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Arctic Circle Trail, Greenland


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Bria Lyons



Welcome to the Arctic Circle Trail, one of the most breathtaking and challenging adventures on Earth. Situated in the remote wilderness of Greenland, this iconic trail offers an experience like no other. From the stunning landscapes of glaciers, mountains, and pristine lakes to the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous Inuit people, this journey encompasses both natural beauty and a profound connection to history.


The Arctic Circle Trail is a 160-kilometer-long hike that stretches from Kangerlussuaq, a small town on the west coast of Greenland, to Sisimiut, a vibrant fishing and hunting community. The trail winds its way through the heart of Greenland, taking you across vast expanses of tundra, past crystal-clear lakes, and over rugged hillsides.


This adventure is not for the faint of heart. The trail presents a series of challenging terrains, including steep ascents and descents, river crossings, and unpredictable weather conditions. However, with careful planning and preparation, the reward of immersing yourself in this untouched Arctic wilderness is well worth the effort.


As you embark on this epic journey, you’ll have the opportunity to witness incredible wildlife, including musk oxen, reindeer, and Arctic foxes. The skies above may offer a mesmerizing display of the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, if you time your adventure right.


Throughout the trail, you’ll also have the chance to interact with the local Inuit communities, known for their resilience, traditions, and deep connection to their surroundings. Their warm hospitality and fascinating cultural practices will undoubtedly enrich your experience.


It’s essential to plan and prepare meticulously before setting out on the Arctic Circle Trail. This article will guide you through the key aspects of planning, as well as provide a day-by-day account of what you can expect along the trail. Whether you’re an experienced hiker seeking a new challenge or an adventurer with a thirst for exploration, the Arctic Circle Trail promises to deliver an unforgettable journey.


Overview of the Arctic Circle Trail

The Arctic Circle Trail is a remote trekking route that runs through the Arctic wilderness of Greenland, the world’s largest island. Spanning approximately 160 kilometers, the trail offers a stunning and challenging adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. The trail starts in Kangerlussuaq, a small town on the west coast of Greenland, and ends in Sisimiut, a vibrant fishing and hunting community.


The trail takes you through some of Greenland’s most captivating landscapes. From the start, you’ll be immersed in the rugged beauty of the Arctic tundra, dotted with vibrant wildflowers and framed by snow-capped mountains. As you make your way eastward, you’ll pass pristine lakes, traverse expansive valleys, and navigate through valleys carved by ancient glaciers.


One of the highlights of the Arctic Circle Trail is the opportunity to witness the spectacular flora and fauna of the region. The trail is home to a plethora of wildlife, including musk oxen, reindeer, Arctic foxes, and an array of bird species. Keep an eye out for their tracks in the snow or their graceful presence on the horizon.


Another incredible aspect of the trail is the chance to witness the mesmerizing phenomenon of the Northern Lights. During the winter months, the dark Arctic skies often come alive with shimmering green, pink, and purple hues as the aurora borealis dances across the heavens. It’s a truly magical sight and one that will forever be etched in your memory.


The Arctic Circle Trail is a physically demanding hike that requires careful planning and preparation. The trail is marked by cairns, small piles of rocks that serve as trail markers, rather than official signposts. Navigation skills and a good sense of direction are crucial, as parts of the trail can be challenging to follow, especially during inclement weather conditions.


The best time to embark on the Arctic Circle Trail is during the summer months, from June to September, when the weather is milder, and the days are longer. However, even during the summer, the weather can be unpredictable, with sudden changes in temperature and the possibility of snowfall. It’s essential to be prepared for varying conditions and pack appropriate clothing and gear.


Accommodation along the trail consists of simple huts provided by the Greenlandic government. These huts are equipped with bunk beds and basic amenities, but it’s important to note that they are not heated, so a warm sleeping bag is a must. Camping is also allowed along the trail, giving you the option to immerse yourself fully in the wilderness.


The Arctic Circle Trail is a truly remarkable adventure that offers a unique blend of breathtaking landscapes, wildlife encounters, and cultural immersion. It’s a challenging and rewarding experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the remote beauty of Greenland’s Arctic wilderness.


