The best things to do in Greenland
Greenland is one of those mysterious faraway places that few travelers have visited and few people live permanently. In fact, Greenland’s population is only about 56,483!
However, as the ecotourism industry spreads around the world and global warming threatens to melt the glaciers, a few more people visit Greenland each year. It is known as an isolated, dark and cold place; yet it also has one of the most beautiful natural landscapes on the planet and one of the best-preserved indigenous cultures in the world. It has been called one of the last frontiers for world exploration and is known for its fjords, icebergs, whales and hiking.
So if you’re ready for the remote adventure of a lifetime, check out these top sights in Greenland.
See the Northern Lights See the Northern Lights
See the Northern Lights
Perhaps Greenland’s most famous sight is the Northern Lights, or Northern Lights, which is a natural phenomenon and light show that can be seen from September through April. The summer months may have the warmest temperatures, but seeing the Northern Lights in the summer is almost impossible because of the midnight sun. A couple of great places to see the Northern Lights are Ittokkortoormiit or Kangerslussak.
See icebergs in Ilulissat Icefjord See icebergs in Ilulissat Icefjord
See icebergs in Ilulissat Ice Fjord
The other big attraction for Greenland is icebergs, and there are many icebergs and glaciers still visible in the area. The largest icebergs tend to be in the northern region of the country; However, there are smaller ones in the southern region as well. Ilulissat Ice Fjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is in North Greenland, and the best way to see it is to hike and camp on the glacier.
Explore the capital of Nuuk Explore the capital of Nuuk
Explore Nuuk Capital (hotel prices and photos)
If you only visit one town in Greentown, make it Nuuk. Nuuk is the capital and a great place to explore the country’s history and culture. Visit the National Greenland Museum in the oldest part of town, which dates back to the early 1700s. Nuuk has a population of about 15,000 people.
City of Kakortok City of Kakortok
Explore the town of Kakortok (hotel prices and photos)
With a population of just over 3,000, Kakortok is another town worth visiting in South Greenland. It is close to the harbor and has an Inuit museum and unique art sculptures.
Go snowmobiling Go snowmobiling
Snowmobiling is a popular sport in Greenland because there is almost always snow on the ground for travel! However, for the best snow conditions you should visit during the cold months of January through March. A huge part of the local culture and a means of practical transportation, it is also an adrenaline rush you will never forget.
Dog sledding Dog sledding
Similarly, dog sledding is another very traditional and popular activity for tourists in Greenland. There are travel companies that provide dog sledding experiences, providing an authentic way to see the landscape and interact with the friendly cats who love to run fast in freezing temperatures. East Greenland and north of the Arctic Circle are two of the most popular areas for dog sledding.
Example of local Greenlandic cuisine Example of local Greenlandic cuisine
An example of local Greenlandic cuisine
Now you may be wondering what exactly Greenlandic cuisine entails. Well, first of all, it’s all about local agriculture and wildlife that can withstand the harsh Arctic climate. There are many species of fish (cod, trout, Arctic char and perch, to name a few) that are caught and served in restaurants here, and land mammals on the menu include reindeer, muskox and lamb. Food here is often dried, smoked and salted and then served with sauces.
Go on a whale-watching cruise Go on a whale-watching cruise
Take a whale-watching cruise
Greenland continues to be a popular cruise destination, especially during the summer months when whales are absent. May through September is the best time to spot a whale in terms of the safety of your sailing vessel. The cruise allows visitors to navigate the majestic rock and ice-covered shoreline and truly appreciate the pristine natural beauty in all directions.
Kayak Blue River Kayak Blue River Kayak
Blue River Kayak
Believe it or not, Greenland’s waterways aren’t always frozen, and kayaking was one of the first ways the locals got around! Today, kayaking is still popular with tourists, and the Blue River is one of the best places to go boating. The Blue River is actually a crystal clear turquoise color and is located on the Petermann Glacier.
Hiking the Arctic Circle Hiking the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle Hiking
Hiking in Greenland has something for everyone, with varying degrees of intensity, length and landscape. The Arctic Circle Trail runs 160 kilometers between Kangerlussuaq and Sissimiut and usually runs about eight or overnight days. It is also one of the best hiking regions in Greenland. June-August are the best months for hiking, and other hiking hotspots exist in Ilulissat Ice Fjord, near Tasiilak in East Greenland and the Greenland Ice Sheet.
One interesting point: there is no private land in Greenland, so you can hike anywhere! Just be respectful of your distant neighbors and the environment.
