11 Cool Things To Do In Kangerlussuaq (+ Useful Information)

When visiting Greenland, few people think they will be desperately searching for things to do in Kangerlussuaq!

But this small settlement is the surprising international hub of Greenland, where nearly all international flights arrive before most people transfer to smaller flights to their final destinations.

Whether you are on a layover or you have chosen to visit, you will not be short of things to do in Kangerlussuaq!

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Why visit Kangerlussuaq

Chances are, you are visiting Kangerlussuaq because you have a layover there before heading elsewhere in Greenland.

View of the ice sheet from above
Visiting the ice sheet is just one of the things to do in Kangerlusssuaq!

This is pretty much the only reason people visit Kangerlusssuaq and the reason I ended up there twice!

When you look at the town on Google Maps, it does not seem like there is much to do. However, this little town has a lot to offer and it is well worth spending a night or two there!

I visited Kangerlussuaq during summer when there were plenty of tours running and you could easily walk around the town.

My first opinions of Kangerlussuaq were less than complimentary. However, I managed to find one of the world’s most beautiful places behind the dusty industrial exterior.

Kangerlussuaq history

Kangerlussuaq is a newer settlement in Greenland, established in 1941 by the Americans as an air force base. Prior to this, there were no permanent settlements in the area.

However, the Indigenous Greenlandic people did use the area for hunting for thousands of years given the abundance of wildlife in the area.

Kangerlussuaq operated as an American Air Force Base up until 1992. During that time, the Americans built the majority of the permanent structures you see today.

The edge of the ice sheet
Is it the moon or the Arctic?

This infrastructure is still in use today, and for years, the airport at Kangerlussuaq was only one of two where larger international jets could land.

This has led to the development of a small tourism industry in the town to service the needs of passengers who find themselves in Kangerlussuaq for an extended period of time.

The airport at Kangerlussuaq will soon be replaced for international flights by new and improved airports in Nuuk and Ilulissat. Domestic flights may continue through the airport and some tourists will potentially find their way to Kangerlussuaq.

When to visit Kangerlussuaq

As Kangerlussuaq currently operates as the hub airport in Greenland, people visit year-round. Each season brings new adventures and a different array of things to do and see!

Summer and spring are known for their long days where you can enjoy incredible hikes and take in the nature around the town. The downside of the warmer weather is the emergence of mosquitoes that plague the Arctic.

Kangerlussuaq in Fall
Fall is the most colorful time in the Arctic, although very brief.

During the winter and fall, the snow arrives and you can enjoy more adventurous activities like dog sledding. Kangerlussuaq is slightly inland and has a stable climate that makes it one of the world’s best locations for seeing the northern lights.

Things to do in Kangerlussuaq

I have compiled a list of eleven things to do in Kangerlussuaq, perfect for layovers and longer visits. If you feel I have missed something or have a question, please leave a comment below!

1. Visit Kangerlussuaq Museum

Close to the airport is the Kangerlussuaq Museum, which has a small number of exhibits about the history of Kangerlussuaq and the surrounding areas.

The museum mostly focuses on the aviation history of the town and the American Air Force, including the office of the base commander.

The most interesting part of the museum is the historical Inuit artifacts they found in the areas around Kangerlussuaq. While there were no permanent settlements in the area, it was used for hunting for about 4,000 years.

This small museum is perfect for those on a layover and looking to fill the time between flights. The museum’s opening hours are somewhat irregular and can be found on their website depending on the season.

2. Try to sport musk oxen on a tundra safari

The area surrounding Kangerlussuaq is full of incredible wildlife, from Arctic foxes to giant musk oxen.

The musk ox is native to Greenland, but some isolated populations have had to be re-established in some areas like Kangerlussuaq.

In the 1960s, 27 musk oxen were introduced to the area and are now thriving, with over 10,000 individuals roaming the tundra outside of the town.

A musk ox
A large but sometimes tricky-to-see musk ox

The musk ox is easy to spot in the areas around the city on a tundra safari or a hike. Occasionally, they have even been known to wander into the city.

There are also chances to see plenty of truly wild reindeer and numerous other Arctic creatures, including the Arctic hare. Most of these animals can be seen throughout the year, although some are far harder to spot during winter!

I took a Tundra Safari with Albatros Arctic Circle, the main tour provider in Kangerlussuaq, and I have to be honest, it was an awful experience. We drove around in a large truck in places where it seemed very unlikely there would be any wildlife.

