Northern Greenland : Qaanaaq
Qaanaaq in northern Greenland is one of the world's northernmost civilian settlements, pipped only by the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen and a few military bases. Getting here will be a challenge, as permits may be required for use of the nearby Thule Airbase, under US control. Qaanaaq is a modern Greenlandic town in Northern Greenland. It was formed in 1953 after the expansion of the American air base, Thule, moved residents of the town 100 miles north to Qaanaaq. Geographically, Qaanaaq is located very close to the North American continent. It is likely that the area around Qaanaaq served as an immigration route onto Greenland for thousands of years. The most recent group of immigrants arrived 130 years ago, from Baffin Island.
The alternative name for this settlement is Thule, a name preserved in the nearby airbase. The word comes from the Roman concept of "Ultima Thule", the far North land.
Robert Peary set off from the Qaanaaq area in 1909 on his expedition to the North Pole and Knud Rassumussen launched seven of his polar expeditions from this area.
Qaanaaq is more difficult to reach than other towns in Greenland. There are regular flights from the international airport in Kangerlussuaq with a stop in Upernavik. The Thule Airbase, which is about 100 miles south of Qaanaaq, is not accessible to the public. There are many cruises that stop in Qaanaaq.
A permission to enter or travel through Thule Air Base can at the moment (Apr. 2007) be obtained by sending an application to foreign affairs department in Denmark. Details can be found (only in Danish) at the national ombudsman's homepage .
If you live outside Greenland or do not have a Danish citizenship you must send the following information:
Application can be send or faxed to:
Udenrigsministeriet Asiatisk Plads 2 1448 København K Denmark Telefax: +45 33 92 01 70
If you live in Greenland or have a Danish citizenship you can also apply through the national ombudsman in Greenland. Check the website for details.
Due to the size and location of the town, the best way to explore it is on foot. In the winter months you can travel via dogsled or ski and in the summer you can sail with the locals by boat to any of the four settlements located near the town.
Being so far north, Qaanaaq experiences a long period of midnight sunlight. From April 25th to August 18th the midnight sun shines down, creating 24 hours of sunlight in Qaanaaq.
Qaanaaq and the surrounding four villages are the perfect setting to experience Inuit culture and get close to the locals. Hunting culture still plays a huge role in the daily lives of the locals and they are happy to include and teach tourist about this unique way of life. Sometimes, the locals will also organize traditional drum dances, kayaking lessons, and concerts where local choir singers perform in national costumes.
The Qaanaaq Museum is rather small, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t house fantastic exhibitions. The settings for the exhibition are the Thule Trading Post and the books about the expeditions of Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen.
In Qaanaaq the dog sled remains an integral part of transportation. As a tourist it is possible to take a trip with local dog sled drivers.
Qaanaaq is located very far north and near the Ice Sheet. The ice cap is located a few hours from Qaanaaq by hiking, and there are trails suitable for all experience levels.