Disko Bay

Overview

Introduction

Located on the west coast, north of the Arctic Circle, the Disko Bay area encompasses Disko Island and the Greenland coast that borders the bay. The area offers attractive mountain and seaside scenery. Opportunities abound for outdoor activities year-round. The main attraction of the area is Ilulissat Fjord, with the world's busiest calving glacier (a glacier that flows and splinters to produce icebergs).

Disko Island—Except for its eastern coast, this whole island is covered with basaltic mountains. The rock formations at the base of Lucie Mountain are spectacular. They are near Qeqertarsuaq (Godhavn), the only town. Some good walking routes are found on the island. Disko Island is 350 mi/560 km north of Nuuk.

Ilulissat (Jakobshavn)—Hidden among icebergs that have splintered off the glacier (known as calf ice), this village presents an enchanting scene, especially if you're arriving by sea. The colorful wood houses seem to be illuminated against the stark landscape, and the town's hospital is beautifully situated at the tip of the cape. Ilulissat has the jumbled quality typical of an Arctic town, with houses perched haphazardly along rocky paths, barking sled dogs tied up outside, and fish and animal skins drying on racks in the yards.

The town's main attractions include Zions Church (built in 1782), an art museum (containing a collection of paintings by Greenland artist Emmanuel Petersen) and the Knud Rasmussen Museum. Rasmussen, Greenland's most-famous native son, was an Arctic explorer and ethnographer who collected Inuit songs and legends (our favorite shamanic legend name: "The Woman Who Was So Beautiful That Wherever She Was the Sea Was Calm"). Like a true Greenlander, Rasmussen once said, "Give me winter, give me dogs, and you can keep the rest." The museum has exhibits on Rasmussen's Arctic expeditions, Inuit life and culture, and local Danish settlements.

The Ilulissat Fjord is what draws most visitors to the area. The huge and fast-moving glacier (traveling up to 100 ft/30 m a day) drops mammoth icebergs into the narrow coastal inlet of the fjord. Some end up trapped in the fjord itself, and others float out into the Atlantic Ocean and begin their journey south. Excursions to see the glacier and icebergs by boat and helicopter are available. It's best to stay overnight if you really want to appreciate this spectacle of nature (or, better, spend two days and take walks in the area). You can see the midnight sun there May-July. Ilulissat is 350 mi/560 km north of Nuuk.

Qasigiannguit (Christianshaab)—At the foot of a near-vertical escarpment, Qasigiannguit has buildings dating from 1764. A museum displays excavated artifacts of early immigrants. There's good hiking in the summer and good dogsledding in winter. 320 mi/515 km north of Nuuk.

Saqqaq—An attractive village north of Disko Bay on the Nuussuaq Peninsula, Saqqaq offers a number of interesting treks, including one to a nearby glacier. 410 mi/660 km north of Nuuk.

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