EXPLORENATUREWITHBO

Ilulissat Icefiord – The Yellow Trail

It doesn’t get much bigger than taking one of the marked hiking trails along Ilulissat Icefjord. With its floating landscape of giant icebergs of all shapes and sizes, the icefjord is one of the world’s most spectacular natural areas. The fjord is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site with a nature of “outstanding universal value”.

I have walked along the icefjord in Ilulissat many times since I first lived in the town in 2008. It’s almost always an amazing experience and I think the icefjord is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

There is both a yellow trail (3 km) and a blue trail (7 km) that can be walked independently or in continuation of each other. The description and photos on this page are from a hike on the yellow trail in July 2023, when I was there with my family.

About the yellow trail in Ilulissat

Distance: 3 km
Duration: 1.5-2 hours (without breaks)
Highest point: 95 m
Lowest point: 0 m
Difficulty: Easy-moderate

The terrain is fairly easy to walk, though hilly in places, alternating between trodden paths and exposed rock. The trail is marked with yellow marks painted on rocks and cairns.

View of Disko Bay with its many icebergs - and two stand-up paddlers on tour.

Stunning views right from the start

The yellow trail begins at the power station in the south-west of Ilulissat (see map). Here we started off fresh with a steep wooden staircase that took us up to a height of about 40 metres. Already here, the views were stunning. The weather was clear, although with a light, high cloud cover. But the sun was shining and we could clearly see the high basalt mountains of Disko Island on the other side of Disko Bay, even though they are more than 50 kilometres away. On the water we saw a number of fishing boats in between large and small icebergs, and later we even spotted a couple of stand-up paddlers.

We followed the yellow marks further southwest. Despite the close proximity to the town, nature remains fairly untouched with the characteristic low vegetation of dwarf shrubs, grasses and beautiful Arctic flowers such as Labrador Tea, Common Bluebell, Prickly Saxifrage and small pink flowers of Lingonberry.

After about 500 metres, we reached a valley bottom where a peat hut was being renovated. For centuries, such peat huts have been the traditional winter home of the Inuit. The walls are made of large stones covered with turf and the roof is made of driftwood. Inside, it may have been dark and damp, but they were able to keep warm, which was the most important thing.

Click on the map for a larger map.
Narrow-leaved Labrador Tea in early bloom.
Great view of the giant icebergs at the mouth of Ilulissat Icefjord.

A little later we reached Kingittoq Point, where the large icebergs really revealed themselves. This is where the biggest icebergs run aground on the Iceberg Bank, where the water depth is “only” 200-300 metres. It was an amazing sight to stand and look out over the many icebergs, the largest of which are almost 100 metres high. As always, only the top of the iceberg is visible, as 80-90% of the ice mass is below the water surface.

The grounded icebergs also act as a brake on the thousands of icebergs that are further inside the icefjord and cannot get out. A few times during the summer, the cork “pops” when one or more of the large icebergs breaks free, and it is a unique experience to see the almost endless line of ice giants flowing out of the fjord and into Disko Bay. However, that didn’t happen today.

We continued round the point and headed in an easterly direction. After about 1 km we reached a small mountain peak marked with a large cairn. If possible, the view here was even more breathtaking than before, as we could see far into the Icefjord to the east and south-east, and beyond the green Sermermiut valley, where tourists could be seen like miniatures shuttling back and forth along the long wooden bridge that runs down the valley.

The final stretch of the yellow trail included a slight descent towards the town’s old cemetery before reaching the car park at the Icefjord Centre. Here you can choose to end the tour or continue on the blue trail or red trail. Of course, you can also visit the Icefjord Centre, which we did. A beautiful architectural building in its own right, the centre offers refreshments and a chance to learn about the cultural history, nature and geology of this spectacular area.

Ilulissat Icefjord with the footbridge through Sermermiut in the foreground. Photo: Bo Normander

About Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat Icefjord – or Kangia – is a 70 km long, narrow, and very deep fjord created by millions of years of erosion from the large Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier. The icefjord is so unique that UNESCO designated the area as a World Heritage Site in 2004, achieving the highest recognition for natural heritage of universal value.

Sermeq Kujalleq is a gigantic glacier with a height of 1 km and a front that is 7 km wide. It calves an impressive 40 to 50 gigatonnes of ice per year, which is equivalent to about 10% of the entire production of icebergs from the Greenland Ice Sheet. If this amount of ice melted, there would be enough water to supply
the annual water consumption of the United States.

The glacier moves at a speed of around 40 metres per day, making it one of the fastest glaciers in the world. 

Ilulissat Icefjord is over a thousand metres deep in many places, but at its mouth in Disko Bay, near Sermermiut, the largest icebergs run aground on the Iceberg Bank. Here, the water depth is ‘only’ 200-300 metres due to past deposits of eroded material. It is an amazing sight to stand at Sermermiut or Kingittoq and look out over the grounded icebergs, the largest of which are almost 100 metres high.

The biggest icebergs calving from the glacier have a weight of 1.5 gigatonnes, which in its melted state could supply the population of Denmark with water for seven years. On average, it takes a year for an iceberg to travel the 60-70 km from the glacier front to the mouth of the icefjord and out into Disko Bay.

Source: Nature Guide Greenland

Timelapse from the world-famous Ilulissat Icefjord

The film was produced in 2019 by Casper Rolsted and Bo Normander. See more about the film here.

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Experience a beautiful timelapse tour to Ilulissat Icefjord. This timelapse film project is made by photographer Bo Normander and timelapse expert Casper Rolsted. In October 2019, the film was selected...

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