The Ilulissat Icefjord has been inscribed because of its unique glaciological characteristics and its scenic beauty. It is situated in western Greenland, north of the Arctic Circle.
The site consists of Sermeq Kujalleq, the most productive glacier draining the inland icecap op Greenland, and the iceberg-filled fjord named Kangia. It also takes in part of the inland ice itself and some of the surrounding land.
Ilulissat Icefjord is the pre-eminent glacier in the northern hemisphere. Although there are many more glacier-related sites on the World Heritage List, this site is only surpassed by Antarctica in terms of size and calving.
Map of Ilulissat IcefjordLoad map
Visit July 2006
Some WHS take about an hour to explore, others days or even weeks. To really enjoy the enormous Kangia Icefjord near Ilulissat in Greenland one has to spend there about 3 or 4 days. The area that has been designated includes both the floating icebergs, the massive ice pack still in the fjord and some of the surrounding lands. From Ilulissat town there are many ways of transportation to get a good look at the Icefjord. It was even possible to see the floating icebergs from the window of my hotel room, a good sight to start every day.
My first real good look at the Icefjord was during a walking tour through the Sermermiut Valley. The day had started out sunny, but the closer we got to the ice the more foggy and cloudy it became. Finally, at the edge of the glacier, I could only see the smaller pieces of ice floating near the coast. Also quite interesting to see because of their different sizes, colours and shapes. We were leaving (with the idea to come here again on a brighter day), when one of our group looked over her shoulder and called out that the fog started to dissipate. A memorable spectacle unfolded before our eyes: one by one the large icebergs protruded from the fog and showed themselves (see the large photo above). The biggest ones are the size of mountains, with sharp peaks.
On another day, I went on a boat tour to Ilimanaq, on the other side from the icefjord from Ilulissat. This route takes in all the icebergs that have broken away from the icepack and float around in the sea, desintegrating more and more. One or two icebergs attract all the seagulls. Others are true ice sculptures, sometimes with blue 'veins' (made by water).
All in all Ilulissat Icefjord a fascinating site to visit, a wonder of nature.
"I have seen things you people wouldn't believe" is the only quote that comes to mind when I look at the epic, 40km long, blindingly white and ever-moving, ever-changing, ever-glorious Ilulissat Icefjord aka Sermeq Kujalleq.
I don't usually dish out 5 stars but this is almost worth a six! I saw many places in the world, many glaciers too and even the multitudes at Vatnajökull National Park just two days prior did not prepare me for this. Just look at this mammoth on the satellite images! Ok, so enough about this *drinks coffee to calm down*, first off it doesn't come cheap to come to Ilulissat. The cheapest fare from Reykjavik set me back 400 Euros plus the domestic flights to get around Greenland, and of course a return to Reykjavik (although Copenhagen is another good choice if you are heading for Europe instead if North America). Hotels are expensive, kind of like staying in Copenhagen, groceries are maybe the most expensive I have ever seen (even higher than Norway) and forget about a budget meal dining option. I cooked myself to compensate for all the costs but my "cheap-o" guest house wouldn't pick me up from the airport for free. Anyhow, so you dished out all that to make it to Ilulissat, good for you.
I saw the fjord from the plane. Foggy but clear enough to get some shots with my camera. The first thing you will see in the bay are floating icebergs. The ever changing "landscape" of flipping icebergs and ice platforms makes for a wonderful view. If your hotel offers a seaview you may want to upgrade. The daylight doesn't stop in summer and you can watch it all "day". More rewarding is a kayak trip into the icebergs to be really within them. Feeling one of the icebergs flip just nearby is a feeling that you will never experience again. The sound, the vibration, the waves. If you don't want to kayak you can of course take a boat trip amongst them but I found it more like watching a 4D movie because you have a) a motor running b) a boat crushing ice constantly to numb the effect. The boat can, however, get into the actual fjord area rather than just stop at the ice field. So i do recommend both. I could not take my camera kayaking so all the closeup pics were from my guide.
Another beautiful bonus are humpback whales swimming in the bay. They come scary close to the kayaks and are possibly more dangerous for us to flip over than then icebergs, or them causing more to flip around. Unfortunately I only saw it briefly and it must have swam back out into the open.
Other ways to see the icefjord is via helicopter, naturally not cheap but with good visibility worth doing, or hike along the entire thing for multiple days!! I didn't do the latter. There is more none-icefjord related stuff to do but it is of course the superstar amongst the region.
What makes the icefjord so unique is the fast moving glacier, some sources say 10m others 40m per day so I can't say for sure but you can actually watch the glacier calve, constantly pushing out icebergs into the bay. If you saw one example of this, probably the ice lagoon in Vatnajökull, you will understand what it is like but think 10x bigger and, epic, to use the word again. Another unique part is that so many icebergs, or rather chunks of ice at that point if you ask me, are stuck inside the glacier waiting to be set free at the end.
I have to place Ilulissat Icefjord into my Top 10 places right away, wondering why it had taken me so long to see it or why it is not on every bucket list among Machu Picchu, Giza, The Great Wall etc. It's gotta be the remoteness and price tag, but in the end it is worth every penny. I will definitely be going back one day!
Reaching Ilulissat appeared to be a daunting task until I discovered Air Iceland's direct flights from Reyjavik (Iceland)'s City airport. The airline arranged my accommodation and transfers as well.
Once there everything is close by, within walking distance, which is just as well as there is no public transport.
I visited Ilulissat in August 2012 & was blown away by natures stunning beauty here.
Over the 4 days spent here, I was very lucky with the weather, not a cloud in the sky for that period.
Sunset sailing in the sea was magnificent, it’s not just the sheer size of these icebergs that have calved from the glacier that is breath-taking, but the colours emitted/reflected during the sunset period. Depending on the wind direction, the harbour in Ilulissat can be frozen or clear, but using the boat as an icebreaker to get out into the sea is also quite an experience. Some people may say that one iceberg resembles another & once you have seen one, you have seen them all. Far from the truth. Each is different!
Around the mouth of the icefjord in Ilulissat is a great place to spend a day hiking. The volcanic mountains themselves are very impressive with the summer fauna in full colour, but again it’s hard to take you eyes off the huge icebergs floating in the water right beside you!
Another day was spent travelling to the Eqi glacier, further up Disko bay. Again this is a very special place, due to the tranquillity of the place & the noise emitted from the calving process along with the displacement of water as these huge chunks of ice cascade from the top of the glacier face into the crystal clear water below. Some of the avalanches are massive & even though the boats are over 700 meters from the face, the bobbing motion induced from these avalanches can be very dramatic.
For a very different & rewarding vacation, I could not recommend this place highly enough for those travellers who want to get off the beaten path, to truly get in touch with mother nature. Ilulissat will not disappoint...
Finally, the cost of living there is not as expensive as one might think & the supermarkets in the summer are very well stocked.
Formerly on T List as Isfjord (Jakobshavn) [Disko Bay] (2003)
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