Getting the ferry up the west coast of Greenland from Sisimiut to Ilulissat
After finishing the Arctic Circle trail from Kangerlussuaq to Sismiut, we spent a few days unwinding at Hotel Sisimiut before heading further north, to Ilulissat. You can fly, but with the excellent ferry line you really don’t have to.
We were already feeling guilty about our flights to Greenland (and the one we’d need to get from Ilulissat to Kangerlussuaq to leave), so we were happy to find an alternative for this part of the trip.
If you’re getting the ferry from Sisimiut to Ilulissat between May 15 – 25 September, you’ll depart at 21.00 and arrive at 13:00 the next day. It costs about £145 each for a couchette, or more for a cabin.
Remember that the ferry is only once a week. We actually planned our Arctic Circle Trail hike around the ferry, working backwards with 11 days for the hike and a day of rest afterwards (including an overnight at Hotel Sisimiut). This meant we had some buffer time in case we were delayed on the hike.
We finished the hike a day early in the end, but we were able to book an extra night at Hotel Sisimiut when we arrived. Don’t plan it too tight and put unnecessary pressure on yourself while hiking in beautiful remote Greenland! We met a few groups with really tight deadlines, and we were so glad we weren’t in that camp.
On Saturday, having rested in Sisimiut after the ACT, we got to the ferry port a couple of hours before departure… far too early, it turned out. Note of advice: you can’t get on the Sismiut ferry north until 8pm for 9pm departure, even if the ferry arrives at 7pm. We sat on boulders next to the Sisimiut Art and Craft Centre, tucked our hands into jacket pockets, and waited.
Soon we saw other backpacked Arctic Circle Trail-types trundling past, so pulled our packs back on to go down to the boat again. This time we were allowed on, after a little bit of queue time.
You pass through a little hut in front of the ferry where you’re given a ticket with your couchette/cabin number on, in our case 101 and 102, which were two floors down at the bottom of the ship. We were mostly surrounded by other hikers and backpackers, including two Finnish girls who had also just finished the Arctic Circle Trail.
It’s easy to book the Greenland ferry online (you can choose either a couchette bed like we did, or a private cabin). You can also book meal vouchers in advance, but we found it easy enough just to walk up and see if we wanted to buy anything.
There was a great deal for breakfast, where you can pick up tea, bread, hardboiled egg, pastries, and more for something like DKK 85. There was very, very little in the way of vegetarian options for lunch, so I decided against that anyway.
Bring a few snacks on board just in case, or even bring full meals (the Finns in our cabin were tucking into a feast of avocados, bread, tuna, chocolate, and tinned peaches).
As you get closer to Ilulissat after breakfast, keep your table in the restaurant or head up to the deck to enjoy the view of passing icebergs. If I headed back to Greenland, I’d love to see more of the coast this way – it couldn’t be easier to see more of the west without needing to fly, with the Arctic Umiaq line operating from Qaqortoq in the south, via Nuuk and Sisimiut, up to Ilulissat.
When we got to Ilulissat, we grabbed some food from the supermarket before getting our pickup for the boat to Ilimanaq, where we were spending a fancy night at World of Greenland’s Ilimanaq Lodge.
Read more: Waking up to icebergs in one of Ilimanaq Lodge’s solar-powered A-frame cabins
After that, we headed back to Ilulissat for a few nights staying in the Icefiord Apartments in the centre of town. From there, you’re in a great place to wander to the ice cap, head out on a hike, or do a boat tour or kayaking trip around icebergs.
Read more about the Arctic Circle Trail:
- 10 days hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland, one of the most remote and stunning treks in the world
- Packing list for the 160km Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland – what I packed, loved & didn’t use
- 36 things I wish I knew before hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland
- Waking up to icebergs in one of Ilimanaq Lodge’s solar-powered A-frame cabins