Ilulissat (Danish: Jakobshavn) is a city in Western Greenland in the Disko Bay just by the icefjord, from which it got its name. Ilulissat has one of the most beautiful settings for a great Greenlandic experience.
Ilulissat is at the mouth of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord, which was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The town is next to the sea filled with icebergs from the most active glacier in the world, Sermeq Kujalleq. Excavations show that people have inhabited the area for thousands of years, and it was once the largest town in Greenland. The town is also known for having almost the same number of sled dogs as people: the town is home to 4,600 people and nearly 3,500 sled dogs. Ilulissat is birthplace of the explorer Knud Rasmussen.
- 1 Ilulissat Airport (JAV IATA). About 3 km (2 miles) from the center of town. Passenger service (as of 2018) is provided by Air Greenland and Air Iceland Connect. Air Greenland flies domestically from Kangerlussuaq, Qaarsut, Aasiaat, Nuuk and Upernavik and internationally from Reykjavík-Keflavík. Air Iceland Connect has flights from Reykjavík Airport (the domestic airport, downtown).
- Arctic Umiaq Line sails to Ilulissat from South and West Greenland if the waters are safe.
- Disko Line sails around Disko Bay for other destinations. There are no roads outside communities. To get between communities, you have to go by air or boat. Disko Line operates scheduled boat transport among the settlements and communities on Disko Island and along the coast. They also offer a series of packaged and custom tourist boat tours.
You can walk around, or get a cab, if you're going to or from the airport, which is located a bit out of town. However, most hotels will pick up and drop off guests at the airport. The Hotel Arctic, which is furthest from the center of town, offers regular van service to the city center (it's a 20-minute walk should you prefer to go on foot.)
Watch for dogsled yield signs. Dogs are kept in many places around town, and sleds have right-of-way. They are fast and quiet, with dogs fanning out in front each on individual ropes. Pedestrians and vehicles must beware.
- 1 Ilulissat Ice Fjord. The main attraction is the Ilulissat Ice Fjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 35 km from the city is a glacier constantly delivering icebergs into the fjord. The speed of the glacier has increased from 22 m/day in 2002 to 35 m/day in 2007 as a result of global warming. The fjord is 500 m deep, so the iceberg floats to Ilulissat where they hit a barrier, as the fjord is only 250 m deep at the mouth to the Disko Bay. So here the icebergs get stuck until enough ice has melted so the iceberg can pass the barrier. As 8/9 of an iceberg is below sea level you'll see a lot of icebergs 20 to 30 m high. The fjord can only be reached by foot or boat (or by helicopter). It's a fairly easy walk from the city and after 1-2 km, you'll see the icebergs - an impressive sight. You may take a 3-4 hours boat trip from the harbour - also a recommended tour.
There are two museums in Ilulissat. The first is the Ilulissat Museum; which features exhibitions showcasing the life and expeditions of the explorer Knud Rasmussen. The second is the Inuit Art Museum; which features many different paintings from Greenland, Faroese and Denmark, with the most notable by Emanuel A. Peterson.
- 2 Ilulissat Museum (Knud Rasmussen Museum), Nuisariannguaq 9, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Open M-F 10-17. Local historical museum, features exhibition of Knud Rasmussen, the famous Danish explorer. Adults 35 kr, children under 15 free.
- 3 Ilulissat Art Museum, Aron Mathiesenip Aqq. 7, ☏ , ✉ Ilu.email@example.com. Su-Th 1PM-4PM. Features paintings by Emanuel A. Petersen and other Greenlandic, Danish and Faroese artists.
The sea surrounding Ilulissat is full of icebergs, mainly because of the proximity of the town to the Ilulissat Ice Fjord. the most active glacier in the world. The giant icebergs can be admired from shore or in local boats. These massive icebergs slowly drift out of the mouth of the fjord on their journey to the Atlantic.
If you walk south from the camping ground you will reach the coast at the mouth of the icefjord. West of Kællingeklippen you will be high above the water, but walking around to the east side you can climb all the way down to the water and sit and watch the nature in all its magnificence.
- Attending a kaffemik (coffee gathering) is the best way to meet some of the locals, and they will be happy to invite you to one. Ilulissat and the surrounding settlements are all great places to score an invite to one of these, and the local tourist offices can help you attend one of these local social traditions.
- The Ilulissat region is a great area to explore at sea, you can travel to either the nearby settlements or sea the fjord and all of the icebergs in it. Travelers can also sail to Disko Island and see the majority of Disko Bay on the journey.
- No winter or spring trip would be complete without a dogsled ride. Tours from one hour to ten days can be arranged with tour companies in town. Each sled will hold one or two passengers, not including the driver who will sometimes run alongside, sometimes ride on the back, and sometimes jump on to sit in front of you. Lyngmarks Glacier on Disko Island is the only place in Greenland where travelers can dog sled in the summer. Many local hunters will take tourist along with them on their dog sleds. The best way to arrange this is through the local tourist offices in Ilulissat.
- There are many good hiking trails in and around Ilulissat. Travelers can hike through the mountains and around the lakes in the valley to the site where traces of the first humans in Greenland over 4500 years ago have been found.
- The Arctic palerfik is the ceremonial last dog sled trip of the winter season in Iluissat (before the sun gets too strong and snow starts melting), and takes place in March or April. Made up of a hundred sleds, each pulled by ten dogs, it's a terrific parade to witness for many travelers.
- In the summer, Arctic midnight orienteering competitions are held in the midnight sun. This is an official Arctic championship and an unofficial Greenlandic championship held annually.