I would instead reach out to the people at Tundra Adventures to book a Tundra safari. They run small group tours that are perfect for those who really want to enjoy the nature around Kangerlussuaq.

3. Eat at Roklubben Restaurant

There are not many places to eat in Kangerlussuaq with only two restaurants in the area.

Restaurant Roklubben is one of those restaurants, but is actually 5 km (3.11 mi) outside of the city on the shores of Lake Ferguson.

The restaurant can only be visited with a reservation as you will need to be picked up and bussed to it. The restaurant serves a range of traditional Greenlandic dishes utilizing local ingredients.

A plate of Greenlandic food
Filled my plate with delicious food from the buffet.

On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the restaurant has an à la carte menu, which is constantly changing depending on the season.

On Wednesdays and Sundays, they have a Greenlandic buffet where you can try a range of traditional meals, including a musk ox dish and whale.

I went to the restaurant on a Sunday and had the buffet. It was fairly priced and there was plenty of delicious food!

The one slight downside was many of the starters on offer felt more Danish than Greenlandic. This was most likely to satisfy the Danish customers who seemed to shun the more traditional items.

The restaurant is run by Albatros Arctic Circle and should be booked via email or at one of their hotels. The restaurant is only open between February and November.

4. Marvel at the beauty of the Greenlandic ice sheet at Point 660

One of the things I really wanted to do when visiting Greenland was see the giant ice sheet that covers nearly all of the country.

Thankfully, the longest road in Greenland leaves Kangerlussuaq and takes you directly to the ice sheet at Point 660.

Me standing on the ice sheet
A dream come true… standing on top of the ice sheet

The best way to visit the ice sheet is via a tour. Otherwise, it is a 39 km (24.23 mi) one-way hike!

On the way to the ice sheet, you will pass incredible scenery and have the chance to see the wildlife of Greenland (I saw a musk ox on the way to the sheet and plenty of reindeer).

Once you reach Point 660, you will do a short hike up onto the ice sheet. I have to admit, it was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life.

I had expected it to be amazing, but it blew my mind completely. We spent around 20 minutes on the ice cap as I took a shorter tour in the evening.

If there was more time between my flights, I would have taken the longer day tour so I could have seen more of the ice sheet.

The road to the ice sheet itself is quite famous as it was built by Volkswagen for testing their cars in more extreme environments. The road is now mainly used for tourism purposes and it is not as well maintained anymore.

A view over the ice sheet
Trying to fathom the expanse of the ice cap

I visited the ice cap with Albatros Arctic Circle tours and once again it was an awful tour, with a guide who made up random facts and there was no opportunity to get out and photograph the wildlife.

The guide did not seem to be able to drive the unnecessarily large truck, and at some points, it felt downright dangerous as he struggled to get it up the steeper hills.

I would instead book with Tundra Adventures who offer small group personalized tours with a local Greenlandic guide.

6. Go hiking in the wilderness

One of the main things to do in Kangerlussuaq is go hiking. There are plenty of hiking options from Kangerlussuaq that are perfect for all kinds of hikers.

For those looking for day hikes, you have easier options such as the Lake Ferguson Trail. This 8.4 km (5.22 mi) out-and-back hike is perfect for those looking for a gentler route.

The Sugarloaf Mountain Trail is a more arduous 17 km (10.56 mi) day hike to the mountain summit where you will be greeted with incredible panoramic views.

Be careful to stick to the hiking trail on this route as there are potentially unexploded World War Two ordinance.

Hiking along the edge of the ice sheet
Hiking through the lunar-like landscape to the ice cap

Alternatively, those looking for a more adventurous hike can undertake the Arctic Circle Trail that runs between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut.

This 160 km (99.42 mi) trail takes around 8 days and is one of the most famous hikes in the country.

This multi-day hike takes you deep into the Arctic tundra, away from civilization and into the true wilderness of Greenland.

This hike should only be done by experienced hikers who are used to spending time out in the wilderness and are able to fend for themselves.

6. Chill out at Russell Glacier

One of the most famous natural sites close to Kangerlussuaq is Russell Glacier. This impressive glacier forms a very small part of the edge of the ice sheet.

I visited the glacier as part of my Point 660 tour but would have happily spent a few hours exploring the area and getting closer to it.

Given its proximity to Kangerlussuaq and being situated inland, the Glacier is the perfect spot to see the 60 m (197 ft) glacier dramatically calving into a small lake.

