Greenland Stories and Tips

Leisure Time in Kangerlussuaq

Tundra Photo, Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Kangerlussuaq is not like the rest of the towns we visited in Greenland. The town exists because during World War II when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, Denmark could no longer protect Greenland. The U.S. agreed to protect the island and built a military air base there. In those days, the base was known by its Danish name, Sondre Stromfjord. The U.S. held onto the base after WWII as a strategic location during the Cold War. In 1992, the U.S. sold the Sondre Stromfjord base to Denmark for the equivalent of $1. It is now known by its Inuit name, Kangerlussuaq. Today, it contains the only runway in Greenland long enough to accommodate large international jets.

During our stay in Kangerlussuaq, it was not uncommon to see military aircraft. For example, we often saw the large U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules planes sitting on the runway. They are equipped with skis and are used to deliver supplies to scientists living on the ice cap. There was one afternoon when I joined other curious guests in the hotel lobby to watch two fighter jets roar in for a refueling stop. I couldn’t tell from which country they came but their loud landings and take-offs certainly had the attention of the whole town.

We had a considerable amount of down time in Kangerlussuaq. Despite our choice to nap during our down time, there are several things to keep guests busy when not away on an excursion. Hotel Kangerlussuaq has a handful of slot machines. Bicycles can be rented. There is a bowling alley on the other side of the runway as well as an indoor swimming pool. There is even a sandy golf course a short drive away from the airport.

There is a museum dedicated to the history of the base. It is located on the opposite side of the runway from Hotel Kangerlussuaq. Since it is dangerous and illegal to hop the fence and walk across the runway, we had to walk all the way around it. There is a "city" bus that we could have taken but we decided to walk since we had time to kill. It took us 45 minutes to walk there due to wrong turns. Unfortunately, when I went to the window to buy admission tickets to the museum, I was told they do not accept credit cards. I had no more cash because I got rid of it at the local grocery store when we bought sodas and snacks for our room. We wouldn't have time to go back to the hotel, exchange currency, and make it back to the museum before closing. Therefore, we just walked back to the hotel and chilled out until our 6 PM dinner reservation.

Two days in Kangerlussuaq was more than enough time for us. We only had interest in doing the 5-hour ice cap excursion. Although there were other activities to keep us busy while not on the tour, most of them were things we could do at home. Therefore, rather than spend money on those activities we opted to take walks and relax instead.

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