Exploring Greenland's Southwest Coast and Disko Bay
Sail from mythical Iceland to southern Greenland and the Disco Bay area – also known as the heart of Greenland. The spectacular scenery, fantastic fjords and the Midnight Sun provide a stunning backdrop to this expedition.
This is an expedition where the elements rule, and the weather, wind and ice conditions will determine our schedule. Safety is paramount and the captain will decide the final sailing itinerary during the voyage. Hence, this itinerary is just an indication of what you can experience and why every expedition with Hurtigruten is unique.
Iceland's capital Reykjavik is a vibrant city, rich with history and culture, while close to unparalleled natural beauty such as glaciers, waterfalls, geysers and mountains. Enjoy discovering Reykjavik on your own before you embark on MS Spitsbergen in the afternoon.
We leave Iceland behind and sail across the Denmark Strait to reach Greenland. The Denmark Strait connects the Greenland Sea to the Erminger Sea. This crossing was used by the Vikings to migrate from Iceland to South Greenland some 1,000 years ago, calculating their distance to land by tracking the direction of flight of sea birds.
The Denmark Strait was also a WWII battleground, with the Royal Navy and German Kriegsmarine battling on the 24th of May 1941. The British battle ship HMS Prince of Whales fought the largest German battle ship, the Bismarck, which was attempting to reach the North Atlantic in order to attack the allied merchant marine.
Tasiusaq is a small picturesque village in the Tasermiut fjord in South Greenland. The settlement is not connected to any other place via roads. In the Greenlandic language, the name of the settlement means "a bay with a small outlet". We will also spend time exploring the Tasermuit Fjord, a place that National Geographic considers to be among the top 10 most spectacular places in the world. With imposing cliffs, crystal-clear rivers, blue glaciers and majestic icebergs the area offers great opportunities for kayaking and hiking. In the end of the fjord you will see South Greenland’s largest hanging glacier.
Come ashore on the uninhabited island of Uunartoq. This small island is blessed with natural hot springs warm enough to bathe in. Scattered around the island are a number of pools fed by hot springs bubbling up from the ground below, keeping the water temperature a balmy 34-38 degrees, even during the freezing winter. The springs are set in a completely natural environment, in the middle of a grassy field, surrounded by mountain peaks and drifting icebergs. Soak in the warm water and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. Many consider Qaqortoq one of the most beautiful towns in Greenland for it´s array of colourful houses. The excursions on offer here include an interesting visit to the only tannery in Greenland, a city walk with guide, and a kaffemik to meet the locals and share a traditional open-house coffee.
The abandoned mining town of Ivittuut is a stronghold for musk oxen. The settlement was built on top of the so-called Norse Middle settlement. More than a thousand years ago, Vikings settled the area with about twenty farms. It is the smallest and least well known of the Norse settlements on Greenland, and no written records of its residents have been found. This is why archaeologists believe it was the last one established, and the first to be abandoned. We might meet some of the hunters who return to seek shelter in the old houses by the sea.
Enjoy exploring the fjord Nuup Kangerlua, which is a 160 km (99.4 mi) It was formerly known as Godthaab Fjord, Gilbert Sound and Baal's River. It is the longest fjord on the Labrador Sea coast of Greenland, and one of the longest in the inhabited part of the country. Snow-capped mountains, towering waterfalls, and gleaming icebergs can all be found in its waters and coastlines. We will enter the eastern part of the fjord system and visit the small settlement of Kapisillit. Kapisillit means “salmon” in the Greenlandic language. The name refers to the belief that the only spawning-ground for salmon in Greenland is a river near the settlement. The village has less than 100 year-round residents, most of whom are hunters and fishermen.
Since Maniitsoq is situated in an archipelago, intersected by small natural canals, the locals have dubbed the town the “Venice of Greenland”. Still, situated between the rugged peaks of the Eternity Fjord and huge glaciers, this is where all comparisons to Venice end. The town name means “The uneven place” and refers to the many rocky knolls and small mountains shaping the structural layout of the town. Small roads and wooden stairs connect the colourful houses. The exhibitions at Maniitsoq Museum provide a good introduction to local culture and history. The town also has a supermarket, Brugseni, and a few smaller convenience stores. But it is the surrounding landscape that impresses the most, and the area is perfect for kayaking. In the ocean waters nearby, humpback whales are particularly playful and love to show off with aerial acrobatics and tail whips. Enjoy a day exploring this tiny town set in majestic nature.
Sisimiutis situated 40 km north of the Arctic Circle. The name means “the people living in a place where there are fox dens”. This is the second largest town in Greenland, a modern settlement that maintains ancient traditions. Our optional shore excursions include hikes, boat trips and sightseeing. You can also watch local artists sculpt jewellery and crafts from bone, leather and metal, or taste Greenlandic specialities in a local restaurant.
We will visit a location near Saqqaq, around 70°N, 51°W, that was without an official name until 2013. The place has special significance to Friederike Bronny, one of our Expedition team members. As a young geology student, she spent a year in a tent in this small valley. She also visited the spot several times later as an Expedition Leader. A few years ago, MS Fram was planning to land here, and the captain needed to inform the authorities. Unfortunately, this particular site didn’t have a name. So the captain said, ‘At Hurtigruten we call it “Camp Frieda”.’ Not long after, the authorities relayed back that, from that moment on, Camp Frieda would be the official name of the position.
