The small farming settlement of Igaliku offers excellent hiking and sheep grazing in the lush grass that surrounds some of the best Norse ruins in Greenland.
Igaliku has one small Pilersuisoq supermarket that stocks basic household staples. You should aim to bring all your outdoor equipment with you or rent equipment from the Blue Ice Café in Narsarsuaq.
To buy souvenirs, check out the range at the Igaliku Country Hotel
Rolling valleys lush with flowers and tall grass guard the entrance to the well-preserved remains of Garðar – the religious heart of the Norsemen in Greenland. Now part of Igaliku, visitors can explore Norse history, hike within the UNESCO World Heritage-listed surroundings to discover lakes, mountains and hidden Norse ruins, or relax and watch the ubiquitous sheep crop the carefully tended grass of what was Greenland’s first sheep farming settlement. Enjoy a slower pace of life in an idyllic setting that has one main rule – keep off the farmers’ grass fields!
Although Igaliku (also known as Igaliko) is located at the far end of the Igaliku Fjord, it is more commonly reached from the Tunulliarfik Fjord (Skovfjorden). Visitors must first arrive at the international airport in Narsarsuaq and then catch a boat transfer to Itilleq, where a 4km long gravel road (the “King’s Road”) leads to the settlement.
If you are coming from Qaqortoq, it may be possible to get a boat transfer directly to Igaliku harbour or, for those who enjoy long-distance hiking, it is a ~4-5-day trek to the settlement.
The best time to visit is June – September (sailing, hiking) when the hotel and cabins are open for travellers and Igaliku Fest, a party celebrating the establishment of the settlement, is held. In May and September, the hotel remains open for off-season conferences and meetings, but in winter, Igaliku largely hibernates. While it is still possible to do scenic helicopter tours to different attractions, there are few other tours that run during this period. You must have all your own gear and be independent to enjoy the pristine snow of a South Greenlandic winter.
In Igaliku, people walk everywhere. This small settlement has no public transportation, though luggage or full transfers from the helistop/Itilleq harbour can be arranged. Otherwise, it is a beautiful hike along the “King’s Road” to arrive at the settlement.
For excursions in the area, the most common way to get around is with a boat (all year) or on foot (summer), and with a snowmobile, skis, or snowshoes (winter).
Igaliku has several accommodation options for visitors, including hotel rooms, cabins, cottages, and dormitories (BYO sleeping bag) with shared facilities. Most are located within the settlement itself, though a handful of the cottages are positioned on the hill that overlooks Igaliku or secreted away in a secluded lakeside spot several kilometres from the settlement.
Standing within the large sandstone blocks of the Saint Nicholas cathedral and imagining how life must have been for the 12th century Vikings who built it is one of the key attractions for visitors to Igaliku. One of the most important settlements of the Norse era, it is easy to make out the remains of the church, the residence for the bishops, the farm (with stables that could house 100 cows), and a bishop’s gravestone as part of the site.
But this is just a small part of the interest within the settlement of Igaliku. In particular, this is the only place in Greenland where houses have been made from local stone, called sillisit, or sandstone. And although the re-purposing of sandstone quarried by the Vikings for buildings has ceased – several of these constructions still stand and are protected (along with the Norse ruins) as part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed “Kujataa” area.
For those looking for outdoor adventure, beyond the last of the houses in Igaliku lies an enormous backcountry with several marked hiking trails. The most popular day hike is to the spectacular lookout over icebergs in the Tunulliarfik Fjord and the Qooroq glacier (red route). Alternative day hikes will take you to a series of waterfalls that cascade down to the fjord (yellow route), or to the summit of Nuuluk – the mountain that towers over the settlement (green route). Long-distance hikers might also like to tackle the 4-5 day route to Qaqortoq, which takes in another of the famous Norse ruins of South Greenland at Hvalsey (Qaqortukulooq).
The café at the Igaliku Country Hotel is the only place to eat out in the settlement. It serves breakfast, lunch, and a 2-course dinner made from Greenlandic ingredients, and also provides snacks, coffee, and even packed lunches for those heading out on a hike. Those staying elsewhere can choose to take their meals here or can purchase ingredients at the Pilersuisoq supermarket and cook for themselves.