Hiking in South Greenland

We feel that South Greenland is the absolute best area of Greenland to go hiking. This is where you will find the greatest variety of landscapes anywhere on the island. In a single day, you can hike through lush valleys, follow rushing streams, walk along ridges overlooking fjords filled with icebergs and climb windswept mountains. You can take easy one-day or multiple-day trips among green, gently rolling hills, where you follow paths and gravel roads. Yet only a few kilometres away the vast pristine wilderness beckons the more experienced hiker. Here you will find no trails, no bridges and no signs of other human beings.

You often get an extra dimension to your hiking tour in South Greenland, as the trail may lead you past small, isolated sheep farms, where you can visit or stay overnight with a Greenlandic family and catch a glimpse of their everyday life. And, finally, one last important reason to choose South Greenland is that you can almost entirely avoid the at times very annoying mosquitoes if you stick to mountain areas with grazing sheep!

Below you will find useful information about hiking in Greenland. Please contact us with any further questions and read more about hiking tour packages for individuals at: Easy hiking 8 days and Backpacking & hiking 13 days.

> Maps & routes

> When to go & weather conditions

> Equipment

Satellite photo showing the hiking areas

Map data © 2015 Google

We have compiled for you a collection of some of the very best classic hiking routes in South Greenland. These tours are grouped according to the areas shown on the satellite photo above. Click on the links below for descriptions, details and photos.

> Narsarsuaq area
> Qassiarsuk area
> Igaliku area
> Eqalortutsit Glacier
> Qassiarsuk – Narsaq
> Qaqortoq – Igaliku

Maps & routes

The Greenland Tourist Board has published a series of hiking maps with a scale of 1:100,000. Five of these cover parts of South Greenland. There are three hiking maps for the areas of Narsarsuaq, Narsaq and Qaqortoq, one map for Tasermiut fjord near Nanortalik and one map for the area around Ivittuut – Grønnedal. The maps are for sale at the Blue Ice Café in Narsarsuaq, or you can buy them online at ScanMaps. All maps have descriptions and general information on the back.
If you only stay in the area around Narsarsuaq and the settlements of Qassiarsuk and Igaliku, you may want to purchase a more detailed hiking map with a scale of 1:50,000 (Arctic Sun). This is also available at the Blue Ice Café.

You should not expect the same level of well-marked hiking trails in Greenland as you would find in many national or regional parks in Scandinavia and Europe. Greenland is remarkably untouched in that respect! In South Greenland, however, there are several gravel roads that connect the different sheep farms, and some of the most used sheep trails are clearly marked with cairns and painted red dots. Here, even as a beginner, you can take wonderful day trips through a rich and varied landscape. If you venture outside these areas, you should bring along a map and compass or GPS. Note that there is a significant declination between the geographical and magnetic north in Greenland. The exact declination is noted on the maps.

If you take a longer hiking trip in a remote area, you can leave a route description at the Blue Ice Café, and be sure to report back when you return!

See above for descriptions of various recommended hiking routes in the area.

When to go & weather conditions

The best time to go hiking in South Greenland is from mid-June to mid-September. It can get very warm, especially during the month of July, and it is not unusual to walk in shorts and T-shirts. However, as in all mountainous areas, the weather can change very rapidly and it may be hot during the day and quite chilly at night. From the middle of August, the temperature can dip below freezing at night.

The following weather conditions may affect your trip to South Greenland:

A foehn is a dry, warm and strong wind that blows down from the ice cap (usually from the east and south-east in South Greenland). A warning sign of an impending foehn is when lens-shaped clouds gather over the ice cap. During the foehn, the temperature often rises several degrees, often quite rapidly. A foehn storm can last for several days and be so intense and violent that it is best to take down your tent and seek more stable shelter.

Fjord winds are very common on warm and sunny summer days, when warm air rises in the backcountry, creating a thermal column that draws air from the open sea and along the fjords, hence the name. These winds usually begin at noon and continue until late afternoon. The winds are brisk, cool breezes that can create choppy water and make life difficult for kayakers.

Fog also occurs together with warm and stable weather during summer. It typically forms in the morning and dissipates during the day. If you are hiking in an area of trackless wilderness, the fog can make it almost impossible to orientate and find your way.

Equipment

If you go on a hiking trip in Greenland, your camping equipment should be of good quality. Tunnel and dome tents are the most stable in high winds, and you will need a 3-season sleeping bag and a thick, insulating mattress on camping trips. If you are only sleeping indoors at hostels, you do not need to bring a mattress and a summer sleeping bag is fine.

You can camp for free anywhere in Greenland outside settlements and away from cultivated fields and sheep farms. The fields are often surrounded by a fence. You can rent a tent, sleeping bag, mattress and Trangia (camping stove) at the Blue Ice Café in Narsarsuaq.

You will find basic cooking facilities at all the hostels/farm accommodations. If you bring you own stove, remember that you are not allowed to take any kind of fuel or gas on the plane. We sell a wide range of fuels and gas cartridges at the Blue Ice Café. In the grocery stores you can purchase soups, rice and pasta and other staples, and we sell a selection of freeze-dried food at the Blue Ice Café. Drinking water needs no special treatment and you can drink directly from every running stream or river.

If you are planning a longer trip into remote areas, you should consider bringing along a satellite phone. Mobile phones only work in towns and settlements, and as soon as you leave these populated areas, the mobile signal disappears. You can rent a satellite phone from the Blue Ice Café, but you should book it in advance, as we only have a limited number of phones. We also rent out emergency flares, which you should have with you if you are going on an extended hiking or kayaking trip.

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Rentals. Price in DKK
Tents (per day/4-6 days/1 week): 150/400/500
Sleeping bags (per day/4-6 days/1 week): 50/150/200
Mattresses (per day/1 week): 20/100
Trangia stoves: (per day/4-6 days/1 week): 50/150/200
Trekking poles: (per day/1 week/2 weeks): 50/150/200
Satellite phones (per day/1 week/2 weeks): 100/700/1,200 + Additional DKK 15/minute
Fishing rods (per day): 100
Mountain bikes (per hour/½ day/1 day): 30/75/100

Blue Ice Café

The Blue Ice Café is more than just a café. It is our office and the official tourist information office in Narsarsuaq. You are welcome to drop in, take a look around and have a chat with us. We will do our best to answer all your questions.

For rent at the Blue Ice Café

Tents. Dome tents. Brand: Trangoworld, North Face and Wolfcamper
Sleeping bags with inner sheets. 2-3 seasons.
Mattresses (self-inflating)
Trangia stoves (easy-to-use stoves that runs on denatured alcohol)
Trekking poles
Satellite phones (Iridium 9555)
Fishing rods
Mountain bikes (for tours in Narsarsuaq or take it with you to Qassiarsuk and explore the gravel roads between the farms)
A variety of glacier equipment (ice axes, crampons, harnesses and helmets). Contact us for details.

For sale at the Blue Ice Café

For your stove:
Methylated spirits. 500 ml (denatured alcohol in US English, husholdningssprit in Danish)
Coleman fuel. 500 ml (white gas in US English, rensebenzin in Danish)
Gas cartridges (butane/propane) with a screw-on fitting (e.g., Colman, Primus)
Gas cartridges (butane/propane) with an easy-click valve fitting (e.g., CV270, CV470)
Freeze-dried food
Chocolate and energy bars
Mosquito nets and mosquito repellent
Spinners, lures and plugs (for your fishing rod)
Hiking maps

The Blue Ice Café is situated a short walking distance from the airport and Hotel Narsarsuaq. The café is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., from June 1st. to September 15th.