- 1 Sports Centre Ilulissat, Alannguasik, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A health club and gym in the Danish tradition; right across from the soccer fields.
- Greenland Tours Info, Kussangajaannguaq 18, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Offers many different types of excursions around Ilulissat, including helicopter tours and tours to the local settlements and the ice fjord. Child discounts are offered. Some tours are seasonal and weather dependent. Prices vary: 200-3000 kr.
- 2 World of Greenland, Kussangajaannguaq 7, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tourist office that operates tours of varying lengths. From 1-5 hours or 2-10 days depending on the destination and method of transport. All tours are created for each group, so pricing varies. The company was founded in 2007 by experienced guides.
- Arctic Adventure, Marralinnguaq 28, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 3 Ice Cap Tours, P.O. Box 1005, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers many different types of tours in Ilulissat and the surrounding settlements. Helicopter tours are an option. Pricing tours from 285-1500 kr.
- 4 Tourist Nature Information, Kussangajannguaq 5, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. This tourist office charters many different types of tours including dog sled tours, boat tours, helicopter tours and cultural tours. There is also an option to attend a dog feeding hour with the local sled dogs. Price varies based on tour: 150-1000 kr.
- 1 Glacier Shop, P.O. Box 662, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Small shop in town where you can buy crafts, art and souvenirs made by local artisans.
- 2 Mersortarfik, P.O. Box 487, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A workshop in the town where you can by different crafts that are made there, typically from fur and bone as well as stone.
- 1 Restaurant Icefjord, Jørgen Sverdrupip Aqq. 10, ☏ . Meals avg 129 kr.
- 2 Restaurant Mamartut, Sermermiut Aqq. 4, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Open M-Sa 11:30-23:00. Offer a Greenlandic Buffet on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the summer months, usually through September. Main courses avg 190-250 kr.
- 3 Restaurant Hvide Falk, ☏ . Offers a Greenlandic style buffet with lots of seafood. There is also, unexpectedly, a room set aside for Thai cuisine. Take away food is available, prices start at 85 kr.
- 4 Cafe Iluliaq, Fredericiap Aqqutaa 5, ☏ . Cafe inside of the Cab-Inn. Breakfast is included in the hotel stay.
- 5 Cafe Ferdinand (c/o Hotel Arctic), Mitarfimmut Aqq. B1128, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Dinner is served from 18:30-21:00. This cafe has views of the Disko Bay's gigantic icebergs, and serves cakes, coffee and tea during the day, and dinner in the evening. The cafe turns into a bar after 22:00. 85-275 kr.
- 6 Restaurant Ulo (c/o Hotel Arctic), Mitarfimmut Aqq. B1128, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 05:00-10:00, 12:00-24:00, 18:00-21:00. Restaurant with views of the Disko Bays gigantic icebergs. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant serves as much local food as possible, such as musk-ox, reindeer, Greenland halibut, arctic hare, ptarmigan, wolfish, mussels, sea urchins and redfish. Herbs are collected in the fells, including sheep sorrel, knot weed, mountain sorrel, lousewort, northern marsh yellers, common mouse ear and knotted pearlwort. 75-595 kr.
Ilulissat is the place in Greenland with most accommodations/hotels, but due to the increased popularity, it is recommended to make reservations in advance.
- 1 Hotel Arctic, Mitarfimmut Aqq. B1128 (Right on the edge of the Ilulissat ice fjord), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The world’s most northerly 4-star hotel with a 5 star conference centre. On-site restaurant, café & bar. Free of charge shuttle bus to/from the airport and city center. Standard singles from 1,200 kr, A few rooms with no view go for 770 kr.
- 2 Hotel Avannaa, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel rooms are spacious with private bathrooms, each has its own tv. There are also some mini kitchens so that guests can cook their own food. Prices vary with the season: high season single room: 885 kr, double room 1115 kr.
- 3 Hotel Hvide Falk, Napparsimaviup Aqq. 18, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Singles from 1,015 kr.
- 4 Hotel Icefjord, Jørgen Sverdrupip Aqq. 10, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Singles from 1,050 kr in high season, considerable discounts the rest of the year.
- 5 Ilulissat Youth Hostel (c/o World of Greenland), Marralinnguaq 49, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Small hostel in town, guests must provide their own towels and bed linens. Sleeping bags are ok. There are 43 twin rooms available. Single 400 kr, double 500 kr.
- 6 Hotel Arctic - Igloos (Hotel Arctic), Mittarfimmut Aqq. B1128, P.O. Box 150, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The igloo cabins are inspired by the classic Inuit igloo in shape and design but instead of ice they have an aluminum frame to insure comfortable and modern facilities like any other hotel room - but the atmosphere is totally different. The igloos are situated on the edge of the Ilulissat ice fjord with views of the Disko Bays gigantic icebergs. The Igloos are connected to the Hotel Arctic by a boardwalk on the cliffs.
In the summer time long trousers, long sleeves, a hat and a mosquito-net is a must.
In the summer 2007 a polar bear was seen some kilometers north of town. This was a major event as it was first time in 20 years a polar bear was seen in the area. Many of the local inhabitants surrounded the bear and it was soon decided that the bear was a threat. Consequently, the luckless bear was shot.
Like usual in Greenland, there aren't really any roads to anywhere. There's a hiking path to Oqaatsut, a 5-7 hour hike away, or a little less by kayak. Other than this, you can take the plane or boat to available destinations.