Hiking in the Nuuk Fjord
Photo – Magnus Biilmann Trolle, Visit Nuuk.jpg
The Nuuk Fjord (Nuup Kangerlua) is one of the largest fjords in the world. Going on a hike is an excellent way of experiencing the beauty and sheer scale of the fjord. Regardless of whether you want to go on a stroll just outside Nuuk city limits, or on a multi-day hiking expedition, there are plenty of options. In this article I have partnered up with Thorlak from the guide company Two Ravens to give you the ins and outs of Hiking in the Nuuk Fjord. Whether you are an experienced hiker, or a total newbie, the following article will provide you with practical information, recommendations, and inspiration for your Nuuk fjord hiking adventure.
Hiking with guide
If you want to learn all there is to know about hiking in the Nuuk fjord or you want to enhance the experience, hiring a guide will certainly do that. A local guide will have a keen understanding of the area you are hiking in, and they will share their knowledge and insight into everything from how to find sustenance and how to find the hidden gems to historical knowledge of ancient settlements. But they also provide certain amenities that you would otherwise have to carry yourself or not bring. They are also quite handy in case of an emergency since they have an expanded first aid education. Some might think that only the inexperienced hiker will benefit from going on a guided hike, but this is far from true. Talking to Thorlak makes it evident that a guide can elevate the experience to new heights for even the most experienced hiking enthusiast – the knowledge a guide brings about the nature of Greenland and their track skills, will ensure that you experience everything there is to experience.
Recommended hikes/excursions with guide (recommended by Thorlak from Two Ravens):
Summer and fall: Mountain top sleepover
Winter: Snowshoe hike to Quasussuaq
All year: a custom experience arranged with one of the local guide companies. Contact the company well in advance for a personalized hiking adventure
Hiking on your own
Before you head out
If you want to go hiking in the Nuuk fjord without a local guide, there are some things to remember and be aware of, I talked to Thorlak about the most relevant of those.
Hiking the Nuuk fjord is potentially dangerous so before setting out on a hiking trip, Thorlak recommends that you prepare with great care and use common sense caution while hiking. He recommends, as a minimum, that you acquaint yourself with the weather for the days you are expecting to go out on and that you are aware of local weather conditions such as mini systems of weather and the difference between coastal and inland climate conditions, depending on where your hike takes you. To get information about these and many other issues, the recommendation from Thorlak is that you ask the locals – there is a local hiking group on Facebook. and at your hotel or hostel you can sometimes find employees who are willing to share their knowledge – mind you, not all inhabitants of Nuuk are hikers, but many are. Bringing your mobile phone and having enough battery for the whole hike is very important – but even though the signal is mostly ok, there are dark spots so Thorlak recommends that you get a map of the coverage in the fjord from Tusass, before heading out. Having a hiking map or locally oriented hiking book. will also help you prepare for your hike, find trails, routes, and sites to see I found my copies in the bookstore near Brugsen downtown, but other vendors also have them in stock). Of course, bringing a VHF radio or a GPS with emergency beacon is optimal, but for most hikers visiting Nuuk, this is not an option, and for by far the most hikes the phone is ok. One very important preparation is to ensure that you bring plenty of food – and something to treat yourself with – as Thorlak says: “chocolate always works”. If you want to take high quality pictures, remember to bring a small flexible tripod, to get those marvelous shots of aurora borealis, the sunset or the scenery in general. Oh and, my personal favorite: always bring an extra pair of socks, even on the one day hikes – it’s a lifesaver if the hike gets a bit arduous.
When it comes to clothing, you should always have a breathable outer layer and good footwear. Other than that, it is up to your preferences – also, always bring a rain cover and something to sit on.
On the Hike
While on a hike in the Nuuk fjord, there are so many things to see and do. But there is also a lot of food available – Catching fish from the coast or in the streams, and collecting mussels on the shore (link til den artikel) and, depending on the time of year, foraging for berries, mushrooms and other food will keep your belly full – eating what is already there is a great way of making your hikes more sustainable – but you should always bring an emergency supply of food, as conditions might not be optimal for finding food.
One safety issue that Thorlak highlights is: how to act in a fog. Fogs are common in the Nuuk fjord, and sometimes they are very dense. When visibility is low, moving about is very dangerous as there are sheer drops of hundreds of feet in most elevated places and even close to the shore, you might encounter treacherous terrain. Staying put is always the best option when you cannot see exactly where you are going. Bringing an emergency bivouac is a must, even for shorter hikes. A simple single use plastic rain poncho with a hood is enough – the goal is to keep you dry while sitting still for extended periods.
The landscape is stunning, but it can be confusing in some places – getting lost is not uncommon, especially when fatigued by a long day of hiking. Use your smartphone to discover your current position. Or, if this is not an option, find high ground and look for fjords, lakes, inlets, mountains etc. that you remember passing. The main thing to remember is to keep calm. Getting lost is easy, but, fortunately, so is finding your way again, as there are few things to obstruct your view.
The respectful hiker
Remember to respect nature, bring your garbage with you, do not discard it in nature. Also, in some parts of the fjord, there are gravesites from old settlements – please respect them and do not trample them or try to lift the rocks to see inside. Wildfires are rare in Greenland, but in dry conditions they do occur, therefore it is important that you are careful when using open fire in dry conditions – as a safety precaution, sprinkle water where open fire such as Trangias or bonfires are used. Always remember: be vigilant, careful and respectful of the forces of nature and make sure to adjust your route according to your skill and physical abilities.
Paradise Valley (Paradisdalen) (beginner) – fishing, swimming, close to civilisation, flowers. Two streams, fertile, lots of flowers. 3+ hrs
Quasussuaq: (beginner) the pond – a very private and secluded spot with a beautiful view of Sermitsiaq and a deep pond to take a swim in (indsæt evt kort med pin fra Thorlak) 3+hrs
Ukkusissaq (intermediate) – absolutely stunning views 4+hrs
Austmannadalen to Kapisillit (experienced/expert) (many remains of medieval settlements, stunning nature, and proximity to the icecap) 2-3 days