Set off for unforgettable wilderness experience in a mysterious landscape of Greenland. Find Yourself in 180km long Arctic circle trail which will become your lifetime experience. You will think of a long time after the return.
Complete gallery from Arctic circle trail
Introduction to Arctic circle trail
Arctic circle trail is a long-distance footpath in Greenland stretching between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut. As the name of the trail already signalizes this remote trek lies just above the arctic circle. Even the Arctic circle doesn´t actually have fixed latitude generally is accepting 66° 33’N. Depending on where you start this unforgettable expedition will lead you about 160 – 180 km thru Greenlandic wilderness. Normally trained trekkers are usually covering this distance in 10-12 days, but we did it in 8 days. As per reference, local Inuit people are usually doing this “trip” in around 5 days.
During this mind tranquilizing period of time, you will be exposed to raw nature far away from civilization and careful preparation is an absolute must! There can be days when You will not meet even one person and you need to be absolutely self-sufficient for the entire trip. I´d like to give you in this article a complete set of knowledge and resources to enjoy the trip to the maximum. Also, describe a bit our way how we crossed this remote arctic area.
Essential equipment to Arctic circle trail
- Housing (Tent, mattress, sleeping bag) – This is an absolute must, you never know what happens on the way and what weather You will encounter. Huts along the way can be fully occupied and tenting will be the only way how to survive the night.
- Kitchen – If you do not want to eat only nuts and bread on the way. I fully recommend taking a stove, pot, and spoon with you. Take also dried food to cook some good stuff and boil a tea or coffee on the way. Huts along the way are not staffed and there is no food/kitchen inside.
- Maps/GPS – Despite the ACT is very easy to navigate due to most of the time very obvious trail. You will need definitely at least paper maps or GPS. The Greenlandic Tourist Board made three maps for this hike “Sisimiut“, “Pingu” and “Kangerlussuaq“. I personally relied on GPS which was sufficient. To help I prepared for You a google map with basic waypoints so You can open and download HERE. Download the Arctic circle trail GPS file HERE. There are many alternative and misleading trails along as the hunters are visiting the are quite often. Prepare yourself. Loosing of the track can be fatal.
Keep warm and energized!
- Clothes – Sturdy shoes are a must without discussion. Many swamps on the way will wait for you so higher shoes more comfortable you will be. Long wind and waterproof trousers and jacket are essential. Greenlandic weather is unpredictable and I´m sure you will get some rain in that week of trekking. Gloves and cap will help you to stay warm. Even in summer most of the time will be pretty chilly and strong wind gusts can quickly exhaust you, so I don´t recommend to bring shorts and flip-flops 🙂
- Food and drinks– Take enough dried food you prefer. We didn´t take enough, but luckily we found some leftovers in huts, but don´t rely on this and staying without food for a couple of days trekking can be a life-threatening situation. You will not meet many others who will have enough to share. Water is everywhere for free and crystal clear. No need for any purification f water. I´ve never seen cleaner water than in Greenland.
- Others – Definitely take repellent and Mosquito net!!! Those little annoying guys are everywhere so be prepared they will enter your food, drinks, mouth, and nose. In case you go in summer you don’t need any torch you will have light all day long yo you can trek 24/7 what heaven! Take gaters You will have to cross rivers and deep swamps. Trekking sticks can be very useful to check the deepness of fords, swamps and just to keep the balance. The cell phone is useless as there is luckily no service, but GPS is fine. Each trekker must be completely self-sufficient!
DAY 0 – 28/6/2018 – Kangerlussuaq – Icecap – Point 660 – Russel glacier
If You want to do the trek properly You should definitely start from the Icecap! There are not so many ways how to reach the ice cap even the dirt road leading from Kangerlussuaq to Icecap in its length of approx 30kms is the longest road in Greenland. Well, there are some 4WD cars going that direction taking scientists to the ice cap, but not so many and hitchhiking can be tricky. Going there on foot is an option, but 30 km is way too much.
We took an 8WD bus which was doing a day trip to the ice cap, end even we wanted only one-way ticket it was for the same price and not the low one. The day tour costs about 625DKK and includes tea! Tours are held on a daily basis and there is no need for booking in advance the town is tiny and you will find the place easily, it´s just outside the airport.
The bus took us all the longest road of Greenland to the furthermost point where cars can go until they hit the ice wall and the famous point 660. That´s just a place in height of 660 m.a.s.l with a magnificent view over the endless Icecap. On the way back we stopped the bus and jumped out of it along with voices of amazement of fellow bus tourists.