Ilulissat is set in the stunning scenery of the Ilulissat Icefjord. The area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004. Just outside the town, at the mouth of the fjord, you can often see enormous icebergs that have run aground. They originate from the Jakobshavn Glacier, one of the most productive glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere. These mighty icebergs are unique - no two are alike. Marvel at the changes in hue of the ice - from white and blue to shades of orange and red - when the iceberg surface is struck by the midnight sun. Hear the icebergs’ soundtrack of cracking and rumbling, as the sounds echo from one end of Ilulissat to the other.We offer a variety of optional shore excursions such as hikes, historic town walks and a boat tour to the Icefjord.
Qeqertarsuaq is the only town situated on the volcanic island of Disco. Greenlandic legend says that two seal hunters were annoyed that the island stood in their way. Using a single hair from an infant, they towed the island up north behind their kayaks. A witch in Ilulissat did not like this lush, green island approaching, and cast a spell on it to run aground. This verdant island in the midst of ice offers amazing Arctic experiences. Join optional excursions like a guided town tour, kayaking or an ice cruising boat trip. If you like archaeology and history, you should definitely pay a visit to the local museum. Feel free to stroll around the settlement on your own.
Itilleq means “the hollow”, and as its name suggests, this small settlement is situated in a hollow, majestically surrounded by high mountains and glaciers. Around 130 people live here, mainly engaged in hunting and fishing. The island has no freshwater, and for this reason Itilleq makes use of a facility for creating freshwater from seawater. The church here has an interesting history: It was built in Thule (Umanak- North Greenland) in 1930 and was moved to Itilleq in 1963. Itilleq can truthfully be called the Arctic Circle Village, as the Arctic Circle is indeed found only 200 metres to the south.
Nuuk is the oldest town in Greenland and is situated at the mouth of one of the largest and most spectacular fjord systems in the world. Today this is where old and new traditions meet, from picturesque historic buildings in ”Kolonihaven” to the centre for Greenland Home Rule. Being the capital, Nuuk also houses a university, a teachers training college, churches and the Greenland National Museum - home to the mummies from Qilakilsoq. City tours, hikes and possibly a scenic flight are amongst the optional excursions.
Continuing south, we enjoy the Greenlandic scenery as we head for Paamiut, an area where people have been living since around 1500 BC. The name Paamiut means “the people who live at the mouth”, a reference to its location at the mouth of the Kuannersooq Fjord. Strolling around in Paamiut is about appreciating the beauty in simple experiences, and meeting the friendly locals. Make sure you visit the church, one of the finest in Greenland, built in 1909 from wood in the Norwegian style. Stop along the colourful bridge in the town centre. Tour the old neighbourhood to observe picturesque buildings. Paamiut is known for its soapstone artists and their extraordinary national costumes of sealskin and thousands of beads. You can still see examples of these art forms as you walk around in the settlement. The white-tailed eagle is plentiful in Paamiut, and the townspeople feel a strong connection with it. It is said that good luck will come to anyone who sets eyes on this king of the sky. Join the Expedition team for a hike to the mountain peaks. On the way back to the ship, stop to pick the angelica that grows wild on the hillside.
Igaliku is one of the most beautiful villages in Greenland. This is the oldest sheep farming settlement on the island, and on arrival you will see tall mountains with peaks covered by snow during summer, lush valleys with flowers and, of course, sheep. Sandstone houses give a distinct flavour to the area, as does the stunning view to the Igaliku fjord. Experience the tranquillity and peace of this historic settlement. Christianity was introduced to Greenland at the turn of the last millennium, with the first bishop being appointed way back in 1124. The impressive episcopal residence Garðar was established shortly after that date in Igaliku. A cathedral was built, the biggest of all churches in Greenland in the Middle Ages. For many years, the bishop’s palace was a focal point for the Norsemen and visitors from Iceland and Norway. The ruins of the cathedral and the bishop's palace have been renovated during recent years and today make up an attractive relic of the Viking period. Igaliku's 27 inhabitants are very proud of their community and are eager to guide you through the village. In Hvalsey, you will find some of the best-preserved ruins from the Norse period; Hvalsey Church was probably built in the 14th century. Erik the Red’s relatives established the farmstead late in the 10th century. In 1408, a wedding at the site's church is the last documented event to occur during the Norse settlement of Greenland. We use our PolarCirkel boats to come ashore to give you the chance to explore the area for yourself.
In Qassiarsuk you will find green fields dotted with white sheep, lush vegetation and busy farmsteads; all this forms a colourful contrast to the icescapes at sea. Qassiarsuk is also where Viking Erik the Red built his Brattahlíð estate in 982 A.D. He was banished from Iceland and escaped to the land he called Greenland. Erik settled in Qassiarsuk because the area was considered the most fertile place in Greenland when he arrived. Join a guided walk through the settlement, where you will learn more about the history of the region. You can visit the reconstruction of Erik’s longhouse and the church that Erik’s wife Tjodhildur made him build. The walk will include a visit at the town´s current church. This is also a great area to try optional activities such as kayaking, hiking, or exploring the town on foot.
This expedition ends in Narsarsuaq, a settlement in the Kujallew Muncipaluty in Southern Greenland. Its immediate surroundings in Tunulliarfik Fjord hold incredible significance to Greenland’s history. The land where Narsarsuaq now stands earned Greenland its name. The Norse Vikings settled in this vicinity many centuries ago and gave Narsarsuaq a name that hints that an Arctic forest covered the large plain. Taking tales of verdant nature in a deep fjord home to their Nordic brethren, the Vikings called this country Greenland. Our disembarkation is followed by a boat transfer and a guided walking tour, before enjoying Greenlandic culinary specialities. Transfer to the airport and take a night flight to Copenhagen.
You arrive in the Danish capital early in the morning and may even have the time to explore "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen" before you head home.
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