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Ports of call for cruise liners in West Greenland

What a fantastic posting. So much information. I have to admit that having travelled to many places Iceland is not one of them. Having said that it is appearing on more and more cruise itineraries.

A Cruise Ship Somewhere

Many cruise ships visit Greenland stopping at different settlements along the west coast and this article gives some information about towns visited with ideas of what to do.

Settlements in Greenland are referred to as ‘towns’ regardless of size, so guided tours are always described as ‘town tour’. Don’t expect a large settlement with a lot of shops. There are roads (usually unpaved) in the towns but none between towns. All transport is by sea or air. Apart from Nuuk, none of the towns has a bus service. There are unlikely to be taxis to hire so unless you are prepared to walk and explore by yourself, you will need to sign up for the activities offered by the cruise ship.

BE WARNED – Greenland is EXPENSIVE and you have to like nothingness. Greenland is all about scenery. Some people do come back terribly disappointed, others enthused by. Don’t expect shops and entertainment. Helicopter flights are eye wateringly expensive.

Flies can be a problem in Greenland and it may be necessary to invest in a mosquito net. They aren’t the most glamorous of head gear but are very effective. We found it best to wear over a sun hat as this keeps the net away from the face.

In the summer it is also advisable to take sun screen as the air is very clear and the sun very bright.
Think layers for clothing. On boat trips the wind chill factor kicks in and you may be thankful of a
wind proof outer layer. Temperatures during the day in summer on land can be as hot as 20˚

Ilulissat is a beautiful location at the mouth of a long ice fjord filled with icebergs from the most productive glacier in northern hemisphere, Sermeq Kujalleq. It is thought it was one of these icebergs that sank the Titanic. The biggest icebergs get stuck at the mouth of the fjord until they have melted enough to escape. Icebergs of every shape, size and colour can be seen from all parts of the town.

The ship sails through the icebergs to reach Ilulissat and docks fairly close to the centre and this can be explored without a guided tour. There are brightly coloured houses scattered around the town as well as blocks of 1960s housing. There are a couple of supermarkets and a range of smaller specialist shops. Tourist agencies often have a small gift shop attached.

In the winter dog sleds are the main means of transport and every family owns a dog team. You will see the dogs all over the town . They usually lie curled up on the rocks and tend not to be noticed unless they move. An excursion to meet a dog handler and learn about the dogs is a fascinating and well worth while experience.

Another popular excursion is to Sermeruit, which was the site of Greenland’s largest town in the 18th century. Now all that is left are a few lumps on the soft boggy ground. This can be a wet and boggy walk so make sure you have heavy duty shoes or boots. This is worth doing if you are interested in the early history. Otherwise there is a marvellous walk which cuts round the side of the valley back over the ice scraped rocks into the town (yellow hiking trail on the map). This is easy to follow and you don’t need to join a guided tour. Allow about an hour to walk to Sermeruit and back. Allow up to 3 hours for the longer walk back along the ice fjord depending on how long you spend sitting and looking.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … issat.aspx
There is a map of Ilulissat area here:
I wrote a detailed review of Ilulissat here:
http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/Revi … ductReview
Our pictures of Ilulissat begin here (and the next four galleries):
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/ilul … index.html

Sisimiut is a settlement of brightly coloured houses scattered round the harbour, which is lined with old warehouses. The centre of town with a small shopping centre is a short walk from the quay.
Danish settlement started on this site in 1764 based on whaling. A photogenic whalebone arch marks the entrance to the old town with a small brown wooden church, old houses, warehouses, sheds and boats. This is now a museum site. The blue painted Bethel church was built in 1775 and is one of the oldest churches in Greenland. It has an external ladder giving access to an upper floor. There is also a reconstructed turf house on the site.
While it is possible to explore by yourself, it is worth joining a guided tour of the town as it will give chance to learn about the history.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … imiut.aspx
There is a map of Sisimuit here:
Our pictures of Sisimiut begin here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/ship … 40135.html


Maniitsog means ‘rugged place’ and the settlement is surrounded by some of highest mountains in western Greenland. The brightly coloured houses are scattered on rocky outcrops and linked by wooden bridges and staircases. There is a small museum. It is very easy to explore by yourselves, and you don’t need a guided tour.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … itsoq.aspx
There is a map of Maniitsog here:
Our pictures of Maniitsog begin here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/ship … 40142.html 


This is the capital of Greenland, the oldest town as well as the largest settlement with about 116,000 people and has a reasonable shopping centre. It is built at the tip of large peninsula at the mouth of the fjord complex backed by large mountains.

It is worth joining a guided tour of the town as it is a long way to walk from the boat, especially to the old town which architecturally is the most interesting, and there are few taxis for hire. The day we visited there were 10 of us in a big bus with the bus driver’s brother sitting at the back and along for the ride.

The slopes overlooking the harbour are covered with long and dreary looking 1960s apartment blocks with the town centre with shops and cafes in the middle of the peninsula. The award-winning cultural venue Katuaq is also here. This is a modern building which houses the Art School, exhibitions, concert hall and a cinema.

