Snapshot: Sisimiut

September 17, 2019

With its mix of Inuit and Scandinavian settlers, this remote, ramshackle town is a beautiful place to enjoy Greenland’s great outdoors

This picturesque settlement dates back to the 1720s when Danish missionaries arrived but in fact has been home to Inuit peoples from the Saqquq, Doreset and then Thule cultures dating back thousands of years.

Sisimiut lies just below the Arctic Circle and sits on the banks of the Amerloq fjord. Its name means 'Where the people live near the fox holes,' and today the people that live in this beautiful, ramshackle town are a wonderful mix of Inuit and Scandinavian settlers.

Although it is the second-largest dwelling in Greenland it very much has a small-town feel, where many of the ancient Inuit traditions and ways of life have been preserved. Sealskin jackets and slippers are still made in one of two skin workrooms and most people still travel around by dog sled. Most families live in the brightly coloured prefabricated wooden houses seen so often in Nordic regions, whilst some of the 1960s apartment blocks that were built to house new arrivals still remain.

Acrtic road to the docks and port between the rocks with Inuit houses in Sisimiut, Greenland

Found in one of the beautiful colonial buildings on the harbour is the Sisimiut Museum, which shows how the town has been a key part of a trade route around the Arctic Circle for thousands of years. It has examples of old peat houses that were used at the turn of the 20th century and artwork dating back to the 18th century. The Taseralik Cultural Centre on the edge of a beautiful lake has culture events and art exhibitions as well as a nice café.

Baby carriage in front of the old church and Sisimiut Museum in Sisimiut, Greenland

Thanks to the natural harbour courtesy of the fjord here, Sisimuit has been a safe place for travellers, traders and visitors to rest as they continue on their journey. For many today, its natural beauty makes it a destination for outdoor adventure lovers.

Old town and harbor, Sisimiut (Holsteinsborg), West Greenland

The town is a starting point for a number of outdoor activities including Dog sledding, skiing, heli-skiing, guided hiking, snowmobiling, and of course witnessing the incredible Northern Lights. Nearby, are a number of impressive mountains for hiking, climbing and exploring. The 544 m high Palasip Qaqqaa, just north of Sisimiut Airport offers great views over the Davis Strait and the coast of the Qeqqata region. The taller Nasaasaaq mountain, sits on the northern coast of the fjord. On the north side of Nasaasaaq, on the Alanngorsuaq mountain, ski lifts operate in the winter months.

Greenlandic sled dogs near Sisimiut in Greenland

Cross country races are often held around Sisimiut including the famous 160km long Arctic Circle Race. This international competition has been running for over 20 years and is one of the toughest cross-country races in the world.

Whales can be spotted off the coast of Sisimiut and boating or even kayaking is an excellent way to spot the magnificent beasts. The town is also a destination for fly fishing where people come to catch Arctic char in the clear cold waters.

Fly fishing in Sisimiut Greenland

On an island 10 km away from Sisimiut is the abandoned village of Assaqutaq. This old fishing settlement was deserted in the 1970s after the fish factory closed and the villagers moved to larger towns but a handful of red wooden houses, the old fish factory and a church still stand on the banks of this eerie but beautiful island.

Assaqutaq Village in South-West Greenland near Sisimiut