Greenland’s most popular tourist spot boasts the world’s northernmost four-star hotel and micro brewery – as well as being the place to see colossal icebergs
The name Ilulissat means ‘icebergs’ in Greenlandic and could not be more apt given the town’s location at the mouth of the 35 mile-long Kangia ice fjord, which is jam-packed with colossal icebergs from the northern hemisphere’s most productive glacier, Sermeq Kujalleq. Located 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle and accessible only by ship or plane, Ilulissat nonetheless has a blossoming tourist scene. The iceberg town is ideally situated to contemplate the extraordinary scale and beauty of the ice fjord (admitted onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2004) and Disko Bay, where the icebergs languish once they have worked their way over the mouth of the fjord.
What to see and do in Ilulissat
Two activities are unmissable in Ilulissat: a walk to the mouth of the ice fjord (there are three clearly-marked, easy routes to tackle alone, in addition to guided walks, which can be booked through the Tourist Office) and a boat trip around Disko Bay. Icebergs are magnificent when viewed from the decks of a cruise ship but they’re breathtakingly spectacular seen from a small fishing boat. Other activities include once-in-a-lifetime helicopter flights over the Kangia ice fjord, fishing trips for halibut and prawns with local fishermen and dogsled outings with local hunters.
Ilulissat boasts a long history, founded as a trading post in 1741, and was the home of the famous Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen. Rasmussen’s childhood home has been turned into an absorbing museum, where visitors can learn about local history and culture. There are also great shops in which to buy imaginative gifts like ‘tupilaks’ (carvings of folkloric characters crafted from caribou antler, driftwood, walrus tusk or bone), sealskin clothing and toys.
Where to eat in Ilulissat
Restaurant Ulo in the Hotel Arctic serves up some of Greenland’s finest cuisine, like terrine of braised shoulder of musk ox and foie gras with wild berries, together with superb views. Restaurant Hvide Falk is celebrated for its sumptuous, Thai-infused buffets featuring fish, shellfish, whale, musk ox and reindeer. The hotel Icefiord also serves Thai food in its restaurant, while Café Hong Kong serves international fast food and Chinese dishes.
Where to drink in Ilulissat
The Icefiord Brewery is the world’s northernmost microbrewery and only uses water from the melted ice cap with which to brew its beers. Enjoy the fruits of these labours on the sun terrace the Brewery shares with Café Icefiord, which serves fresh coffee, hot chocolate and homemade cakes all afternoon and drinks until 9pm. Café Ferdinand, in Hotel Arctic, is also ideal for drinks and light snacks through the day and sundowners in the evening.
Where to stay in Ilulissat
Hotel Arctic (hotelarctic.com), the world’s northernmost 4-star hotel, has 87 rooms, each with spectacular views, and five two-person aluminium igloos right on the shore of Disko Bay. The 3-star Hotel Hvide Falk (hotelhvidefalk.gl – NOTE: the website doesn’t have any English translation, so you might want to list the telephone number as well? +299 943343) is perched on a cliff overlooking Ilulissat harbour and serves a hearty breakfast. In addition to simple yet comfortable bedrooms, Hotel Icefjord (hotelicefiord.gl) has eight two-person apartments in the heart of town.
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