55 interesting facts about Greenland
1. Greenland is the largest island in the world. It is located between Europe and America, 740 km from the North Pole. Greenland area is 2 130 800 km², of which 410 400 km² in varying degrees free of ice. The length of the island from north to south is 2690 km, the greatest width is 1300 km.
2. Geographically the country belongs to North America, but politically it is considered a self-governing province of Denmark. Although Greenland is 50 times larger than Denmark in area, the number of inhabitants of the island does not exceed the population of a small town. The reason for this is the cold – much of the island is covered by a layer of ice nearly 2 miles (3 km) thick.
3. Greenland’s population is 56,890, which gives a population density of 0.027 people/km².
4. Almost all residents live on the southwest coast, on the narrow coastal strip between the ice sheet and the sea, because the climate is milder here. The main peoples in Greenland are the Greenlandic Eskimos (Inuit in the local language), who make up about 90% of the total population. The other 10% are mostly Danes and other Europeans.
The Eskimos were the first people to settle in Greenland. Around 985 AD, Vikings from Norway and Iceland arrived here and named this ice-covered island Greenland (“green land”) to attract more settlers. From 1380 Greenland was governed almost all the time by Denmark, but in 1979 it was granted the right to internal self-government.
6. Europeans call the locals Eskimos, which is not entirely accurate-the term “Eskimo” (“cheese-eater”) was born in the languages of the Indian tribes of North America and gradually came to be used to refer to the Inuit tribes of the continental United States and Canada, to which Greenlanders do not belong.
7. Administratively, the country is divided into 3 districts (landsdele) – Avanna (Nordgrønland), Tunu (Ostgrønland) and Kita (Westgrønland), which in turn are divided into 18 municipalities.
8. The capital of Greenland, Nuuk (Gotthob), is the largest settlement of the island. The city is a very unusual “fusion” of the old European architecture, a few examples of the original Greenlandic school of urban planning and huge (and quite faceless) residential neighborhoods built on the block principle. From the bird’s-eye view the city looks as if built of children’s Lego, and the only pleasant exception in its appearance are the old quarters of Colonihavnen – the historic core of Nuuk.
9. Greenland’s flag was adopted in 1985 and has a red and white coloring of the flag, which symbolizes the political connection of the island with Denmark. The figures depicted on the Greenland flag, according to one version, represent the setting and rising Greenlandic sun; according to another, the red half of the circle represents Greenland’s fjords, the white half represents icebergs, and the red and white background illustrates the ocean and the cover glacier.
10. Greenland’s coat of arms is an image of a white bear on a shield of blue. Blue color represents the geographical location of Greenland (between two oceans), and white bear, being one of the symbols of the island, characterizes the fauna of Greenland.
Greenland is divided into four time zones. The time in the capital Nuuk and most major cities on the south coast is 6 hours behind Moscow.
12. The climate of the coasts is maritime, subarctic and arctic; in the area of the ice sheet, the climate is continental arctic. The island is often crossed by cyclones, accompanied by strong winds, abrupt changes in temperature and precipitation. Strong runoff winds blow from the ice sheet almost all the year round, sometimes reaching speeds of 60-70 meters per second.
13. The average temperature in January on the coast from -7 ° C in the south to -36 ° C in the north, July – from +10 ° C in the south to +3 ° C in the north-west. In the center of Greenland, the average temperature in February is -47 ° C (absolute minimum -70 ° C), July -12 ° C. In summer the daytime temperature sometimes rises to +21 ° C, but often even in this period in the central regions of the island it barely exceeds 0 ° C (on the coast, especially on the west, the air is much warmer).
14. The average annual rainfall in the south is about 1080 mm, in the capital – up to 600 mm, in the far north – 100-200 mm. The maximum amount of precipitation falls in the autumn-winter period, but at any time of the year, due to the unstable local weather, it can snow.
15. If Greenland’s ice were to melt completely, global sea level would rise by 7 meters.
16. Greenland could host England with Scotland and Wales, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and Norway.
17. The thickness of the ice shell covering Greenland is on average one and a half thousand meters.
18. The highest peak of Greenland and the entire Arctic, Gunbjørn, 3 700 m.
19. Occupation of the population – hunting, fishing.
20. Official language: Greenlandic. The Act of Self-Government prescribes the general study of Danish
21. State system – parliamentary democracy in the framework of constitutional monarchy
22. Head of state: Queen of Denmark (since January 14, 1972, Margrethe II), represented by the High Commissioner (since January 31, 2011, Mikaela Engell)
23. The parliament is unicameral Landstinget (31 members are elected by secret ballot on a proportional basis, the term of office is 4 years). Parliament is responsible for all matters of domestic policy and legislation (foreign policy, defense, justice and finance remain under Danish authority). The people of Greenland elect two representatives to the Danish parliament, the Folketing.
24. Currency unit: Danish krone (denoted DKK by ISO standard, within the country kr.), 1 krone has 100 öre. 1 DKK = 5.28 RUB, 10 DKK = 1.66 USD.
