South Greenland is one of the only regions in Greenland where you can wander through trees taller than yourself. This makes the Greenlandic Arboretum in Narsarsuaq very special. Founded in 1988, it is one of the world’s largest tree-line arboreta featuring around 110 different species drawn from alpine areas and other Arctic nations. Many of the trees are labelled and you’ll find the different species all jumbled up right next to each other as you wander the forest.
Through the trees at the top of the hill, you have a wonderful view over Narsarsuaq, the Tunuliarfik Fjord, and the airport that dominates the town. This is the “Signal Hill” trail (red route), just one of several day hikes you can do from Narsarsuaq. Other marked trails include the short “Ridge Hike” (yellow route), and the longer Narsarsuaq Glacier hike (blue route), which passes through the hospital valley and the flower valley before reaching a spectacular lookout over the glacier. You can’t miss the lone chimney – all that remains of a large military hospital that played a key role in both WWII and the Korean War, but keep an eye out also for fire hydrants and other relics as you walk through. There is also an extension (orange route) to the lookout over the Qooroq Glacier and icefjord.
Hikers looking towards the ice cap in Narsarsuaq. Photo: David Buchmann
Longer, multi-day hiking expeditions also depart from Narsarsuaq, many of which include hiking and even camping on the Qaleraliq Glacier and Greenland icesheet.
Another very popular way to explore South Greenland for those looking for an active holiday is by kayak. During summer, expeditions of up to two weeks depart from Narsarsuaq, or you can rent all the equipment and chart your own course through the fjords. Some of the expeditions also incorporate hiking and bicycling, making sure you use all your muscles as you explore the area.
For those looking for a more relaxed holiday, sailing to the Qooroq Glacier is the must-do excursion from Narsarsuaq. Depending on the day, this may involve motoring serenely in an old-style sailing ship, or taking a fast, modern boat to have a closer view of the face of the glacier. Sailing is also an integral part of day trips to visit Igaliku and Qassiarsuk – the two main settlements in the area and key sites for Viking ruins. You can also get a birds-eye view of on a scenic flight that flies specifically over the top of the settlement and several of the local glaciers, getting as close as possible for the best views.
Qassiarsuk seen from a scenic flight. Photo: Aningaaq R. Carlsen
Hunters and fishers will also enjoy the pristine rivers and backcountry around Narsarsuaq. Guided hunts for arctic wildlife such as reindeer (caribou) and musk ox occur at specific times of the year, while fly-fishers will want to visit from mid-July to September when the rivers of South Greenland run wild with Arctic Char. If you are a more general fisher, cod, redfish and halibut are all common catches – just remember to purchase your fishing license beforehand.
Finally, no stay Narsarsuaq can be complete without a visit to the local museum. Focusing mainly on the Norse settlement of South Greenland and the history of the Bluie West One airbase, it is a fascinating look at two periods of history in the Narsarsuaq area.