Greenland in Winter

Top 10 Things to Do on a Greenland Vacation in Kangerlussuaq

When you hear the phrase “island life” most people probably picture sandy beaches, crashing waves, and balmy weather.  Now picture an island where empty, endless, frozen tundra extends across valleys and rolls over distant, white capped mountains.  Where towering walls of fjords converge into frozen sheets of glassy water.  Where the stark beauty of icy plains extend past the horizon.  A lucky few know this dramatic version of island life as Greenland.  And you would be hard pressed to find a more serene and beautiful version of island life than what you will find in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.  If you are fortunate enough to visit this island nation, your jumping off point should be the small town of Kangerlussuaq, on the western edge of the country.  Kangerlussuaq is home to Greenland’s only international airport, so it is a perfectly suited destination to begin your trip in Greenland.  Fortunately, Kangerlussuaq is also home to 10 unmissable adventures that you cannot afford to miss on your Greenland vacation, from the Northern Lights to the Russell Glacier to the Ice Cap, and more!  If you are looking for the best things to do in Greenland, start here in Kangerlussuaq!


Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used! Enjoy this guide to the best things to do in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!



The Best of A Greenland Vacation in Kangerlussuaq



A Greenland vacation in the quaint, frozen town of Kangerlussuaq is unlike any other destination in the world.  Greenland is that way as a whole, but Kangerlussuaq really hones in on what is special about Greenland, in one small, deeply rooted, coastal town.  Below is a snapshot of the 10 best things to do on your Greenland vacation in Kangerlussuaq:

  • #1: Take a Kangerlussauq City, Tundra, and Harbor Tour
  • #2: Tour the Greenland Ice Cap and Point 660
  • #3: Visit Russell Glacier
  • #4: Hike Mount Hassell
  • #5: Visit the Kangerlussuaq Museum
  • #6: Take a Dog Sledding Tour
  • #7: Witness the Northern Lights
  • #8: Sample Local Cuisine
  • #9: Run the Annual Polar Circle Marathon
  • #10: Hike the Arctic Circle Trail


Before you get started on exploring Kangerlussuaq and the best things to do in Greenland, it is important know a few important bits of information regarding visiting Greenland.  


Know Before You Go


Location:  Kangerlussuaq is located on the southwestern coast of Greenland.  Though small in size, this town is important to the infrastructure of Greenland, as it is home to the country’s only international airport.  You can also fly domestically to other parts of the island from Kangerlussuaq.


Map of the best things to do in on your Greenland vacation in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!


Flying: currently, the only way to fly into Greenland internationally is through Denmark, Copenhagen, and Reykjavik, Iceland.  Once within Greenland, you can fly domestically through the international airport in Kangerlussuaq.

Driving: there are roads in Kangerlussuaq, but there are no roads BETWEEN towns in Greenland.  Which means there is not much of a need for rental cars, and traveling between towns in Greenland is primarily done by domestic flights, ferries, even snowmobiles and dogsleds!

Lodging: there are a handful of small hotels and lodges in Kangerlussuaq.  I stayed at Old Camp myself and loved the rustic and historic vibes (it’s an old renovated WWII building).  And I was able to watch the Northern Lights simply by stepping outside the front door on multiple nights!

Food:  enjoy a few of Greenland’s unique culinary offerings, such as reindeer and musk oxen.  There are a handful of restaurants in Kangerlussauq, which I list out in more detail below.  There is also a supermarket in Kangerlussuaq.

Weather:  Much like its other arctic neighbor Iceland’s misleading name, Greenland is not as green as you might think.  And there are many more similarities between Iceland and Greenland!  But getting back to Greenland, the weather is as you might expect, pretty cold!  While the southern portion of Greenland gets some warmer weather in the summer season, and even some greenery, the vast majority of Greenland is covered in icy tundra, including Kangerlussuaq, and the weather reflects this.  Winter highs in Kangerlussuaq are normally in the single digits Fahrenheit, while the heart of summer sees average highs in the low 60’s Fahrenheit.

Currency: the Danish krone

Visa: there is no visa requirement for visiting Greenland for stays up to 90 days.  A passport is required.


The 10 Best Things to Do in Kangerlussuaq Greenland


This list includes something for everyone, from the adventurous, outdoorsy traveler, to the cultural historian, to the foodie!  This unique island town is deeply connected to its heritage and roots, and that is abundantly evident in these 10 best things to do in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!