Planning and Preparation

Embarking on the Arctic Circle Trail requires careful planning and preparation to ensure a safe and successful adventure. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind as you plan your journey:

  1. Research and Obtain Maps: Familiarize yourself with the trail by studying maps and guides specific to the Arctic Circle Trail. These resources will help you understand the various sections of the trail, terrain challenges, and available accommodation.
  2. Choose the Right Time of Year: The most popular time to hike the Arctic Circle Trail is during the summer months, from June to September. This period offers longer daylight hours and milder weather conditions. However, weather in Greenland can be unpredictable, so come prepared for varying conditions regardless of the season.
  3. Physical Fitness: The Arctic Circle Trail is a physically demanding trek that requires a good level of fitness. It involves long daily hikes, steep ascents and descents, and potentially challenging river crossings. It’s advisable to engage in a regular fitness routine before your trip to build strength and endurance.
  4. Pack Appropriately: Due to the remote nature of the trail, it’s vital to carry all essential gear and supplies with you. This includes a high-quality backpack, a warm and waterproof tent, a sleeping bag suitable for cold temperatures, sturdy hiking boots, warm clothing layers, rain gear, a cooking stove, utensils, and ample food supplies. It’s crucial to pack lightweight items and prioritize the essentials to keep your backpack manageable.
  5. Navigation and Safety: Since the Arctic Circle Trail is not extensively marked, navigation skills are essential. Ensure you have a reliable compass, a detailed map, and a GPS device or smartphone with offline navigation apps. Additionally, carry a first aid kit, emergency shelter, a personal locator beacon, and know basic wilderness survival skills.
  6. Obtain Permits: Check if you need any permits for hiking in Greenland and make sure to obtain them well in advance. Permits may vary depending on the time of year and specific regulations set by the local authorities.
  7. Communicate and Share Your Itinerary: Before starting the trail, inform someone back home, a park ranger, or a local contact about your hiking plans and expected itinerary. This helps ensure your safety and provides a point of contact in case of emergencies.
  8. Resupply and Waste Disposal: Consider the logistics of resupplying food and disposing of waste along the trail. While some huts may have limited supplies available for purchase, it’s advisable to carry enough food for the duration of your trek. Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles and properly pack out all waste.

By thoroughly researching, planning your logistics, and equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge and supplies, you’ll be ready to tackle the challenges of the Arctic Circle Trail and fully immerse yourself in this extraordinary adventure.


Day 1: Kangerlussuaq to the Edge of the Icecap

Your Arctic Circle Trail adventure begins in Kangerlussuaq, a small town on the west coast of Greenland. The trailhead is located just outside the town, and as you set off, you’ll immediately be greeted by breathtaking scenery.


The first day of hiking takes you from Kangerlussuaq to the edge of the Icecap, a distance of approximately 26 kilometers. The trail initially follows the dusty gravel road that leads out of town, gradually transitioning into a narrower and more rugged path as you venture deeper into the wilderness.


As you hike, you’ll pass through vast stretches of Arctic tundra, characterized by low-lying shrubs and vibrant wildflowers. The landscape is dotted with small lakes and meandering rivers, adding to the stunning natural beauty that surrounds you.


One of the highlights of this day is the opportunity to witness the immense Greenland Ice Sheet. As you approach the edge of the Icecap, you’ll be awe-struck by its vastness and the brilliant shades of blue that dance across its surface. Take a moment to absorb the magnitude of this natural wonder before continuing along the trail.


Throughout the day, you may encounter wildlife, such as musk oxen, grazing in the distance or Arctic foxes darting through the tundra. Keep your camera ready and binoculars handy to fully appreciate these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.


The first day of hiking on the Arctic Circle Trail is characterized by its relatively flat terrain, allowing you to gradually ease into the trek and adjust to the demands of carrying a backpack. Take your time, enjoy the serene surroundings, and savor the sense of freedom that comes from immersing yourself in the pristine wilderness.


