Greenland Travel Guide

Greenland Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration

PureTravel Says: “Greenland is the world’s largest island. Surrounded by the cold waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic, it offers visitors an impressive vista of snow and ice, of rugged scenery and cool, clean air. It’s not all about the glaciers and snowcapped peaks however. There is a history to this place that drums up visions of early world explorers. There’s a dazzling display of Northern Lights and in some places there is 24-hour daylight. A holiday in this lovely land is surely unique and educational, from the charming and cosmopolitan capital city Nuuk Town (Godthåb) to Siorapaluk and from shoreline to mainland. There are amazing sights and sounds of the north to experience and enjoy.”

Holiday Highlights

History & Culture – You’ll find interesting local history throughout Greenland as you move from place to place. The museum in the capital city of Nuuk is an important part of any holiday here, and you will also need to travel north to experience the far reaches of this incredible country. See the first areas settled by the Viking Eric the Red over a thousand years ago. You’re also able to see ruins that stand from very early times.

Sightseeing – Travel Greenland by boat, by helicopter, by plane, or even by dogsled. Each transportation method pertains according to the season and to the lands. The light or dark will be dictated by the time of your visit; there is continual twilight in the winter and constant light during daytime in the summer. The Northern Lights are visible in autumn and winter and in the early spring. But whenever you visit, there are the peaks and mountains, the fjords and icecaps to appreciate and explore. Take a cruise around the coast and witness the icebergs, the wildlife, and the cold reaches of our planet.

Walking & Trekking – Trekking the cold plains must be done with a guide for safety purposes. Know that with a guide leading, you will learn much as you move through the vast expanses of the landscape. The rivers rushing from melting glaciers will amaze, and as you hike around the lakes and mountains, you will find a special peace in this most extraordinary holiday. The east coast is accessible during summer, and you will find the area steep and rugged for an exciting trek.

Wildlife & Nature – As you get near the shores, around Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, you may see a whale submerging, its tail flapping the water with unimaginable strength. Take a boat trip out from the harbour and relax as you watch for other signs of these giant whales. There are many kinds of whales as well as other land animals to see in Greenland, such as prancing reindeer or even rarely seen polar bears.

Winter Sports – There is always an exciting adventure to embark upon in Greenland. Ice climbing and caving are among the favourites of those who love the ice and snow for their best sports fields. Cross-country skiing is something you can try, and on the thick ice of Uummannaq you can even try your hand at ice golf.

Crafts – There are many natural materials used in Greenland for product creation; craftsmen use mussel shells, fish skin, musk ox wool, precious stones, sheep wool, soapstone, reindeer antlers, and fallen tree remnants to make crafts and souvenirs. While visiting the cities in Greenland, watch for craft workrooms and shops for an opportunity to watch these skilled craftspeople or even try it yourself.

When To Go

The summers in Greenland are quite pleasant, with temperatures averaging around 70F, particularly in the southern part of the country. But be prepared for the mosquitoes at this time. Bring a coat for when the temperatures dip in evenings, as they can drop to the 50s or 60s.

Top Tips

- Go with a tour guide as you travel, as it is best to be familiar with the country before venturing out on your own.
- Since there aren’t roads between the towns, moving from place to place means you will have to fly by plane or helicopter in winter or take a boat in the summer.
- You are not permitted to take photographs inside of churches during services.
- Pubs are open to anyone over 18 years old.
- Tips are not expected in Greenland.

Holidays In Focus

History and Culture - Founded in 1728, Nuuk is one of the smallest capital cities in the world. You can visit the former home of the founder, Hans Egede, which is the reception room for Greenland’s Parliament. Above you towers the Sermitsiaq Mountain, and you can move on to tour a cathedral and seminary in town.

The major attraction you should make a point to see is the Greenland National Museum. There you will view the mummified remains of what is believed to be a group of people who died in 1475 in a capsized boat. Buildings in this area date back as far as 1728. Another famous spot to visit is the town of Ilulissat. In a settlement not far from town you will see traces of the inhabitants who lived there as early as 2000 BC. Enjoy the beautiful scenery in this area before moving on.

