Travels in the North

Musings on arctic holidays

Tag Archives: Ilulissat Icefjord


It’s my last full day in Ilulissat, and indeed my last day in Greenland as I fly back to Copenhagen tomorrow. I’m due to do two walking tours today, one to the old settlement at the ice fjord and also a guided city walk. Not for the first time this trip it turns out I’m the only one booked on both. All credit to the World of Greenland tourist office, I think they felt sorry for me having already cancelled my Monday boat trip, so they did the city walk with me despite me being the only person on it. As I’ve already been to the Ice Fjord I don’t mind missing that one too much really.

Oldest house in Ilulissat

The oldest house in Ilulissat

The city tour was really interesting, we went round the old town and saw the oldest houses in Ilulissat which were built when the Danes first arrived here. Then we went down to the harbour and saw some of the fishing boats. It was amazing to see what were quite traditional fishing vessels, but capable of landing sharks (although they don’t catch many of them, partly due to quotas). Fishing is the main industry here, followed by the council in Ilulissat (which covers everywhere from here to the North coast of Greenland, making it the worlds largest council in terms of area covered, an area 14 times the size of Denmark), then tourism the third biggest sector for employment.



My tour guide also talked about the supply ships that come into the harbour here. They’re a bit better at breaking through the ice than the AUL ferry I had caught to get here a few days ago, but even so they have no supply ships for three to four months over the winter. The supermarket shelves get very empty, and the arrival of the first boat of the year is met with a massive shopping spree by the local populace.

I was told by the tour guide that the Icy Cafe did the best coffee in town, so headed here for a coffee and to warm up after the tour.

Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat Icefjord

As I mentioned my guided trip to the Ice Fjord had been cancelled, and although I’d been before I decided to walk back over there to find out if I could “hear” the ice, any cracking sounds or whatever. Unfortunately it was actually quite windy when I got there so all I could hear was the breeze, and a couple of huge crows squawking overhead.

Sled sign Ilulissat

Road sign in Ilulissat

In the evening I headed to Café Iluliaq, where I had a pretty decent stir fry. They had a big screen showing the Manchester United v Manchester City game, which seemed pretty popular with the locals. Murphy’s bar is connected to Café Iluliaq and I had a quick beer there afterwards, there was a huge room with a stage at one end which was closed and just the bar area was open.

I had a look on teletext when I got back to my hotel, and to my horror my Air Greenland flight to Kangerlussuaq tomorrow is cancelled (from where I’m going to catch a connecting flight to Copenhagen) There is an earlier flight so I’m hoping I can get on that, I’ve had a fantastic time here in Ilulissat but don’t really want to be stranded for another day, I’ve got a hotel booked in Copenhagen as well as an onward flight the next day to London and it’d be a massive pain (and expense) if I have to rebook all of that.


Chilling Out by the Icebergs

It’s a bit windy here in Ilulissat today, which unlike Nuuk is unusual here I’m told. It’s warmed up a bit though, must be close to 0 degrees today.

Hotel Avannaa Ilulissat

My hotel, the excellent Hotel Avannaa

My planned boat trip to the old settlement at Oqaatsut was cancelled due to lack of numbers. I was looking forward to it, but knew when I booked it there was a strong chance this would happen. It’s almost May but it’s still very much winter here, and therefore still “off season”. It did give me the chance to look around town and walk down to the Ice Fjord (the Ilulissat ice fjord is about 20 minutes walk from town, and is fed by the most productive glacier outside of Antarctica, so is a must for iceberg fans) There was a group of Greenlandic people down there on a guided walk, but once I got past them it was very quiet, eerily so. It suddenly crossed my mind that now would not be a good time to encounter a polar bear, although I’m not sure they come this far South (despite being at 69° North!)

Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat Icefjord

I walk back into town past some of the vast number of sled dog kennels that are littered around the outskirts of town. My presence starts a wave of barking which you’d think would drive the locals mad, but apparently they’re used to it! I also achieve a first for my trip in that I successfully buy alcohol from a Greenlandic supermarket. Managed to get in before the ridiculous late afternoon curfew.

Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat Icefjord

Also back in town I looked round the Ilulissat museum which is dedicated to the polar explorer Knud Rasmussen who is from here. It’s a fairly small place but very interesting to learn about Rasmussen and a little about the history of Ilulissat.

Icefjord Hike Ilulissat

Hiking back from the Icefjord

I had back to the hotel for a couple of hours and am again horrified at the incredibly expensive internet. In Nuuk I paid 200 Danish Krone for 24 hours wireless access at the Seaman’s Hotel, here it’s 50 Krone for just one hour, although at least this time it doesn’t have to all be used in one go.

Sun over Ilulissat Icefjord

The sun trying to break through the cloud above Ilulissat Icefjord

In the evening I had a beer at the hotel arctic which is the most upmarket hotel in the town. It advertises conference facilities and I was told they have political conferences here as despite the cost of getting everyone here, it works out cheaper than having them in Denmark as the security costs are drastically reduced, such is the isolation up here! Like most hotel bars it’s a bit souless, there are some quite nice views over the Disco Bay but the whole place looks a bit tired, they don’t really make the most of it. It didn’t really feel like a 4* hotel, but then we are miles from anywhere and 69° North I suppose.

Ilulissat Houses

Houses in Ilulisssat

Back at the hotel I watched a bit of Greenlandic TV – there is one national Greenlandic channel (KNR), one Greenlandic “local” channel which only seems to show adverts (Arctic TV up here in Ilulissat, there was a Nuuk equivalent NuukTV) and 3 Danish DR channels. There are a load of other (foreign) satellite channels but either access is blocked or the reception is good enough to receive them.