#1: Take a Kangerlussuaq City, Tundra, and Harbor Tour


This is a great introductory tour to do on your Greenland vacation when first arriving in Kangerlussuaq.  The most efficient way to get the best informative background on this unique part of the country is through booking a guided tour through Albatros Arctic Circle and going along with one of their guides.  During this tour, you will get to visit the tiny harbor at the end of Kangerlussuaq, the town itself, viewing points along the tundra, and learn some fascinating facts about the role that Kangerlussuaq plays in the daily lives of its citizens.


The Kangerlussuaq Harbor


Due to the harbor waters freezing come fall and not melting again until the summer, this harbor only receives four annual shipments of supplies with which to sustain this town’s approximately 500 citizens.  Those four shipments occur during the summer months, so for the rest of the year, Kangerlussuaq is sustained with those four annual summer deliveries to its harbors.  If you book this tour for the morning hours, you may get lucky enough to see the rosy pinks of the sunrise reflecting off crystal harbor waters bordered by glimmering, stark white fjords.

The Kangerlussuaq harbor is one of the best things to do in Greenland
Check out those rosy hues over the harbor at sunrise!


The Town of Kangerlussuaq


This tour continues through the town of Kangerlussuaq, exposing visitors on their Greenland vacation to the unique history of this town.  Kangerlussuaq has its roots in WWII and particularly, the United States’ involvement in that war.  Kangerlussuaq and the accompanying airstrip were originally built as a U.S. airbase in the 1940’s.  The United States needed a logistical stopover between North America and Europe.  There are still remnants from this era, including some lodging accommodations such as the Old Camp hostel, which are actually old military barracks.


In the 1990’s, Kangerlussuaq was handed over from the United States back to Greenland, but guests on this tour will be shown the old military hospital building and other important structures from this time period.  In addition, this tour will pass the Kangerlussuaq kindergarten, Kangerlussuaq Museum, the sole supermarket, several science outposts, and make a stop at the dog sled farm.


Quaint Greenland homes to see on your Greenland vacation
Quaint and colorful homes in Kangerlussuaq Greenland


The Kangerlussuaq Tundra


In addition to the harbor and city aspects of this tour, guests will also be exposed to a dazzling amount of tundra scenery.  There will be multiple viewing stops along the varying highpoints of the Kangerlussuaq tundra, which includes prime chances of spotting local wildlife.  On my tour, we spotted both reindeer and arctic hares!

Viewing the Kangerlussuaq Greenland tundra from above
Viewing the Kangerlussuaq tundra


One last quirky fact to know about Kangerlussuaq, and Greenland as a whole, is the role that roads play here.  In Greenland, no towns are connected by roads.  To get from town to town, you have to either hike it, boat it, sled it, snowmobile it, or fly it.  Kangerlussuaq is home to the longest gravel road in the entire country.  Much of this tour takes place on this longest road in Greenland, as you wind your way through Kangerlussuaq and its harbor and tundra!  This singular road stretches from the harbor in Kangerlussuaq, to the Greenland Ice Cap and Point 660!

The town of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
A section of the longest road in Greenland, as it winds back towards Kangerlussuaq


#2: Tour the Greenland Ice Cap and Point 660


While a Kangerlussuaq city, harbor, and tundra tour expose visitors to a pleasant mix of history, culture, and the outdoors, a visit to the Greenland Ice Cap and Point 660 is a pure unadulterated, unrivaled display of one of nature’s most dramatic and breathtaking feats!  Greenland possesses the second largest ice cap in the world, second only to Antarctica.  This endless icy plain extends farther than is visibly possible with the human eye.  While ice may not sound that astounding on its own, to see it in this sheer capacity and to feel the crunch of it underneath your feet is something completely astounding.  This was one of the lasting highlights of my own Greenland vacation!


Before reaching the Ice Cap, you must first traverse Greenland’s longest gravel road from Kangerlussuaq until its termination right at the base of the moraine ridge separating the tundra from the ice cap.  A moraine ridge is a ridge made from sediments that have been carried down and deposited by glaciers.  There is an small ascent from the end of the gravel road up and over the moraine ridge, and then it is pure ice cap as far as the eye can see!  On the ice cap, there are sections of snow drifts where you may sink, and then there are hills of windswept ice that lay bare for exploring.

Crossing the moraine to the Greenland Ice Cap
Crossing the moraine to reach the Greenland Ice Cap!


There are two ways to explore the Greenland Ice Cap and Point 660.  The first is through a guided tour with Albatros Arctic Circle.  Going on the Ice Cap unguided is not feasible or safe.  This tour will allow you to explore designated areas that have been cleared for safety purposes, so you will not accidentally fall into a crevasse.


The second option is to run the annual Polar Circle Marathon, whose route takes runners over the Ice Cap for 5 kilometers of the race!  When I partook in this run, this was by far my favorite part of the Polar Circle race, if not the most fun part of any course I have run anywhere in the world!  There is something playful and childlike about plowing through snow drifts and feeling the ice crunching under your feet!


