Greenland aims to build its very first road between cities
Traveling from city to city in Greenland requires a bit of ingenuity. You can fly in a regional plane. You can hike. You can go kayaking. You can even go dog sledding if you want. But you won’t be able to drive – at least, not until Greenland has completed the Arctic Circle Road, the country’s first settlement route.
The Arctic Circle Route will link Sisimiut, the second largest city in Greenland, to Kangerlussuaq, a city of around 500 inhabitants but which has Greenland’s main international airport. The proposed route will be just under 100 miles and has become a tourist attraction for what Visit Greenland CEO Hjortur Smarason calls “adventure tourists” – people who are more interested in camping and hiking in remote areas than by staying at all-inclusive resorts. .
Smarason accompanied the Extreme E Circus to the recent Electric Race Series event in Kangerlussuaq, where he was more than happy to answer our questions about Visit Greenland’s goals.
I’ve been to countries like Iceland before, another area that invites adventure tourists but limits where these people can go due to the delicate environment. So while you’re invited to hike marked trails, Iceland doesn’t want you to walk over the sensitive moss that can take years to grow back – if it ever does. Carving a dirt road between two towns in an attempt to encourage more tourists to cross Greenland seems odd considering Iceland’s mandates.
But as Smarason told me, he doesn’t expect millions of tourists to flock to Arctic Circle Road. The objective is rather to reach around 100,000 people per year by crossing the 160 km dirt road, which will be dotted with small campsites or chalets. After all, the road won’t invite cars; instead, you can hike, bike or ride an ATV.
I got a taste of this potential route myself when I got into the back of a four-seater UTV driven by Albrecht Kreutzmann, the mayor of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The part of the road through the town proper was quite wide and well maintained, but as we approached the Russell Glacier the road became more difficult. It took someone with off-road experience to navigate the narrow, rocky paths – but the end result was worth it as we were greeted with a great view of the glacier.
These are the kind of people Greenland craves the most: intrepid travelers who don’t hesitate to bite the bullet, those who are there to enjoy the trip as part of the final destination. It’s not like Iceland’s well-paved ring road, which attracts a more conventional type of tourist. The Arctic Circle Road is a route for people who already have a deep respect for their environment.