Kangerlussuaq [dead link] (also called Sondrestrom) is a settlement on the west coast of Greenland near the end of a fjord of the same name. Its Danish name is Søndre Strømfjord, and until the early 1990s was home to a U.S. military base known as Bluie West Eight. The settlement and the airfield share a symbiotic relationship, with most residents being employed by it in one way or another.
Kangerlussuaq began as an important stopover point for aircraft between North America and Europe during World War II. During the Cold War the airfield served as a U.S. early warning facility before being decommissioned in 1992.
Today, the airfield is one of the largest in Greenland and still serves as the main staging area for scientific personnel manning Greenland's many research facilities and base camps. An area to the east of town was the launch site for several sounding rockets used in upper atmospheric studies in the 1970s and 1980s. A radar facility used for ionospheric studies was operated by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Danish Meteorological Institute to the west of town at Kellyville until 2018.
The town itself is roughly be divided into two halves: the original settlement and the former military area on the opposite side of the airfield. With the closure of the military base, many of the former barracks are slowly being converted for civilian use.
As with most settlements in Greenland, ground transportation is very limited. Hiking maps of the area from Sisimiut to Kangerlussuaq are available from Scanmaps and small huts are placed strategically along the route. Some experience in hiking is necessary, as traffic is sparse, and trails disappear.
In the winter, the same route can be used for transport on dog sleds. Contact the tourist office to arrange a trip.
- 1 Kangerlussuaq Airport (SFJ IATA). Air Greenland operates scheduled flights between Greenland and abroad. Air Greenland flies to destinations in Greenland and Copenhagen from Kangerlussuaq Airport, utilising Boeing 757 and Airbus A330-planes. Air Greenland is the only company flying between Kangerlussuaq and domestic destinations. Scientific and technical personnel flying into Greenland for research purposes will typically fly into Kangerlussuaq via New York Air National Guard C-130s from Stratton ANG Base in Schenectady, New York, USA.
Arctic Umiaq Line launched a weekly coastal ferry connection between Nuuk, Kangerlussuaq and Uummannaq in Spring 2006.
The Norwegian line Hurtigruten uses Kangerlussuaq as the start and endpoints for their Disko Bay cruises.
- 1 Greenland ice sheet. It begins at the upper end of the valley to the east of town and is a spectacular sight to behold. The ice sheet can be reached at the end of the gravel road which leads out of town from near the east end of the runway. The nearest point of ice is Russel's Glacier, about 20 km (14 mi) from town, but the road is fairly flat so that the entire hike can be completed in a good Kangerlussuaq summer day, though it is generally more fun to take 2-3 days and spend some time near the ice, and perhaps continue further up the road to some of the lakes edging the ice, with small icebergs floating in them. Be prepared for colder temperatures near the ice, as it can significantly decrease the temperature of the surrounding air, and set up a constant daytime "ice breeze" of cold air blowing from the glacier. The image at the top of the article shows that glacier.
- Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Kangerlussuaq is located under a spot known for strong auroral activity. Visitors during the winter months should be able to see spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis at night. Kangerlussuaq's stable weather conditions give a 99% chance of visual between November and March.
- Excursions (Depart from the parking lot at the airport; book in the souvenir shop), ☏ +299 841648, email@example.com. It is often possible to do the short excursions while you wait for a connecting flight. They include northern lights watching, dog sledding, hiking trips and ice fishing. DKK 550 for the short excursions, more for the multi-day excursions.
- Hike through the tundra around town, and observe the local wildlife including caribou, musk ox, and arctic hares. The Arctic Circle Trail is by far the most popular of all of the hikes in Greenland, and is frequented by 700-1000 hikers annually, most of them walking towards Sisimiut. The trail is 167km long and takes typically 7-11 days to complete. Most hikers complete it in time period it from end of June until mid-September.
- Horseback riding on the rugged Icelandic ponies kept at the stable in town can be arranged at the tourist office in the airport building.
- Cycle to the Russel glacier (25km one way) or to the ice cap at "point 660" (35km one way on gravel road). Bike rental costs 200DKK at Kanger market, on the other side of the airport.
- Take a snowmobile trip across the Icecap.
- Take a boat tour of the fjord.
- Fish for cod through holes drilled in the fjord ice during winter months.
- Go dog sledding with the huskies on the fjord during winter months.
- Kangerlussuaq formerly had one of the most northernmost golf courses in the world to the east of the town. As of 2022 the course is defunct, although the former clubhouse and several of the holes are still visible.
