10 Things to do in Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island, Greenland

A scenic view of Disko Island's breathtaking landscapes

Imagine being surrounded by glaciers as tall as skyscrapers, vast tundras, and the serene beauty of the Arctic Sea. This is Disko Island, a remote gem in Greenland where nature remains untouched by humans. And there's no better way to explore this breathtaking environment than on foot. Join me on the best things to do from Qeqertarsuaq, through the most spectacular landscapes that Disko Island has to offer. Let yourself be enchanted by the rugged beauty of Greenland and fall head over heels for the pristine wilderness of this magical island.


10 Things to do in Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island, Greenland!


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How to get to Disko Island: crossing the Disko Bay from Ilulissat to Qeqertarsuaq

A prehistoric land emerges as the sea surrenders to the unforgiving terrain: rocky, angular, and alluringly green. Born from ancient fire, this island destination lies just a few hours' sail from the icy mainland of Greenland. Its landscape is entirely different from the rest of the Arctic land, as its volcanic past has bestowed upon Disko Island black sandy beaches and basaltic rock formations. Disko Island appears to be the result of a collision between the fire of hell and the cold, indifferent sea, forming a unique and unforgettable destination for the adventurous traveler.

It is a sun-drenched day in August, and the sun plays a beautiful game of light on the foamy crests of the rolling sea. The collar of my down jacket is zipped up just below my nose, my hat pulled down so far that it barely covers the tips of my eyebrows. The small exposed space on my face becomes my personal viewfinder, allowing me to glimpse passing icebergs. Defying the wild waves of the Arctic Sea, I am on my way to Greenland's largest island: Disko Island.

In a small dinghy, I, along with 9 other travelers, make the crossing from Ilulissat to Disko Island. The icebergs around us are so large and majestic that they take my breath away. It's as if I find myself in a sea of crystal, surrounded by glittering diamonds moving up and down on the calm waves of the ocean. The cold, fresh air fills my lungs, and my skin tingles from the icy breeze. It's as if nature is greeting me and inviting me to be part of its beautiful landscape.

During the summer and autumn months, reaching Disko Island requires a boat journey of at least 2 to 3 hours. In the cold and dark winters, the sea tends to freeze, and the best access route is by helicopter. According to tradition, many years ago, during the days of extremely cold winters, one could make the crossing from the Greenlandic mainland from the town of Ilulissat, traversing the frozen sea, pulled by sled dogs. Unfortunately, such adventurous sled trips of over 100 kilometers across the frozen ocean are no longer possible today.

Just over 850 people inhabit this vast island with the most vibrant name I've ever traveled to. Yet, one would be mistaken to expect wild dance parties on Disko Island.

A panoramic shot of Disko Island, Greenland

Far away from the daily hustle and bustle, I find myself in a tranquil fishing village after a beautiful boat trip. With a name that's a real tongue-twister: Qeqertarsuaq. Bonus points if you can pronounce it flawlessly on the first try.

Qeqertarsuaq: colorful fishing village and gateway to adventure on Disko Island

From hundreds of meters away, before docking in the bay, I feel my heart gently pounding in my throat. This is where my adventure on Disko Island begins. Seeing the typical colorful houses welcoming me in the distance, I feel endorphins bubbling up within me. Colors that are so characteristic of all Greenlandic villages, including Qeqertarsuaq, make me utterly joyful.

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10 Things to do in Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island

1. Enter Qeqertarsuaq through the whalebone arch for good luck

As we approach the village's arrival pier, my gaze is drawn to the impressive whalebone arch marking the entrance of the village. The bones of the giant whale form an imposing arch, a tribute to the sea and the creatures that inhabit it. A sign that brave and successful whalers once lived here. It feels like I've stepped into a fairy-tale world where nature and culture are inseparably intertwined. I feel small and humble, yet filled with awe and admiration for this place and its people. I realize that this is the beginning of an unforgettable adventure, full of new experiences and discoveries.

