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Access to protected and restricted areas in Greenland

The National Park in North and East Greenland
Since 1974 vast areas of North and East Greenland have been designated as a national park. The purpose of the c. 1,000,000 km2 park is to conserve the wilderness of the region and at the same time allow research and public admission. Protection of landscapes, flora, wildlife, prehistoric remains and other cultural relics of the past is the overall objective. The public is granted admission to the park on certain conditions.

See the Executive Order on the National Park.

Please check the geographical positions of the national park border.

If you are not a permanent resident in Avanersuaq (Thule) or Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund), or performing duties for a public Danish / Greenlandic authority, or working at a permanent station within the park you must obtain a special permit from the Greenland Home Rule Authority for admission to the national park.

Application for admission to the national park must contain information on the purpose of the visit, intended activity area, a list of participants, expected duration of the visit, as well as other information the Greenland Home Rule Authority may deem pertinent. You must comply with the stipulations in the "Ministry for Greenland Order of 22 February 1967, as altered by Order of 21 May 1976, Concerning Travels to and in Greenland". The Greenland Home Rule Authority can impose any appropriate stipulations for admission to the National Park. The completed form must be submitted to DPC which acts as a liaison between applicants and the Greenland Home Rule administration.

See "Deadlines"

Please notice the special requirements concerning firearms, polar bear deterrents and insurances imposed on any project or expedition to the national park.

Please check the transportation options for visitors to the park. Note that visitors to the national park must be prepared to prove possession of a valid entry permit before they travel to any destination within the National Park.

Note that any publicly authorized Danish or Greenlandic institution operating within the National Park, must procure a special National Park permit, prior to launching activities in the park, from the Greenland Ministry of Environment and Nature.

If you are a potential visitor to the research station at Zackenberg or its branch facility at Daneborg, both situated within the national park, you must read the ZERO Site Manual and plan accordingly.


The Inland Ice
The mighty ice sheet covering c. 85% of Greenland is called the "Inland Ice". It extends c. 2500 km (c. 1550 miles) from north to south and up to c. 1000 km from east to west. At its center, the ice is up to 3 km thick, and the ice cap represents c. 10 % of the world's total fresh water reserves. If all the Greenland ice were to melt momentarily, the world's oceans would rise seven meters.

Any research project or any expedition with activities planned for the Inland Ice or ice caps detached from the ice sheet proper must comply with a set of specific regulations before access to the ice can be granted. The requirements deal with safety issues such as SAR insurance, evacuation insurance, emergency transmitters (PLBs) and radio communication as well as timing of the project or expedition.

Research projects may be granted access to the ice sheet or ice caps in any season of the year.

Sport expeditions on the Inland Ice must restrict their activities to the period 1 April - 1 October. Access will not be granted outside the mentioned period.

Please notice that a significant portion of the Inland Ice is situated within the borders of the national park. Special regulations therefore apply to this part of the ice.

Leading eastwards from Kangerlussuaq airport, through the valley "Sandflugtsdalen and north-eastwards through the valley "Israndsdalen" a gravel road runs right up to the border of the Inland Ice. The road continues as a snow-packed track on the ice cap proper for 150 km eastwards and the destination is a car testing site, above the 2,000 m contour, owned and operated by the German car manufacturer "Volkswagen". The snow/ice road is off-limit to unauthorized persons. There may be weather, visibility and crevasse hazards connected with travelling the road. Therefore, you are not allowed to use the access road on the ice cap unless you have obtained a written access permission from the road operator, Skanska.


Arnangarnup Qoorua ('Paradise Valley')
An area in Angujaartorfiup Nunaa around Arnangarnup Qoorua, bounded by map co-ordinates 66°30'N / 51°37'W, 66°29'N / 51°37'W, point 1040 m, point 949 m, map co-ordinates 66°27'N / 51°20'W and map co-ordinates 66°32'N / 51°07'W, is designated as a protected area, owing to its beautiful landscape and importance both culturally and scientifically. In this area all plant and animal life is protected throughout the year. Ruins, graves and other prehistoric monuments are protected and may not be damaged or changed in any way. It is prohibited to gather any plants, antlers, skulls or relics and artefacts. Transportation in the protected area must be on foot. The valley is situated c. 80 km to the southwest of Kangerlussuaq airport.

Arnangarnup Qoorua is the Greenlandic name for this unique valley. It means "the most feminine valley". Among local non-Greenlanders the valley is colloquially known as "paradise valley" for obvious reasons.

If you plan a project or an expedition to take place in the protected area and you are planning to use other transportation means than hiking you must apply for a specific permit from the Greenland Home Rule administration. Complete the standard application form and state in details your activity plan while in the valley. Submit the form to DPC and DPC shall act as a liaison between you and the Greenland Home Rule.

Detailed map of reserve border

Vertical aerial photo of the central part of the valley


Qimusseriarsuaq (Melville Bay)
Along the icebound coast in the northernmost part of West Greenland a large ice-land-sea area is set aside as a nature reserve. This reserve is situated on and along the shore of the bay Qimusseriarsuaq (meaning "the great dog sledding place"), formerly known as Melville Bugt (bay). The primary purpose of the reserve is to protect a breeding population of polar bears and summer populations of belugas and narwhals.

The border of the reserve is as follows:
The Inland Ice 500 m contour line from the position 76°22'30"N / 64°01'00"W to the position 75°40'30"N / 57°56'00"W. From the latter position due southwest to Kap Lewis on Tuttlipaluk and from there in a straight line to the westernmost point of the isles Saatut (Sabine Øer). From here in a straight line to the westernmost point of Qapiarfissalik (Thom Ø) continuing to the southernmost point of Apussaavik (Bryant Ø). From here to the southernmost point of the island Nallortoq (Kap Melville, Nallortup Nuua). From this position the reserve border runs due north to the start position 76°22'30"N / 64°01'00"W.

Please note that the nature reserve is off limit to any sport expedition. Only in exceptional cases, the Greenland Home Rule government may grant access, and then only to research projects, which have applied for dispensation through DPC. Please use the standard application form.

If your plans include activities in Qimusseriarsuaq (Melville Bay) even outside the reserve, be aware that this region is likely to offer polar bear encounters. Be prepared to enjoy this treat in the optimal way: Read this polar bear chapter.

See the detailed map of the reserve border


Pituffik (Thule Air Base)
Since 1953 U.S. Air Force has operated a base on the alluvial plains at Pituffik; this place is also known as "Thule Air Base". Pituffik is closest neighbour to the old Thule, also known as Uummannaq or Dundas. The main town in the region (i.e. Qaanaaq municipality) is Qaanaaq, c. 100 km to the north of Pituffik.

Generally speaking, Pituffik is off limit to civilian activities. If you are planning a project or an expedition that will need to transit or access Pituffik you must clearly state so when completing the standard application form. Be sure to enclose all pertinent information relating to your planned activity at Pituffik. Submit the completed and signed form to DPC.

Please note that projects sponsored by U.S. National Science Foundations have special opportunities for air transport to and from Thule Air Base as well as logistics support on site.


Supplement your site specific information by Greenland Institute on Natural Resources' GIS-based database on localities of special wildlife interest.