Russell Glacier from above
Took the opportunity to drone the glacier

The meltwater then rushes down towards Kangerlussuaq and out into the fjord. During warmer years, the glacier can melt at a faster rate and cause downstream flooding.

The area around the glaciers is also perfect for seeing the wildlife of Kangerlussuaq, with reindeer heading towards the glacier to avoid the mosquitoes.

You can take a dedicated tour of Russell Glacier with Tundra Adventures.

7. Hang out with huskies

During winter, one of the best ways to travel through the Arctic is via a dog sled.

There is a small husky farm in Kangerlussuaq that offers husky rides across the tundra and out over the frozen Kangerlussuaq Fjord.

The frozen fjord is a more pleasant ride as the ice tends to provide a smoother ride. Along the way, you will be given the opportunity to be the musher and take control of your team of dogs.

Husky dog covered in mosquitos
The dog days of summer

This is one of the best activities in the Arctic and there is nothing quite like the thrill of dog sledding.

Dog sledding tours are available from February to the end of March. Outside of the sledding period, you can still visit the huskies and give them some attention while there is no snow for them to run in.

I visited in the middle of August when there were some puppies who were very happy to show off.

8. Find the three crashed American Air Force jets

In the 1960s, three American Air Force planes crashed on the same day during bad weather. The wreckages of these planes can still be found at the three separate crash sites.

Two of the crashes are easy to find with crash one located next to the Ice Road that takes you to the ice sheet. Crash two can be reached on an easy day hike around Lake Ferguson.

A crashed air force plane outside of Kangerlussuaq
One of the crashed planes outside of Kangerlussuaq

The 5.5 km (3.42 mi) return hike is perfect for those looking for an easy hike in the Kangerlussuaq area.

The path to crash site two is not marked, but the trail is fairly obvious and worn down. This is a good opportunity to spot musk oxen too as they often frequent the area.

Crash site three is more challenging to reach and is located about 9 km (5.59 mi) outside of the town behind Kangerlussuaq Ridge (also known as Kitchen Mountain).

9. Hunt for the Northern lights

Kangerlussuaq is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. The cold and dry climate means that the area experiences around 300 clear nights on average, which is perfect for aurora hunting.

Along with the clear skies, there is nearly no light pollution apart from the airport, making this the perfect place to hunt for the northern lights.

The northern lights can be seen in Kangerlussuaq from the end of August until the beginning of April. However, the best months for northern lights activity levels tend to be September and March.

Northern lights over Kangerlussuaq
Kangerlussuaq is one of the best places to see the northern lights in Greenland

To see the northern lights, your best option is to take a tour where you will drive to the best spots with a clear view north.

I recommend taking a northern lights tour with Kang Mini Tours, which offers smaller group experiences and plenty of time to photograph the aurora.

While the chances of seeing the northern lights are high in Kangerslussuaq, they are a natural phenomenon and can not be predicted.

The downside of trying to see them in Greenland is the lack of roads, meaning if there are clouds, it is harder to try and find clear skies.

10. Take to the air for a sightseeing flight

While Greenland is beautiful when you have your feet on the ground, there is something special about seeing it from above.

Air Zafari offers incredible scenic flights that take you over the fjords, valley, and ice sheet. From the sky, you get a unique vantage point where you can even see the vibrant blue rivers that the meltwater forms across the top of the ice sheet.

Aerial views of Greenland
Aerial views over Greenland are some of the best

The planes have large windows perfect for taking photographs and watching herds of musk oxen and reindeer roaming the tundra.

They offer various packages with different routes, or you can request a quote for a route of your choice. During the off-season, you will need to email them to arrange sightseeing flights.

🛩️ Click here to check rates and availability.

11. Hangout at the airport

There is a high chance that during your time in Kangerlussuaq, you are going to spend several hours hanging out in the airport. The airport dominates the center of the town and is where nearly everyone who lives there works.

On my way to Nuuk, our flight was unable to land once we arrived due to fog and we had to return to Kangerlussuaq.

Directional sign at Kangerlussuaq airport
A directional sign to places where there are mostly no flights to…

Due to the tight schedule of flights and the number of people flying, we were unsure when we would make it to Nuuk.

This led to us spending a nervous day in the airport to see if we would be put on a flight (thankfully they scheduled an extra flight for us at the end of the day).

In the airport, there is a small but very busy cafeteria where you can buy fairly decent food, including a pulled musk ox burger.

The cafeteria was not the most peaceful place to sit as it was very loud and you had to sit at communal tables.

