Despite the widespread abundance of hot springs in Greenland, there is only one thermal pool in the country that is warm enough to swim in. Nevertheless, this tucked-away primitive pool is one of the world’s most unique natural hot springs.
Tucked away on an uninhabited island in Southern Greenland, the Uunartoq Hot Springs may be the only spot on the planet where visitors can immerse in natural geothermally heated mineral waters while watching majestic glaciers slowly drift along the horizon.
Not an easily accessible thermal pool, the Uunartoq Hot Springs occupy one of the idyllic country’s most pristine corners. They provide a quiet setting within the untouched countryside to soak in the peaceful serenity of the surrounding nature while embracing the therapeutic properties of the soothing waters.
While the uninhabited island already provides a surreal experience, the entire complex becomes even more mystical once you learn of the site’s historical and haunted past.
From its first discovery to the best nearby accommodations and attractions, this is everything you need to know before visiting the Uunartoq Hot Springs, Greenland.
History of Uunartoq Hot Springs, Greenland
While the exact date of the Uunartoq Hot Springs’ discovery remains a mystery, the thermal pool is known to have been first frequented by the Norse people during the Viking era over a thousand years ago.
Legends quickly circulated of the island’s warm waters’ curative and pain-relieving abilities. Recognizing the therapeutic properties of the hot spring, the Norse settlers established a primitive medieval spa of stone bathtubs and basic amenities. According to local folklore, the Uunartoq Hot Springs was even visited by Leif Erikson before his expedition to discover North America.
Those seeking the site’s health benefits would set up temporary camps along its shores for weeks at a time. Later, once the Norse people disappeared from Greenland, the Uunartoq Hot Springs began to be frequented by the indigenous Thule people. The island even features 18th and 19th-century ruins attributed to the Qerrortuut Intuit people.
However, despite their century-long popularity among multiple civilizations, the island of Uunartoq was never permanently settled. While this could be for numerous reasons, including the sparse vegetation and the iceberg-filled fjord, one local legend claims the island has been left uninhabited thanks to the acclaimed ghosts spotted haunting the springs.
Regardless of what has kept settlers away from the rustic island’s shores, the undeveloped nature of the site has allowed for the hot springs to remain in the same primitive state they have existed in for thousands of years, and visitors today can still soak in the same ancient waters once enjoyed by the Viking people of Greenland.
Primitive Facilities at the Uunartoq Hot Springs
Thanks to the Uunartoq Hot Springs’s isolated location on the uninhabited island in southern Greenland, the primitive thermal pool occupies the same pristine setting it has enjoyed for thousands of years. The only exception to this lack of development is the two small wooden buildings erected near the springs that operate as changing rooms for added convenience.
Despite this minor addition to the site, the Uunartoq Hot Springs provides a tranquil setting to soak in while admiring the breathtaking natural landscape of the island and iceberg-riddled fjord.
Unlike most hot springs, Uunartoq Hot Springs are not heated by volcanic geothermal activity. Instead, the waters originate deep in the Earth, where thick layers of the planet’s crust rub against each other. The friction warms the water before it shoots back up to the Earth’s surface into three naturally heated springs, which run to the stoned-damned pool.
As a result, the Uunartoq Hot Springs boasts warm, comfortable temperatures year round that are considered the only hot springs in Greenland where visitors can swim. This is because most hot springs in the country are either cooler than the outside weather of the region or are far too warm for the human body to bear.
The Uunartoq Hot Springs, on the other hand, features year-round temperatures averaging between 98- and 100 degrees Fahrenheit for a comfortably warm escape from southern Greenland’s chilly weather.
Attractions Near the Uunartoq Hot Springs
While the Uunartoq Hot Springs are the main appeal to this southern region of Greenland, the surrounding islands of the springs provide several exotic sites and cultures for visitors to explore.
Alluitsup Paa Village
Located on an island just east of Uunartoq, the Alluitsup Paa Village is a small settlement in southern Greenland that provides visitors with an immersive experience within one of the country’s most remote communities.
Reformed in 1973, Alluitsup Paa Village had a population of 202 full-time residents as of 2020. However, the site itself has been settled numerous times throughout history, most notably during the Viking age. As a result, many ruins of this ancient culture’s occupation of the region can still be explored today.
Along with delving into the island village’s historical setting, visitors to Alluitsup Paa also have a convenient base to explore the nearby fjords, islands, and the local village culture.
Most expeditions to the Un+unartoq Hot Springs begin and end in Qaqortoq. And while it is easy to pass through the town on your way to the thermal pool, visitors should take time to explore the historical community.
The largest town in Southern Greenland, Qaqortoq is a boiling pot for the region’s culture, history, and art scene. It boasts several attractions and services for guests to enjoy throughout their stay.
Some of the most popular activities within Qaqortoq include visiting the nearby ruins of Hvalsey Church which is said to be haunted by Norse ghosts of the region’s Viking inhabitants, the research station of Upernaviarsuk, the famous Greenland ice sheet, and of course, an excursion to Uunartoq Hot Springs.
Accommodations Options at Uunartoq Hot Springs, Greenland
As an uninhabited island, no hotels or resorts operate on Uunartoq. However, this doesn’t mean visitors can’t still spend the night by the tranquil hot springs. While not the most comfortable option, those brave enough to weather to cold evenings of Greenland are more than welcome to pitch a tent on the island.
Camping at Uunartoq is one of the best ways to enjoy the hot springs after all of the day visitors have packed up and left for the day. Overnight campers may even get lucky and be able to observe the mystical northern lights.
Alternatively, visitors can instead spend the night in Qaqortoq, at the Hotel Qaqortoq, which offers a full-service, comfortable stay throughout your visit to Southern Greenland.
Getting to the Uunartoq Hot Springs, Greenland
The journey to the Uunartoq Hot Springs is a challenging one. First, visitors must travel from the international airport in Narsarsuaq to Qaqortoq by air or boat transfer.
From there, visitors need to head to the docks, where they can arrange an expedition to the island with one of the operators or charter a boat for a private tour.
- Address: GM58+2M2, Igdlorpait, Greenland
- Season: May – September
- GPS Coordinates: 60.50776, -45.33071