If you travel to Disko Bay, you can’t miss a visit to Ilulissat.
The city was founded in 1741 and named Jakobshavn. Today it’s Greenland’s third largest city with approx. 4,500 inhabitants and almost as many sled dogs. Look forward, for example, to the midnight sun in the summer, the northern lights in the winter, icebergs, whales and sled dogs in abundance, and many special cultural-historical impressions.
Every city has something for which it’s famous. Ilulissat it is without a doubt famous for icebergs. The name ‘Ilulissat’ also means icebergs in Greenlandic. Ilulissat is stunningly located at the mouth of the 65 kilometre long icefjord, filled with huge icebergs from the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere – Sermeq Kujalleq. The city lies on hilly terrain, which ensures that pretty much everyone in the city lives with a fantastic view of Disko Bay, where the huge icebergs from the icefjord drift to the sea. In fact, Ilulissat Icefjord, also called Kangia, has the largest concentration of icebergs in all of Greenland. It’s certainly not without reason that the icefjord was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2004 – Greenland’s first UNESCO listing. It’s also the most visited destination in Greenland by international travellers.
There are numerous ways to experience the magic of the icefjord, as it forms the framework for many activities in and around Ilulissat. Icefjord sailing is of course obvious and a popular excursion, enabling a close encounter with large icebergs as you sail by the mouth of Kangia icefjord. During the midnight sun season in summer, you can also choose the evening boat trip to observe the unique play of light on the icebergs.
Unforgettable Experiences in Ilulissat
In addition to icebergs in every conceivable form, Disko Bay is also a fantastic place to see whales in summer. The most common whales include the humpback whale, minke whale and fin whale. On a whale safari, you’ll have time to take a closer look at these impressive marine mammals, but it is also important to experience the Kangia icefjord and the hinterland of Ilulissat on summer hikes.
Along the coast you’ll find excellent hiking opportunities with breathtaking vantage points towards the icefjord. A hike to Sermermiut, for example, is definitely a must, as it enables you to observe at close proximity the impressive chalk-white ice giants which fill the fjord as far as the eye can see. Sermermiut, meaning ‘place of the glaciers’, is an historic settlement located on the outskirts of Ilulissat down by the icefjord. At this location, the 3 main Inuit cultures since the Saqqaq people 4,500 years ago, have each hunted and fished this area. Following the Saqqaq came the Dorset people and Thule people. While exploring Sermermiut you can also see the sobering ‘Kællingekløften’ – a place where the old women of the settlement threw themselves over the cliff edge when they could no longer contribute actively to the community.
We recommend you take the time to explore everyday life in Ilulissat. There is always something happening around the city, which plays host to a flourishing cultural scene.
The harbour is full of fishing cutters, trawlers and dinghies, which indicate the great importance of fishing, in particular halibut fishing. Up the hill from the harbour is the Brættet, a local market where fishermen and hunters sell the day’s catch of fish and game. This market also serves informally as the social centre, where locals go to have a chat and hear the latest gossip.
Combine Nature Experiences with Unique Culinary Adventures in Ilulissat
In Ilulissat you have the opportunity to combine breathtaking nature experiences with culinary adventures not found anywhere else. Greenland possesses a sumptuous treasure trove of fresh ingredients, which locals use to create exciting specialties and taste experiences. Ilulissat is no exception. There are plenty of high quality local eateries to satisfy even the most discerning.
The city also has 2 interesting museums, being the Ilulissat Museum, which is the childhood home of the polar researcher Knud Rasmussen, and the Art Museum, which houses a beautiful collection by the Greenlandic artist Emmanuel A. Pedersen.