The Essential Guide to Qarqortoq, Greenland

Located near Cape Thorvaldsen, the town of Qaqortoq is the most populous town in southern Greenland. The area has a rich history, as it has been inhabited continuously since prehistoric times. You can still see traces of Thule and Norse cultures throughout the region, starting with the ruins of the 14th-century Hvalsey Church at the nearby Hvalsey Fjord.

The town of Qaqortoq is home to the oldest fountain in Greenland; completed in 1932, it depicts whales spouting water out of their blowholes. Most of the city’s main attractions, including restaurants and the Qaqortoq Museum, are located on or close to the main square.

Nearby sites of interest include Uunartoq Hot Springs—the only heated outdoor spa in Greenland—as well as Lake Tasersuaq and the permanent art installation Stone and Man, a series of 40 stone carvings by contemporary Nordic artists that is embedded into the landscape in and around Qaqortoq.

Located on an uninhabited island near Qaqortoq, the Uunartoq Hot Springs is the country’s only naturally heated outdoor spa. These waters have been a destination for locals and travelers alike for over 1,000 years—legend has it that Leif Eriksson bathed in the springs before beginning his expedition to North America. Plan on taking half a day to journey to the island and back if you want to splash around in the great outdoors while enjoying the unparalleled mountain and iceberg views.
Most cities can’t boast of having their own lake, so nature lovers are sure to enjoy hiking around Qaqortoq’s main water supply, Lake Tasersuaq. It’s just a short walk from the city center; once you arrive, you can hit the trails around the perimeter of the lake or rent a kayak and explore it by water. Be sure to take in the great views of the town and ocean beyond.
Stone and Man, a permanent outdoor art installation launched in the 1990s, features the stone carvings of 40 different artists. Conceived by Greenlandic artist Aka Høegh, the installation includes 40 works located around the city by creators representing all the Nordic countries. Many are carved directly into the lichen-covered rock outcrops. On a tour of the sites you’ll come across representations of whales, native faces and other traditional designs that feel as if they’ve been there for hundreds of years.
For the past millennium, the southern region of Greenland has beckoned explorers to its surprisingly fertile shores. Starting around the year 1000 C.E., Norse people began to settle here, followed not long after by Christian missionaries. Located near the Hvalsey Fjord is a reminder of their presence: the ruins of the Hvalsey Church. Although time and the elements have destroyed the roof and altar, the walls of the structure remain, including the one that enclosed the churchyard until the building was abandoned in the 15th century.
If you’re looking for a unique souvenir, consider visiting the boutique at Great Greenland. A local tannery that has focused on clothing made from the hides of seals, reindeer and musk ox for nearly 40 years, Great Greenland sells through specialty retailers internationally as well as online. A visit to the boutique, however, offers a chance to see the company’s latest clothing and fur collections, as well as historic examples of the clothes it’s designed for Greenlanders for generations.

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