Whalebone arch Qeqertarsuaq
Whalebone arch in Qeqertarsuaq
Qeqertarsuaq, a picturesque town on Disko Island
Kleurrijke huizen in Qeqertarsuaq
The charming village of Qeqertarsuaq against a Greenlandic backdrop
Hotel Disko Island

2. Explore Qeqertarsuaq town

Once, there was a settlement here where whale hunting, fishing, and hunting were the main and only activities for the local population. Founded in 1773 by whalers, Qeqertarsuaq is one of the oldest settlements in Greenland. Now, the emerging tourism is causing the village (and, by extension, the entire island) to awaken in a new world. In a quiet way, without excess or too much haste. And as a traveler, it's simply wonderful to witness.

The colorful houses in Greenland, often vividly painted, hold a fascinating cultural significance. In the past, when communities were smaller, the colors helped residents and visitors identify houses by their distinct hues. The color represented specific information about the occupants, such as their profession or the house's purpose. For instance, yellow houses were often associated with doctors, red ones with government ownership, blue ones with fishermen, and so on. This color-coded system served as a practical way for the community to identify and navigate through the settlements, given the absence of street names. Over time, while the practical significance has diminished, the tradition of painting houses in vivid colors persists, adding a unique and vibrant charm to the Greenlandic townscape.

A cozy village scene in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland.
Colorful cemetery in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland.
Colorful houses in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland.
Fisherman drying his gear in Qeqertarsuaq, Disko Island

Qeqertarsuaq, which means "the big island" in Greenlandic, is the perfect base from where I will explore the nearly uninhabited Disko Island further. The only hotel on the island, Hotel Disko Island, is my base for the next few days. Just 200 meters from my hotel room is the local supermarket where I can stock up on hiking snacks. As I wander through the aisles of groceries, toiletries, furniture, and even weapons, it's clear that the island's only supermarket must provide residents with all necessities.

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3. Play soccer among the icebergs on Disko Island

Upon my arrival and after checking in at Hotel Disko Island, I immediately set out to explore the entire village and its surrounding area. A refreshing walk that proves to be more than worthwhile. From the notably red-painted church and the local museum to the neighborhood café, I head towards the local soccer field with artificial turf, undoubtedly situated in one of the most beautiful locations in the world for a game. Nestled between the ocean, the beach, and the green hills inland. I close my eyes and briefly imagine how the local soccer team, which plays in the Greenlandic premier league, is cheered on by supporters from the grassy slopes while imposing stray icebergs from the ocean closely follow the course of the game from the front row. Goosebumps raise the hairs on my arms, but certainly not from the cold. What a surreal environment, and yet, yes, this is a daily reality in Qeqertarsuaq.

Kids enjoying the local soccer field near the scenic landscapes of Disko Island

Playing soccer on Disko Island with a View of Drifting Icebergs is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary places on earth. Impressive mountains and glistening icebergs proudly showcase themselves as supporters on the sidelines. Nature is their biggest fan and seems to encourage the players to bring out the best in themselves.

Such a first day filled with discoveries has a positive effect on the appetite, a sentiment my growling stomach certainly confirms. Therefore, I gladly conclude my first day here in the (only) local restaurant, affiliated with Hotel Disko Island - where they serve deliciously refined yet simple dishes with a local touch. It's the finest that the Greenlandic cuisine can offer. As an aperitif, I raise a frothy Greenlandic Qajaq IPA to my lips. The barley brew further arouses my appetite, and the musk ox stew is declared the dinner favorite by my taste buds. After a tasty chocolate dessert, I retire to my berth with a satisfied feeling, where I quickly drift off to Disko Dreamland.