Very few businesses are located in Kangerlussuaq. Supplies can be purchased at a small local supermarket across the street from the airport terminal. Note that this closes at 2pm and 1pm on Saturday and Sunday, although a mini-market on the southern side of the runway opens in the afternoon of a weekend. Souvenirs are available for purchase at a gift shop in the airport terminal and from a smaller shop in the Albatros hotel immediately southwest of the airport terminal. Musk-ox wool and Christmas items (such as stockings) may be purchased from the "Musk Ox" shop immediately opposite the airport terminal, next door to the Post Office.
There is no foreign currency exchange in Kangerlussuaq. Visitors may purchase Danish Kroner using a credit card at a small transfer facility in one of the airport buildings. However as of May 2022 the main supermarket and most of the smaller shops accept international credit cards, with contactless payment.
- The cafeteria at the Kangerlussuaq Airport is probably the largest of the few eateries in town. The cafeteria typically serves sandwiches, burgers, curries and European fare.
- As of May 2022 the 'AniButik Og Cafe' at the Polar Bear Inn has relocated into the Mini Marked convenience store south of the runway, serving a mixture of hot dogs, burgers, and also fast foods.
- The Pilersuisoq supermarket also has a small range of hot foods, which are reheated at the counter.
The 'upscale' restaurant adjacent to the main airport cafeteria, located through the far doors at the end of the cafeteria, offers delectible native Greenlandic meals with reindeer, musk ox and arctic char at higher prices. You can also get a nice glass of wine which is hard to come by in Greenland.
Restaurant Roklubben is 5 km outside of town on the shores of Lake Ferguson. The menu is rotated with each season, serving local ingredients and traditional dishes year-round. A shuttle bus service to the restaurant is free of charge. Reservations by phone +299 841648 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kangerlussuaq Hotel is located in a wing of the Kangerlussuaq Airport terminal.
- Kangerlussuaq Camping is located very near the airport, about 200 yards from the runway, behind Polar Lodge (look for the small blue building). Open 30.06-19.09. 60 DKK / pers. Very basic facilities - water, toilet, and an outdoor shower. +299223399
- Kangerlussuaq Youth Hostel is located on the other side of the landing strip
- Old Camp[dead link] is located 2 km from the airport and is open year round.
- Polar Lodge is located 100 m from the airport and is open year round.
Tourist Office for information and make arrangements for your trip to Kangerlussuaq.
Postage stamps can be bought at almost all souvenir shops, including at the airport.
SIM cards can be bought at Telepost office, near airport on the opposite side of the road. Data-only prepaid SIM, starting at 300 DKK.
Kangerlussuaq is a very small settlement and as such has virtually no crime. Care should be taken when hiking through certain areas during hunting season (try not to look like a caribou or musk ox).
By Greenlandic standards, Kangerlussuaq is blessed with a warmer climate during the summer. The greatest local danger is probably posed by weather in winter. The average high in January (the best time for seeing the Aurora Borealis) is −12 °C (10 °F), and during cold snaps, extended periods around −28 °C (−18 °F) are not uncommon. Arctic parkas and boots are a must to spend more than a few minutes outside under these conditions.
The other local year-round danger is local musk oxen which frequent the area around Lake Fergusen and Black Ridge to the south of town. Keep a distance of several tens of meters from any animal, as they often charge without warning and are much faster than their shaggy, ambling appearance belies. If you see a group of musk oxen forming into the typical circle or line defensive formations, with their heads and horns facing you and any young behind the main rank, it means you have been identified as a mortal threat, and you should get away from the area as calmly and quickly as possible. Musk oxen are particularly nervous if you are located uphill from them, so never approach or pass by from above.
A few other dangers are presented by the geography. The river coming from the ice cap, which passes by town and empties into the head of the fjord, has deposited huge silt flats which can be very unstable and present large areas of quicksand indistinguishable from harder sand. For this reason, do not venture out into the river bed, and do not drink the silty water coming from the glacier as the extremely fine silt can wreak havoc on your intestines, and clogs even the best of filters (water in ponds and streams elsewhere is perfectly safe). Finally, if you go to the edge of the inland ice in summer, beware that it is an active glacier and huge calving events can happen at any time, dropping tons of ice accompanied by bursts of pent-up, near-freezing melt water. Keep a safe distance from the edge.
It should also be noted that there is no hospital in Kangerlussuaq. While lighter injuries can be treated at the local clinic, serious medical emergencies may require evacuation by air to Sisimiut or Nuuk.
Mosquitoes and black flies are a serious problem during the summer months. Insect repellent is a must.