The Greenland ice sheet, impressive glaciers, and arctic wildlife roaming freely in a UNESCO protected area lie a stone's throw from the hub of Kangerlussuaq.
Kangerlussuaq has a Pilersuisoq supermarket located near the airport terminal, as well as a convenience store on the other side of the runway. Camping gas can usually be found in both places, and you may also be able to pick up some limited, basic camping supplies. However, it is best to bring all your own gear with you.
As the gateway to Greenland, there is no shortage of boutiques for souvenir shoppers in Kangerlussuaq. Niviarsiaq, By Heart, and Vivi’s Shop are all located inside or very close to the airport terminal, and there are also souvenirs for sale at Polar Lodge.
Kangerlussuaq airport is the only airport that provides free internet in Greenland. The free Wifi includes an allowance of 100MB. Travelers can access the free internet through MIT FREE WIFI or scan a QR code at the airport.
With the World’s second-largest ice cap crouching on its doorstep and herds of arctic game roaming freely through its UNESCO World Heritage Listed hinterland, Kangerlussuaq is so much more than a simple transit stop on your way to somewhere else in Greenland. It is an opportunity to step into a different world.
It is a world of blue meltwater lakes, crevasses, glaciers, and more ice than you can possibly imagine! A world where hunters still stalk large game. A world in which the Northern Lights dance overhead during the winter months and can easily outshine the moon. A world that originated as a US air base (Sondrestrom Air Base) during WWII, and where you can still stay in refurbished ex-military barracks.
Kangerlussuaq hosts Greenland’s primary international airport and is a key transportation hub for the island. Air Greenland flies directly from Copenhagen most days with connecting flights to other major centres in Greenland.
If you are already in Greenland, you can fly directly to Kangerlussuaq from Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, Aasiaat, Maniitsoq, and Narsarsuaq. Flights from other towns and settlements connect through one of these centres.
Kangerlussuaq is a year-round destination where you can observe musk oxen, visit the ice sheet, and go on scenic flights at almost any time. For other activities, the best times to visit are January – April (dog sledding, ice fishing, northern lights), March – April (winter hunting), May – September (hiking, kayaking, fishing), July – October (summer hunting), and October – January for off-season conferences.
The Polar Circle Marathon (where part of the route is on the Greenland IceCap itself) is held in April or October each year, and the annual Running of the Musk Ox each October.
In 2021, Greenland’s biggest event ever to be held is scheduled for late August. Extreme E, which is a new off-road racing series using electric SUVs and futuristic technologies, will be hosted by Kangerlussuaq and aired by the world’s leading broadcasters. Some of the biggest racing names and teams will compete on a purpose-built Arctic racetrack – part of which will actually be on the sandbars with views of the Russell Glacier.
Kangerlussuaq stretches around both sides of the airstrip so it can take a while to walk from one side of town to the other. Alternatively, you can catch the bus that calls past each stop roughly every 30 minutes – one of the stops is just outside the airport across from the souvenir shops. It’s important to note that you can only pay for your bus ticket in cash (a ticket costs 12 DKK) but you can get change. See the bus timetable. Another alternative would be to arrange your transfer with your accommodation provider.
Unless you are a keen hiker, most excursions in the area depart in Kangerlussuaq via some sort of road transportation. It is also possible to arrange your own private transportation in Kangerlussuaq through Arctic Ice Tours, Albatros Arctic Circle and Kang Mini Tours.
As the main flight hub for Greenland, Kangerlussuaq offers a large number of accommodation options despite its small size. Guests can choose from a modern hotel with a conference venue to refurbished dormitories left over from its history as a WWII airbase, to dormitory accommodation with shared facilities.
For most people, the undisputed highlight of a stopover in Kangerlussuaq is a visit to the Greenland Ice Sheet at Point 660. The feeling of nature’s raw power and the realisation of how small and vulnerable we are leaves an indelible impression as you stand on the very western edge of this vast expanse of ice. You can even channel the spirit of the great Arctic Explorers, leave creature comforts behind, and camp for one or more nights in the frozen desert of the ice sheet itself.
Those with more time usually combine this excursion with a visit to where the inland ice spills down from its high plateau at the Russell Glacier. If you are patient, you are often rewarded with chunks of ice calving off the face of this 60m high wall of jagged ice to fall into the river rapids below.
This remote glacier near Kangerlussuaq is also the perfect place to keep a sharp eye out for herds of musk oxen that are found in parts of Greenland and which roam freely in the area. Alternatively, you can join a specific wildlife watching excursion that will take you to the best probable locations for viewing these enormous animals, as well as reindeer (caribou), arctic hare, arctic fox, and several species of birds.
The Russell Glacier is also a popular starting point for an extended Arctic Circle Trail (ACT) hike. The ACT (Greenland’s most famous long-distance trail) runs for 160km between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut, but keen hikers (and fat-bikers or skiers during winter) can add additional kilometres and trek all the way from the ice cap to the sea.
Other summer activities include several short day hikes (Garnet Rock and Sugarloaf Mountain are the most popular), kayaking on Lake Ferguson / Lake Tasersuatsiaq (with dinner at Roklubben restaurant as a reward for the effort), and fishing either in the Kangerlussuaq Fjord or in rivers known for their high concentrations of Arctic Char. Make sure you purchase a fishing license first.
During winter, the backcountry around Kangerlussuaq thunders with the paws of Greenlandic sled dogs as they transport hunters, fishermen, and now, tourists in the same way they’ve done for thousands of years. With more than 1000 excursions each season ranging from a few hours to a few days (you can even dog sled all the way to Sisimiut), Kangerlussuaq is one of the best places in Greenland to experience this ancient mode of winter transportation. Dog sled out to a prime ice fishing spot, or simply take a short tour in the open terrain of Greenland’s most recently listed UNESCO area for an insight into the strong bond that still exists between Greenlanders and their dogs.
You can also go Musk Ox hunting via dog sled during the winter. There are two main hunting seasons during the year (Mar – Apr and Jul – Oct) for those that practice this sport, and although hunting is a way of life in Greenland, it is also well regulated. You must join a registered hunting trip led by a guide who will take you to the best hunting grounds and teach you about ethical and sustainable practices in Greenland.
Back in town, make sure you call by the store “By Heart” to see whether there are talks on working with Musk-ox wool or the traditional kaffemik happening, and join a city tour to learn more about the American (and other) history of this small, inland town.
Lying on the auroral oval and with more than 300 nights of clear skies per year, Kangerlussuaq is one of the best places in the Arctic to see the Northern Lights during winter (October – April). The town’s small size and low light pollution mean that you can often see the Northern Lights clearly from its centre. However, for even clearer views, you should walk just 15 minutes in any direction to an even darker location where the auroral colours will really stand out against the stars, or arrange for a tour to the very darkest sites.
Hike to the top of any nearby hill for an aerial view over Kangerlussuaq or, for those with more experience, explore the mountains and valleys of the vast backcountry that stretches all the way from the ice sheet to Sisimiut. You are limited only by how much you want to carry and how much energy you want to expend.
For those who are interested in history, make sure you visit the Kangerlussuaq Museum, which focuses on the town’s history as an American base and its subsequent transformation into the key transportation hub for Greenland. It is a great place to learn a little about the town so that you can appreciate much better the style of building and infrastructure you will see around town during your stay.
Whether you want to indulge in a gourmet 3-course meal, a traditional Greenlandic buffet, high-quality cafe-style food, or basic fast food – Kangerlussuaq has you covered. While most establishments are clustered in the airport building, there are a few options on the south side of the airstrip, and one highly-rated restaurant that overlooks Ferguson Lake.