For a country that is more than three times the size of Texas, the tiny population totaling just over 56,000 people leaves the land quite sparsely populated. Home of the Inuit people (most residents belong to this group), the greatest percentage of Greenland’s citizens live along the southwest coast with only small dots of populated areas throughout the rest of the country. When you consider that 75% of the entire country is covered by a permanent ice sheet, only 25% is suitable for permanent human settlement.
Though trees and shrubs have been planted there since the 1890’s, the Greenland landscape isn’t lush as the name suggests. Rumor has it the country was given its name by an Icelandic criminal who was exiled to the country and wanted to attract fellow newcomers to join him there. Knowing it needed to sound attractive, he opted for a name that outsiders would find intriguing. On a side note, the Vikings named Iceland the way they did to prevent people from moving there, even though it would be better suited as the name for Greenland.
Fortunately for their tourism, the weather isn’t a deterrent for everyone, and Greenland still receives over 100,000 visitors per year. The summer months are chilly with highs in the 40’s and 50’s. Depending on your latitude, the sun can shine up to 24 hours per day during summer, which is a plus for visitors wanting to make the most of their vacations. On the other hand, winters are bitterly cold and never rise above freezing. It is not unheard of to face temperatures of up to -50 degrees Fahrenheit!
Greenland is truly a nature lover’s paradise. There is always a wide variety of outdoor activities to experience, regardless of the season. The views are spectacular, from the stunning icebergs to the glistening glaciers, the sweeping panorama across the Greenland Ice Cap to the magnificent display of native wildlife. Prepare yourself to find musk oxen, Arctic hare, Arctic fox, hooded seal, walrus, reindeer, white-tailed eagles, ringed seal, little auk, razorbill and the world’s largest land predator, the polar bear.
If you can visit Greenland, be sure to make time for the following activities:
Greenland’s capital with a population of 16,000 is one of the world’s smallest capital cities. While visiting this charming city, visit the Nuuk Art Museum, Katuaq Cultural Center and Greenland’s National Museum.
Learn about Greenland’s Inuit culture.
The Greenland National Museum in Nuuk has provided information on the history of human habitation and groups, such as the Inuits. Endowed with this knowledge, now go explore some of the many random settlements around the country to meet and get to know the friendly Inuit people.
This tourist hub in Northwest Greenland off Disko Bay is home to the small city of Iluissat. This place is known for its beauty, and activities specific to this area are offered below. From here you can embark on a kayak adventure.
Dine in the world’s most remote Michelin two-starred restaurant, KOKS.
The only way you can get to this gastronomic gem is by boat, sailing through the iceberg-filled Disko Bay. Come hungry to enjoy the 17-course menu.
Marvel at the Jakobshavn Glacier.
Located near the western town of Ilulissat, this large glacier can create icebergs that push into the waters of Disko Bay and become lodged in the fjord there for many years. Of special note, the Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Take the UNESCO hike to Sermermiut Valley from Ilulissat. Just under 2.5 miles, this hike is not treacherous and offers outstanding views.
Go whale watching.
During the summer you’ll find many opportunities for whale watching around the country and can feast your eyes on frolicking minke whales, fin whales and humpback whales.
Explore the Norse Ruins.
These remaining remnants of Norse culture history can be found in various places around South Greenland. This adventure is not for the faint of heart, since this is done through a combination of hiking and exploring by boat. Two of these settlements are Qussiarsuk and Igaliku.
Catch the Aurora Borealis light show. (September to April).
One of the few places in the world with truly spectacular views of the Northern Lights.
Choose from many special experiences available only during the winter, such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, dogsledding and ice-fishing.
Visit the cultural landscape of Kujataa.
This UNESCO world heritage site in South Greenland incorporates five physical locations that celebrate the farming cultures of both the Inuits and Norse.
By Lisa Osborne Blalock
Footloose Travel & Tours