4. Go whale watching from Black Sand Beach in Qeqertarsuaq

One of the most captivating free activities in Qeqertarsuaq is whale watching at Black Sand Beach. This becomes especially rewarding during the summer months when melting ice draws in fish and whales. I seize the opportunity, pack a picnic and settle on the beach, and relish nature's mesmerizing spectacle. Unfortunately the whales happen to be elusive during my stay, but just steps away from the soccer field, I immerse myself in the excitement of local children having fun, ensuring a delightful day of both natural wonders and community spirit.

PRO TIP

Looking for some R&R? After your picnic on Black Sand Beach, take a plunge into the Arctic Sea and warm up in a wooden ‘barrel sauna’. Ice baths and saunas go hand in hand and the surroundings don’t get much better than on Disko Island! Book your sauna with view over the icebergs here via Hotel Disko Island.

Crystal-clear streams meandering through Disko Island's wilderness
Black sand beach on Disko Island is perfect for whale watching
Aerial shot of the vibrant landscapes surrounding Disko Island

5. Sail to the one of the most remote settlements in Greenland: Kangerluk

If you have an extra day available on Disko Island, you can go on a full-day trip to the settlement Kangerluk, which is the largest fjord on Disko Island. From Qeqertarsuaq harbor, you cruise past Kilit and the steep blue mountains that have a great birdlife, into the Kangerluk fjord. Here, you can experience life in a settlement and the difficult conditions that form the basis of a small hunting community. The village is located approximately 35 kilometers north of Qeqertarsuaq. Local operator SikuAput offers tours on request. They cannot be booked in advance but need to be booked on the spot since the tours are very weather dependent.

6. Join one of the many hikes on Disko Island

Disko Island is an untouched gem in the heart of Greenland and a perfect destination for nature and hiking enthusiasts. In contrast to most parts of Greenland, where coastlines are scattered with impressive glaciers and icebergs, Disko Island offers something entirely different. Here, you'll discover a stunning landscape of rolling green hills and valleys, adorned with lush Arctic vegetation. It's an oasis of life in an otherwise inhospitable environment. Disko Island is not just different from the rest of Greenland; it is a world of its own—a place you must see to believe.

The enchanting allure of Disko Island's natural wonders.
The vast, untouched beauty of Greenland's Disko Island wilderness

The island is adorned with dramatic landscapes and offers a spectacular experience for those who want to explore the beauty of nature on foot. Here, you'll find glaciers, mountains, and waterfalls that are breathtakingly beautiful. For hiking enthusiasts, the island provides a range of trails, from short walks along the coast to multi-day treks through the interior.

Disko Island is also home to a diverse flora and fauna. The sound of cascading waterfalls and the buzzing of insects form the soundtrack of the island, while from the black beaches, you can simply spot whales with a cozy picnic! The island is also renowned for its unique flora, including a wide variety of mosses, lichens, and the popular Greenlandic herb angelica that you'll taste in several dishes during your journey.

7. The Most Beautiful Hike on Disko Island: the Kuannit Hike

Under a grayish sky and after a hearty breakfast, I set out again the next day in high spirits. On the agenda is a hike through the pristine, in the unique setting of this singular island, whose views and natural beauty might even evoke more of Iceland than Greenland itself. With, on one side, the expansive Arctic ocean where majestic icebergs leisurely drift towards the horizon, and on the other side, the hilly, fresh-green landscape with, at the very top, a glimpse of the eternal ice of the Lyngmark Glacier.

Whales love to grace the coastline of Disko Island with a visit. So, while walking, I make sure to occasionally focus my eyes on the sea. Often, subtle movements on the ocean surface accompanied by circling seabirds above announce the arrival of the giants of the open water. A feast for the eyes of any nature enthusiast, if you are lucky enough to spot them. Something I don't manage during the hike, but that doesn't spoil the fun at all.