As you approach the end of the day’s journey, you’ll reach the edge of the Icecap, a truly awe-inspiring sight. Find a suitable camping spot and set up your tent, ensuring it is secure against the Arctic winds that may pick up in the evening. Take a moment to marvel at the stunning views and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing the first leg of the Arctic Circle Trail.


Before settling down for the night, take the time to rest, refuel, and replenish your water supply from nearby streams or lakes. The tranquility of the Arctic wilderness, combined with the vast expanse of the Icecap, creates a serene atmosphere that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.


As darkness falls and the midnight sun dips below the horizon, drift off to sleep knowing that you’ve embarked on an incredible adventure and that many more unforgettable experiences await you on the Arctic Circle Trail.


Day 2: The Steep Climb to Canoe Center

Waking up to the crisp Arctic air, you’ll start Day 2 of your Arctic Circle Trail journey with a sense of excitement and anticipation. Today’s hike will take you from the edge of the Icecap to Canoe Center, covering a distance of approximately 19 kilometers.


The day begins with a challenging ascent as you leave the flat tundra behind and make your way up a steep incline. The trail meanders through rocky terrain and thick vegetation, providing a great workout for both your legs and your resolve.


As you climb higher, the views from the summit become increasingly spectacular. From this vantage point, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains, glimmering lakes, and the vast expanse of the Arctic wilderness stretching out before you.


The terrain gradually transitions from rocky slopes to a mix of rolling hills and grassy meadows. The Arctic flora is in full display, with vibrant wildflowers scattered across the landscape, adding bursts of color to the otherwise vast and rugged terrain.


Midway through the day, you’ll reach the Canoe Center, a popular resting spot and a haven for weary hikers. The Canoe Center provides basic facilities such as toilets and a sheltered area where you can take a well-earned break and refuel with a snack or lunch.


Take a moment to soak in the peaceful ambience of the Canoe Center, surrounded by the tranquility of nature. Reflect on the challenges overcome and the progress made on this exhilarating trek through the Arctic wilderness.


After rejuvenating and replenishing your energy, you’ll continue your journey forward, following the well-marked trail that leads you through more of Greenland’s stunning landscapes. The terrain becomes more undulating, with gentle slopes and occasional short descents, providing a welcome respite from the steep climb earlier in the day.


As you hike, keep an eye out for wildlife along the trail. Arctic foxes and reindeer are often spotted in this area, showcasing the incredible resilience and adaptability of the animals that call this harsh environment home.


As the day draws to a close, you’ll find a suitable spot to set up camp for the night. Ensure you choose a location that offers protection from any prevailing winds and is near a water source for convenience. Pitch your tent, prepare a warm meal, and reflect on the day’s accomplishments as you watch the sun slowly dip below the horizon, casting a warm golden glow across the Arctic landscape.


Day 2 of the Arctic Circle Trail is both physically demanding and visually rewarding. The steep climb to the Canoe Center will test your endurance, but the breathtaking views and the sense of accomplishment make it all worthwhile. As you settle in for the night, remember to rest and recharge, for tomorrow holds new adventures and discoveries on this extraordinary Arctic expedition.


Day 3: Crossing the Tundra to the Canoe Center

On Day 3 of your Arctic Circle Trail adventure, you’ll continue your journey through the stunning landscapes of Greenland. Today’s hike will take you across the vast tundra, from the Canoe Center to your next destination, covering a distance of approximately 16 kilometers.


Leaving the Canoe Center behind, you’ll set off on a path that cuts through the expansive and mesmerizing Arctic tundra. The terrain is characterized by wide, open spaces with soft, grassy ground underfoot. As you traverse this vast expanse, be prepared for breathtaking views in every direction.


The landscape of the tundra is dotted with small lakes and ponds, their still waters reflecting the vibrant colors of the surrounding flora. Take a moment to appreciate the serenity of these hidden gems, as they provide a stark contrast to the ruggedness of the terrain.


Traveling across the tundra requires careful navigation, as the trail is not always clearly defined. Keep an eye out for cairns, the small rock piles that serve as trail markers, to guide your way. A GPS device or smartphone with offline navigation apps can also be helpful for staying on course.


