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Brattahlíð is located by Tunulliarfik Fjord (Skovfjorden in Danish), and it was the site of Erik the Red's estate in the times of the Norse Eastern Settlement (Østerbygden in Danish). Ruins of several of the buildings, including living quarters, outhouses, and a church, are still clearly visible. 
The current village was founded as Greenland's first sheep farm in 1924 and is located in the same place.
Until December 31, 2008, the settlement was part of Narsaq Municipality in the Kitaa amt. On January 1, 2009, Qassiarsuk became part of Kujalleq municipality, when the Kitaa amt, as well as the municipalities of Narsaq, Qaqortoq, and Nanortalik ceased to exist as administrative entities.
The settlement is located on Narsaq Peninsula roughly 5 km (3.1 mi) west of Narsarsuaq across the Tunulliarfik Fjord. It has fertile plains wider than those found at Narsaq on the southern end of the peninsula.
The settlement has a general store operated by KNI,  and there is a youth hostel available for tourists and hikers. There is also a small church.
The electricity needs for the settlement are provided for by a local power station.
The Qassiarsuk area has a relatively extensive network of traversable dirt and gravel roads, totalling over 120 kilometers and requiring DKK 500,000 annually for service.  The roads are mainly needed for the sheep farming. The longest stretch of road connects the sheep farms of Qassiarsuk with the airport of Narsarsuaq, around 50 km. The roads are generally of poor construction, lacking crossfall for drainage, and using softer sandstone instead of harder granite, creating severe dust problems in the summer. For general transportation all-terrain vehicles are recommended. Driving between the airport and Qassiarsuk is hard since there is no bridge over the glacial Narsarsuaq river and crossing it is difficult due to deposits of silt quicksand the river carries from the Greenland ice sheet (Greenlandic: Sermersuaq).
All vital transportation at Qassiarsuk is by sea, with boats linking the settlement to Narsarsuaq Airport, home to the only international airport in southern Greenland. The airport primarily functions as a transfer point for passengers heading for the helicopter hubs of Air Greenland in Qaqortoq and Nanortalik. Qassiarsuk does not have its own heliport.
Qassiarsuk's economy is based on sheep husbandry and farming. This contrasts with the majority of Greenland's settlements, which are based on fishing.
There is also a thriving tourism industry in the area.  The Norse ruins in the area and the reconstructed Thodhildur's church  of Brattahlid are among the most popular tourist destinations in all of Greenland. 
The population of Qassiarsuk has been stable in the last two decades. 
In the Wake of Eric the Red - From Greenland to Iceland
Join us on an expedition cruise from Kangerlussuaq to Reykjavík, which follows the same maritime course set by Norse settlers over a thousand years ago. In the Disko Bay, we will experience local folk dancing in Qeqertarsuaq and sail to the renowned Eqi Glacier. At the Sermermiut Plain we will have the chance to admire the World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Icefjord and the dazzling icebergs in the late evening sun. Further to the south along the western coast of Greenland, we will visit the capital of Greenland, one of the smallest in the world. Before heading north again along the spectacular east coast of Greenland, we will marvel at the narrow cliffs of the picturesque Prince Christian Sound and the charming silence of the undisturbed Skjoldungen Island. An enriching experience of Nordic culture and Arctic nature!
Kangerlussuaq flight and embarkation.
In the afternoon we board our chartered flight in Reykjavík, Iceland or Copenhagen, Denmark, bound for Kangerlussuaq in Greenland (both flight options are available, please contact us for more information).
Upon arrival in Kangerlussuaq, we will be transported to the small port located west of the airport, where our ship Ocean Atlantic, will be anchored. Zodiacs will transfer us the short distance to the ship, where you will be checked in to your stateroom . After the safety drill, you will enjoy a dinner as Ocean Atlantic ‘sets sail’ through the 160-kilometer Kangerlussuaq fjord.
Sisimiut - experience Greenland’s second-largest city at the foot of Nasaasaaq Mountain
After breakfast, we arrive to the colorful town of Sisimiut, where we will get an idea of what modern Greenland looks like. With 5,400 inhabitants, it is considered Greenland’s second ‘city’. People have lived around Sisimiut on and off since 2,500 BC.
In 1756, Count Johan Ludvig Holstein, established a colony here and called it “Holsteinsborg”. The oldest part of Sisimiut’s historic quarter features town houses from this “Holsteinsborg” era, and the oldest house in town dates to 1756. One of the most culturally significant buildings is the Blue Church, built in 1775.
