Relax in comfort in artistic Qaqortoq as you explore the Viking history of South Greenland at the nearby Hvalsey church ruin and soak in Greenland's premier hot spring
Qaqortoq has three large supermarkets – Pisiffik, Brugseni and Akiki – as well as several smaller convenience stores.
To buy souvenirs, visit Greenland Sagalands where they have an extensive selection. You can also purchase sealskin products directly from the Great Greenland showroom on the other side of the harbour, skin care products from locally-owned InuaCare, or buy directly from locals who set up stalls outside Sagalands whenever cruise ships are in Qaqortoq. The museum and the Hotel Qaqortoq also have a small selection, and you never know what you might find at Jaaraartooq Café Shop near the heliport.
For outdoor adventures, it is best to bring as much of your own gear with you to Greenland. It is possible to purchase limited, basic camping supplies at Sissami by the bridge or you can rent equipment from the Blue Ice Café in Narsarsuaq.
Cradled between rolling steep hills dotted with brightly coloured houses, Qaqortoq is a melting pot of art, culture, Norse history and outdoor adventure. Featuring sculptures by some of Greenland and Scandinavia’s most famous artists, Qaqortoq’s compact colonial heart is centred around the country’s oldest fountain and is the perfect place to enjoy cultural demonstrations and join locals in watching daily life unfold.
Extend your visit in Qaqortoq to include the unbroken silence of the Greenland ice sheet, the ghosts of the Viking-built Hvalsey Church ruin, and the restorative waters of the Uunartoq hot spring in an exploration of South Greenland’s farming belt.
Although it is the biggest town in South Greenland, it is not possible to reach Qaqortoq directly … yet. A new airport is scheduled to open in 2023 which will allow a broader range of flights to Qaqortoq. In the meantime, visitors must first arrive at the international airport in Narsarsuaq and then take either a helicopter or boat transfer to Qaqortoq.
For those who prefer to arrive by sea, many of the cruise ships that visit Greenland each year call into port in Qaqortoq, and the town is the southernmost port for the Sarfaq Ittuk passenger ferry that runs all the way to Ilulissat.
The best times to visit are June – September (sailing, hiking, fishing) when the tourist information centre is open and most of the excursions run. Helicopter excursions are available all year, but otherwise visitors must be self-sufficient during the winter.
Qaqortoq is a very walkable town with most attractions clustered around the harbour and main square. However, if your accommodation is located up one of the town’s impressive hills, there are also taxis to help you get around.
For excursions in the area, the most common way to get around is with a boat, helicopter (all year) or on foot (summer), and with a snowmobile, skis, or snowshoes (winter, if you have your own equipment).
Qaqortoq has a range of accommodation available - from a 4-star hotel with conference facilities, to self-contained apartments, to multi-bed dormitories with shared facilities. All of the accommodation is within walking distance of the centre, though some options are located in the neighbourhoods located up Qaqortoq's steep hills. It is also possible to stay on nearby sheep farms and enjoy the hospitality of several of Greenland's farmers.
Qaqortoq is a hub for excursions throughout South Greenland. Sailing is the most common way to explore the area with day trips to the well-preserved Norse ruins of Hvalsey Church and centralised farm (15 ruins in total) at Qaqortukulooq, the experimental farm and research station Upernaviarsuk, the Greenland ice sheet, and the hot springs at Uunartoq the most popular amongst visitors.
An alternate way to visit these sites, as well as the other Norse ruins at Qassiarsuk, Igaliku, and in the Tasikuluulik area; several WWII sites; and the spectacular Tasermiut Fjord near Nanortalik; is with a scenic helicopter excursion from Qaqortoq. There are several options available ranging from 20 minutes to 6 hours, but each offers unparalleled views of the dramatic landscape and a way to visit these attractions if you are short on time.
Keen fishers will also enjoy the fjords and pristine rivers around Qaqortoq. Buy a fishing license at the Tourist Information Centre and arrange a trip to fish for the arctic char, salmon and cod that are abundant during the months of July and August.
While you are in Qaqortoq, get your bearings and discover the historical centre of the town on a guided city walk. During the tour, you will pass by Greenland’s oldest fountain, Mindebrønde, and several of the pieces that make up the open-air “Stone and Man” exhibition instigated by Aka Høegh. This ambitious sculpture project was initiated by the Greenlandic artist in the mid-1990s who invited artists from all of the Nordic countries to contribute. The result was 40 sculptures hidden around Qaqortoq, many of which are carved directly into rock faces.
Across the harbour lies the Great Greenland tanning and production facilities. You can visit the showroom independently to see their finished products and buy souvenirs, but if you want an insight into the processes involved in producing high-quality sealskin for distribution within Greenland and internationally, join a guided tour that will take you behind the scenes.
The tourist information centre in Qaqortoq can also arrange several cultural activities if you are visiting Qaqortoq as part of a group. Indulge in a kaffemik (a traditional Greenlandic get-together to celebrate, well, anything), or have a home-cooked dinner with a Greenlandic family to get to know more about daily life.
There are no specific hiking tours from Qaqortoq, even though the surrounding backcountry offers wonderful off-trail routes. The two most popular day-hikes are to climb to the top of Saqqaarsuk, just behind Sulisartut Højskoliat for spectacular views over Qaqortoq and its surrounding fjords, or hike around Lake Tasersuaq (the local water supply). For long-distance hikers, the five-day hike to the Norsemen’s old Episcopal residence at the sheep farming settlement of Igaliku will take you through a landscape filled with hidden ruins, and straight past the impressive and unmissable Hvalsey Church.
If you’d like to take a day off from outdoor adventure, visit Qaqortoq’s large Gertrud Rask’s church and then shop for ingredients at the supermarket to enjoy a picnic soaking up the atmosphere in Qaqortoq’s town square. Local residents often do exactly this, sitting at the picnic benches that are arranged along the pedestrian walkway near the famous Qaqortoq fountain and basking in the sunshine as they eat.
Once you are done eating, visit the Qaqortoq Museum – the large black building that borders the plaza. Housed in the town’s oldest building it hosts traveling exhibitions as well as several permanent collections, including a display of fantastical tupilaks created by master carvers – Aron and Cecilie Kleist. These stunning pieces of art are widely regarded as some of the best in all of Greenland and there is at least one book (in Danish and English) dedicated to their work.
Across the road, you will find a Viking exhibit, and if you’re up for walking up a hill, the TELE Museum teaches about the history of radio communication. It also offers a wonderful view back over Qaqortoq and out to sea.
Finally, if you haven’t done a tour to discover the “Stone and Man” exhibition, go for a stroll around Qaqortoq to see how many you can find. We challenge you to find all 40!
Qaqortoq has a variety of places to eat that range from fast food to high-quality Thai food to cafes that serve everything from steaks and pasta to sandwiches and good coffee.