Qaqortoq market square
Qaqortoq market square
Flag of Qaqortoq
Coat of arms of Qaqortoq
Qaqortoq is located in Greenland
Location within Greenland
Qaqortoq is located in North Atlantic
Qaqortoq (North Atlantic)
Qaqortoq is located in Arctic
Qaqortoq (Arctic)
Coordinates: 60°43′20″N 46°02′25″W / 60.72222°N 46.04028°W / 60.72222; -46.04028
Sovereign state Kingdom of Denmark
Constituent country Greenland
Municipality Kujalleq
 • MayorKiista P. Isaksen
 • Total3,050[1]
Time zoneUTC-03
Postal code

Qaqortoq,[2] formerly Julianehåb,[3] is a city in, and the capital of, the Kujalleq municipality in southern Greenland, located near Cape Thorvaldsen. With a population of 3,050 in 2020, it is the most populous town in southern Greenland and the fourth or fifth-largest town on the island.[1]


The area around Qaqortoq has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Beginning with the Saqqaq culture roughly 4,300 years ago, the area has had a continuous human presence.

Saqqaq culture

Main article: Saqqaq culture

The earliest signs of population presence are from roughly 4,300 years ago. While Saqqaq-era sites are generally the most numerous of all the prehistoric sites in Greenland, around Qaqortoq the Saqqaq presence is less prominent,[4] with only sporadic sites and items such as chipped stone drills[5] and carving knives.

Dorset culture

Main article: Dorset culture

The Dorset people arrived in the Qaqortoq area around 2,800 years ago.[6] Several rectangular peat dwelling structures, characteristic of the early Dorset culture, can be found around the wider Qaqortoq area.

Norse culture

Main article: Norse colonization of Greenland

Written records of South Greenland history begin with the arrival of the Norse in the late 10th century. The ruins of Hvalsey – the most prominent Norse ruins in Greenland – are located 19 kilometers (12 mi) northeast of Qaqortoq. General or even limited trade between the Norse and the Thule people was scarce. Except a few novel and exotic items found at Thule sites in the area, evidence suggests cultural exchange was initially sporadic. Later, the south Greenland Norse adopted trade with the southern Inuit and were for a time the major supplier of ivory to northern Europe.[citation needed] The Norse era lasted for almost five hundred years, ending in the mid-15th century. The last written record of the Norse presence is of a wedding in the Hvalseyjarfjord church in 1408.[7]

Thule people

Main article: Thule people

The Thule culture Inuit arrived in southern Greenland and the Qaqortoq area around the 12th century and were contemporaneous with the Norse. However, there exists little evidence of early contact. The Thule culture was characterized by a subsistence existence and there are few, if any, dwellings of considerable structure to be found from the era. Items, however, are relatively numerous.

Colonial era until present

Qaqortoq (Julianehaab) in 1860.

Main article: Danish colonization of Greenland

The present-day town was founded in 1775 by the Dano-Norwegian trader Anders Olsen, on behalf of the General Trading Company.[8] The town was christened Julianehaab after the Danish queen Juliane Marie, although it sometimes mistakenly appears as "Julianshaab".[9] The name was also sometimes anglicized as Juliana's Hope.[10] The town became a major center for the saddle-back seal trade[11] and today remains the home of the Great Greenland sealskin tannery.

Until 31 December 2008 the town was the administrative center of Qaqortoq municipality. On 1 January 2009 Qaqortoq became the biggest town and the administrative center of Kujalleq municipality, when the three municipalities of South Greenland, meaning Qaqortoq, Narsaq, and Nanortalik were merged into one municipality.


Historical buildings

The building that now houses the Qaqortoq museum was originally the town's blacksmith's shop. The house was built in yellow stone and dates back to 1804.

The oldest standing building at the historical colonial harbor – and thus of all of Qaqortoq – is a black-tarred log building from 1797.[12] The building was designed by royal Danish architect Kirkerup, pre-assembled in Denmark, shipped in pieces to Qaqortoq, and then reassembled.

Stone & Man

Qaqortoq is a town of artists and talented craftsmen. From 1993 to 1994 Qaqortoq artist Aka Høegh and other 18 Nordic artists presided over the Stone & Man project, designed to transform the town into an open air art gallery. Eighteen artists from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Greenland carved 24 sculptures into the rock faces and boulders in the town. Today there are over 40 sculptures in the town, all part of the Stone & Man exhibit.

The fountain

The town is home to the oldest fountain in Greenland, Mindebrønden, finished in 1932.[13] It was the only fountain in the country prior to another in Sisimiut. A tourist attraction, the fountain depicts whales spouting water out of their blowholes.[14]



Qaqortoq heliport in 2008

Main articles: Qaqortoq Heliport, Air Greenland, and Qaqortoq Airport

Qaqortoq Heliport operates year-round, linking Qaqortoq with Narsarsuaq Airport and, indirectly, with the rest of Greenland and Europe.