Nowadays, Sisimiut is an important place for education and industry, and local factories process the bulk of Royal Greenland's fishing. The fish processing plant is one of the largest of its kind in Greenland, and one of the most modern in the world.
Our city tour highlights include the historic colonial quarter, as well as the museum and the beautiful church. Additionally, we will pay a visit to the busy city center for a glimpse of what daily life is like in 21st century Greenland. In the afternoon, our voyage will continue northward.
As evening falls, we will pass the Sisimiut Isortuat Fjord, the Nordre Strømfjord settlements of Attu and Ikerasaarsuk, and the small town of Kangaatsiaq. During the bright night, we will pass Aasiaat and proceed into the southern waters of Disko Bay. Next, the ship’s heading will be set for Disko Island, known for its distinctive 1,000-meter/3,280 feet layered crags.
At this point, we will be north of the Arctic Circle! Here, the nights are bright and early risers can enjoy the sight of the icebergs on Disko Bay as they squeeze out of the Ilulissat Icefjord and dance into the frigid ocean waters.
Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island, ‘kaffemik’ in a community centre and Eqip Sermia Glacier
Our next sojourn lies on the southern tip of the Disko Island, where Ocean Atlantic will anchor in a protected natural harbour, which is named Godhavn (‘Good Harbour’) in Danish, while its Greenlandic name, Qeqertarsuaq, means ‘The Big Island’.
Although topographically quite different from mainland Greenland due to the basalt characteristics of the Disko Island’s mountains, Qeqertarsuaq maintains a long, rich history and once served as one of the country’s important economic centres. From the 16th century, the community was relatively prosperous and, in fact, considered the most important town north of Nuuk until the mid-1900s, due in part to the area’s sizeable whale hunting population.
During our visit, we will wander through town, paying a visit to the characteristic octagonal church, nicknamed “God’s Inkpot”, as well as to a local community center that will be hosting a traditional Greenlandic “kaffemik”, which can be best described as a friendly gathering with coffee, cake and traditional dances and music.
As the day draws to a closing, Ocean Atlantic will set a north-easterly course bound for a magnificent natural highlight – the enormous Eqip Sermia Glacier.
Situated approximately 50 nautical miles north of Ilulissat, the Eqip Sermia Glacier is renowned for its jaw-dropping beauty. Legendary arctic explorers selected this location as a base for their studies. One such explorer, the acclaimed Swiss glaciologist Alfred de Quervain, used the location as a base for his expeditions onto Greenland’s inland ice sheet over a century ago.
We will sail as close as possible to the ice’s edge – but at a safe distance to avoid plunging blocks of ice and violent waves that often result from the calving glacier.
Capital of the icebergs, Ilulissat
Ilulissat is possibly the most well located town in Greenland. The name simply means ‘icebergs’ in Greenlandic, and the town’s nickname is rightly ‘the Iceberg Capital’.
In Disko Bay, which is located just off the coast of Ilulissat, gigantic icebergs linger in the freezing waters. These icebergs come from the Icefjord, which is located a half hour’s hike south of Ilulissat. These impressive frozen structures are born some 70km/43,5 miles deeper into the fjord by the enormous Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. This 10km/6 miles-wide glacier is the most productive glacier outside of Antarctica Whereas most glaciers only calve at a rate of approximately a metre/three feet a day, the Ilulissat glacier calves at a rate of 25m/82 feet per day. The icebergs produced by the glacier represent more than 10% of all icebergs in Greenland, corresponding to 20 million tons/22 million us tons of ice per day!
These facts, together with the fjord’s unforgettable scenery, have secured the Ice fjord a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. During the more than 250 years that have passed since the establishment of Ilulissat, the town has steadily flourished. Today, Ilulissat is Greenland’s third largest town, with more than 4,500 inhabitants. The town is very vibrant, welcoming and lively with a wide range of cultural attractions, according to Greenlandic standards.
The legendary polar explorer, Knud Rasmussen, were born in Ilulissat.
On this day, you will also have the opportunity to join a boat trip to the Ice fjord (not included). The journey takes about two and a half hours in total, a great opportunity to take a closer look at the amazing ice-sculpted scenery.
The trip is definitely something out of the ordinary and a great natural experience that you will remember for years to come – but be sure to have warm clothing on!
If a hike or a trip by boat does not present enough excitement, there is also an opportunity to arrange a flight excursion over the Ice Fjord (not included).
In the evening, we will cruise southward from “the Iceberg Capital”, leaving lovely Disko Bay behind us as we part.