By this moment we are actually starting the Arctic circle trail. Actually was not a long hike to the edge of Russel Glacier where we stood absolutely struck speechless only staring at a massive blue ice wall time after time cracking huge mass of ice along with a deafening sound like a thunderstorm. Great movie to watch for dinner which was actually filled with mosquito proteins.
DAY 1 -29/6/2018 – Russel glacier – Kangerlussuaq – and more
Woken up by a noise of falling ice and due to time shift and everlasting light the trek started at 5 a.m. Walked long the Russel glacier down to the dry riverbed Orkendalen which is pronounced as the driest place of Greenland. Also called “Arctic desert” despite it was drizzling constantly. It was mindblowing to cross at least 5km wide sandy riverbed Orkendalen being alone as far as the eye can see getting closer to Kangerlussuaq with each step.
It was a long hike, but after a quick supper, we decided to continue the hike at least to the beginning of the ACT trail. No other way than just going west on the tarmac road along Søndre Strømfjord watching landing planes. A couple of car passed by, but hitchhiking doesn´t work it seems. At the end of the road, we turned right passed the satellites of the Atmospheric research center and reached the grassy path. Finally out of the reach of cars and civilization and reached ACT. We´ve built a tent very soon near the lake after over 40kms of a walk.
DAY 2 – 30/6/2018 – ACT start – Kattifik
Sunny morning, hot arctic air, T-shirts, no mosquitos, the narrow wild route passing around many marble blue lakes divided by low grassy passes. Lovely views multiplied by deep blue sky. It was so hot, that we couldn´t resist and take a bath in a nearby lake. Not cold rather refreshing. Soon we reached the hunter´s hut. Made of caravan and some wood. Strange how could someone bring a caravan, boat, and material to build a hut through this unpassable terrain for most of the vehicles. Maybe in winter? Anyway, this hut can be used as an overnighting place as there are some beds and no one around. After that place, the relief was wavier and we were feeling heavy backpack more and more.
We were halfway thru as the target was to reach the Kattifik hut and soon the good weather turned into the windy inferno with drizzle. Just proof that the weather changes rapidly quickly. After a steep descent down to Kattifik hut we had an unpleasant surprise as we met first trekkers on the trail, but actually not on the trail, but in the hut. Tent again?
DAY 3 – 1/7/2018 – Kattifik – Canoe center
As already proposed yesterday we woke up to a rainy day. Strategically waited till the hut gets empty and got inside for a breakfast and to pack the things in a dry environment.
One of the biggest highlights on the Arctic circle trail is for sure the canoe section. Unfortunately, we haven´t found any canoes and in this windy weather, it wouldn´t be even funny. As we´ve heard a story about a girl who paddled alone on the canoe when the wind and rain came. Water filled her boat and she wasn´t able to paddle against the wind. After a struggle, she got out frozen completely wet and exhausted but survived… So we were actually lucky to go by foot on the shore of Amitsorsuaq lake approximately 20km on the more or less leveled path just jumping over stones. Everlasting rain and cold were forcing us to reach the next hut quite quickly. Fortunately, this Canoe center hut was huge and empty so we could spend a night inside reading a hut book and it´s stories while enjoying the view over the lake.
DAY 4 – 2/7/2018 – Canoe center – Ikkattooq Hut – Equalugaarniarfik
Another weather turnover overnight and this one was exceptional. The super calm lake as a mirror, blue sky, silence, sunbeams warming us up from the early morning and metal canoe waiting for us on the shore of the lake. I took a test ride alone and I´ve experienced something really new. I´ve never ever seen such a crystal clear water that I could see as deep at 10 meters. This fact was evoking a strange feeling of being scared to fall down, like a fear from heights, even the water could hold the canoe, but such a deepness was never seen before in water. Let´s hope Greenland won´t ever be polluted and keep its pristine.
Canoe adventure on Arctic circle trail
We boarded the canoe and continued about two kilometers to the western edge of the lake enjoying the mirrored mountains reflected in the calm lake. Pitty we couldn’t paddle all day long. Goodbye canoe and let´s continue on a swampy path towards the next lake Tasersuaq, where are unfortunately no canoes. From there the trail started to ascent to the close ridge and the trail became harder and harder. We finished the first big ascent and after reaching Ikkattooq Hut. We were granted by rewarding views on the lake. It was already a long day, but due to narrowing food resources we decided to continue and not take the hut to continue. After a couple of kilometers, we were amazed by another breathtaking sunset over the lower swampy valley.
There was no choice than going down to the valley. We still continued on the trail, but soon came to quite a wild river with a strong current which we had to cross, but how??? It was not the best idea to start crossing with all the backpacks which we wanted to keep dry. We continued along the river in muddy wetlands trying to find some way to cross, but without any result. We were slowly losing hope and preparing for a cold shower, but then we spotted a great wooden bridge over the river (The new bridge is marked in the map and GPS file).
