"What happened to the Norsemen is still a mystery."

Under the leadership of the chieftain Erik the Red, around six hundred men, women and children left Iceland with farm animals and building materials onboard, to go and settle in the green fiords of South Greenland.

When Erik the Red gave Greenland its name.

During the years prior to the exodus, Erik had explored the fiords of Southern Greenland and had found fertile and uninhabited land. He named the country Greenland as a means of easier persuading people to join him, but also because he thought the name fit the land he saw.

Iceland, which today is a place many think of as warmer and greener than Greenland, was given its name due to the many glaciers that mark the countryside in central and southern Iceland. Greenland got its name, because of the fiords of South Greenland, that were far more lush compared to the area Erik was familiar with in Northwest Iceland. So this is how the first connection between Iceland and Greenland was established.

"He named the country Greenland as a means of easier persuading people to join him."

"At Qassiarsuk today, one now has the opportunity to view both the ancient ruins and the new reconstructions."

Come to Viking Greenland from Reykjavik

Whereas the journey, a thousand years ago, took place in sail boats and often in stormy and ice filled waters, today there is a direct flight with Air Iceland from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq, and from there it is only a short ride by boat to Qassiarsuk, the location of Brattahlid, Eric the Red’s old chief seat.

At Qassiarsuk today, one now has the opportunity to view both the ancient ruins and the new reconstructions of Erik the Red's farm and of the first Christian church in North America, Tjodhilde’s church. It was from Qassiarsuk that Erik's son, Leif Ericsson, set out on his famous expedition to Vinland.

Follow in the footsteps of the Vikings in Southern Greenland.

During the nearly five centuries that the Norsemen spent in Greenland, they built churches, farms and had fields growing crops in the most of southwestern Greenland all the way from Kap Farvel to the Nuuk fiord system. When hiking through the sheep farming areas in Southern Greenland, traces of the Viking presence is found in multiple places.

Almost all of the sheep farms lie next to a ruin of some Norse farm, and many of the fields where crops are grown today, were tilled by the Norsemen who removed stones from the land with their bare hands. When staying overnight on one of the sheep farms, it does not take much imagination to experience the country as the first Norsemen saw it.

The old Episcopal residence Garder, was situated in the settlement of Igaliko, and from 1126 A.D. it was the bishopric of Greenland with a farm and a cathedral. When the area was resettled in the 18th century, many of the stones that the Norsemen had used for their homes were reused when the unique stone houses of Igaliko were built.

"When hiking through the sheep farming areas in Southern Greenland, traces of the Viking presence is found in multiple places."

"What happened to the Norsemen is still a mystery."

The last sign of life from the Vikings of Greenland

Close by the town of Qaqortoq lies the most impressive Norse ruin, the Church of Hvalsey and banquet hall. When standing inside the church ruin, it is easy to imagine how the room would have been filled with medieval farmers and noblemen, whilst the priest conducted mass in Latin during the wedding of the Icelandic couple Sigrid Bjørnsdottir and Thorstein Olafsson in 1408.

They had been blown off course on their way to Iceland. The tale of the wedding is the last sign of life of the Vikings of Greenland.

What happened to the Norsemen is still a mystery. Come, experience Greenland as the Vikings saw it, and try your hand at guessing what became of the last of the Norsemen...