Feasibility assessments were underway regarding building a landing strip for fixed-wing aircraft. The issue was previously debated in 2007, when the Democrats opposed a Siumut landing strip proposal,[15] citing ecological and environmental concerns. In contrast to the previous debates, presently the Democrats are lobbying for a 1,799-meter (5,902 ft) runway, making passenger flights to continental Europe possible. A shorter, 1,199-meter (3,934 ft) runway, supported by the CEO of Air Greenland,[16] would enable flights with small turboprops to Iceland and eastern Canada.[17] The cost of moving the airport from Narsarsuaq as a 1799-meter runway is estimated at DKK900 million (€120.7m), while a 1199-meter runway is estimated at DKK370 million (€50m).[18] Presently Narsarsuaq airport is a community of 140 people, depending solely on the airport, but the Kujalleq Municipality supports the plans for moving the airport to the centre of South Greenland, thereby creating economic growth in the region.[19][20]

Five locations for a possible airport was assessed. Four of these – at Prinsessen, Nunarsuatsiaap Kujalequtaa, Munkebugten, and halfway towards Narsaq – are for a 1,199-meter (3,934 ft) domestic runway. Only one location, northwest of the town between Nuupiluk and Matup Tunua, would be suitable for a runway up to 2,100 meters (6,900 ft), in order to accommodate intercontinental flights. It was in 2011 expected that a new airport would be built before 2020, probably with a 1,499-meter runway behind the mountain of Saqqaarsik, being able to serve flights from Europe, Iceland and other parts of Greenland, thereby moving the air transport centre of South Greenland from Narsarsuaq to the centre of the region.

The final political decision on the matter was then pending for years, but an act on the project was finalized by the parliament of Greenland in 2018, and a project is now being prepared for an airport with a 1500-meter runway, allowing smaller jets to land during the crucial summer tourist season. The 1500-meter runway will also be important for developing the nearby Tanbreez REE-mine project. A contract with a construction company from Canada was finally signed in February 2022.[21][22] Expected completion is in 2025.

The decided site is at 60°45′51″N 46°3′57″W / 60.76417°N 46.06583°W / 60.76417; -46.06583, 5 km north of town, having a decided runway of 1500 meters.[23] The 1500 meter runway is considered the shortest possibility, in terms of future economic development, especially within the tourism sector.[24] The access road to the airport site was completed as a temporary gravel road in 2017, which will be widened and paved.


Qaqortoq in summer

As is true of all populated places in Greenland, Qaqortoq is not connected to any other place via roads. Fairly well trodden hiking trails lead north and west from the town, but for any motorized transportation all terrain vehicles are needed. During winter, snowmobiles become the transport of choice.


Qaqortoq is a port of call for the Arctic Umiaq ferry.[25] The port authority for Qaqortoq is Royal Arctic Line, located in Nuuk. With a channel depth of 50 feet (15 m), the port can accommodate vessels up to 500 feet (150 m) in length. The port offers pilotage upon request, but no tug boat services.

The port of Qaqortoq, situated close to the southern tip of Greenland, is an important cruise destination of the North Atlantic, having 30-40 calls per season, often large cruise ships transferring in late summer / early autumn from North Europe to the Caribbean.

Economy and infrastructure

Autumn in Qaqortoq

Qaqortoq is a seaport and the centre of South Greenland. Fish processing, tourism, tanning, fur production, and ship maintenance and repair are important activities, but the economy is based primarily on educational and administrative services. The primary industries in the town are fishing, service, and administration.[26]

The native subsistence economy was long preserved by the former monopoly Royal Greenland Trading Department, which used the town as a source of saddle-back seal skins.[11] The Great Greenland Furhouse is the only tannery in Greenland and the primary sealskin purchaser on the island; it remains one of the major employers in the town.

Agriculture, mainly as sheep farming, cattle and reindeer herding, are conducted on a number of farms in the fiord landscapes close to Qaqortoq. Qaqortoq is an important service provider and supply centre for the farmers.

Of all exports produced in Qaqortoq, 70.1% are headed for the Danish market.[27]

Qaqortoq is located in one of the most mineral rich areas in the world, South Greenland having a vide range of mineral deposits. Mining has been a major economic activity in South Greenland in the past, especially the nearby Ivittuut mine north of Qaqortoq.[28] A gold mine was operating from 2003 to 2013 in Nalunaq, south of Qaqortoq. The gold mine is expected to reopen in 2022.[29]

The Tanbreez multielement project, situated less than 20 kilometers east of Qaqortoq, was granted an exploitation licence in 2020,[30] and a major mine is expected to be established within a few years.


During the summer of 2020, the unemployment rate in Qaqortoq was at 7%,[31] a rather high level compared to for instance Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. The level of unemployment in Qaqortoq has during the last decade been declining.


