Explore Itilleq, Greenland’s tiny settlement with a big heart
Less than 1,610 km from the North Pole , around 120 people live in the tiny settlement of Itilleq, Greenland. This unlikely settlement sits on the edge of the world below; learn how these people got there, what their lives are like, and more about this fascinating village north of the Arctic Circle.
Where is Itilleq?
The village is located in central-western Greenland, in the municipality of Qeqqata. It’s about 45 km south of Sisimiut, the second largest town in Greenland after Nuuk. With no road to the settlement, it can only be reached by water on one of the weekly coastal ferry services that shuttle tourists and local passengers from one small settlement to another along the coast. It can also be reached by flying to Sisimiut and chartering a helicopter from there, although that’s perhaps not the cheapest option. It's not to be confused with the name of a number of tiny settlements where only a handful of people live in the south of Greenland, which is also known as Itilleq.
When was Itilleq founded?
Itilleq was founded in 1847, when a ramshackle fishing community became a trading station. However, it was originally in a slightly different location and was later moved by one kilometre. Since then, the trading post has become a collection of houses, a shop, a post office and school, all built around a football pitch that's used as a helipad whenever the settlement gets completely surrounded with ice.
Who lives there?
During the last 25 years, the population has fluctuated between 100 and 140 people. In recent years, however, the population has declined because of a lack of available jobs, apart from fishing or working in the school or shop. Surprisingly enough, although this seems like a tiny village, the population makes it one of the top 50 biggest settlements in the whole of Greenland. If you’re wondering what the people are like, forget about images of simple, quaint village folk. The people here are as modern as any other residents of Greenland. They play a mean game of football, and will often challenge visitors to a kick around. Plus, centuries of fishing knowledge means they sure know how to cook a fantastic fish dinner.
What else is worth seeing nearby?
After spending some time with the charming locals, tourists can catch the ferry to Ilulissat, home of Greenland’s biggest glacier. Visitors to the settlement from May to July will also be lucky enough to witness the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon that gives the Northern Lights a run for its money in terms of beauty. During these summer months the island is more or less bathed in eternal sunshine. The sun begins to sink down below the horizon, filling the sky with colour, but it never fully sets - making for sunsets that last all night - until it begins to rise again at dawn.
Although this particular wonder can only be seen for a few months a year, the town is well worth visiting all year round for anyone who wants a true taste of Greenland or fancies themselves an Arctic explorer.