The place where whales and seals are frequent guests
The town is located south of Ilulissat Icefjord in an area of mountains, tundra plains, green passes, and blue fjords with views of the ice fjord and Disko Island. Today there are about 1,200 inhabitants in the town, with Qasigiannguit hosting a hospital, a business school and an after-school centre. It’s a mix of modernity with old traditions. Fishing for halibut and Arctic crabs is still the town’s primary occupation and pride, making the harbour a natural focal point.
There are several hundred sled dogs in the town as dog sledding is a traditional and popular part of the transport network. During the winter, fjords and lakes are covered with ice and snow covers the mountain landscape. Qasigiannguit is therefore the perfect place to go dog sledding if you dream of whizzing across the ice.
In folklore, Qasigiannguit is called “capital of the whales”, but in reality, Qasigiannguit means “small spotted seals”, due to the large occurrence of these in earlier times.
The boat trip to Qasigiannguit is a magnificent experience that takes you past huge icebergs, through a sea rich with seals and whales. Especially here in the southern part of Disko Bay, the humpback whales gather in great numbers to feed in the summer.
Upon arrival at Qasigiannguit, you cannot fail to spot Hotel Diskobay. The city’s only hotel is located in a prominent position overlooking the harbour and Disko Bay beyond. From the hotel terrace you can often be lucky enough to see humpback whales, fin whales and groups of seals in the bay in front of the hotel. The fin whale is the second largest whale in the world – surpassed only by the blue whale. However, it is most often the humpback whale you will spot, as the humpback whale appears most above the water surface when it strikes with its large tail or jumps all the way up above the water surface.
City History, Museum and ‘Living Settlement’
Founded as a trading colony in 1734 by the Danish merchant Jacob Severin, Qasigiannguit is Greenland’s second oldest city. The settlement was originally named after Christian VI with the name Christianshåb, however with a different location on the other side of the bay than it has today. In 1763, the settlement was moved due to storm damage to the current position, which provides more wind protection.
For a period of approx. 15 years, Jacob Severin ran a business here in close collaboration with Poul and Niels Egede, who served missions in Greenland. However, they first had to force the Dutch whalers and traders to leave, and this was achieved during a naval battle in 1739.
In Qasigiannguit you’ll find one of Greenland’s oldest preserved houses. It dates from 1734 and today serves as the city’s museum. It contains some of Greenland’s most well-preserved ancient finds including collections from the Saqqaq culture (ca. 2000 BC).
During summer, the museum supports a ‘Living Settlement’ project, re-enacting and demonstrating daily life of the 18th Century Inuit (known as Thule) of Disko Bay. Through workshops, courses and activities, participants can learn about the Thule culture as it was in the 1700s. Visitors can try out kayaking, woodworking, hunting techniques, leatherworking, etc.
Hiking in the Hinterland
The open hinterland and the accessible mountains around Qasigiannguit offer good hiking opportunities. Musk oxen, reindeer, polar foxes and snow hares roam the terrain, so keep your eyes wide open when hiking in the area.
The hike to Strømstedet is a relatively flat and easy route. At Strømstedet, Lake Tasersuaq flows into Laksebugten and during the season there is plenty of opportunity to catch mountain trout. There is also a nice walk to the beautiful Paradisbugt (Paradise Bay), where you can wander among the large, beautiful rocks and experience a sandy Greenlandic beach – and maybe take a dip.
If you are looking for bigger challenges, there is a demanding trip to the city’s most significant peak ‘Udsigten’ on the 450 metre high Qaqqarsuaq mountain. The route is steep but rewarding. From the top you have an impressive view of the entire Disko Bay and Ilulissat Icefjord, and if you are lucky, you can get a glimpse of the ice sheet in the distance.