The surreal beauty of Disko Island's arctic landscape during Kuannit Hike
Unique rock formations telling the geological story of Disko Island
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The hike takes me to Kuannit, about 5-6 kilometers northeast of Qeqertarsuaq. Kuannit derives its name from the local 'kvan,' or the 'angelica' plant, which thrives there among the basalt rock formations near the coastline due to the fertile soil and the presence of hot springs. It is a plant that the Greenlandic population holds dear, and it has become a prominent player in the local cuisine, particularly as a herb. With a slight bitter taste reminiscent of juniper berries and the added benefit of boosting your vitamin C levels, it's a grateful ingredient to play a significant (supporting) role in various dishes.

A glimpse of the local flora during a Kuannit hike.
A glimpse of the local flora during a Kuannit hike.
A glimpse of the local flora during a Kuannit hike.

This hike, relatively straightforward, is the absolute must-do on Disko Island because it brings together everything that characterizes the island's nature. In terms of duration, it takes me about 4 hours for a round trip, walking along relatively flat but occasionally rugged terrain. The trail is well-marked and follows the coastline almost the entire time.

At one moment, I feel like I'm in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, and shortly after, I sense as if I am wandering around the Scottish Isle of Skye. But nothing could be further from the truth. This is Disko Island, a nearly unexplored island belonging to Greenland. I daydream with my eyes and ears wide open, savoring every moment of this beautiful environment. The color variations in the landscape, the rustling waves persistently crashing against the rocks — I take it all in with all my senses because Kuannit is indeed 'one of a kind.

the dramatic coastline of Disko Bay as seen from the Kuannit Hike

- Practical Details -

Starting Point: Beyond the soccer field, starting at the bridge over the Kuussuaq River (Røde Elv in Danish) (google maps - use street view to spot the bridge))
Length: 11 to 12 km (round trip)
Duration: 3-4 hours (depending on photo stops and trail conditions)
Signage: The trail is marked with yellow dots painted on the rocky surface
Difficulty: Easy
Guide Needed?: Absolutely not! You can request a hiking map from Hotel Disko Island, and the trail is well-marked.

Caution! If very wet, the last kilometer of the hike can be technically challenging!

8. The Shortest Hike on Disko Island: Quaqqaliaq Viewpoint

The shortest but most confusing hike from Qeqertarsuaq is the one to the Quaqqaliaq viewpoint near Udkiggen. Udkiggen is a cape located at the most southwestern point of Qeqertarsuaq. From here, you enjoy a beautiful view of the southern part of Disko Island and Qeqertaruaq. It would also be a great spot to see whales, apparently. However, I had no luck during my trip to Disko Island and didn't see any, but I did have an amazing whale experience in Ilulissat!

There is no marked hiking trail to reach the Quaqqaliaq viewpoint. The easiest way to find the way to the cape, at least in my experience, is to follow the pipeline that crosses the rocky landscape. To reach the viewpoint, you'll have to climb up and down some rocks, so this is not a suitable hike for those who are less mobile.

Although I had to let the whales pass me by, I do enjoy a breathtaking view over Qeqertarsuaq from here. The colorful houses stand beautifully against the green landscape of Disko Island, proving that Greenland can indeed be green! A lovely conclusion to my second day on this green gem.

The contrast of colorful houses against Disko Island's pristine landscapes
Vibrantly colored houses in Qeqertarsuaq, each hue revealing a historical significance

- Practical Details -

Starting Point: In Arfivik street where you encounter a pipeline, follow it to the lighthouse (google maps - use street view to spot the pipeline)
Length: 5 km (round trip)
Duration: 3 hours (it took us quite a while due to climbing and searching for the most accessible path)
Signage: There is no signage, making the trail very unclear; we followed the pipeline
Difficulty: Moderate (due to climbing and an unclear path)

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9. The Most Colorful Hike on Disko Island: Qorlortorsuaq Hike ("the big waterfall")

When you are on Disko Island, I highly recommend this easy hike to the beautiful Qorlortorsuaq waterfall. Similar to the Kuannit hike, I start this walk to the east of Qeqertarsuaq. If you don't have time for the longer Kuannit hike, you can opt for this simpler and shorter but equally beautiful hike. Leaving the village, head to the same bridge over the Kuussuaq River (Røde Elv in Danish) where the Kuannit hike begins, but instead of following the yellow trail, follow the red trail.

