Southern Greenland

Travel Guide North America Greenland Southern Greenland

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Introduction

The Southern coast of Greenland is jokingly nicknamed "Sineriak Bananeqarfik" (Banana Coast) by the locals. Still far from a tropical paradise, this is the region which experiences the least extreme temperatures. Be warned, though, it can still get bitterly cold. The area is characterized by its fjords and mountains; flowering plants, fertile lands and sheep farms side by side with floating icebergs and glaciers. Temperatures are usually between 5 and 15 degrees Celsius in summer, and between -10 and 0 degrees Celsius in winter.

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Cities

  • Igaliku (Norse: Gardar). A small farming village on the same peninsula as Qaqortoq.
  • Nanortalik. At the southern end of Greenland, this town is named after polar bears for a reason!
  • Narsarsuaq. Home to the international airport.
  • Narsaq. Fairly large town in southern Greenland, although Qaqortoq is bigger.
  • Qaqortoq. Largest town in the area, home to more than 3,000 people.
  • Qassiarsuk (Norse: Brattahlid).

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Sights and Activities

The Ice Cap can be reached from Narsarsuaq by foot (20 km there and back), boat or helicopter.

Remains of the Norse settlements can be found several places in the area. The remains of the Greenlandic cathedral is seen in Igaliku. A reconstruction of Thorhilda's (Eric the Red's wife) church and a longhouse can be seen in Qassiarsuk. Qassiarsuk, Igaliku, Sissarluttoq, Tasikuluulik (Vatnahverfi) and Qaqortukulooq (Hvalsey) together make up the world heritage site "Kujataa Greenland: Norse and Inuit Farming at the Edge of the Ice Cap".

Remains of Inuit settlements are also found several places including in Qassiarsuk and nearby Qaqortoq.

Hot springs of varying temperature are found in the area.

Just north of Narsaq is an area of mayor geological interest. Thirty minerals were originally found and characterized here, and 12 are found only in this area.

The Qinngua Valley, near Tasiusaq in Kujalleq municipality, is home to Greenland's only natural forest.

The Aurora Borealis is one of nature's most spectacular phenomena. It can be witnessed throughout Greenland on clear nights from the months of September to April.

There are many opportunities to go hiking in Greenland, where vast open spaces are in abundance. Several hiking routes exist between towns for those interested in longer trips. There are even possibilities to walk on the ice cap but this requires some skills and good physical condition. Especially the south of Greenland is a good place to hiking as there is a choice of simple walks ranging from several hours to a day but also overnight trips and mulitple-day trips are possible. Distances between towns are relatively short here, so you can combine a stay in several of those places, travel between them by boat or helicopter and do hikes from those villages. There is also a good mix of history, culture and fantastic nature.

Kayaking in Greenland is an exciting possibility for experienced kayakers. The kayak (or qajaq) is an Inuit invention, adding a sense of history to paddling the Arctic waters.

Most of Greenland lies above the Arctic Circle so there is 24 hours of daylight for days or even weeks in much of the country. Even the more visited southern part of Greenland experience just a few hours of dark-ish conditions. It's a magnificent feeling and if you want to go hiking at night: no problem!

Although it's not Africa, Greenland has its fair share of wildlife which you won't encounter anywhere else, except a few other Nordic countries. Muskox, Caribou, Whales, Polar Foxes, Seals, Walruses, Reindeer and the occassional Polar Bear are all present in the country, some of them even visible in the far south.

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Events and Festivals

  • The National Day of Greenland is held on the 21st of June each year - the lightest day of the year - as a celebration of Greenland's traditions and cultural heritage. People often dress in national costumes to mark the occasion.
  • Return of the Sun - January’s return of the sun after several weeks or months of constant darkness is a major cause for celebration in Greenland. Although the exact day varies throughout the country, each local community celebrates the occasion with plenty of coffee, sweets, music, and special family togetherness.
  • Greenland Adventure Race - Southern Greenland’s most outstanding scenery provides the backdrop for this grueling September race sometimes compared to Hawaii’s Ironman triathlon. The five day Greenlandic version starts with 20 kilometres of running and rappelling across a glacier and frozen water, followed by a 50 kilometre long mountain bike trek. The third leg is the 42 kilometre long marathon through 1,000 metre tall mountain passes before reaching Narsaq. Competitors must then kayak and carry their boats across the fjords of Qaqortoq before making a 30 kilometre run to the finish line. Both same-sex and opposite-sex teams can participate in this epic race.

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Getting There

By Plane

Narsarsuaq airport (UAK IATA) is the only airport in the area. Air Greenland has daily flights from Kangerlussuaq and from Nuuk and a weekly (two in the summer) direct flight from Copenhagen. There are daily connections with Copenhagen if changing plane at Kangerlussuaq. Air Iceland has in summertime weekly flights from Reykjavík (domestic airport) to Narsarsuaq. Going from the airport to other places is by boat or helicopter.

By Boat

Some cruise ships go to southern Greenland in the summer, for example to Nanortalik or Qaqortoq. In the autumn, a few cruise ships go from Europe to the Caribbean, and stop at Greenland. Some use the majestic Prince Christian Sound, a 100 km long, 1-2 km wide sound, with high-class sceneries.

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Getting Around

Air Greenland operates helicopter flights from the Narsarsuaq airport to settlements.

Most cities and villages in the area are situated by or near the fjords, and local travel is therefore mostly by boats. The tourist offices in the cities arrange local boat transport, but you may be able to hitch a ride on a private boat. Blue Ice Explorer operates tour boats in the area. No matter how you do it, you will be sailing in beautiful clear water in scenic fjords with icebergs floating around you. Don't worry about the icebergs; the locals have been sailing the waters all their life and know not to sail in bad weather or too close to the icebergs.

Some of the villages, like Narsarsuaq and Qassiarsuk, are connected by roads, and the locals travel around on farming equipment, jeeps or 4-wheeled scooters. When there is snow cover, snowmobiles makes overland travel easier. Some places, you may be able to rent a vehicle at the tourist office.

Hiking is quite possible and hiking maps can be bought at Scanmaps, but beware of the low scale and the large differences between contour lines, which make precise navigation difficult. Also note that "tour suggestions" merely means you might be able to follow the route, as no trails are marked and streams and lakes may vary in size throughout the year.

On a lot of the islands and peninsulas, there are sheep farms. Aside from meeting an occasional flock of sheep, this has two important side effects:

The sheep keep the mosquitos away, making the stay much more pleasant.
The sheep are lazy, and take the easiest route from A to B. If you are lazy too (i.e. not a rock climber) use the paths the sheep have already made. Just remember that your destination is not always the same as the sheep's.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 12:55 on Oct 30, 19 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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