One of the first things you’ll find out as a potential tourist to Greenland is that our road network is extremely limited. In fact, there are no roads connecting the different towns and settlements – meaning the most common ways to get around are by water and air.
But paved roads are not always necessary to embrace the freedom and flexibility that a bicycle can offer – why not take on Greenland’s backcountry with a good quality mountain bike, or even conquer snow and sea ice on a fatbike!
Within minutes, you can be out of town and into the wilderness, tackling varied terrain that passes through diverse landscapes. Check out some of Greenland’s most unique and accessible biking experiences, separated according to region.
Kangerlussuaq is perhaps the most convenient town in Greenland for biking, since it is home to the longest road in the country, which stretches from the ice cap all the way to the start of the Arctic Circle Trail, about 16 km west of Kangerlussuaq town.
Where to go:
A popular trip is to cycle out to the ice sheet – either to Russell Glacier which runs off the ice cap, or further on to Point 660 – the edge of the ice cap itself. But be warned – this trip can be pretty hardcore! It’s about 25 km from town out to the ice sheet, and the road can be rocky and sandy, so make sure you get a mountain bike and that everything is in good working order. Along the way, enjoy the rolling mountainous scenery and look out for local wildlife, such as musk oxen, reindeer, arctic hares and birds.
You can also cycle across to the ‘other side’ of town from the airport, and then follow the road further for 5 km to beautiful Lake Ferguson, a popular spot for kayaking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. West of town, the road takes you about 10 km to the harbour onto the fjord.
Where to hire:
You can hire bikes at Old Camp and Polar Lodge between May and September, and the staff there can also provide you with local road maps.
In winter, Kangerlussuaq is a popular location for fatbiking since it is possible to bike the Arctic Circle Trail in this way. Fatbikes are specialised mountain bikes with extra fat tires (hence the name!), offering a smooth ride over the tough Arctic terrain. They allow you to traverse frozen lakes and cut through snow on two wheels. Experience Kangerlussuaq on a fatbike with Sirius Greenland.
Sisimiut is the second largest city in Greenland and is notable for its urban vibe. Most of the bikes you’ll see here will probably be in the outdoor skateparks being ridden by young BMXers! In the summer, you can often watch riders in the parks all night long under the midnight sun. Sisimiut has even produced a few homegrown professional BMX riders.
Where to go:
Despite the vibrant buzz of the city, Sisimiut locals are closely connected to the wilderness that is almost literally in their backyard. To the east of the city the main road becomes a network of dirt tracks which are great for all levels of biking, especially in the summer when the sun dries them out.
Hotel Sisimiut has published its own bike maps of routes both around the city and out into the backcountry. Pick them up at the hotel itself or download them here.
South Greenland is another destination where you can find a deceptively extensive network of bikeable roads.
Where to go:
On the Narsaq Peninsula, around Qassiarsuk, there is a large system of gravel tractor roads which link the sheep farms together – amounting to a total of about 80 km of biking! Many of the sheep farms double as guest houses so it can be fun to cycle between them and overnight at the farms. There are also around 30 km of trails around Qaqortoq.
Tasermiut South Greenland Expeditions (based in Narsarsuaq) offer a 12-day ‘multiadventure’ tour which involves biking, hiking and kayaking your way around the region. Perfect for those seeking an active, varied and low-impact tour of South Greenland’s towns, settlements, rolling hills and steep-sided fjords.
Where to hire:
Blue Ice Explorer in Narsarsuaq rents out mountain bikes that you are free to take with you to explore other parts of the region.
Overview of biking providers:
Old Camp Polar Lodge Sirius Greenland
Hotel Sisimiut Seaman’s Home Guide to Greenland
Tasermiut South Greenland Expeditions Blue Ice Explorer
Nuuk York Bike Rental Guide to Greenland Seaman’s Home
Being Greenland’s largest city, Nuuk offers the most extensive road network for city biking. In the summer, you’ll often see locals biking to and from work, and for tourists it’s a quick and fun way to get around the city and explore the suburbs.
Since Nuuk is a city that, in places, is literally cut into the mountains, there are some hills to tackle, but this also means that you can get up to some great viewpoints.
Where to go:
Just beyond the city centre is the lively suburb of Nuussuaq, where you can watch local life play out in the winding residential streets. Further out, on the other side of the bay, is the newer area of Qinngorput, with its modern apartment blocks that stand in the shadow of Store Malene/Ukkusissat. Qinngorput is a convenient place to start many of Nuuk’s most well-known hikes, or simply to relax at the viewpoint known as ‘the end of the world’, and watch the city work from afar.
Ilulissat is a sizeable town (in Greenlandic terms), so having a bike makes it much easier to get around and out to the various viewpoints. The long road out to the airport is made much more manageable with a couple of wheels aiding your journey! A bike will also get you out quicker to the famous icefjord and the hiking trails that meander alongside it.
Off-road, although there are trails, the terrain in Ilulissat is a lot more rocky than in Sisimiut or Kangerlussuaq, so be sure to check with the bike rental office where it is appropriate to bike.
In Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island there are various dirt tracks and gravel roads which make it easy to get out into the surrounding nature on a bike. Those with technical and endurance skills can head out to Kuannit for some more challenging rides.
Like Ilulissat, Aasiaat is not so accessible once you venture off the paved roads. However, there are 20km worth of paved roads, all of which have spectacular views of the water, so it’s worth having a whizz around to take in the views.
Where to hire:
You can hire bikes at the Seaman’s Home, even if you’re not actually staying there.
Liz is a member of the Content and Relationship Management team at Visit Greenland. She has recently completed a Master’s degree in Global Tourism Development, and hopes to continue conducting academic research on cultural tourism in the Arctic.
We had flown down from Uummannaq two days prior, and had arrived in Ilulissat the previous morning. After a restful night’s stay at the Hotel Arctic, we took our bags and made our way down to the tourist dock, passed the hulls of old wooden boats in refit, and towards the young Greenlandic man standing by the gangway in a blue, quilted jumpsuit.
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