This part of the trail is known for its vast and uninterrupted views of the surrounding wilderness. As you hike, you may catch glimpses of distant mountains, glaciers, and the ever-present Greenland Ice Sheet. These awe-inspiring sights remind you of the immense scale and untouched beauty of this remote Arctic landscape.


The tundra is also a haven for wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for any signs of creatures large and small. You may spot reindeer grazing in the distance or catch sight of an elusive Arctic fox darting through the grass. The Arctic birdlife is also abundant, with species such as the ptarmigan and the snowy owl soaring through the skies.


As you make your way towards your destination, be sure to take regular breaks and stay hydrated. The Arctic climate can be deceiving, with the cold temperatures often causing dehydration. Always carry plenty of water and snacks to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.


Upon reaching the end of Day 3, find a suitable spot to set up camp for the night. Choose a location that offers shelter from the wind and is near a water source. As you settle into your temporary home, take a moment to appreciate the vastness of the tundra and the stillness of the Arctic wilderness that surrounds you.


Day 3 of the Arctic Circle Trail offers a unique opportunity to experience the vast and untamed beauty of the Greenlandic tundra. As you drift off to sleep under the midnight sun, let the tranquility of this remote landscape envelop you, preparing you for the adventures that lie ahead on this remarkable journey.


Day 4: Alongside Beautiful Lakes to Karasjok

As you wake up on Day 4 of your Arctic Circle Trail expedition, you’ll be greeted by the promise of another awe-inspiring day of hiking. Today’s journey takes you alongside beautiful lakes as you make your way towards the vibrant town of Karasjok, situated approximately 20 kilometers from your starting point.


Leaving behind the tranquility of the tundra, the trail leads you through a landscape adorned with stunning lakes, shimmering like jewels amidst the rugged Arctic terrain. These crystal-clear bodies of water reflect the surrounding mountains and sky, creating a surreal and captivating backdrop for your hike.


The path winds its way along the shores of the lakes, offering glimpses of their vibrant colors and the abundant birdlife that calls them home. Keep an eye out for graceful swans gliding across the water or the distinct call of the Arctic loon echoing in the stillness of the surroundings.


The rolling hills and lush vegetation provide a pleasant contrast to the previous day’s tundra crossing. As you navigate the undulating terrain, you’ll discover a rich tapestry of Arctic flora, with wildflowers dotting the landscape and vibrant moss covering the ground.


Be prepared to encounter small streams and water crossings along the way. These can add an extra element of adventure to your hike, requiring careful navigation and potentially some rock hopping or even removing your shoes to ford the water. Embrace these natural obstacles as part of the journey and relish in the thrill they provide.


As you approach the town of Karasjok, located on the banks of the Karasjok River, the trail opens up to sweeping views of the surrounding valley. The vibrant colors of the autumn foliage add a touch of warmth to the otherwise cool Arctic landscape.


Karasjok is a lively cultural and administrative hub for the local Sámi people, the indigenous inhabitants of the region. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Sámi culture, visiting the Sámi Parliament and learning about their traditional lifestyle and reindeer herding traditions.


After a rewarding day of hiking, find a place to rest for the night in Karasjok. The town offers a variety of accommodations, from cozy guesthouses to comfortable hotels, where you can recharge, shower, and indulge in a well-deserved meal.


As the day comes to a close, reflect on the beauty of the lakes you encountered along the way and the unique experience of walking alongside their pristine shores. Let the serenity of these bodies of water guide you into a peaceful night’s sleep, as you prepare for the adventures that still await you on the Arctic Circle Trail.


Day 5: Rest Day at Karasjok

After several consecutive days of hiking, Day 5 of your Arctic Circle Trail expedition is designated as a well-deserved rest day in the vibrant town of Karasjok. This day allows you to recharge, explore the local area, and immerse yourself in the unique culture and traditions of the Sámi people.


Use this day to catch up on rest and give your body the opportunity to recover from the physical demands of the trail. Take advantage of the comfortable accommodations available in Karasjok to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.