Learn about Greenland’s heritage Learn about Greenland’s heritage
Learn about Greenland’s heritage
While Greenland’s geography has prevented it from being an incredibly diverse region, it’s worth learning about its heritage and cultural settlements. You can visit the settlement of Sermermiut, which is an ancient Eskimo settlement that preserves indigenous artifacts. It is only a mile from the town of Ilulissat and is great for a day hike. Greenland also has a strong Danish colonial heritage, and you can visit sites in Nuuk, Sisimiut, and Ilulissat to learn more about the region’s history.
Learn about Viking culture (hotel prices and photos)
Viking culture is also important in Greenland, and several regions of Viking ruins still exist here today. Erik the Red set out from Iceland to find Greenland, entering the Viking region more than 1,000 years ago. Travel to southern Greenland to visit the church of Hvalsi Fjord and the ruins of Brattachlid. While it’s not entirely clear what happened to the Viking societies that lived here for more than 500 years, the main assumptions have to do with the harsh climate and struggles with the native Inuit.
Take a dip in the hot springs of Uunartok Take a dip in the hot springs of Uunartok
Take a dip in the hot springs of Uunartoka
Sure, Greenland’s winters are nothing short of brutal, but here’s a place that averages 98 degrees per year. Visit Uunartok Island to bask in the warmth of the hot springs, which are Greenland’s most popular. Summer, winter, spring or fall: anytime you can spend time in these three springs, which form a warm giant bath. Another place to visit is Disco Island Hot Spring, which is located near the town of Ilulissat.
Holiday in Greenland
If you translate the name of the island from Greenland, it seems incredible that it is located far to the north and is covered with ice and snow, because it sounds like “green country.
This is how Greenland appeared in 982 before Eirik Raud, explorer and author of the name. “Glaciation” of the territory occurred in the XV century, now 80% of the island is covered by ice. Grass grows only in the southern region of Greenland.
This part of the land is almost not subject to destructive human activity, icebergs are born here.
The island is the largest in the world.
Europeans, more precisely, the Norwegians discovered the island in the tenth century. Before their arrival on the island there was not a single man. Arctic people – the Inuit began to settle here only after three hundred years. In the XIII century, Denmark declared the island its own. In 1979, Greenland received greater independence in domestic politics.
In 2008, through a general vote, the rights of local government were further expanded, allowing the government to independently manage natural resources, deal with legal issues and partially control foreign policy. The new rights allow, in the future, Greenlanders to define themselves as an independent people.
Greenland on a map:
Nature and Climate
On the territory of Greenland, tourists are greeted by unique landscapes, which is not found anywhere else on earth. Only here you can meet such exotic animals such as Caribou deer, see in the usual habitat of the musk ox, because on the mainland these species are extinct.
Of course, on the island there are also typical inhabitants of the north, including polar wolves, Arctic foxes and polar bears. The world of birds is diverse: Ross’s goose, Barnacle goose and others. Almost half of the territory are nature reserves and natural parks.
The island climate is harsh and uneven in different places. The central part is in the anticyclonic zone. In the summer months the temperature rises to -12 ° C, in winter, frosts reach -60 ° C. On the east coast in the winter months the temperature is around -30 ° C, and in the summer it may even be above zero, precipitation is less than in the center.
The west coast has a less harsh climate, with more precipitation. Summer temperatures are above freezing, and winter temperatures are warmer than in other parts of the island.
Greenland’s vegetation is not abundant and is found in the south. Green meadows, dwarf birch, willow, and juniper grow here, and in summer large flocks of birds fly here. The water basin near the island is rich in fish, their 120 species and nearly 3 dozens of mammals.
Precipitation falls in the fall and winter. Fogs are not uncommon in the summer. And you can expect snow at any time.
Travelers are advised to visit the island from May to July.
You should know that in these months, the inconvenience can deliver mosquitoes and gnats, repellent will not be superfluous. From midsummer to early September, the tundra becomes very beautiful: many flowers bloom and berries appear.
Details to be aware of
To visit Greenland, you need to apply for a visa in the appropriate centers of Denmark or Iceland in Russia. The official currency on the island is the Danish krone. The time difference with Moscow is 5 hours, an hour more in winter. Greenland has 4 time zones, so the lag from Moscow time is the greatest – 7 hours.
Before travelling it is advisable to clarify the restrictions on imports into the country. Among the bans are some animals, including pets. Products made of whalebone, walrus tusks and bones can be taken out only after a special certificate.
At the airport Kulusuk in “Arctic-Vonderland” is the only store with tax-free, and the tax refund is issued here, in a special window. In the capital and some cities there are stores where you can pay in U.S. dollars and euros.
With access to the Internet for tourists will not be a problem.
Greenland is among the leaders in the use of Internet services.