Erik the Red Goes to Greenland
There’s a popular misconception that Erik the Red discovered Greenland. But the Icelandic sagas suggest other Vikings tried (unsuccessfully) to settle the country nearly a century before his arrival. So Erik is more properly credited as the first permanent European settler in Greenland, as well as the leader of its colonization.
According to the Saga of Erik the Red, he sailed around the southern tip of the country (now known as Cape Farewell) and up the western coast. Eventually he reached an ice-free area whose majestic fjords and verdant valleys held the promise of prosperity and fertility. After his exile ended, he returned home with grand tales of his adventures in the “Green Land.” He chose the name deliberately to make it sound more attractive than Iceland, where many Vikings had endured a recent famine.
His salesmanship skills proved potent. In 985 Erik the Red left Iceland leading a fleet of 25 ships containing around 500 men and women, domestic animals, and other things needed to establish their lives in Greenland. Sadly, 11 of those ships never made it. But the survivors established farming settlements in Brattahlið (Erik’s seat of power as chieftain, now known as Qassiarsuk) and further north, near present-day Nuuk. During summers, the men would head above the Arctic Circle to hunt seals and walrus in Disko Bay.
By the turn of the millennium, there were around 3,000 Vikings living on 300-400 farms. Their society survived on Greenland for another 500 years before disappearing for reasons that remain unknown. Today there’s a museum in Narsaq, where a complete Viking longhouse believed to be Erik the Red’s first settlement was discovered, with an impressive permanent exhibit on the early Viking settlers.
Easy hiking package. 8 days
Tour package for individual travellers in the best hiking area in Greenland! Accommodation at farms and in settlements.
South Greenland 5 days – active
A 5-day getaway from Iceland for the active traveller with hiking around Igaliku, Qassiarsuk and Narsarsuaq.
RECONSTRUCTION IN QASSIARSUK
Today, more than 1000 years later, Tjodhilde’s wish concerning the erection of a church has in a way been fulfilled once again.
Since the start of the new millennium, travellers to the south of Greenland have had the chance to visit accurate reconstructions of Tjodhilde’s Church and Erik the Red’s longhouse.
The reconstructions in Qassiarsuk, which is the Greenlandic name for Brattahlid, are built in turf and timber not far from where the original church was sited.
The internal dimensions of the church are just 2 x 3.5 metres (6.5 x 11.5 feet) and although it is a bit of a squeeze, there is actually room for 20 – 25 people.
Iceland to Greenland: In the Wake of the Vikings
Single Supplement: No single supplement on a limited quantity of cabins in categories 3 to 7!
Once these cabins are sold, the single supplement fee is 1.5 times the berth cost.
Southbound Charter Flight:: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to Toronto, ON, Canada. Evening arrival.
Inclusions and Exclusions
- Passage aboard the Ocean Endeavour
- Applicable taxes and credit card fees
- Complimentary expedition jacket
- Contribution to Adventure Canada’s Discovery Fund
- Special access permits, entry, and park fees
- Expert expedition team
- Guided activities
- Sightseeing and community visits
- All Zodiac excursions
- Port fees
- Pre-departure materials
- Educational program
- Nikon Camera Trial Program
- Interactive workshops
- Evening entertainment
- All shipboard meals
- Commercial and charter flights
- Program enhancements/optional excursions
- Personal expenses
- Mandatory medical evacuation insurance
- Additional expenses in the event of delays or itinerary changes
- Possible fuel surcharges and administrative fees
- Pre- and post-trip hotel accommodation
Brattahlíð, Erik the Red’s farm in Greenland
When vikings arrived in Greenland in 985 they found a land almost completely covered by snow and ice. Except for a few clearings of vegetation, mainly at the southern end, where they built their settlements.
One of these was the Qinngua Valley, where the only remaining Greenlandic natural forest stands, while all the other forests (if they ever existed) were cut down by settlers to make use of wood, and those that exist today were created by people in modern times.
The valley, which also has the warmest climate on the island, is about 50 kilometres inland, next to Lake Tasersuag.
It is precisely next to the mouth of the lake where the remains of an old Nordic farm survive, the largest one in the whole area, in the place known today as Qassiarsuk.
Some researchers believe it is Brattahlíð, Erik the Red’s own farm, located at the bottom of the Eiriksfjörd fjord (today called Tunulliarfik) and about 96 kilometres from the south coast. It is one of the 500 farms that made the Eastern Settlement and, of course, Erik reserved the most valuable land for himself.