25. Most locals get their money directly to a credit card, so it’s not difficult to use. ATMs are abundant in all localities, and most of them freely accept cards of the world’s leading payment systems (Diners Club, VISA, Eurocheque Card, Eurocard/Mastercard, Maestro, Cirrus, Dankort, etc.), issuing them kroons.
26. The price level on the island is quite high. Greenland is self-sufficient only in fish and seafood, as well as some meat products – everything else has to be imported, which naturally affects the prices. Even in comparison with far from cheap Scandinavian countries, the prices here are about 10% higher, and alcohol, tobacco products, dairy products, vegetable oil, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables are 14-20% more expensive. At the same time the range of goods in the stores is no less than in any of the European countries.
27. You can easily grab a bite to eat at a cafe for 25 DKK (~$4.1) TO 60 DKK (~$9.8), lunch at a restaurant costs 60 DKK (~$9.8) – 120 DKK (~$19.7) and higher, and 120 DKK (~$19.7) – 250 DKK (~$41,0). You can find a budget hotel for 120 DKK (~$19.7) – 350 DKK (~$57.4) per day, mid-range hotels cost 350 DKK (~$57.4) – 900 DKK (~$147.6), but upscale hotels charge up to 900 DKK (~$147.6) – 1500 DKK (~$246.0) per day (modern hotels are available in almost all major cities). Transport services and fuel, electricity, all local goods and souvenirs, as well as many luxury items are very expensive.
Service charges are usually included in the bill, additional tips are rare.
28. Internet domain zone .gl.
29. Internet services on the island are excellent – Greenland is one of the world leaders in per capita consumption of network services. High-speed Internet terminals and Wi-Fi hotspots have been installed in all hotels, post offices and office complexes. Internet cafes are abundant in all communities, tourist offices, and some public libraries.
30. The cellular phone system covers almost all localities in the coastal areas of the island and adjacent island groups (unstable reception is observed only in the central areas). Roaming with the local operator TELE Greenland A/S is available to subscribers of major Russian operators through this company’s foreign partners.
31. Most of the historical collections of the capital are concentrated in the National Museum of Greenland. It has a unique collection of objects and documents covering the past of the island for the past four and a half thousand years, including a unique mummy from Kilakitsok (about XIV-XV centuries), extensive exhibitions of folk costumes, vehicles (including various dog sledding, kayaks and Umiaki of all ages), traditional instruments, objects of arts and crafts and a large geological exhibition.
32. In Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, just south of the city’s tourist office, on the very shore of the Baffin Sea, is the famous Santa Claus House with its post office and office.
33. In the town of Kakortoke there is a square town fountain, the only one in Greenland, decorated at the base with copper plaques with the names of city burghers (although many plaques have “fallen victims” of souvenir hunters).
34. Only a few hours by boat or ship to the northeast of Kakortok is the best preserved and most extensive medieval Norwegian settlement on the island, Hvalsee (Hvalsi). Hvalsey is even mentioned in the ancient Icelandic chronicle “Flatejarbik” as a place where witches were burned in the early 15th century, and as the only place where marriages between Inuit and colonists were performed. However, only the ruins of a few dozen houses and the most picturesque church, Hvalsey, have survived.
35. Upernavik, located in the fjords of the Baffin Sea on the west coast of Greenland, 800 km north of the Arctic Circle, is one of the northernmost cities on the planet and the northernmost ferry crossing in the world. It is a very beautiful but harsh place – the locals even have a saying: “You won’t even guess what the real cold is until you visit Upernavik”.
36. Upernavik’s name translates in a rather amusing way as “Spring Place. Considering that the average summer temperature here is no more than +5°C, this is rather strange. However, scientists argue that when the first settlers took over this place, the climate was much milder, and therefore its name was justified then (as the whole of Greenland). With the onset of a general cooling of the climate in the 16th-18th centuries, it became one of the coldest inhabited places on earth. Here hunting polar bears and sea animals, prohibited almost everywhere in the world and exceptionally allowed to local residents, is one of the few ways to feed a family here.
37. The popular three-hour excursion from Upernavik’s highest peak, Inusussak, to the northern tip of the island, Nayarsuit, passes through an absolutely magical landscape. Stones with flecks of colored minerals of all colors and shades, veins of natural graphite, and the unique acoustics of the valleys that allow whispers to spread for many kilometers can all be seen and felt only here.
38. West of Ilulissat, 300 km north of the Arctic Circle and 600 km north of the capital, splashes the waters of Disko Bay, which is probably the most famous bay of Greenland. It is a veritable “land of icebergs” – there are up to a thousand mountains of ice of all sizes continually “plying” the surface of the bay, as coastal glaciers slip into the sea at a rate of up to 30 meters a day, giving up to 7 million tons of ice every day! This extravaganza, magnified in the summer by the sun that never sets, makes Disco Bay and its five coastal towns one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
39. Greenland is home to Mount Umanak, a natural formation of stunning beauty and the most unusual colors. The mountain is an ancient gneiss base of the continental shield, rising upward in an alternation of black, white and red layers of rocks, changing shades of color depending on the light. Although the mountain looks completely inaccessible, several expeditions have climbed to the top, but for most visitors it is enough just to see this unique natural formation, the only counterpart of which is only Mount Uluru in Australia.