Wi-Fi is available in hotels, internet cafes, post offices, office space. Mobile communications cover the entire coast. You can make calls from a pay phone, using a card, you can buy it at the post office.
There is no crime in the country, you can walk freely at any time. Of course, you should not leave expensive things unattended, because besides the locals there are also tourists. It is not recommended to drink tap water, it must be boiled.
In summer, the sun is almost never below the horizon and is very active, so the means to protect the skin and dark glasses should be purchased before the trip.
When planning a trip to Greenland, you should take into account the cold climate and stock up on warm clothes. It is forbidden to photograph locals unless they give their consent, as well as in churches. While on the island, you can not utter the word “Eskimo”, the locals perceive it as an insult.
All garbage must be taken away with you, for non-compliance you can get a large fine. Fishing and hunting are possible only after obtaining a special license.
What is the main tourist attraction of Greenland? First of all, non-handmade natural wonders: fjords, icebergs. Ice, floating mountains change their color depending on time of day: from cold-transparent to completely black.
On the southern coast of Greenland there are several hot springs. This is another wonder of the northern country when there is an open-air reservoir of water with a temperature of 34-38 °C at any time of the year.
The hottest springs are on the island of Uunartoq, far away from cities and civilization. The springs are located in the middle of meadows, mountains, and nearby drifting icebergs. You can even see whales, which appear often in these places. There are wooden houses built nearby for changing. These medieval outdoor spas were built by the Norwegians 1,000 years ago.
Indescribable in its beauty natural spectacle appears before the guests of the island – the polar lights and mirages.
Another interesting feature of Greenland – the cities with colorful houses.
The capital of Greenland is the smallest in the world, it is washed by the ocean on three sides. The founder of the city Norwegian missionary Hans Egede in 1729 was able to unite several Eskimo clans in one city Gotkhob, now Nuuk. The traditional dugouts of stone and turf have not survived in the modern capital; in their place are multicolored prefabricated huts.
The house where Egede lived now houses the government of Greenland. The capital is famous for being the home of Santa Claus. He has his own residence and post office. On the coast there is a sculpture “Mother of the Sea”, it opens completely at low tide. Locals will tell a legend associated with this man-made figure.
At the bottom of the ocean lived the protector of sea creatures. She sent them to land so that people could hunt them. When people strayed from the path of righteousness, the mother of the seas decided to punish them by depriving them of their gifts. From that time her hair became tangled. A brave shaman was found who went to the patroness and began combing out her hair so that she would send the animals back to dry land.
Nuuk has built several observation decks overlooking the coast, and you can even see whales. The National Museum houses tapestries made from the wool of local animals using natural dyes. In the halls of the museum are artifacts found on the island: boats, kayaks, clothing, weapons and others.
It is interesting to see the mummies brought from the north coast. Admission is free for children under 15, students and on Sundays. The exhibits are located in an old building from 1728. The art museum features works by local artists. The cultural center “Katuak” houses a movie theater, art school and polar institute.
For lovers of outdoor activities can be advised Sisorarfiit – a place for skiing, sledding, snowboarding. It offers ski elevators, cafes, and a rental shop.
The local pool is built in the style of avant-garde architecture, as well as some of the city’s buildings. The wall of the pool, which overlooks the bay, is made of glass. Nuuk hosts a fun snow festival every year and an international marathon in the summer. A whale safari is organized for guests in the summer.
About the Food
Greenland’s traditional dishes are based on raw foods, which are unacceptable to the stomach of the European. The specifics of cooking the local food contributes to the compensation of vitamins and enzymes of the human body. Many people may think that Inuit cuisine is primitive. This is not the case if you consider that the islanders do not know such diseases as scurvy, stomach ulcers, atherosclerosis, infectious diseases.
Fresh mammalian meat is a must in the normal diet of the local population. Animal blood mixed with fresh deer milk is also among the traditional dishes. Mattak, a local delicacy, is popular. It is lightly dried reindeer meat, whale skin with a layer of fat. The delicacies are, to put it bluntly, quite shocking.
Stroganina (lightly frozen: meat, fish, poultry) is also a favorite dish of the indigenous population. It is eaten with local polar berries and seasonings.
Fish and seafood are eaten in different forms: raw, frozen, dried, smoked, baked in ash, salted, and sauerkraut. The local cuisine does not include these products in boiled and fried form. Here you can try such delicacies as: shrimp, crabs in various forms, ammasat (fish from the salmon family), dried halibut.
The traditional drink is black tea with the addition of deer milk. By adding salt, spices and fat it is consumed as a first course. Kaffemik is a traditional Greenlandic coffee to which sugar, whipped cream, and 3 kinds of alcohol are added. Restaurants also have dishes common to Europeans on their menus. At the local market, fishermen and hunters sell their catch.