I start this walk early in the morning, full of enthusiasm and curiosity. It's a gloomy day, the air heavy with rain, contributing to the mysterious surroundings. Bundled up and prepared to face 4 seasons, I embark on the hike with beautiful views of the ocean and the green landscape. I enjoy the rugged basalt mountains to the green tundra and especially the many colorful flowers!

Majestic icebergs floating in Disko Bay, an iconic sight
A glimpse of the tundra flora that thrives in Disko Island's climate

The hike takes me along the Kuussuac River, a winding river with water flowing down from the deep ravines of the Lyngmark Glacier. I see purple patches of dwarf fireweed on the riverbanks, and it almost instantly brings a smile to my well-bundled face. Besides the colorful houses that occasionally dot the landscape, this is the first time I've seen a color other than green, brown, or white in Greenlandic nature.

The Kuussuac River adds an extra touch to the color palette with its reddish hue. The volcanic rock at the base of the Lyngmark Glacier washes into the river along with the meltwater, giving it the striking color. Along the way, I pass enormous ravines that the meltwater has been carving through the volcanic rock for centuries. Disko Island seems like a world made for giants. Perhaps I've found Brobdingnag?

Rolling hills and vast expanses of greenery near Qeqertarsuaq
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Completely surrounded by spectacular vistas, I wake up from my dream cocoon after a while, stirred by the increasing rumble of rushing water. I have reached the goal of my hike, the Qorlortorsuaq waterfall. In Greenlandic, Qorlortorsuaq means 'the big waterfall,' and it sounds just as grand. Far from Qeqertarsuaq, far from other people, only silence and the impressive sound of nature prevail here. I stand still, close my eyes, and relish the vibrant music of the waterfall. It's so peaceful here. I feel completely at one with nature and can't imagine a better conclusion to my time on Disko Island.

Glacier-fed rivers carving through the heart of Disko Island.

- Practical Details -

Starting Point: Past the soccer field, starting at the bridge over the Kuussuaq River (Røde Elv in Danish) (google maps - use street view to locate the bridge)
Length: 6.5 km (round trip to the waterfall)
Duration: From 2 hours (you can walk to the Qorlortorsuaq waterfall (round trip) in about 2 hours, but you can continue hiking along the riverbed until you feel like turning back)
Signage: The trail is marked with red dots painted on the rocky surface
Difficulty: Easy
Guide needed?: Absolutely not! You can request a hiking map at Hotel Disko Island, and the trail is well-marked.

10. Lyngmark Glacier Hike

A robust day hike is the one to the Lyngmark Glacier, located at the top of the mountain casting its shadow over Qeqertarsuaq. Prepare for a challenging hike with a considerable ascent (you cover about 800 meters in altitude during a climb that should take about 3 hours to reach the top). If you arrange with the owners of Disko Hotel you can spend the night at the Disko Mountain Lodge at the top. Basic in terms of accommodation but undoubtedly an unforgettable experience.

I did not do this hike during my visit to Disko Island. I have already experienced the beauty of the ancient Greenlandic ice cap in Kangerlussuaq, and my stay on Disko Island was just a bit too short to include this hike in my itinerary.

- Practical Details -

Starting Point: Past the soccer field, the starting point is just before the blue buildings (google maps - use street view to locate the bridge)
Length: 12 km (round trip), at least 800m elevation gain
Duration: 7 hours (depending on your fitness level and photo stops)
Signage: The trail is marked but reportedly not always very clear
Difficulty: Difficult
Guide needed?: Possibly. You can request a hiking map at Hotel Disko Island or join a guided tour.