Founded in 985, it was his family’ s place of residence, from where he controlled the rest of the Nordic settlements. Curiously enough, it seems that the Nordics in Greenland devoted themselves to livestock rather than fishing, subsisting mainly on sheep’s and goat’s milk, caribous and seals.
Although some farm buildings, stone walls up to a metre and a half thick covered by a layer of earth and grass as insulation, were still visible in 1953, nowadays only a few holes in the soil remain, where they were embedded. It is estimated that the main building was 54 by 14 metres in length. The remains that can be seen today are of later medieval buildings.
There in Brattahlíð it is known that the first church in Greenland, Þjóðhildarkirkja, named after Þjóðhildur, Erik’s wife who had converted to Christianity, was built of wood (if we consider Greenland as being part of the American continent, it would be the first church built by Europeans in America). In the 14th century, a stone church was built on top of it, and several tombs and tombstones with runic inscriptions that mark out the old shape of the church remain around it.
Vikings stayed in Greenland for 500 years, until the colony became extinct sometime in the 15th century. The last historical record of their presence is dated 16 September 1406, detailing the marriage of Icelanders Thorsteinn Olafsson and Sigridr Bjornsdóttir at the Hvalsey church, whose ruins are still in sight today.
Afterwards there is no more evidence until 1723, when Hans Egede explored the settlements and found them already in ruins. The causes for the abandonment of the settlements could be several: from the Little Ice Age that lowered temperatures throughout Greenland, reducing hay production, through possible deforestation and the reduction of grazing areas, to the arrival of the Inuit Thule culture, which entered Greenland from the year 1100 and spread southward.
At the same time an increase in the number of icebergs and sea ice along the coast made it almost impossible to travel by sea or receive supplies from Iceland. It is known that the last ship to return to Europe from Greenland arrived in Norway in 1410.
As for Erik the Red, he died on his farm in 1003, due to the epidemic brought by a consignment of new settlers the previous year, which wreaked havoc throughout the area. One of his sons, Leif Eriksson (already converted to Christianity) would be the first European to explore the lands of Vinland, Newfoundland and the Canadian Labrador by 1002.
Today Brattahlíð still offers the best arable land on the island, thanks to its location, which protects it from cold winds from the north and from ocean storms.
Plan your own holiday in Greenland
Are you dreaming of going to Greenland and would you prefer to plan your own trip?
South Greenland - Short and Intensive
Experience Greenland on a getaway from Iceland. Wonderful day-hikes with easy access to South Greenland's blue icebergs and history.
ERIK THE RED'S DISCOVERY OF GREENLAND
It is for this reason that in the same year he sailed west and discovered a country with an inviting fjord landscape and fertile green valleys. He was extremely impressed with the new country’s resources and he returned to Iceland to spread the word of “The green land”.
Erik the Red clearly had great powers of persuasion because in 985 he set sail once more from the volcanic island leading a fleet of 25 ships on course for Greenland. Onboard were around 500 men and women, domestic animals and all the other elements required to create a new existence in a new country.
Of the 25 ships, only 14 made it to their destination. Erik the Red established the chieftain’s seat of power at Brattahlið – now Qassiarsuk – in Southern Greenland, whilst others continued further north to the fjord near Nuuk. The two societies were known as the east and west settlements.
What are Greenlandic people like today?
When you visit Greenland today, you have a unique opportunity to explore the hunting and fishing tools and practices that have sustained a population over thousands of years in a region most considered completely inhospitable. You&rsquoll begin to understand how this place largely covered by the Greenland ice sheet, with its seemingly hostile environment, earned the Inuit name Kalaallit Nunaat, or &ldquoThe Land of the People.&rdquo
You might even fall in love with these people who&rsquove not only survived Greenland, but flourished. In communities like Qaanaaq, you&rsquoll notice that residents still celebrate their hunting culture, sporting traditional animal skin clothing and boots, often adorned with beautiful embellishments that are as much an expression of themselves as a celebration of their heritage.
In Eastern Greenland, you can see the early Thule and Inuit influence in the region&rsquos tightly clustered communities, where homes are either tented summertime homes of fur or skin, or houses made of stone, sod, or wood. Often, they&rsquore strikingly similar to homes built by the land's original inhabitants.
Book your trip to Qaqortoq
Qaqortoq is a relaxed and relatively warm place to visit on your travels to Greenland, and a great location from which to explore the Norse (Viking) history of the country. Guide to Greenland brings together most of the tours offered around Qaqortoq on one platform and is an easy way to plan and book your travel to South Greenland.
We invite you to explore all of our tours around Qaqortoq and contact us with any questions you may have about them.