Begin your day with a leisurely breakfast, fueling up for the activities ahead. Explore the town’s cultural offerings, starting with a visit to the Sámi Parliament, which provides insight into the governance and representation of the Sámi people in the region.


Immerse yourself in Sámi culture by visiting the Sámi Cultural Park, where you can engage in traditional activities such as reindeer sledding, learning about traditional handicrafts, or sampling local Sámi cuisine.


Consider joining a guided tour to learn more about the Sámi way of life, including their deep connection to reindeer herding and their sustainable nomadic traditions. These tours offer a captivating glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Sámi people and their harmonious relationship with the Arctic environment.


Take the opportunity to explore the natural surroundings of Karasjok. Visit nearby nature reserves or take a short hike along one of the accessible trails, immersing yourself in the Arctic wilderness and appreciating the beauty of the landscape.


In the town center, you’ll find a range of restaurants and cafes where you can sample local delicacies and flavors. Indulge in traditional Sámi dishes, such as smoked reindeer meat or delicious fish dishes showcasing the fresh flavors of the Arctic.


Use this rest day to stock up on any necessary supplies for the remaining days of your trek. Ensure you have enough food, water, and any other essentials before resuming your journey along the Arctic Circle Trail.


As the day comes to a close, take a moment to reflect on the experiences and memories you’ve gathered so far on your Arctic adventure. Allow yourself to fully absorb the magic of Karasjok and the warmth of the Sámi culture.


Rest well, replenish your energy, and prepare for the forthcoming days of hiking as you continue your Arctic Circle Trail expedition. With a refreshed body and mind, you’re ready to embark on the next leg of this remarkable journey.


Day 6: Descending to the Sea at Sisimiut

As you embark on Day 6 of your Arctic Circle Trail adventure, you’ll continue your breathtaking journey towards the vibrant coastal town of Sisimiut. Today’s hike involves descending from the inland mountains to the edge of the sea, covering a distance of approximately 24 kilometers.


The day begins with a steep descent from the mountainous terrain surrounding Karasjok. As you make your way down, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the valley below, with its winding rivers, lush vegetation, and the beautiful Arctic flora in full display.


The trail gradually levels out as you approach the outskirts of Sisimiut, taking you through rolling hills and open meadows. This section of the trail offers a welcome change of pace from the more rugged and challenging terrains you’ve traversed in the previous days.


As you descend, keep an eye out for wildlife along the route. Sisimiut and its surrounding areas are home to a variety of Arctic animals, including reindeer, Arctic foxes, and an array of bird species. Take the time to appreciate their presence and the unique opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat.


As you near the coast, the landscape transforms, with views of the vast Arctic Ocean becoming increasingly prominent. The sound of lapping waves and the salty ocean breeze greet you as you approach the outskirts of Sisimiut, providing a refreshing change from the stillness of the inland areas.


Sisimiut itself is a thriving coastal town, rich in history and culture. Take the opportunity to explore its narrow streets, lined with colorful houses and charming shops. Visit the local museum to delve into the town’s fascinating past and learn about its significance as one of Greenland’s largest settlements.


After a long day of hiking, reward yourself with a delicious meal at one of the local restaurants or cafes. Sample fresh seafood caught by local fishermen or indulge in Greenlandic specialties that showcase the flavors of this unique region.


As you settle in for the night in Sisimiut, take a moment to reflect on the incredible accomplishment of descending from the inland mountains to the edge of the vast Arctic Sea. The contrast between the majestic mountain landscapes and the bustling coastal town serves as a reminder of the diverse beauty that Greenland has to offer.


Rest, recharge, and embrace the anticipation of the final leg of your Arctic Circle Trail expedition, as you prepare to continue your journey towards the ultimate destination of the trail – the vibrant town of Sisimiut.


Day 7: Exploring Sisimiut

On the final day of your Arctic Circle Trail adventure, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant coastal town of Sisimiut. Today is a rest day filled with exploration, cultural experiences, and reflection on the incredible journey you’ve undertaken.


Start your day by exploring the charming streets of Sisimiut. The town is known for its colorful houses, each depicting a unique story and reflecting the local culture. Wander through the narrow streets, marvel at the traditional architecture, and take in the lively atmosphere.


