Hiking Around The Ilulissat Icefjord

After being accosted by beautiful baby huskies, I finally made it to the starting point of the hiking trails around the Ilulissat Icefjord. The Ilulissat icefjord is located on the west coast of Greenland and is approximately 250km north of the Arctic Circle. The icefjord is a result of the calving of the enormous Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, which is one of the most productive, fastest and most active glaciers in the world. When this glacier calves, huge chunks of ice fall into the ocean and the astoundingly beautiful Ilulissat Icefjord is the result. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most awe-inspiring spots in all of Greenland.

There are three main hiking trails around the icefjord of varying lengths and difficulties. The yellow route is 2.7km long and takes approximately 1.5-2 hours to complete. This is a beautiful trail, and is great for those who want to get great views of the icefjord but who aren’t fit enough to undertake a full days hike. The red route is 1km long and is the least exciting trail by far. This trail is short, direct and will get you to the icefjord, but there won’t be much to see along the way. The blue route is approximately 7km long and takes about four hours for someone with average fitness levels to complete. The blue route was by far my favourite route. This trail will give you stunning views, gorgeous rocks to scramble on; and on a clear day, the sunsets from this route have to be seen to be believed.

The beginning of the trail is a long boardwalk and is very easy to traverse. However, if this boardwalk gets even slightly covered in ice (which is pretty commonplace in Greenland) it can become extremely slippery, so take care and make sure you are wearing good hiking boots with strong grip on the soles.

After just a few minutes of walking along this boardwalk I turned around a corner and got my first glimpse of the magic that lay ahead of me.

'You are now entering the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ilulissat Icefjord'
‘You are now entering the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ilulissat Icefjord’

With every step I took, more and more ice became visible. Huge icebergs as tall as high rises and as wide as football fields rising up from the sea; the word majestic doesn’t even come close to explaining the magnificence of the icefjords beauty.

I soon came across this sign.

Now, I am not usually one for following rules, but this sign has advice that should definitely be followed. These icebergs are constantly calving and breaking up; and they are so enormous that when calving occurs, huge tsunami-esque waves form and anyone too close could find themselves in serious trouble.

Eventually the boardwalk ends and the trail becomes much more like real hiking. Extremely rocky and uneven terrain, one must scramble across huge boulders and deep mud patches. It is, however, at this point on the trail that the fun really begins.

Fellow iceberg enthusiast
Fellow iceberg enthusiast

There are several tour companies in town that offer guided hikes, but I recommend giving these a miss. All of the hiking trails are incredibly well marked and easy to follow; so going it alone will save you money, guarantee some solitude and allow you to go at your own pace. However, it would be easy to slip and injure yourself on the trails, so if you are hiking on your own, make sure your hotel is aware of your plans and know to raise alert if you were to not arrive back within a reasonable timeframe.

On the blue trail, follow the blue markers
On the blue trail, follow the blue markers

When I say that some of these icebergs are enormous, I mean it. It is hard to truly gauge the sheer size of these behemoth bergs from photographs, but this is one of the few of my photographs which comes close.

Though whilst hiking I was unable to see any actual calving occur, I could definitely hear it. The icefjord is alive and full of activity. Huge cracks sounding like calm gunshots ring out as clearly as if they were happening right in front of you, despite the fact that the calving is happening many kilometres away. The echoes ring out and reverberate to all those lucky enough to be in the bay.

This next photograph is one of my favourite from the day. It is 100% unedited, yet almost doesn’t look real. The cloud streaks in the sky were a rare treat and made it borderline impossible to take a bad picture.

I could’ve stayed at the icefjord for the entire day, but as the clouds rolled in and the sun started to disappear from the sky it was time to head back to town for something extra special and spectacular (to be revealed when the next post goes live).

On the walk back I came across the Zion Church. Like most churches in Greenland, this one is only opened for special services and thus I was able to see inside. But it is pretty gorgeous from outside, and one of the more unusual churches I have ever seen.

T H E L O W D O W N
Getting to Ilulissat: Air Iceland has direct flights from Reykjavik twice weekly in the summer months
Ilulissat Hikes: Entry to the Ilulissat Icefjord is free and free hiking trail maps are available from the World of Greenland office
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 12-40mm lens and 52mm HOYA polarising filter
Remember: Hiking boots, 2L of water, adequate food and a fully charged camera

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

84 thoughts on “Hiking Around The Ilulissat Icefjord

      1. It is hard to reach and it is expensive but I promise it’s worth every bit of effort and money! It may take a while to save up enough but please don’t write it off as being an impossible dream 😊

  1. Your descriptions are so eloquent, and those pictures are stunning. The paths look never-ending in a sort of magical way 🙂

  2. I’m always amazed at how detailed your notes are on The Lowdown.
    You obviously carry pen and paper wherever you go, ask a lot of questions and take great notes to share with others.
    You put more expertise, professionalism, information and style into your project than millions put in to their actual job.
    I read other travel blogs, but yours is one of the best.
    I’m not sure I would travel to some of the places you go to because I like covering big cities and large events. But it is refreshing to see someone so in love with nature and doing a good job on their blog.
    Do you ever post a list of places that are on your schedule to travel to?
    I’d be interested in knowing where you’re going by looking at a list.
    As always, “Great Job!”, and be safe.
    Paul

    1. Wow thank you so much! This is one of the nicest comments I’ve ever gotten on the blog! I’m so happy you enjoy reading it and I hope I can continue to make it better and better 😊
      I haven’t got a list for my future travel as my plans always seem to change very quickly- however adding a page for my upcoming travels is a great idea and I’ll get on working to add one in.
      Thanks again Paul! I look forward to sharing more stories with you 😊

    1. I usually wear some comfy leggings or thin yoga pants with a suitable top, sweater or jacket depending on the weather 😊 thank you so much! Greenland is such a magical place!

  3. Beautiful photos. They don’t do justice to their massive size and scale. It must have been awe-inspiring to see them in person. It didn’t appear any other people around. That would have added to the impact for me by being alone there.

    No doubt you are well aware of the problems faced by Greenland’s icepack and the melting of the glaciers. There was another report only a couple of days ago about bad news for some in the northeast of the country.
    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4771

    Enjoy. It is a pleasure to tag along with your travels.

    1. I am very aware, it’s horrible but it seems like much of greenlands natural beauty is destined to melt 😞
      There were a few other people on the trail but mostly I was alone- which made the experience even more wonderful.

  4. Fantastic virtual guided tour. Great pictures with a very engaging narrative. Almost feels like we are doing the hike as we read on. I was considering Antartica as an “extreme cold” trip worth doing, but now I have to add Greenland as an appealing alternative.

    1. I definitely recommend Greenland! There is so much do see and do and the presence of commercial flights means you can pick and choose exactly what you want to see and where you want to go 😊

  5. Wow! You weren’t kidding about the beauty of the icebergs! Wow!!! Phenomenal!!! I was floored!!! Maybe I shouldn’t be following your blog….lol….it makes me add more and more to my traveling and bucket list!

    And yet….in the back of my head I hear…. “Never let go jack….never let go!”

    1. I promise you that the cold isn’t as bad as you think! It is cold for sure, but everywhere has such good heating indoors and you learn quickly how to dress warmly- never say never! 😊

  6. I just found your site and was reading through most of the blogs about this trip and I am completely in awe of the outstanding beauty in this part of Greenland. I love hiking and wish I could do it all day everyday and this place seems like one of the most beautiful areas of the world to visit! Definitely attaching Greenland to one of the top places I want to visit! Thanks for sharing!!!
    Also, I just started my blog if you have the time or desire to check it out https://theauthenticlens.wordpress.com

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