The old colonial centre which was called Godthåb, is on the west side of the peninsula in Kolonihavn. This is an attractive area and worth exploring. This was the old harbour and the shore is lined with warehouses. This is now a museum complex with exhibitions of Greenlandic history and life, with national costumes, tools dogsleds and kayaks as well as the Qilakitsoq mummies – 6 women and 2 children who were found close to Uummannaq. Old oil presses can be seen outside one of the buildings.

Hans Egede’s house, which is the oldest house in Greenland is found here. The house is now used for official government receptions. Egede was a missionary and the founder of Godthåb. There is a statue of him overlooking the old harbour.

And don’t forget Father Christmas… Nuuk has laid claim to be Father Christmas’s true headquarters ever since Donald Duck visited the town with his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie to see Santa in a Walt Disney cartoon film in 1934. Go and find the large post box full of letters to Father Christmas.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … /nuuk.aspx
There is a map of Nuuk here:
Our pictures of Nuuk begin here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/ship … P3600.html  


Paamiut is a mix of brightly coloured wooden houses and 1960s apartment blocks on the edge of a narrow coastal plain surrounded by rocky hills. It can easily be covered on foot from the boat.

It had been an important whaling and fur trade centre. During the 1950s cod boom its population grew to 10,0000 but fish disappeared virtually overnight in 1989. The population plummeted and there was major unemployment. It now has the Maritime Training School, handicraft cooperative and a candle factory.

The main attractions are the beautiful wooden church built in 1909 which looks a bit like a Norwegian Stave Church but without the decorative carving. The museum is made up of five old stone and timber buildings: governor’s residence, old trading post, goat house, post office and carpenters house which still has the bell at one corner which was rung when there was work available.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … amiut.aspx
Our pictures of Paamiut begin here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/ship … P3626.html

Qaqortog is an attractive settlement of brightly coloured buildings huddled around the harbour, surrounded by mountains. All parts of the town can be reached easily by foot from the boat.
It was a boom town in the 1930s and most of buildings date from this time. It boasts having Greenland’s first piped water supply, bath house and fountain. It now prides itself as a cultural centre with ‘Stone and Man’ sculptures carved on boulder around the town. The best are on the cliff beside Torvevej, behind the tourist office. This sells a range of local craft items. Greenland’s only industrial tannery is found in the town.
It is a pleasant town to walk around with many nice old buildings. There is a large lake behind the town, with a hiking route round it. Depending on how long you have in harbour, this would make a good walk.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … ortoq.aspx
There is a map of Qaqortog here:
Our pictures of Qaqortog begin here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/ship … 40183.html

Narsaq is a pretty settlement sprawling across the grassy slopes under the peaks of peaks Qaqqarsuaq and Tasiigaaq. It is a pleasant walk up the road behind the town for views across the fjord which was still filled with many small icebergs in July. The area is dotted with Norse ruins and some historians think this may be site of Erik the Red’s settlement rather than Qassiarsuk.

A shrimp processing plant opened 1952 using labour provided by forcibly evacuating near by villages. This now doubles as a slaughterhouse for the region’s sheep. An enterprising local company collects icebergs to make into designer ice cubes for export.

There is a small museum.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … arsaq.aspx
Our pictures of Narsaq begin here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/ship … P3671.html  


The boat docks a good 30minutes walk from the settlement. There isn’t a lot to do or see in the settlement. The Blue Ice Cafe next to the airstrip has information and books about the area.

If you are wanting to explore by yourself ask here for information. Both of the following can be done safely by yourself.There is an easy track up Signal Hill (allow a couple of hours) which gives good views of the area. Alternatively there is an easy walk up Flower valley (allow a good half day). This follows the tarmac road past the site of the old US military hospital and then a track along the side of the valley. This ends in a rope assisted scramble up a cliff face. We turned back at this point.

A popular excursion is across the fjord on a small boat to Qassiarsuk, which was the site of Eric the Red’s settlement of Brattahild. There are the remains of the small church built by Eric’s wife Tjodhilde and house foundations. with floors and animal stalls. Erik the Red’s House and the church have been reconstructed and there is a costumed interpreter. This is a well worthwhile visit if you are interested in the Viking settlement of Greenland.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … rsuaq.aspx
I wrote a detailed review of Narsarsuaq here:
http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/Revi … ductReview
Our picture of Narsarsuaq are here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/nars … index.html
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/nars … index.html
Pictures of Qassiarsuk and Brattahild are here:
http://wasleys.org.uk/greenland_mw/nars … index.html

This is a typical Greenlandic town which the cruise ships have just begun to visit. Unlike other ports of call there are no excursions but the towns people put on a variety of events for passengers on the cruise liner. This includes drum dance , and ‘cafe-miks’ when you are invited into a home to enjoy typical Greenlandic hospitality.
http://www.greenland.com/en/explore-gre … talik.aspx

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