In the southern part of Greenland, you should take in the towns of Qassiarsuk and Narsarsuaq, with ruins surviving from as early as 1000 years ago. See the country’s oldest fountain in Qaqortoq, the largest town in South Greenland. Also, while you are in the region, you must see the Eskimo Museum that boasts an exact copy of a turf house. In Disko Bay you can see an exceptionally well-crafted wooden house that was built in 1734 and is currently a maintained museum.

Sightseeing - To experience all of the sights whilst in Greenland you can travel by plane, boat, helicopter and dog sled. Everywhere you look you’ll see the vast expanses of ice and the peaks of many mountains. In the far south of the country, you should go to Nanortalik and marvel at the steep peaks and sheer walls that line the fjords. Travel to Qaanaaq, which is the farthest north Greenland municipality. Take a helicopter across this otherworldly landscape to experience the true beauty of the place. You will wind through the valleys made by the icebergs and fly just above the water for a surreal feeling of floating above the ice. Cruising is popular too; you can watch the rugged coast drift past and follow the shore from Nuuk to Thule.

Walking and Trekking - A part of Greenland well worth exploring is Kangerlussuaq, with its desolate and uninhabited beauty. The Russell Glacier will remind you of the magnitude of Greenland’s vast landscape and how it affects life in the country; the glacier creates a river in the summer that flows through several towns. You can find huts in which to rest when hiking in Vatnahverfi or on the Qaqortoq or Narsaq peninsulas. Get a guided tour through Ammassalik or in the south in Narsarsuaq. Explore the regions around Sisimiut.

If you are an experienced climber, you could even scale a glacier in this remote land. On this, the world's largest island, you will view some of the world’s oldest rock and be able to see that most all of it is covered by icecap. Fjords divide the mountains on the east coast, and the area can be trekked with a guide in the summer months.

Nature and Wildlife - The north holds many interesting animals, particularly the Humpback whale. Some of the best places to view these rulers of the sea are around Aasiaat, Qasigiannguit and Qeqertarsuaq. Nuuk is a great spot to get out on the water and not only get the best views of the rising peaks surrounding, but to spot a whale tail hitting the water. They even come near your boat, quite curious as to what you are doing in the wild sea. The species of whales you might catch a glimpse of are minke whales, sperm whales, or narwhales. In the north and east you might see walruses and seals.

Herds of musk oxen live around Kangerlussuaq Airport. You may be lucky to spot a herd of reindeer in the areas free of snow. Polar bears mostly live in the north of Greenland but also come to the south of the country on occasion.

Winter Sports and Activities - If you love the fresh outdoors, you’ll love Greenland, with all the activities that can keep your holiday full and active. Go to the town of Ittoqqortoormiit, a large and isolated municipality the size of England. On Scoresby Sund you can take an expedition in a kayak or go dogsledding. It also holds access to the national park. The beginning of the 3-day Arctic Circle Ski Race is in Sisimiut, and you can find great skiing here. Have you ever attempted helio skiing? You can try it here in Greenland. Of course, cross-country skiing is available anywhere, but it’s best to have a guide. Ice climbing and caving are popular, too. Try a delightfully unique ice golf game in Uummannaq.

Greenland's Cities - The capital city is Nuuk, which is also known as Godthåb (Good Hope), which is its Danish name. This is also the main administrative centre of Greenland and around a quarter (15,000 people) of the country live here.

Classic Itineraries

- Get out around Nuuk, Greenland's interesting capital city, where you can see the snowy peaks rising high above you and the waterfalls of snow melting and flowing down to the sea.
- Sail through stunning fjords and scenery at Aappilattoq.
- If you have time, be sure to visit Siorapaluk, the northernmost place inhabited on our planet.
- At the Knud Rasmussen Museum, you will see the house of the famous explorer, Knud Rasmussen.

Public Holidays

January 01 - New Year's Day
January 06 - Epiphany
April 17 - Maundy Thursday
April 18 - Good Friday
April 21 - Easter Monday
May 16 - Great Prayer Day
May 29 - Ascension Day
June 09 - Whit Monday
June 21 - National Day
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 31 - New Year's Eve

Travel Resources

By Julie Bowman


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