Greenland is gradually being discovered by more and more nature enthusiasts. The beauty and power emanating from the world's largest island justify this completely. The country presents itself as a gift I've been eagerly waiting to unwrap. The built-up tension reaches its peak when slowly exploring Disko Island. That extra something. What made the whole experience magical for me. After almost 3 days full of adventure, I leave Greenland's largest island and the friendly inhabitants of Qeqertarsuaq with a broad smile on my face. The unforgettable memories will keep my corners of the mouth curling upward and make me dance with joy inwardly. To the soothing tones of the miraculous Disko Island.

The charming simplicity of village life in Qeqertarsuaq

Plan your own trip to Disko Island

How to get to Disko Island? Sailing to the end of the world!

Traveling to Disko Island in Greenland is like entering another world - a world where time seems to slow down, and nature dictates the rules. But how do you reach this remote gem in the Arctic?

Imagine being on a boat, surrounded by the calm waters of Disko Bay, with the mighty mountains of Disko Island on the horizon. This is the way to Qeqertarsuaq, the largest settlement on the island. With Disko Line, he only ferry company in Greenland serving Disko Bay, you can embark on an unforgettable journey from Ilulissat to Qeqertarsuaq. The journey takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes (direct route) or 4 hours and 30 minutes (via Assiat), offering stunning views of the icebergs and mountains rising from the water like guardians of the coast. The ferry runs several times a week, providing enough flexibility to adjust your trip to your own schedule. It's advisable to book your ticket well in advance for one of the scheduled times since the boats only allow 12 passengers at a time to make the crossing.

The price varies depending on the season and whether you have a direct route but is generally around 780 to 995 Danish kroner, approximately 105 - 135 Euros. Whatever the cost, the journey is priceless and will captivate your heart with the beautiful landscapes passing by.

The Best Time to Travel to Disko Island

The best travel period for Disko Island in Greenland is during the summer months, from June to September. During this period, the days are long and sunny, and the temperature is pleasant enough for outdoor activities. Moreover, it is during this time that the icebergs in the waters around the island melt, and whales and other marine animals can be spotted.

However, it can still be quite cold on Disko Island, with temperatures ranging between 5°C and 15°C. So, make sure to bring warm clothing to protect yourself from the cold wind blowing in from the sea. Also, keep in mind that the weather on Disko Island can be very changeable, so be prepared for unexpected weather conditions. In short, the summer months offer the best chance to experience the unique beauty and wild nature of Disko Island, but you should be mindful of the weather and dress appropriately.

Where to Stay on Disko Island

Staying on Disko Island? Then you should opt for the Disko Island Hotel iin Qeqertarsuaq, where breakfast is included in your stay. They offer simple rooms with basic comfort. You can choose to cook for yourself or dine in the evening at the (only) restaurant on the island. The restaurant is part of the hotel itself. The large supermarket near the hotel provides you with an extensive choice of ingredients to try your hand at cooking in the kitchen the hotel provides for its guests.

Prefer not to stay in a hotel? Then the wonderfully charming Beach Igloo Lodges right on the beach of Disko Island, might be just right for you!

PRO TIP

Are you spending a day on Disko Island? Be sure not to miss a dinner at the Hotel Disko Island restaurant! Enjoy local ingredients in a modern twist. Reindeer ragout or Snowcrab with angelica mayonnaise? Delicious!

How many days do you need on Disko Island?

If you spend about 3-4 days on the island, you will certainly be able to check off all the most beautiful Disko Island hikes on your list. Always, of course, weather permitting. The friendly people at Disko Island Hotel are happy to assist you with a map showing the hiking trails. Moreover, the hikes on Disko Island itself are quite well marked, each with its own color code. Those hikes on Disko Island will turn out just fine!

In short, Disko Island is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a unique nature experience in ultimate tranquility. Whether you are an experienced hiker or simply love nature, the island offers something for everyone. Undiscovered and unparalleled: embark on an exploration and experience the pristine beauty of Disko Island!

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