A THOUSAND YEARS OF SHEEP FARMING AND AGRICULTURE

One thousand years ago a group of Norsemen, with Eric the Red in the front, sailed into the bay where the settlement Qassiarsuk is located today. According to legend, Eric had such strong emotional ties to the area where he had grown up in Norway that he baptised the place he found, Brattahlíð which means “steep hill”. Before long, he and his companions had established an agricultural community in the fjord.

Farming is still the main occupation in Qassiarsuk and the sheep farmers in the area cultivate the same fields, and let their animals graze in the same river valleys and the same hillsides that the Norsemen used towards the end of the 9th century.

The agriculture of the sheep farms is also about a special feeling of community, and you will experience the strong bonds and the close cooperation between the families living in the settlement and the farms in the countryside.

According to legend, Eric had such strong emotional ties to the area where he had grown up in Norway that he baptised the place he found, Brattahlíð which means “steep hill”.

Where the gravel roads end around the settlement, lie the sheep farms that give new meaning to the word “remote”.

REMOTE FARMS WITH MODERN CONNECTIONS

Where the gravel roads end around the settlement lie the sheep farms that give new meaning to the word “remote”, and especially in Tasiusaq and Nunataaq, about a day’s hike west of Qassiarsuk, the fields reach down to the edge of the water, in fjords where icebergs from the Ice Cap drift by on their way towards the ocean.

Yet, you will experience that the locals are connected to the internet, watch satellite television and run modern farms adapted for export, send their kids to a well-run school in the settlement and are generally focused on seeing the next generation grow up and get educated, even if this means that the young will have to leave South Greenland for a number of years.  

THE NORSEMEN IN QASSIARSUK

Qassiarsuk was the stronghold of the Norsemen. It was here they built the first Christian church on the North American continent, and it was from this location that their culture of farming spread to the rest of South Greenland.

Today a statue of Leif Ericsson has been erected on a prominent vantage point in Qassiarsuk keeping watch over both the past and the present. In the Danish language, Leif is better known by his nick names - Leif the Happy, Leif the Lucky, or simply Eric the Red’s son. He is the very first man to sail towards the west arriving in North America at a place he called, Vinland. A feat of that magnitude is not left unnoticed in South Greenland.

Qassiarsuk is the most important of all the Norsemen landmarks in South Greenland because the ruins are still very much part of the present-day landscape, and with the re-construction of Thodhilde’s Christian church and the adjacent long house, you will experience the feel of these historical buildings coming alive in a way that is unique in Greenland.

  • Qassiarsuk is a sheep farming settlement founded in 1924 by Otto Frederiksen. Many of his descendants today are among the settlements 50 inhabitants.
  • Eric the Red and his wife Thorhildur settled here in 982 and built the first Christian church on the North American continent.
  • Today Qassiarsuk has a grocery store and a cafe.
  • There is a 120 kilometer gravel road in Qassiarsuk and the surounding hillsides and the area is great for hiking trips.
  • Due to the sheep in the settlement the surrounding area has no mosquitoes.

  • Every year Qassiarsuk hosts the Leif Ericsson Marathon.

HIKING AND THE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE IN QASSIARSUK

Although the actual growth of trees is limited to certain protected fjords, the landscape of South Greenland nevertheless in many ways resembles the fjords of western Norway.

The area around Qassiarsuk has mountain hiking trails as well as a 100 kilometer gravel road that connects the settlement with the surrounding farms of Tasiusaq, Nunataaq, Sillisit, Qorlortoq and Ipiutaq that offer accommodation if you wish to stay overnight on the route.

One of the classic treks in Greenland is the 60 kilometer hike from Qassiarsuk over the mountain to Narsaq. The route changes between easy-to-walk gravel roads, staying overnight at a sheep farm, and trekking over a mountain area with many remnants of the Norsemen.