The Insider Guide to Nuuk and the Arctic Winter Games 2016

You might not know it, but in Greenland nearly everyone is preparing for our largest event ever to be held in the country – the Arctic Winter Games 2016. Here’s a quick and dirty guide for a first-timer attending the Games and our capital. 

The AWG2016 has only been held in Greenland one time before and that was all the way back in 2002. This time around, 2000 people will be flying into the country to take part in the ‘Junior Olympics of the Arctic’. It’s taken many years of planning to reach this point! In 2014, I had the extreme privilege of flying to Fairbanks, Alaska as part of the ‘Next Host Society’ in order to prepare for this event. It was with wide and fresh eyes that I saw some sports played out for the very first time. Today, I’m busy preparing for the Games with my colleagues in Team Promotion, specifically looking after Press Relations.

There are many veterans of the Arctic Winter Games who will visit Nuuk in just a few weeks. But for those of you who haven’t been to either a Game or Nuuk before, I hope I can help you with this quick guide of what to see and do in Nuuk during AWG2016.

    Photo: Will Lambeth

    Photo: Will Lambeth – this photo was taken during summertime from Ukkusissat (Store Malene) the mountain right next to the ski lift)

    For a fantastic view, take the ski lift to the top of the mountain! Nuuk’s backcountry is just a short bus ride and an ascent away. You are guaranteed spectacular vistas from the top of the hill. You can either take the Games Bus if you are a participant or volunteer, or regular bus number 3 will take you to the airport, not too far away from the ski lift.

    arctic winter games mads pihl

    Photo: Visit Greenland – Mads Pihl. Performing the airplane!

    Head to Nuussuaq Gym to check out Arctic Sports, an array of traditional disciplines that tested and prepared Inuit for hunting and living in the harsh Arctic lands. Watch as athletes compete in finger pulling, arm pulling, airplane and knuckle hop. The video above will give you an idea! Check out this video too!

    Courtesy of AWG2014

    Photo: AWG2014.

    Do go and see Pole Push, one of the disciplines of the Dene Games from the Interior Native cultures. Remember when kids played tug-of-war with a rope at parties? Well, these dudes and dudettes use a LOG to test who is the strongest team. You can find these muscly men and women outside AHL, the primary school at Qinngorput.

    Photo: AWG2014 - Nathan Belz

    Photo: AWG2014 – Nathan Belz

    Visit the snowshoeing competition! I call it a catwalk because the snowshoes and moccasins that the athletes compete in are to die-for. Intricately detailed with leather trimmings and decorations, you’ll see how the participants quickly cover a great distance while becoming green-eyed with envy at the beauty of the shoes. Competitors in the snowshoeing races must use traditional gear. According to AWG guidelines:

    “Snowshoes shall be made of a wooden frame. The webbing shall be of leather or gut. Snowshoes shall not have any device(s) affixed to them, the purpose of which is the improvement of traction…All athletes must wear mukluks, moccasins or kamiks when racing. Footwear must be made of soft leather below the ankle including the sole.” The snowshoeing event can be found at Ravnedalen.

    From AWG2014.

    Photo: AWG2014. Greenland’s cultural performance.

    The AWG2016 is an event that connects people through sports and culture. Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a lot of focus on cultural during the Games. Make sure to check out some of the exhibitions that are specifically set up for the week. You’ll be able to find that out on AWG’s Cultural Events page and the Games Guide (page 35-36 gives you a selected overview), but if you go to just one thing, the Gala Show is the gig to see. Called ‘AWG’s Got Talent’ last time, participants from the different contingents sang, rapped, danced, and read poems that reflected upon their own identities and cultures. Such talent!

    Photo: AWG2016. Host society jackets are a rare purple colour!

    Photo: AWG2016. Most volunteers in Greenland will be in Green, but the core host society team will be decked out in a dazzling magenta colour! Here they are happy that snow has finally fallen in Greenland.