In Nuuk, guests are offered to stay in any type of hotel: hostel, guest house, apartment, bed-and-breakfast. Prices range from 6000 to 10000 rubles.
Hotels are located in one- and two-story houses, equipped with everything you need. All rooms have a bathroom, TV, telephone, Internet access. Hotels usually offer breakfast in buffet style. In summer, it is possible to rent a separate house, styled as an Eskimo igloo with all the amenities.
The birthplace of icebergs
A popular tourist destination is Ilulissat, the name translates as “iceberg”. The third most populous city is on the west coast. In 2008, an international conference on the Arctic Ocean was held here.
The main natural unique attraction is the Ice Fjord, which is 150 m thick and almost 40 km long and is protected by UNESCO. It is the “producer” of icebergs. In recent years, the climate is beginning to change, winters are becoming milder and Disco Bay in the winter is not completely covered by ice.
The speed of the glacier has also increased, it is now 35 km/hour (20 km/hour was 10 years ago).
From the coast of Ilulissat you can see a huge number of icebergs up to 30 meters high, and 80% of the ice block is under water!
For the sake of such a spectacle it is worth visiting this town in the west of the island.
July is the warmest month in Ilulissat, with temperatures of up to +20°C! Knut Rasmussen Museum is located in the house of the famous explorer. Visitors learn a lot of interesting things about the life and expeditions of the polar explorer. About everyday life, the life of the Inuit, as well as the island tells the exposition of the Museum of Cold. The Art Museum displays paintings by local artists.
In the popular Ulo restaurant, guests are offered a real local exotic: scalded stingray. It comes garnished with wasabi seeds. Not every European would dare to try Greenland-style whale meat, because it is meat from a freshly skinned carcass.
In Ilulissat, there are also places with the usual European cuisine. For example, in the Centre Grill Bar you can eat the usual fast food, and the meat and fish for the burger is cooked on the grill. The administration of the bar regularly holds themed contests, the winner of which can get 10 favorite dishes for free.
From the city you can take a boat trip to the Inuit village, which only 46 people and 200 sled dogs. Tourists learn about the life of the Arctic people, see how a freshly caught whale or seal is butchered and try soup made from the meat of these mammals. You can stay overnight in a typical Inuit house.
Helicopter flights over the ice plateau are popular among visitors. It is very interesting to watch the birth of icebergs. The helicopter flies low, allowing tourists to take pictures of the top of the ice floating mountains. For fans of extreme sports are organized night boat trips to Ice Fjord.
Only the bravest will be able to endure this trip, because the ship at night maneuvers between the blocks of ice up to 100 meters high! And at the end of the trip, the bravest ones will get a treat from the captain: a whiskey and ice from the iceberg!
There are even more “humane” entertainment: whale safaris, walks around the bay in a kayak, fishing. At the local market Brættet you can buy all kinds of seafood, as well as venison and poultry.
There are several hotels in town, because of the influx of tourists, the room must be booked in advance. In the hotel Avannaa rooms overlook the famous glacier, and the Arctic Hotel is the world’s most northern hotel 4 *. This is where the Ulo restaurant mentioned above is located. The price for a single room starts at $230.
Kulusuk is a small village on the east coast, it has an international airport, so there are plenty of tourists here at all times of the year. Most of the population is Danish who serve the airport, medical services are also provided by a specialist from Denmark.
What is attractive about this small piece of the island? Of course, the beauty of pristine nature, the opportunity to see the life of the local population. In the village, the locals live off hunting, including polar bear hunting and fishing for seals and whales.
Unemployment here is large, the main income comes from the visiting guests, who are shown the national dances and are introduced to the Inuit culture. There is a hotel in Kulusuk where guests stay.
What are the good things about souvenirs of Greenland? First of all, they are locally made, there is no “Made in China”. Everything is handmade, so the prices are high. The most popular is tupilak (“spirit”) figurine made of wood, bone, stone.
Good quality products made of seal leather, kitty fur bags, mittens, coats. There is a souvenir shop in Ilulissat where they make handmade masterpieces.
Greenlandic mineral products are very popular. The tugtupit stone is mined only in one place on earth – in the town of Narsak, located in the south of Greenland. If you buy local jewelry, you must get a certificate from the seller in order to take it out of the country.
Distant and mysterious Greenland is a country of extraordinary nature, snow-white icebergs, northern lights, unique cuisine. When you get to this land of eternal ice, you realize how versatile our planet is, what unusually beautiful places there are on earth.