40. The southern part of the island is similar to Norwegian fjords – the same alternation of countless bays, islands, rock ridges and tiny coastal lowlands, the same harsh and majestic nature, the same lead-gray sea.
41. Nanortalik, Greenland’s southernmost town, is literally surrounded by a wall of towering rocks (called “skyscrapers” here), steep peaks and mountain walls framing magnificent fjords. It’s a real Mecca for fans of outdoor activities and extreme sports, and climbers will find much to interest them here – the Ketil and Ulmarethorsuaq mountains are suitable even for experienced athletes.
42. In Greenland there is the fastest moving glacier in the world (Jacobshavn), moving at a speed of about 30 meters per day.
43. During the summer period in the country is quite strong solar radiation – the sun is in the sky almost all day long, and its rays are reflected both from the surface of the glaciers and from the sea. It is worth carrying sunscreen, creams and good glasses, hats, and light scarves or scarves covering the neck.
44. Not many things are forbidden in the country: to take photos in churches during services, as well as locals without consent, to fish without a license (from 75 DKK for 1 day, up to 500 DKK for a month) and to litter.
45. The best time to visit the country is during the polar “white nights” from May to July or for winter fun lovers in April.
46. In Greenland, there are no roads and railroads between the cities. So you can get from one end of the island to the other either by water or by air. When the weather is fine, the neighboring towns and villages are connected by snowmobiles and dog sledges.
47. Air Greenland, the national airline, operates many flights by airplane and helicopter throughout the island. The Dash-7 type aircraft can carry 50 passengers at a time and fly 4-5km above sea level which guarantees fantastic views of the glaciers and driftwood. Helicopters mostly fly between cities in the south of the country.
48. Another popular way to travel through Greenland is by ship. The passenger ship Sarfaq Ittuk of Arctic Umiaq Line operates a regular service from April through December between Narsarsuaq in the south and Ilulissat in the north. During the summer season it’s best to book in advance.
49. Greenland souvenirs are unique works of art: they are not made in China, not created from a single pattern, and made by hand by craftsmen, so they are quite expensive. The most popular souvenir is a tupilak figurine (tupilak), which from local belief means “spirit”. Today they are made of entirely different materials: teeth, bones, stones or wood, and they can be found everywhere in stores and turofisyh large cities. However, it is worth bearing in mind that tupilaks made from whale teeth cannot be exported.
50. Also popular are jewelry and costume jewelry made from local stones. For example, tugtupit, which features a rich pink or purple color, is born in the only place on Earth, the town of Narsak in southern Greenland. Particularly beautiful is the jewelry made of nuummit stone (a radiant dark brown color) and grønlanditten, which has a fresh green hue. When you buy a nice bracelet or beads, ask the salesperson for a CITES certificate, which allows you to take the jewelry out of Greenland.
51. As awful as it may sound, traditional Greenlandic cuisine does not involve any cooking of food. If it is whale skin with a layer of fat (the delicacy “mattak”), it is eaten fresh, freshly, excuse me, skinned. Extremes, of course, have no problem finding restaurants offering some of the country’s national dishes. The delicacy of the national cuisine is a mixture of partridge droppings with seal fat… Quite popular in these places is a dish that includes narwhal fat, water, walrus brain and fermented grass extracted from the first stomach of the reindeer. However, the more European-minded stomachs of tourists won’t be left empty either: Recently, traditional cooking methods have been increasingly retreating under the onslaught of international cuisine and fast food.
52. Fish and seafood in Greenlandic cuisine are used in almost all forms – raw, salted, fermented, dried, baked in ash. There are also delicacies – dried halibut and ammassat, cod liver, shrimp and crabs in all forms, as well as shark meat and seabird eggs.
53. Popular drinks are black tea and tea with milk (which often replaces the first course, with added fat, salt and spices), deer milk, “kaffemik” – specific Greenland coffee, which is made from coffee, sugar and three kinds of alcohol with whipped cream (often it is also set on fire when served).
54. Greenland National Park, located in the northeast of the island, is the largest and most inaccessible nature reserve on the planet. Moreover, it has been closed to outside researchers for many years. UNESCO recently included it in the list of biosphere reserves of world significance, and not without reason – the park has a vast area of relict tundra, which is home to musk oxen, polar bears, polar wolves and a wide variety of forms of Arctic plants.
55. Today, Greenland remains one of the few places on the planet little affected by human activity, a place of fantastic opportunities both for extreme recreation and sports, and for eco-tourism. Vast tundra, picturesque coast with its fjords and clean shores, monstrous glaciers which “give birth” to icebergs right before the eyes of observers, year-round opportunities for ice-climbing, snowboarding and skiing, unique (although scarce) nature, rich sea, silent Inuit with their unique culture and fantastic adaptation to the cruel local conditions – all this constantly attracts more and more tourists here.
If you were wondering, I suggest you see my post “50 interesting facts about Canada” as well as “30 interesting facts about Brazil”.