    You’ll see people going about town in their Games gear. If you’re a tourist who wants to get an extra souvenir or two, bring some items to swap (like a pin or badge!!) because at the end of the Games everyone will be stripping off a hat and gloves and offering it in exchange for your jacket – make sure you practise your bargaining skills prior! You can also buy stuff….

    red cross greenlandic dollsThe Red Cross has lots of quirky things on offer, but you can bet that they will sell out of items quickly during the AWG2016. From beaded candle holders to seal fur hats to mint-condition Canada Goose jackets, you can often snap up something uniquely Greenlandic at the very reasonably priced second-hand store. Besides this, my favourite items are the hand-knitted dolls Miss Inuuna and Mr Inuk – they are lovingly produced by the volunteers at the Red Cross and cost 150DKK each. Each one is unique in detail and the money donated for a good cause. Availability is dependent upon how quickly Aase and the other ladies are able to knit, but you can find this out at the Red Cross at the city centre – just ask for ‘Oles Gamle Varehus’ or Rød Kors.
    Photo: Nuuk Marluk. Buffet brunch at Katuaq!

    Photo: Nuuk Marluk. Buffet brunch at Katuaq!

    I love brunch. I wish there were more choices in Nuuk, but if you’re here for a short time there’s enough places to eat your heart out and be satisfied. Katuaq and Esmeralda are my current picks for brunch. For Katuaq, a buffet brunch is served all day during the weekend. If you do go to this I’d recommend that you arrive first thing in the morning for the freshest food.
    You can get a daily Esmeralda’s brunch served on a platter consisting of bread, cheese, scrambled eggs, sausages, smoked salmon, pesto, olive tapenade, pancakes and yoghurt, together with tea or coffee. Last time I checked it cost between 135 – 160DKK. Here are the ‘Greenlandic-style’ directions to reach there: The café can be found opposite Hotel Hans Egede, above a pub called Maximut. You have to go upstairs to get to the café.

    Christmas beer at Tullemut, Nuuk Greenland

    Christmas beer at Tullemut. Sorry J, you look like you’re about to get punched =)

    There are hidden bars, and then there are hidden bars. In hip cities like New York, Melbourne and San Francisco, there are watering holes that market themselves on being secret – you can only find out about them through word-of-mouth using a code and by entering via an obscure and dirty passage and emerging into a swanky, throbbing establishment. Guess which type of hidden bar I’m talking about exists in Nuuk ? =) It only took me 2.5 years to walk into Tullemut, and that was to find a friend. It’s small, dark, and noone really goes there but actually the wooden decor combined with wooden snowshoes, Indian chief heads and roman pillars, make it a cosy place to grab a beer. And with a Greenlandic selection on tap, you can’t get more local than that. They don’t have a website or Facebook page but if you want to find it, it’s on the main drag of Nuuk, Aqqusinersuaq, connected to Kristinemut.

Well, there’s many more thing to see and do while in Nuuk, Greenland during AWG2016 but that’s all I’ll suggest for now! Feel free to ask questions or put your own suggestions in the comment section!

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7 thoughts on “The Insider Guide to Nuuk and the Arctic Winter Games 2016

  1. The Arctic Winter Games are something I really would love to see some day 🙂
    It is really strange that there are some places like bars which can be so good but no one knows about them except a few selected locals. Had a similar thing in Finland back in the day…

  2. Hooray, the Artic Winter Games are coming around again! It is so nice of Greenland to have events on for the locals and tourists who are visiting for the Games. The tug of war one caught my eye. That log is massive and it doesn’t look like one can wrap their hands comfortably around it. And it must be heavy, and the team who wins is the one that doesn’t fall down. I mean, I don’t think it is expected of them to break it into half… 😀

    Those souvenirs are sooo cute! Individually wrapped too 🙂

    • Sorry for my late reply, I don’t know how you can be so diligent in reading, writing and responding to comments! The Pole Push is one of my favourite sports. Shows pure strength. The Dene Hand Games were probably the most curious of all the Games. I don’t think anyone really gets it unless you play it yourself!

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