Sisimiut is found in a spectacular, naturally beautiful location on the western shores of Greenland. This ramshackle town of colorful houses overlooks a scenic fjord and has a culturally diverse mix of Inuit and Scandinavian settlers that call this remote place home. The natural harbor makes this an excellent location to access the vast Greenland Ice Cap and the Arctic Circle, natural wonders that are unlike anywhere else in the world.
This is Greenland’s second largest settlement, and although sights within the town itself are limited, this a destination for the outdoor lover. There are icy, snowy landscapes to experience, a vast wilderness to explore and beautiful fjords to experience in a surreal setting. The adventurous can take part in dog sledding, snowmobiling and of course, during the long winters, when the skies are dark, it’s inevitable that you will be enthralled the sight of the bright Northern Lights.
Here’s our guide to Sisimiut, to help you to plan your trip to this incredible town that’s located in the heart of the wilderness of Greenland.
Things to do in Sisimiut, Greenland
Despite being Greenland’s second largest town, Sisimiut is still very much a small place and has few traditional attractions aside from some interesting museums. The real reason to visit though is to experience the wonderful nature of Greenland that surrounds Sisimiut, and there are plenty of ways to experience this in all the varied seasons.
Visiting the Sisimiut Museum, located by the town’s natural harbor, will take you on a journey through the thousands of years of culture and history that surround this harsh and remote environment. The museum focuses on the indigenous cultures that have ranged across this land for centuries, surviving in an extreme world where many others have failed.
It also focuses on the European settlement of the town itself, and the role it has played in the wider history of Greenland. Of all the places we visited in Greenland, we felt this museum was the best. It has very good signage and a clear story to follow during the visit.
Taseralik Cultural Centre
The Taseralik Cultural Centre in Sisimiut is a space designed to demonstrate and preserve the cultural legacy of the region. Situated on the edge of a beautiful lake, this center hosts artistic performances throughout the year, as well as cultural events and art exhibitions. There’s even a delightful cafe where you can enjoy some local dishes or a warm cup of coffee.
It is also one of the few places in town that gives you free WIFI access with the purchase of a coffee in their cafe. As you can see from the photo above, it’s a spectacular place for views on a nice day too.
Take a City Tour
During the summer months Sisimiut employs a local bus service to offer city tours to visitors. I highly recommend doing this right after you arrive to get your bearings and really get a feel for the city. The buses are comfortable and travel to all the popular places with a knowledgable guide that provides information in both Danish and English.
The tour takes you to a variety of viewpoints, a local fish market, the lookout to the Arctic Circle Monument and a few other notable places. It lasts a couple of hours and ended up being something we enjoyed much more than expected.
Go to Qiviut
Located in the heart of Sismiut is a small store that you shouldn’t miss visiting. Qiviut is the Greenlandic word used to describe the inner wool that is retrieved from Muskoxen. The store, bearing the name of the wool, is the largest manufacturer of clothing made from this highly prized wool. All pelts are retrieved manually, purchased from hunters during the brutal winter hunter season.
The wool is hand processed and weaved into a variety of fashionable clothing items. The prices are not cheap but the items are definitely unique. The wool of the Musk Ox is said to be 10 times warmer than the finest merino wool you could imagine having. Even if you don’t buy anything, taking the time to browse the items and learn more about the process is worth the stop.
Get an Intro to Greenlandic Cuisine
No matter how you feel about trying new foods or harvesting practices of the various nations around the world, one of the biggest connectors of people is food. Greenlandic people live in a harsh environment and through history have had to survive by and far by what they could harvest from the sea. This includes various species of fish, whales and even seals.
Due to Sisimiut being a popular port with the few expedition cruise ships that travel to Greenland, they offer programs to visitors that get you up close and personal with the culture. This also means they hold samplings to teach you about the uses of the staples from the sea and allow you to taste them, if you’re up for it. Even if it’s not for you, it’s worth going to learn more about the culture of the Greenlandic people and how they survive in one of the harshest places on the planet.
Visit the Abandoned Village of Assaqutaq
Assaqutaq is an abandoned settlement located 10 kilometers by boat from Sisimiut. The settlement was abandoned by the last inhabitant in the 1970s. During the 1950s to 1970 a depopulation happened in several Greenlandic settlements, as people were forced to move to the larger towns. The settlement comes to life during the summer and is used as a place for summer camps.
The local people also enjoy the settlement in the summer, using it is a place for fishing Ammassat (capelin fish), which is used as food for the many sled-dogs in Sisimiut and also enjoyed as a snack by the Greenlandic people. The boat cruise to and from the settlement is a beautiful way to explore the area and it is possible to have both whale and seal sightings here too.
Hiking is an activity that can only be undertaken during summer, when the snow has melted, but during this short window of opportunity, with ridiculously long hours of sunlight, it’s a popular way to experience this remote land and to come face to face with the resilient animals that live in this part of the world. It’s also the most popular thing for people to do in Sisimiut.