Visit the local museum to delve deeper into the history and heritage of Sisimiut. Learn about the centuries-old Inuit culture, the early European settlers, and the town’s rich fishing and hunting traditions. The museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the diverse cultural tapestry of Greenland.


Take a leisurely stroll along the stunning shoreline, feeling the crisp Arctic breeze on your face and listening to the rhythmic sounds of the rolling waves. Sisimiut is blessed with breathtaking coastal views, with rugged cliffs, sparkling waters, and perhaps the glimpses of marine life playing in the distance.


For those seeking adventure, consider embarking on a boat tour or a kayaking excursion around the surrounding fjords. These activities allow you to explore the awe-inspiring coastal landscapes, witness towering icebergs, and encounter marine wildlife such as seals and whales.


Immerse yourself further in the local culture by visiting the local handicraft shops. The people of Sisimiut are known for their exquisite handcrafted items, including traditional clothing, intricate carvings, and beautiful jewelry. Take home a unique piece as a memento of your Arctic adventure.


Indulge in the gastronomic delights of Greenland by sampling local cuisine at one of the town’s restaurants. From fresh seafood, such as succulent shrimp and cod, to traditional Greenlandic dishes like “wafer-thin” dried fish or “mattak” (whale skin), there are numerous delicacies to tantalize your taste buds.


As the day draws to a close, find a peaceful spot to reflect on the incredible journey you’ve completed along the Arctic Circle Trail. Take a moment to savor the memories, the challenges overcome, and the awe-inspiring landscapes that have left an indelible mark on your soul.


Finally, bid farewell to Sisimiut, knowing that you have accomplished an extraordinary feat. Your Arctic Circle Trail adventure has taken you through captivating wilderness, introduced you to the rich cultural heritage of the Inuit people, and left you with a deeper appreciation for the untouched beauty of Greenland.


As you journey home, carry with you the stories, experiences, and friendships formed along the trail, knowing that the Arctic will forever hold a special place in your heart.



The Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland is a truly remarkable adventure that offers a unique blend of breathtaking landscapes, wildlife encounters, and cultural immersion. This challenging trek takes you through the magnificent wilderness of Greenland, revealing the untouched beauty of the Arctic region.


From the moment you set foot on the trail, you’ll be captivated by the stunning landscapes that unfold before you. From the expansive tundra to the rugged mountains, crystalline lakes to the mighty Greenland Ice Sheet, every step offers a new marvel to behold.


Throughout your journey, you’ll encounter the remarkable resilience and beauty of Arctic wildlife. From musk oxen grazing in the distance to Arctic foxes darting through the tundra, these encounters will leave a lasting impression on your memory.


Moreover, the opportunity to interact with the local indigenous communities, such as the Sámi people, adds a profound cultural dimension to the trek. Their customs, traditions, and warm hospitality offer insights into a way of life deeply connected to the land and its resources.


But the Arctic Circle Trail is not just about exploration and adventure – it’s also about personal growth and self-discovery. The physical challenges of the trail test your endurance and resilience, pushing you to surpass your limits and forge a stronger connection with nature.


As you navigate the rugged terrain, you’ll learn valuable lessons in navigation, adaptability, and problem-solving. You’ll discover the beauty of simplicity, relying on minimal gear and the resources provided by the land.


Every day on the trail greets you with new challenges and rewards, offering a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. The breathtaking landscapes, the encounters with wildlife, and the connection to the Arctic environment provide a profound reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our natural world.


Embarking on the Arctic Circle Trail requires careful planning and preparation, physical fitness, and a spirit of adventure. With the right mindset and adequate preparation, this extraordinary journey offers an experience that is unmatched, leaving you with memories that will last a lifetime.


So, lace up your hiking boots, take a deep breath of Arctic air, and commence your Arctic Circle Trail adventure. Brace yourself for an unparalleled journey through some of the world’s most breathtaking and remote landscapes. Let the spirit of exploration guide you as you venture into the heart of Greenland’s Arctic wilderness.