Things to do in Greenland - World Tour

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Things to do in Greenland

Instagram Story Greenland Cover

– photos by Visit Greenland

Greenland is an autonomous region of Denmark and is the world’s largest non-continental island that stretches over the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The island is called “Green” land, but ironically almost 80% of it is covered with icebergs and glaciers.

Snow-capped mountains, massive icebergs, dramatic glaciers, lush greenery and colourful houses form the picture of Greenland. Though the island has been less visited as it is quite expensive and also remote, its unique experiences have been garnering attention from travel enthusiasts in recent times.

We have curated some of the top things you can do on a trip to Greenland. Let us dig deep and find out what awaits in this snowy abode!

Norse History

Though Greenland is geographically a part of the North American continent, it reflects a dominant European vibe because of its political and cultural affiliation with Europe. The island also has a significant percentage of European settlers which began with the wave of immigrants from the Nordic countries of Europe who made their way here in 986 AD. Eric the Red, was banished from Iceland on account of manslaughter. As a result of this, he led a group of Icelanders and Norwegians, or more popularly referred to as Norsemen or Vikings to the island, which he named ‘Greenland’.

After flourishing in Greenland for more than 400 years, there wasn’t a single Norseman after the 14th century. This disappearance of the Norsemen is still a point of speculation, although many believe it was the onset of the Little Ice Age that caused them to relocate. However, they have left their mark behind and you can visit the Nordic ruins in southern Greenland.

Nuuk

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland presents a vibrant mix of experiences. From its landscape of icebergs, fjords, the mighty Sermitsiaq mountains, plenty of snow-based activities, exotic cuisine, Scandinavian architecture and influences of native Inuit culture, Nuuk packs a lot despite being a small city.

The capital houses the Greenland National Museum and Nuuk Art Museum which are great places to drop by if you wish to learn more about Greenland’s history and culture.

Ilulissat Icefjord

This UNESCO site is on top of the list of every visitor to Greenland. Why? Well, the Ilulissat Icefjord is like an open gallery of ice sculptures that spreads over a massive 4000 sq km! Hundreds of icebergs are ‘calved’ or broken away from Sermeq Kujalleq – the world’s most productive and fastest moving glacier. (It moves at a speed of 35-40 metres per day and yes, that’s really fast!)

The best way to grasp the beauty of this place is by flightseeing – several helicopter and plane tours are available. After witnessing the majesty of this ice fjord from above, you are bound to be left speechless.

The Northern Lights

This surreal phenomenon of nature, also known as Aurora Borealis, is often remarked as the ‘greatest light show on Earth’. Once you witness this spectacle, you will know why. As a result of the collision between the particles from the sun and the earth’s atmosphere, the skies are highlighted with streaks of green (sometimes pink too). This is experienced only in regions above the Arctic circle, and Greenland is one of the few lucky countries which can view this natural wonder.

Though the Northern Lights occur throughout the year, it is not visible in summer due to the Midnight Sun. If you are keen on watching the lights, it is best to visit between September to April or more specifically between December and February when the skies are most clear.

The Midnight Sun

The Midnight Sun is a summer occurrence in which the sun does not set for several days and even months! Between the months of May and August, the Midnight Sun phenomenon takes place in all regions above the Arctic Circle. Though bright daylight fades into a paler evening sky, the sun is visible throughout and there are no dark nights.

Uunartoq Hot Springs

Among the many hot springs in Greenland, the ones located on Uunartoq, an uninhabited island in Southern Greenland are undoubtedly the best. Not only are these springs the perfect temperature, they are also set amidst scenic icebergs and mountain peaks, making your experience all the more exciting.

Dog-sledding

Your trip to Greenland is not complete if you haven’t been on a dog-sled tour. Sure there are snowmobiles and skiing activities available, but nothing can beat the experience of trying out this age-old mode of transport! The dogs are naturally programmed to understand and assess the climatic conditions and they are smart to avoid going over thin ice. Not only does the slower pace of dog-sledding allow you to take in the majestic beauty of your surroundings, you can also gain first-hand experience of Greenlandic lifestyle.

Kayaking

If the traditional mode of land transport is dog-sledding, then kayaking is for water. It has been used by the locals for over 4000 years for commuting and is also believed that the first inhabitants of Greenland reached here by kayaks. Till date, the Greenlanders hold the kayak as a cultural symbol.

One of the best spots for kayaking is the Blue River in the Petermann Glacier, which as the name states is a beautiful shade of crystal blue. Fun fact, this river changes its shape occasionally, depending on the melting of the glacier!

Cruising

A Greenlandic cruise experience navigating through jagged snowy mountains, icebergs, glaciers and occasional spotting of humpback whales and walruses will overshadow every other cruise you have ever been on. Forget your clear blue waters and limestone islands, the icy white setting is simply beyond words!

The best time for cruising is from July to October when the seas are much easier to navigate. Based on your itinerary of choice, your cruise will take you on a journey that is much more than hopping to different destinations – you will gain a wholesome experience interacting with the culture, history and lifestyle of the natives.

Sailing

If not a cruise, then it is a must to experience the waters of Greenland on a boat tour. Sailing is a cherished activity by the Greenlanders and an important part of their daily life. Boat tours (cruises too!) open up a whole new world to explore. In southern Greenland, especially, there are a set of Viking village ruins that can be accessed only via water. Similarly, some popular sites of glaciers and mountain trails can be only reached through water. As a bonus, you can also spot humpback whales if you’re lucky enough!

Whale Watching

The summer months of June and July are the best time to spot the gentle giants of the sea. As most of the fjords melt in that time, it becomes a paradise for whales. Humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales and Greenland whales are commonly spotted and others like blue whales, sperm whales, killer whales and beluga whales are occasionally spotted.

Most whale watching tours automatically become a seal spotting tour as well. The waters are usually scattered with different varieties of seals like the bearded, hooded, ringed, harbour and Greenland seals.

Climbing

Some might question how climbing on an icy landscape is possible, but believe it or not, Greenland has some of the best rock formations for climbing activities and is a paradise for climbers. Mind you, it is not an easy task and there are certain minimum health and fitness requirements to be met in order to embark on your Arctic expedition. Though the climb will be arduous and challenging, you will be rewarded with a bewitching sight that very few people witness.

The Scoresby Sund, Stauning Alps in North Greenland National Park and Watkins Range in the Blosseville Coast are great climbing destinations. Schweizer land, located close to the town of Tasiilaq is frequently visited given its easy access and permit-free zone. Evighedsf Jorden, also known as the Fjord of Eternity is a popular location for climbing, skiing and heliskiing. 

Note that most climbing tours require you to obtain an expedition permit and there is no Air Rescue to come to your aid in case of an emergency. So make sure that you are fully qualified for the climb.

Biking

Greenland does not have a proper road network and the only way to get around the island is by air or water. Due to this, biking has become the standard mode of land transport and you will see the Greenlanders biking their way through daily life. Some places like Nuuk and Kangerlussaq have well-defined networks of biking trails. The Arctic Circle Trail which runs through Kangerlussaq is a favourite for mountain biking and fat biking. In the urban city of Sisimiut, there are several BMX biking opportunities and outdoor skateparks. Biking through the ice in winter creates a very exciting experience as you ride through the white snowy landscape.

Follow our blog for your daily dose of travel inspiration, information and tips. We try to publish atleast one article each day. Check this space for all the latest posts.

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