It was not long to reach the next hut, where is no water around. If you plan to overnight here bring the water there! Unfortunately, some Australian guys were there so we slept outside. At least they left water outside so we could steal some… A long day around 34 km.
DAY 5 – 3/7/2018 – Equalugaarniarfik – Innajuattup 1 hut
After a long sleep, we woke up so late that the hut was empty and luckily we found there some leftover food. Because we were really running short of food. We took two bags of dried food which saved us till the end of the trip. The ascent from the Equalugaarniarfik hut was exhausting and the views over the frozen lake didn´t really fill us with more enthusiasm. What to say the caloric shortage took its tax. Going down to the lake and passing the first snowy field with exhausting fighting with a swampy path led us to the first Innajuattup hut. It was empty, and a little bit tired we decided to stay here not only for the great views also for the oil heating which was functional and soft mattress made the decision justified! Today “only” 18 kilometers, but wonderful!
DAY 6 – 4/7/2018 – Innajuattup 1 hut – Nerumaq hut – camping site
All the clothes dried and again lovely morning weather and I can say maybe the most beautiful nature on the ACT. Again mirror lake and sunbeams. Close to the hut, there was another bigger one Innajuattup 2 hut and close to that one we were forced to ford a river. Cold as hell even a minute in this cold river resulted in deep pain in feet and the entire house on our backs was only multiplying the pain. Fortunately only once.
Passing around a beautiful lake with islands was mind satisfying. Unfortunately, local ever-present swamps completely destroyed my boots which were really old and started to harm my heel quite badly, but we are only 2 days away from the goal, so I have to suffer hard last 40 kilometers. We reached quite quickly Nerumaq hut in a narrow valley, but fully booked, so we felt motivated to continue. over swampy paths. In the end, we were lucky and found a nice place for the tent after marching 23 km.
DAY 7 – 5/7/2018 – camping somewhere in Arctic circle trail – a campsite on a pass
The first half of the day was leading us through the narrow swampy valley crossing twice the river. After that crossing we found out there is a way to go on the river bank without crossing, but at least we had some fun when the weather was good. Swampy valleys with river revealed to us its life inside rivers and trouts could be seen just having a good time. Reindeers accompanying us on the way to the pass from which we could see the Fjord.
That was the moment when we realized we are close to the shore and as well to civilization. That didn’t make us happy, but already a couple of huts along the shore could be seen as it´s easier to reach those places by boat. Nice remote summerhouses indeed. Because the next hut was again occupied we continued to the pass where we could see some kind of hut. Ascending up looking forward to sleep in dry, but unfortunately, that place was only a toilet. Seems that this pass is pretty popular among locals to celebrate and enjoy nature, not only because of the toilet, but also the mess around. We´ve built a tent here because the view of the fjord was picturesque.
DAY 8 – 6/7/2018 – pass campsite – Sisimiut
Last day in front of us not the longest, but maybe the hardest. Starting a day by crossing freezing snowy fields with swamps and rivers, after that quite difficult descent down to the valley to cross one wide river. Soon at another pass, we found a skiing lift which is an unexceptionable sign of civilization. Indeed it was. Just a few kilometers of descent down to reach Sisimiut. We were welcomed from far by a dog barking as in Greenland is reportedly double amount of dogs than people. And really! The last two kilometers dogs were licking us and welcoming us in a dog way. They almost convinced us that Sisimiut is a town of dogs, but after some more steps, we reached the tarmac road, saw buses, and people, houses and supermarkets with icecream.
Sisimiut is the second-largest city in Greenland, but still only 5500 people and very pleasant. We found a guesthouse with the shower and went out to find some fun. Goodbye Arctic circle trail and hope to return maybe in winter.
Arctic circle trail beat, but where to go further?
The hard times will pass once and now appearing in Sisimiut. You will definitely feel proud of yourself for accomplishing something extraordinary. You will definitely take a deserved one day off in Sisimiut. There is one hiker´s hostel and also one hotel. Both variants pretty expensive, but trust me You will pay it. Sisimiut is a good town if You want to socialize with a glass of beer in a local pub. From the beginning, they will treat you with distance, but soon you become a member of an arctic family.
There are not so many opportunities to get out of this town as there are no roads connecting any other town in Greenland. There is an airport which has flight operated by Air Greenland to all important destinations in Greenland, but so far no international flights. You can find also a big port and take ferries going north to Ilulissat or south to Nuuk. Both ferries are going I think once per week, so plan well in advance and enjoy your stay in Greenland.
Thank You for reading and if you have any questions or you want to add your personal experience. Feel free and contact us or leave a message in comments.