Sisimiut is either the official end, or start depending on your direction, of the 168 kilometer Arctic Circle Trail. If thru hiking is not for you, there are more hiking trails in the area then I can even write about here ranging from mountain ascents, easy walks, coastal trails, multi day camping routes and more. Some of the most popular hikes in the area include hiking to Assaqutaq, the abandoned fishing village I mentioned above, the Nasaasaaq route, the Alanngorsuaq-Rundtur loop and a trek up to the UFO hut.
Being found on the coast, Sisimiut is an excellent location from which to not only explore fjords but to see whales in the open ocean. Many different species of whale will migrate past Sisimiut in the warm summer months, including Minke and Humpbacks. The coast is also home to more unique marine life too, including the almost mythical, horned Narwhal, which is native to the region.
To get out and see whales, it is recommended to take the Sea Safari offered at the Hotel Sisimiut. This 2 hour tour will take you sailing through the Archipelago and fjords that surround Sisimiut. On a clear day you’ll also see amazing views of Mount Nasaasaaq. The key aim of the tour is spot a variety of bird species, whales and seals in the area.
Fishing in Arctic Waters
Fishing in Greenland is world famous so it would be a shame to miss the chance to try your hand at it. Fishing trips from Sisimiut are for people of all ages and skill levels and are led by knowledgable skippers who know the waters. Catching fish on these trips is all but guaranteed and you’ll be helped along the way.
You’re even allowed to keep your catch. Being out on the Arctic waters near Sisimiut is memorable, as the landscape is impressive. Even if you don’t catch anything, it will be an outing you always remember.
Close to the south of Sisimiut, right on the edge of the line that marks out the Arctic Circle, can be found the small island community of Itilleq. In summer there are daily connections to Sisimiut, and although there is just a population of little over one hundred inhabitants, this is a beautiful scenic place to visit and a very interesting look at a local, rural and isolated community on the remote western coast of Greenland.
Sarfannguit is another small, rural, island settlement off the coast of Sisimiut, where life is slow and it’s possible to immerse yourself in the local culture that revolves around the weather and the sea. It’s an insight into the history of the settlement of this remote land and of the modern challenges that this rural island faces.
Sisimiut Winter Activities
Indigenous cultures have for years utilized the power of dogs to travel around these icy lands, and these days, tourists too can experience this traditional form of transport across the region. It’s an incredible way to experience the wild nature that’s just on the doorstep of Sisimiut and is an activity that’s, of course, best undertaken in winter.
The Northern Lights are a phenomenon that can be found on many a traveler’s bucket list because this natural spectacle is simply incredible to see for real. Sisimiut is one of the best places in the world to watch the Northern Lights, and even from the town, when the conditions are right, you can experience a truly amazing show in the sky. Visit in winter for the optimal conditions, and head out into the countryside to really surrounded yourself in this glorious event.
Snowmobiling is a more modern form of local transport during the long winter months when the few roads that do exist are completely snowed over anyway. It’s another excellent way to experience the nature that surrounds Sisimiut and to travel as the locals do through this snowy landscape..
Arctic Circle Race
The Arctic Circle Race isn’t for your average tourist, as this is an extreme endurance race of the most testing kind. This is a trying cross-country ski event, that takes days to complete, but even if you are not a skier when the race is on, Sisimiut hosts an array of cultural events to coincide with this international ski marathon.
Where to Stay in Sisimiut
Sisimiut, like much of the rest of sparsely inhabited Greenland, has very little in the way of accommodation, so it’s very advisable to book in advance when traveling here in the busy summer months. Sisimiut has in fact, only two hotels, the Hotel Sisimiut and the Sisimiut Seamen’s Home.
We stayed in the hotel apartments offered by Hotel Sisimiut, mainly due to our visit being in August at the peak of people visiting Greenland and a lot of thru hikers arriving into town. After spending 9 days wild camping while we hiked the Arctic Circle Trail, our little apartment was an oasis for recovery. The Hotel Sisimiut is a wonderful place to base yourself on a visit to Sisimiut and highly recommend it as accommodation for your stay.
Check prices and read reviews > Hotel Sisimiut
There are also two youth hostels, which provide cheaper accommodation options than these two relatively expensive hotels. Tour companies can also arrange camping excursions out in the wild, and this can be a popular way to spend the night in the region, under starry skies and surrounded by natural beauty.
There is also an official campground with basic facilities on the north end of town. If you want to camp closer to town, the hostels are able to offer yard camping with use of their hostel facilities as well.
Restaurants in Sisimiut
Restaurants and eating options in Sisimiut are limited too, just like accommodation options are in the town. There is, however, an interesting culinary scene to be found, with several local eateries serving up local dishes that demonstrate both the Danish and Inuit heritage of Sisimiut. There’s also a takeaway pizza place and one of Greenland’s only Chinese restaurants, where local food fuses with eastern cuisine.
The hotels serve good breakfasts, while the cultural center is also home to a scenically located cafe. If camping, Sisimiut also has a supermarket – a rarity in these remote parts! – where you can stock up on supplies for expeditions and trips away from the town.
