Kangerlussuaq is the Greenlandic name for ”the large fjord” and the village is indeed situated at the end of a large fjord, on a plain. Kangerlussuaq is home to the biggest and most centrally located airport in Greenland. The airport is the centre for both domestic and international flight traffic.
Kangerlussaq was established in 1941 during World War II as an American military base. From 1941 til 1992, the American military operated the base called Bluie West Eight. In support of the war effort during WWII, the airport played an important role as part of the North Atlantic air ferry route between America and Europe. During the Korean War and the Cold War, it served as a supply station for the Distant Early Warning Line bases, DYE1,2,3 and 4. At its peak, 1,400 personnel were stationed at the base.
Helicopter in Kangerlussuaq Airport
Eventually, Kangerlussuaq lost its purpose as a military base. In 1992, it was sold to the Greenlandic home rule of the symbolic amount of 1 dollar. Because of its military history, Kangerlussuaq has not been influenced by Greenlandic culture like other parts of Greenland. What you receive instead when you visit Kangerlussuaq is an abundance of plants and wildlife as well as the unique activities available to visitors due to the close proximity to the Greenland Ice Cap, only 25 kilometers from Kangerlussuaq.
To be based in Kangerlussuaq during your stay in Greenland is absolutely ideal if you wish to experience the majestic Ice Cap. This is where you have the unique opportunity to be surrounded by an enormous white world. The Ice Cap covers an area of almost 1,8 km² – approximately 82 percent of Greenland. In total that amounts to 2,8 km³of ice and the thickness of this ice is in certain places more than 3 kilometres. At WOGAC we arrange a number of exciting Greenland ice cap tours.
Another exciting excursion that should be characterized as a must, is a musk ox safari. The musk ox is Greenland’s largest mammal living on land. A male can weigh up to 400 kilos. The Greenlandic name for a musk ox is ”umimmak”, the long-bearded. The beard, or rather the wool, is used for making exclusive clothing. The musk ox is able to endure temperatures down to minus 60 degrees and its fur is ten times warmer than wool from a sheep. Due to the favorable living conditions for musk oxen in the area, there is a good chance that you will spot one on your visit to Kangerlussuaq.
A third recommendable experience that Kangerlussuaq has to offer, is the authentic Greenlandic winter phenomonen: the dog sled tour. Many people associate Greenland with sledge dogs and even though the snowmobile today is a widespread method of transportation in Greenland, the traditional method offers you an extraordinary encounter with the spectacular nature. Try one of our dog sled tours.
The landscape of the area is noticably shaped by the impact of the last ice age. The mountains are rounded and soft and many meltwater lakes remain. From the inland ice sheet the meltwater cuts it way through the porous moraine landscape and ends up in the 190 km long fjord that has named the village: Kangerlussuaq - the large fjord.
Of great significance to the area is the continental climate and the close proximity to the Inland ice cap. The dry climate combined with warm winds that “fall” from the ice cap can result in temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celcius in Summer and -40 degrees in winter making it the coldest inhabited area in Greenland.
Kangerlussuaq offers great hiking
Kangerlussuaq is famous for its sunny weather that makes it an accessible destination for hiking and camping during the summer months. The underground permafrost and subsequent swamp areas offer good growth conditions for many plants. The wildlife is equally abundant: Reindeer, musk oxen and the arctic hare roam the area, the Peregrine Falcon and the Gyrfalcon (the largest of all falcon species) breed in the mountains, and this is the only inhabited area to feature both the blue and white arctic fox.