For a more peaceful experience, head upstairs in the airport to the Kangerlussuaq Hotel, where you will find a small bar where you can sit in peace.

Weather in Kangerlussuaq

Kangerlussuaq has a uniquely arid climate and experiences very little rainfall. During winter, you can expect very cold temperatures. In summer, the temperatures are mild but get colder the closer you go towards the ice cap.

I arrived in Kangerlussuaq having spend the the summer in Rovaniemi, and while they are both in the Arctic the weather couldn’t have felt more different.

The Arctic Circle Trail covered in snow
Attempting the Arctic Circle Trail outside of winter is only for the brave

Below I have detailed the average seasonal temperatures throughout the year:

  • Winter: average high -12.4°C (9.68°F), average low -22.8°C (-9.04°F)
  • Spring: average high 3.75°C (38.75°F), average low -6.65°C (20.03°F)
  • Summer: average high 15.37°C (59.67°F), average low 4.17°C (39.51°F)
  • Fall: average high -0.03°C (32.05°F), average low -8.7°C (16.34°F)

These temperatures are the averages for those seasons, and they could potentially drop far lower or higher than the averages.

Are there ATMs in Kangerlussuaq?

Yes! You will find ATMs in the airport that can be accessed throughout the day. Although, pretty much everywhere accepts cards, and I don’t think I ever used cash during my time in Greenland.

Are there shops in Kangerlussuaq?

There is a supermarket opposite the airport where you can buy a decent array of items. It is perfect for those who can cook in their accommodation or need to pick up supplies for their multi-day hikes.

Street art on the way to the town center
A mural painted on a rock between Old Camp and the Supermarket

The supermarket is open Monday-Thursday 9 am-5 pm, Friday 9 am-6 pm, and Saturday 9 am-2 pm.

There are also some smaller shops around the airport for buying local crafts and smaller items.

Are there polar bears in Kangerlussuaq?

The chances of encountering polar bears in Kangerlussuaq are incredibly low. Polar bears have been known to drift south in ice flows but are normally only found in the northern areas of Greenland and along the eastern edge.

Views out over the Greenlandic Tundra
No matter where you are, the ice sheet dominates the views

As the chances of seeing a polar bear are so low, you do not need to carry any kind of polar bear deterrent. It is always worthwhile to check with locals, however, before undertaking the Arctic Circle Trail just in case a polar bear has been spotted close to the route.

What time zone is Kangerlussuaq in?

Sitting between Europe, the United States, and Canada, Greenland experiences 4 different time zones ranging from UTC +0 to UTC -3.

Kangerlussuaq sits in the UTC -2 time zone, putting it 2 hours behind the UK and 3 hours ahead of the eastern United States time zone.

A picnic bench looking out over a lake
A picnic bench overlooking a lake, with plenty of mosquitos to keep you company

Prior to 2023 most of Greenland adhered to the UTC -3 timezone, given that geographically is part of North America.

However, due to closer political ties with Europe, it was decided to shift the country’s timezone to be closer to European countries and hopefully develop further trade links.

Where to stay in Kangerlusssuaq

There are only a few places to stay in Kangerlussuaq, most of which are fairly basic. The rooms sell out very fast, so you should book your accommodation as soon as you know you will be passing through Kangerlussuaq.

Hotel Kangerlussuaq – The main hotel in the town and attached to the airport.

Getting a room in the hotel is nearly impossible during the high season, but I am not entirely sure if that is because the rooms are reserved for those on delayed flights!

The rooms in the hotel are modest, but compared to everything else on offer in Kangerlussuaq they seem luxurious!

Old Camp – I stayed in the Old Camp hotel on both of my overnight layovers.

The rooms were very basic but perfect for one night. The bathrooms and showers are shared facilities and were not the nicest I have experienced.

Communal space in the Old Camp
Communal living space in the Old Camp Hotel

The rooms all come with breakfast included. To book a room you will need to reach out to them directly via email.

Kangerlussuaq Youth Hostel – The youth hostel is the cheapest accommodation in Kangerlussuaq, although it is furnished to a high standard. The hostel is located on the other side of the airport from most of the other accommodation options in the town.

The hostel itself is run by a family that owns a hunting business, and they sell a range of game meats that can be cooked there or taken home with you. To book a room, you will need to email the hostel directly to check for availability.

This was my list of things to do in Kangerlussuaq. I hope you have found it useful! If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below!

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