergs. This forces more recently calved ice to back up behind the embankment, and it is this phenomenon that results in the impressive fjord packed with ice.

How to explore the Ilulissat Icefjord

No matter your level of activity, there are several different ways to explore the fantastic ice sculptures of the Ilulissat Icefjord.

By land: There are 3 well-marked hiking trails that take you from the outskirts of Ilulissat to the Icefjord. One of them (part of the blue trail) is a boardwalk that has been built to enable accessibility and also to protect the historically important Sermermiut valley through which it passes. 

The extended Blue trail turns inland to follow the Icefjord for a few km before heading back towards Ilulissat past shallow lakes that are typical of the Arctic tundra. The Yellow trail follows the headland at the mouth of Kangia and returns to Ilulissat along the shores of Disko Bay.  All three offer amazing views of the Icefjord from land.

Hikers admiring the Ilulissat Icefjord from the Yellow Hiking trail - summer - Guide to Greenland

During winter, it is possible to explore the Icefjord with snowshoe, snowmobile or dogsled.

By boat: There are many boat tours on offer from Ilulissat - including midnight cruises and specific whale watching tours that seek out the large numbers of whales that feed in the nutrient rich waters at the edges of the Icefjord during the Summer. 

If you would prefer a more active excursion and a waterline perspective of the size of the icebergs, there are also several operators offering Kayaking tours.

Boat tours and whale watching are very popular activities at the Ilulissat Icefjord - summer - Guide to Greenland

By air: Scenic flights are the best way to get an overview of the geography of the Icefjord region. They are also the only way to see the actual face of the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier and how it spills down from the Greenland Ice Sheet into the Icefjord.

View over the Ilulissat Icefjord on a scenic flight


For the best and most practical information about what there is to see and do around Ilulissat, including the Ilulissat Icefjord, read our Ultimate Travel Guide to Ilulissat.


 

Services near Ilulissat Icefjord

All services in 50km radius

Attractions nearby Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat

Ilulissat is the 3rd largest city in Greenland and one of the biggest tourist draw cards for the country. It is home to the UNESCO World Heritage l...

View

Ilimanaq

Ilimanaq is a tiny settlement just 15 km south of Ilulissat. During the summer there are several departures from Ilulissat to Ilimanaq, at a near dail...

View

Zion's Church

...

View

Oqaatsut

Oqaatsut (which means "cormorants" in Greenlandic) is a small settlement situated about 23km north of Ilulissat on the shores of Disko Bay.&...

View

Sermeq Kujalleq | Ilulissat Glacier | Jakobshavn Glacier

The Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier feeds the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Ilulissat Icefjord and is one of the most famous and active glaciers in the world...

View

Disko Bay

The Disko Bay is named after the Disko island in the middle of the bay. There are 2 villages on the Island, Qeqertarsuaq and the settlement of Kangerl...

View

Glacier Lodge Eqi

...

View

Eqi Glacier

Eqi - The Calving Glacier - Located 80 kilometers north of Ilulissat in the Disko Bay within reach for day tours / trips, and available for accom...

View

Aasiaat

Experience the land famous for it seas, as arctic sea creatures, play hide and seek between the waves and icebergs. Aasiaat known for its waters, marv...

View

Uummannaq

Experience  the charismatic townsfolk of Uummanaq, explore the wild, wonderful and vast surroundings and get an insight to the daily lives of the...

View

Russell Glacier

...

View

Kangerlussuaq

Greenlands main entrance from the world. A unique place with easy access to plenty of adventures. Experience the amazing Greenlandic Ic...

View

Point 660

Point 660 is a place recently uncovered by ice with a scenic view of the Icecap slowly descending into the ice-free tundra, located some 40 kilom...

View

Arctic Circle Trail

The well-known Arctic Circle Trail is a 160 km long trail that stretches between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut. It is a perfect hike to escape everyday&n...

View

Ice Sheet

The Greenlandic ice sheet is the second largest ice sheet in the world. It’s 1.730.000km², and the thickness is usually over 2km, and over ...

View

Northern Lights

Northern Lights In Greenland Northern lights experience is on everyone's bucket list, and in order to make it happen, you may choose the rig...

View

Apussuit Glacer

Apussuit is a skiing centre on top of a glacier, about 25 km east from Maniitsoq. Apussuit means ‘the big snow’ in West Greenlandic. Apus...

View

Qoornoq

Qoornoq is an abandoned settlement in the Nuuk Fjord that has found a new lease on life as a summer get-away for the families of those that used to li...

View

Kapisillit

Kapisillit is a settlement in the Nuuk Fjord, about 75km east of Nuuk. The name means "the place with salmon" as the Kapisillit River is the...

View

Nuuk Fjord

The Nuuk Fjord (Nuup Kangerlua) is the second-largest fjord system in the world and home to Greenland’s capital city. It is located about 240...

View