Kangerlussuaq is a small airport-centric town. The runway bisects the town into a northern part and a southern part, and you can only get around it by way of one main road. The airport terminal is on the north side of town and inside the terminal there are a few souvenir shops, a bar, a cafeteria, and a nice dining room. The nicest lodging in the town, Hotel Kangerlussuaq, is connected to the terminal, as is the Conference space. These Greenland airports are nothing like in the States. There are no security personnel, and the doors are not locked during off hours; people are free to walk in and out as they please since the building houses so many other facilities. It is really just like a community space once all the incoming and outgoing flights have occurred for the day. It is one large room; you walk in and are directly in the passenger waiting area. There are just two gates! Then off to the left are the shops and a sitting area, which doubles as the hotel reception area, and past that are the cafeteria and dining room.
Just a stone’s throw away from the airport is the World of Greenland Arctic Circle (WOGAC) Polar Lodge and Souvenir Shop, where I am staying. This tour operator sort of runs the town in that it owns many of the lodgings and souvenir shops and even restaurants!
The Polar Lodge is a self-service hostel-style accommodation with 11 locked individual rooms, Wi-Fi for purchase ($8 / 90 kr per hour that can be turned off and on to conserve time), one communal full kitchen, one communal gathering/dining room with a TV, stereo, and desktop computer, and about 5 communal restrooms – some of which are both a WC and a shower room, others of which are either one or the other. It is a totally fine place to stay, but you do need to be self-sufficient. They serve breakfast in the morning, and somebody mans the souvenir shop until the early afternoon, but after around 3:00 PM there are no staff members to be found.
Most tourists eat the lunch provided on their day tours (if it is provided), and then go out to eat at the various dining places around town for dinner. So far, I have just bought groceries to keep in the communal fridge to make my own lunches and dinners. Clearly I cannot eat out at restaurants for every meal for almost two months! But on some occasions I do plan to eat at the nice dining room in the airport and also at Roklubben. Roklubben is a nice place about 3 miles / 5 km outside of town that serves dinner most nights as well as a special Greenlandic buffet on Sundays that I definitely want to try.
Thinking about the meal situation, the format of this trip to Greenland is much, much different than in the summer, and especially here in Kangerlussuaq. In the summer, I was stationed in one place, living a very residential life with a family to come home to every night. But during this trip, I am functioning much more like a tourist because I am staying at hotels most of the time and do not have my own place to “get away”. And while all the other tourists go out for dinner every night since they have such limited time in Greenland, I have to settle in and make Polar Lodge a home for almost three weeks. So in some respects it is a little bit weird to straddle the line between tourist and resident, and some of the tourists do not really get it. But Kangerlussuaq is the place where this situation will be the most extreme. In Ilulissat I will be staying in a private flat away from the touristy locations, and in Nuuk I will be staying with my family. In Kulusuk, I will again be in the hotel with tourists, but only for one week.
But back to the virtual tour! Also a stone’s throw from the airport is a small market (that is not open in the winter)…
… police station, the grocery store called Pilersuisoq, the Post Office, a Canada Goose clothing store…
… two tour operators called Arctic Adventures and Greenland Travel…
… and Air Greenland housing as well as private housing.
WOGAC’s main location/booking center is located all by itself about 1.4 miles / 2.3 km northwest of the town at Old Camp (another self-service, hostel-style accommodation / souvenir shop that WOGAC owns. It is much larger than Polar Lodge but not as renovated).
Also on the northwest part of town, about 6.3 miles / 10.1 km from the airport, there is the Kangerlussuaq Harbor where container ships deliver everything to the town and also where cruise ships come in during the summer months.
On the northeast part of town is where the roads to the Inland Ice and to Russell Glacier begin. There is also evidently a golf course that way, too!
Then on the southeastern side of town, about 1.4 miles / 2.3 km there are a few shops and dining places…
… private residences, a research center, a school …
… a couple of hotels (I have not seen a single soul in the places, though. it is a little The Shining-esque, so I do not go in there anymore, haha!)…
… a museum that is open by request only, a church, a bowling alley, and a sports center with gym equipment and a basketball court. The (frozen) water and a bridge bound the southern part of town….
The bridge actually collapsed last summer (because of excessive flowing water from a rapidly melting Inland Ice), and Sharon, the other intern at Visit Greenland with me, was here when it happened and got photos (Photo Credit: Sharon Testor). The only thing south of the bridge for tourists is Roklubben, the restaurant I mentioned earlier that has the nice dinners and Greenlandic buffet. It is about 3 miles / 5 km from town, and essentially, it is the southernmost extent of Kangerlussuaq other than mountains to explore.
Finally, the only other real attraction is where the sledge dogs are housed, 2.5 miles / 4 km southwest town. It is accessible by foot via the one main road, but usually when tourists do the dogsledge tours, their tour operator picks them up and drives them to the place. It is quite isolated, but I suppose it is strategically located close to the water so that the dogs can get right out onto the frozen water as quickly as possible!
For me, I know what to expect in these Greenlandic towns as far as infrastructure and all, but to a brand new tourist, I could see how they might look around and say, “This is it?” However, tourism activities in this town are heavily focused on being out in the nature – driving to the Inland Ice and glaciers, hiking along the mountains, looking for wildlife, dogsledding, gazing at Northern Lights, and ice-fishing. So for the evenings and nights when tourists are back in the town, there are enough dining places and walking paths to entertain them for the few nights they are here.
Despite being such a small place, it does take a bit of planning and flexibility to go where you want because the shops and eateries all have their own hours and it is not a 100% guarantee that they will uphold them. Also, the tour operators’ activities frequently fill up completely, so tourists who come without having booked activities beforehand may not necessarily have the opportunity to do the activities they want to do… or at least not be able to do them when they want to. The town bus (which is essentially a 20-person charter van) is reliable and runs during the daytime, but as with any public transportation, you have to know its schedule and plan accordingly. It costs $1.75 / 10 kr to ride, and a ticket is valid for one hour anywhere in town; you just have to show the driver your ticket stub when you get back on. The bus gets all the way out to Old Camp once an hour, but to most every other place in town twice an hour. It does not go to the far extents of town, like to Roklubben or to the sledge dogs or to the Harbor, so to get to those places, you must either walk from the closest bus stop or take a taxi. Or, as I mentioned previously, the tour operators typically provide transportation for their customers.
So, that is my “Kangerlussuaq In a Nutshell” tour! Hopefully the interactive map and the descriptions help create a decent picture of where I will be living for these 17 nights before moving on to the next town 🙂 I had intended to upload a number of pictures along with this post (as you can see from my notations), but the internet was running very slowly, and when you pay per time, every minute counts 🙂 I hope to soon edit the post and insert the photos.