Our favorite restaurant in town is the Nasaasaaq Restaurant, located at Hotel Sisimiut. They serve some amazing dishes, we never had a bad meal there, and a bar serving Greenland brewed beer. The atmosphere is very cozy (see photo above) and we loved spending our evenings here with the friends we made on the Arctic Circle Trail over a beer and great food.
How to Travel to Sisimiut
Sisimiut is found in the Arctic Circle, in the west of Greenland, far to the north of the largest city and capital Nuuk, but close to the transport hub of Kangerlussuaq. Sisimiut has one of the only ice-free harbors along the western shores of Greenland, and as such, has become a fast-growing and popular tourist destination.
Many cruise ships from Europe and North America will include Sisimiut on their summer itineraries. During the ice-free, summer months, there are regular ferry services plying the western coast of Greenland which call in at the port of Sisimiut too, making sea travel a very practical choice for visitors, especially given the sparsity of roads in this huge wilderness.
Despite being one of the largest towns in Greenland, Sisimiut has only a small, domestic airport, as the infrastructure hasn’t yet been developed extensively enough to accommodate large aircraft from further afield. The closest international airport is found at Kangerlussuaq, where it is possible to fly with Air Greenland to Copenhagen, Denmark or to Reykjavik, Iceland. Domestic routes connect with Kangerlussuaq, and to other destinations such as Nuuk, making air travel by far the quickest and most convenient form of transport across Greenland, in order to reach Sisimiut.
Best Time to Visit Sisimiut
Sisimiut, like the rest of Greenland, experiences very extreme differences in weather between seasons. Summer is between June and September, and this is the time when most tourists will choose to visit Sisimiut in order to enjoy the great outdoors at its best. The weather is relatively warm, and the days are very long, due to the very northern location of the town.
During the peak of summer, the sun never sets, allowing visitors not only the chance to enjoy sunlight at unusual times of the year but to enjoy outdoor activities at all times of the day. It’s unusual, but it’s a unique experience.
Spring and fall aren’t quite as popular as summer, but you can reduce costs by traveling in these shoulder seasons, as well as being able to enjoy relatively ‘normal’ levels of sunlight and fewer extremes of weather. Winter can be an exciting time to visit, due to the occurrence of the beautiful Northern Lights, and although traveling here during the real heart of winter can be cold and dark, it can also be an unusual experience, as the sun, at points, will never rise at all.
Winter does, of course, come with its own peculiar challenges, as alongside the endless days of darkness, the weather is extreme, freezing cold and wildly unpredictable.
Useful Tips for Travelers to Sisimiut
Greenland is not a cheap destination. There, I said it. However, with proper planning it is possible to do it without breaking the bank. We’ve compiled a list of useful information to help take the guess work out of planning a trip to Ilulissat:
- Flights to Sisimiut can be booked from Reykjavik, Iceland or Copenhagen, Denmark and will always route through Kangerlussuaq. They typically run in excess of $1,000USD and it is advised to book them well in advance of your travel plans. The longer you wait the more expensive they will be. All flights to/from Greenland are operated by Air Greenland and they can be booked directly on their website.
- Air Greenland operates a very strict checked baggage policy. Do not bring bags that weigh more than 20kg or you will be charged and excess baggage fee. They also weigh your carry on luggage, the limit is 8kg and excess baggage fees apply here too. I know it is easy to assume they will not weigh your bags but they do. Every single one and they do charge for overweight luggage, checked or otherwise. Save yourself some money by planning ahead and streamlining your packing.
- There are no ATM’s at the airport, so if you arrive without Danish Kroner currency you will not be able to get cash until you get into town.
- All taxis, stores, hotels and restaurants take major credit cards.
- ATM’s in Sisimiut are located in the main bank.
- Hotels in Sisimiut book out in advance due to limited availability and increases in tourism. If you are planning to hike the Arctic Circle Trail from Kangerlussuaq, it is advisable to plan out your number of days and make a booking in Sisimiut for your arrival day before you come to Greenland. The possibility of there not being a room available when you arrive is very high without a reservation. Be prepared to avoid having to camp outside of town.
- Surprisingly, the WIFI is decent in Sisimiut but never free. The prices are typically charged by time and are very expensive.
- Booking tours is easy once you arrive and doesn’t really need to be done in advance. We were able to book everything we wanted to do in person after we arrived in town and didn’t run into any issues.
- There in one small grocery store in Sisimiut and one mega grocery store. They carry a good variety of normal staples if you’re staying in an apartment with a kitchen or camping out and want to save some money by cooking a few of your own meals.
- There are several restaurants in town and one bar featuring Western, European and Greenlandic options. It is expensive to eat out and you should plan for $30-$50USD per person, per meal while in Greenland.
- Remember that Sisimiut is located on the Arctic Circle and even in summer it is cold and can be wet. It is essential that you pack appropriately for your visit.
More on Greenland:
- Traveler’s Guide to Ilulissat, Greenland
- Greenland Kayaking – An Adventure Like No Other
- Essential Guide to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
- Travel Guide to Nuuk Greenland
- Best Sleeping Bag for Cold Weather
- Best Travel Rain Jacket to Stay Dry on the Go
- Best Hiking Backpack for your Next Adventure
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