On my way to Qaanaaq I was lucky enough to meet a lot of interesting people, many of whom were visiting the village for at least the second time. Back then I wondered what would draw someone back here. Qaanaaq is a tiny village, more isolated than I had even imagined. I had a wonderful few days there and at the end felt like I had seen it, and left content. But several months on I do feel like I’m being drawn back.
Qaanaaq is hard to get to, but it is well worth the effort; it’s a wonderful, wonderful little place. The isolation, stunning Arctic landscape, and the warm welcome of the people make it a place that attracts people from all over, and it’s a “hub” of sorts on some incredible Arctic expeditions.
The Midnight Sun
The biggest draw for me was heading so far north that the sun doesn’t even get close to the horizon and spending time under the midnight sun. For months on end in Qaanaaq, the sun circles overhead without disappearing, until it says “cheerio” and leaves the village under months of darkness in the chilling Arctic winter. That seasonal contrast is fascinating and challenging, even more so in somewhere as remote as this, and shows in the admirable resilience of the people there.
The endless days under the midnight sun took some getting used to. Without a routine of any kind, there was no reason to get up at 7am, do things during the day, have dinner at 6pm, settle down in the evening. If you want to go for a half-day hike starting at 11pm then there’s perfect weather for it outside. And even at 2am on some evenings, I saw families out with young kids.
On my first night I left my accommodation and walked out of the village to see the sun high in the sky at midnight.
The Arctic Landscape
The landscape around Qaanaaq is stunning. The frozen sea, the icebergs, the mountains out towards the horizon, the occasional sighting of a whale; and all with absolutely no noise of any kind aside from the distant sound of the huskies howling. It’s incredibly peaceful.
Like other towns and villages in Greenland, there are sleddogs all over, and the puppies are allowed to roam free and explore. These two little beauties never strayed far from their mum.
Rock in Qaanaaq
On the first evening, with a perfect blue sky, the sun still high and a nice temperature, a local band set up outside the village pub (which seemingly had run out of beer) and played a gig. What a great welcome to Qaanaaq!
The Greenland Ice Cap
This is the view on a walk towards the Greenland ice cap. The hill behind Qaanaaq is steep but after that it’s a straightforward walk over an almost alien landscape of rock and ice. In the distance on the horizon is the pure, pristine white of the ice cap and every single step I took was the furthest north I had ever been. There is nothing here. Absolutely nothing. And it’s wonderful.
I had one day where the weather turned and I could only venture out for a short walk. The howling wind and heavy (at times horizontal) rain showed another side of Qaanaaq. After being out in this weather, I spent most of the day in my accommodation, where the host was set up in his office. He was an old Greenlandic chap, sort of a local fixer, who has been involved in certain aspects of numerous, fascinating expeditions over the years, and we chatted for a long time about Greenland and Scotland. A different kind of day but a great day.