Standing on the Greenland Ice Cap, one of the best things to do in Greenland
The Ice Cap is a must for any Greenland vacation!


The Greenland Ice Cap is one of the most beautiful sights to see on your Greenland vacation
The second largest ice cap in the world in Kangerlussuaq Greenland


The Polar Circle Marathon course in Kangerlussuaq Greenland
The course of the Polar Circle Marathon in Kangerlussuaq Greenland


For either option, you would be well advised to purchase and use ice spikes for your shoes or boots.  The best brand for solid ice caps like the Greenland Ice Cap are these stainless steel Kahtoola spikes, which confidently grip icy surfaces.  I actually ran the Polar Circle race in Kahtoola’s, and they kept me upright and stable throughout!


#3: Visit Russell Glacier


There are few things more stunning and dramatic in this world than getting to see a glacier in person.  Even though they are made of ice, it is as if these giant monoliths are breathing and sighing and they heave and float in their watery realms.  Few things are as impressive as they are humbling.


The Russell Glacier is Greenland’s most staggering and most accessible glacier.  It is located about 30 minutes east of Kangerlussuaq.  It lies in close proximity to the Greenland Ice Cap, and also puts on a dazzling display of water’s trans-formative power as the run off from this glacier carves into the surrounding landscape, drifting lazily back down towards Kangerlussuaq.


There are three ways to access and view Russell Glacier.  You could theoretically walk there from Kangerlussuaq, but it would be a feat that would take several hours and require the correct winter gear for the Greenland climate, including spikes for your shoes due to the permafrost found on the gravel road.  Even if you attempted to walk to a viewing point of Russell Glacier, going at it alone would limit you to viewing Russell Glacier from a distance.  It would be unsafe and unwise to attempt viewing the glacier up close without a guide.

Views of Russell Glacier in Kangerlussuaq Greenland
The edge of the Russell Glacier outside of Kangerlussuaq


The second (and arguably the easiest way) to get the most out of Russell Glacier is with a tour through Albatros Arctic Circle.  A guided tour will get you up close and personal with Russell Glacier, safely!


The third (and definitely most adventurous) way to see Russell Glacier is by running the annual Polar Circle Marathon, whose route passes directly by Russell Glacier!  It is so beautiful to pass by, you will forget you are running for a moment!


#4: Hike Mount Hassell


Mount Hassell is a low elevation mountain found just a few kilometers walk east from Kangerlussuaq.  If you follow the main gravel road out of town, and then take the smaller dirt road that splits off towards the left, that will take you up the gentle ascent towards Mount Hassell.  The final push up the side of Mount Hassell is not on designated trails, though there are some slightly distinguishable foot traffic trails and small cairns.


This mountain is best explored with a group during daylight hours, so as not to get lost.  It will take 2-3 hours roundtrip to walk from Kangerlussuaq and ascend the slope of Mount Hassell before returning.  The payoff is the views of the surrounding tundra and Kangerlussuaq in the distance.

Hiking Mount Hassell outside of Kangerlussuaq Greenland
The view from the top of Mount Hassell!


If you opt to run the annual Polar Circle Marathon in October, your tour guides for the race will offer to lead a group up Mount Hassell free of charge, which is how I personally experienced this hike!


#5: Visit the Kangerlussuaq Museum


The Kangerlussuaq Museum is located in the heart of Kangerlussuaq, and highlights the unique roots, culture, and history of this tiny outpost.


#6: Take a Dog Sledding Tour


Take note that dog sledding tours are only offered during winter months, as there has to be enough snow accumulation.  Dog sledding tours can be booked through Albatros Arctic Circle tours.


If you are visiting Kangerlussuaq in the summer, you may not be able to take an actual dog sledding tour, but you can still visit the sled dogs during a part of the Kangerlussuaq city, tundra, and harbor tour, as mentioned previously, through the guided tour with Albatros Arctic Circle.


Dog sledding puppies on a tour of Kangerlussuaq Greenland
Dog sledding pups in Kangerlussuaq Greenland


#7: Witness the Northern Lights


This is a light show you cannot afford to miss when partaking in your Greenland vacation!  It is an unearthly experience that cannot be done due justice in writing, and even the most professional photographs do not fully capture its magic.  Watching the Northern Lights is like watching the strings of a harp being plucked, except instead of emitting music, each string emits a burst of pinks, purples, and greens.  These bursts start as wispy white puffs on the horizon, that dance and shift into delicate strings of light that stretch from one end of sight to the other.  They silently continue to morph and sway as they put on their spectacular show!