All of Qaqortoq's electricity is supplied by the government-owned company Nukissiorfiit. Since 2007, Qaqortoq gets its electric power mainly from Qorlortorsuaq Dam by way of a 70-kilometer (43 mi) 70 kV powerline. Previously the town's electricity was supplied by means of so-called "bunker fuel generators",[32] three diesel ship engines converted to electricity production.[33]


Qaqortoq is the main center for education in South Greenland and has a primary school, middle school, and high school, a folk high school which started as a workers' college (Sulisartut Højskoliat) in 1977, a school of commerce, and a basic vocational school.[34]


Gertrud Rasch's Church

Gertrud Rasch's Church

Gertrud Rasch's Church (Danish: "Gertrud Rasks Kirke") is a white concrete Lutheran church. The church is named after Gertrud Rask, the wife of missionary Hans Egede. Due to the increasing population in Qaqortoq, the old church could no longer adequately serve the community, and a new church was commissioned by the Church of Denmark. Construction started in May 1972[35] and it was consecrated on 8 July 1973. It was designed by architect Ole Nielsen,[36] and is made entirely of concrete. The church has a concrete altar. The motif of the altarpiece is based upon south Greenland flora. The church features a ten-stop Frobenius organ from 1973.[37]


Qaqortoq Regional Hospital

Qaqortoq is served by Napparsimavik Hospital, officially Napparsimavik Qaqortoq Sygehus. The hospital is also the main hospital in southern Greenland. With a staff of 59 people, presently the hospital has 18 beds.[38] The three villages in Qaqortoq municipality – Eqalugaarsuit, Saarloq, and Qassimiut – also belong to the healthcare district of Napparsimavik Hospital. The villages are visited via sea and with a medical helicopter in case of emergencies. During the summer of 2010, the hospital used Greenland-grown vegetables exclusively.[39]


Qaqortoq in winter

Tourism is a significant contributor to the economy of the town. The Qaqortoq Tourist Service – Greenland Sagalands A/S – is the main local cruise operator and tourist office. The main foundation for tourism in town is the cruise tourism, Qaqortoq being the main cruise destination in Greenland with more than 35 cruise calls per season and +30000 cruise visitors. The cruise tourists are a wide range of nationalities, with Germans, British and Americans as major groups.

Roughly two-thirds of all non-cruise tourists (65.5%) are from Denmark.[27] There are several facilities offering accommodations, including the Qaqortoq Hostel. The Qaqortoq Museum offers services in English, Danish, and Kalaallisut. The Great Greenland Furhouse is also a popular tourist attraction.

Tourists are offered by the tourist office activities such as kayaking, guided hiking, whale-watching, tours to the Greenland ice cap, Norse ruins, farms, the Uunartoq hot springs and general boating. In recent years, Qaqortoq has experienced a decline in tourist revenue, beside cruise tourism, with an average of 1,700 tourists annually staying in the town overnight, very much due to the lack of an airport close to the town. The Qaqortoq Stadium is the first artificial grass football stadium in Greenland.[40] The Danish Crown Princely family visited the town as part of an official tour of Greenland in summer 2014.[41] A small grove of hardy poplar trees was planted by the Crown Prince family.[42]


With 3,050 inhabitants as of 2020, Qaqortoq is the largest town in the Kujalleq municipality.[1] The population is nearly unchanged from its 1995 levels.

There exists no gender imbalance among native Greenlanders in Qaqortoq, the only gender inequity is among inhabitants born outside Greenland, with 3 out of 5 being male. As of 2011 10% of the town's inhabitants were born outside Greenland, a decline from 20% in 1991, but an increase from a 9% low in 2001.[43]


Qaqortoq is located at approximately 60°43′20″N 46°02′25″W / 60.72222°N 46.04028°W / 60.72222; -46.04028 in the Qaqortoq Fjord, beside the Labrador Sea.


Main article: Climate of the Arctic

Qaqortoq has a maritime-influenced polar climate (ET) with cold, snowy winters and cool summers. The southern tip of Greenland does not experience permafrost.[44] Thanks to its relative warmth compared to other settlements, few groves of trees can now thrive and survive under sheltered locations, making Qaqortoq one of the few Greenlandic towns able to sustain such an environment. Winters are much milder than at much lower coastal parallels in continental North America due to the marine effect. Therefore, the seasonal variation in the climate is very small for a location so far north.

Climate data for Qaqortoq, Greenland (57 m asl, normals 1991-2020, extremes 1961-2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 12.3
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) −1.9
Daily mean °C (°F) −4.9
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −7.8
Record low °C (°F) −30.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 75.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 10.2 9.5 8.3 7.2 7.3 8.4 8.4 9.9 11.1 8.7 9.6 9.3 107.9
Average relative humidity (%) 66.5 67.8 65.8 70.7 75.8 79.7 81.8 84.9 77.8 67.5 72.6 70.1 73.4
Source: Danish Meteorological Institute;[45] raw data[46] (humidity 2004-17)

Twin Town

Qaqortoq is twinned with:

Foreign Relation

Qaqortoq has a consulate from the government of Latvia, representing Latvia for Greenland.[47]


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  3. ^ The pre-1948 spelling was Julianehaab.
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  5. ^ "Bifacial tool/projectile point". National Museum of the American Indian. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
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  18. ^ "Turismeerhvervet i Sydgrønland frygter nye lufthavnsplaner" (in Danish). Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on October 9, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  19. ^ "11 siger ja til lufthavn i Qaqortoq".
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  21. ^ The contracting for the upcoming airport in Qaqortoq is concluded.
  23. ^ Qaqortoq
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