The best time to view the Northern Lights in Greenland is the fall months.  In Kangerlussuaq, you have two options with which to see the Northern Lights.  You can take a night-time guided tour with Albatros Arctic Circle, in which guests will be driven away from the town to a darker and more desolate location in which to view the lights.

The Northern Lights, one of the most beautiful things to do in Greenland
Pictures don’t do the in person experience justice!


Or, and the way that I personally experienced these lights, is to just go outside.  In the fall, your odds are good at just walking outside at night and waiting to see the lights.  In Kangerlussuaq, if you opt to go this route, look towards the harbor at night.  Staying at Old Camp Lodge, which is a few kilometers removed from the main town and its lights, is a good lodging location for viewing the lights, because it is closer to the harbor and its darker skies.  Grab a cup of hot cocoa and get comfortable!


#8: Sample Local Cuisine Such as Musk Oxen and Reindeer


Greenland is renowned for its unique livestock and consequential dining options, as well as its seafood.  During my Greenland vacation, I was lucky enough to sample musk oxen, reindeer, and some delicious halibut!  But my favorite was definitely the musk oxen and reindeer.  The best dining in Kangerlussauq, and your best chances to sample local cuisine, can be found at Restaurant Muskox and Restaurant Roklubben.


Restaurant Muskox is located inside the Kangerlussuaq International Airport.  Restaurant Roklubben is a little harder to get to on your own, as it is located outside of Kangerlussuaq, on the edge of Lake Ferguson.


#9: Run the Annual Polar Circle Marathon


The the 9th best way to experience Kangerlussuaq and the best of your Greenland vacation is to run the Polar Circle Marathon and Half Marathon, held annually in October!  This race offers both a marathon and half marathon distance, but the best thing is that both courses run the initial five kilometers directly on the Greenland ice cap!


You will start this race early in the morning, likely with negative degree temperatures or single digits, bundled up in layers!  The starting line is just before the ascent up the moraine ridge.  When you reach the moraine, strap on your spikes and get ready to hit the ice!  For the next five kilometers, runners slosh through snow drifts and crunch up ice hills, having too much fun and enjoying this amazing scenery too much to even realize they are running!

The Polar Circle Marathon, the best way to take in all the best of things to do in Greenland
The course of the Polar Circle Marathon in Kangerlussuaq Greenland


Running the Polar Circle Marathon course over the Greenland Ice Cap is the best way to experience your Greenland vacation


After looping through the ice cap, runners then re-enter onto the gravel road and proceed with their run back towards Kangerlussuaq.  On the way, you will pass shimmering bodies of arctic water, along with views of Russell Glacier and maybe even some local reindeer and musk oxen.  Full marathon runners run all the way to the finish line at Polar Lodge in town, whereas half marathon runners finish on the gravel road still outside of town.


On the days leading up to race day, runners who are participating in the race have the chance to partake in all of the above mentioned activities. Proving once again, the best way to travel is to active travel, because there is no better way to become acquainted with a new place, including your Greenland vacation, than to explore it with your own two feet!


#10: Hike the Arctic Circle Trail


Quick Facts on the Arctic Circle Trail:

Length: 102 miles roundtrip point to point

Rating: Very Difficult

Elevation Gain: 13,576 feet

The Arctic Circle Trail Elevation Chart
The Arctic Circle Trail Elevation Chart


Location: Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut, Greenland

Estimated Time to Complete: 8 – 10 days

Best Time to Hike: June – August


The Arctic Circle Trail is a arduous, long distance hike that traverses the Greenland tundra from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut, on the very edges of Greenland’s southern coast.  It is 160 kilometers in roundtrip length (just shy of 100 miles), and takes an estimated 8 – 10 days to hike.  It is for very experienced backpackers only, and those that have experience in similar conditions.


The Arctic Circle Trail is unlike any other long distance hike in the world, placing hikers squarely in the middle of a harsh yet beautiful frozen wonderland.  This hike is 100% self supported, as there is no place to purchase food or water, no towns in between, and no cell service.  You can find out more about planning a hike on the Arctic Circle Trail here.


The Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland
The Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland



Read More: if you feeling tempted to buy a ticket to Greenland now, be sure to invest in the right clothing and accessories for the Greenland climate by visiting my Greenland packing checklist here!


My Greenland vacation was not the first destination adventure marathon I have run that has taken me to some far reaching corners of the world! I previously completed the Great Wall Half Marathon with Albatros Adventure Marathons, the same organizer behind the Polar Circle race.






The best things to do in Greenland


The best things to do on a Greenland vacation in Kangerlussuaq

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