While the name seems ironic to say the least, Greenland combines rugged beauty with a true ‘off the beaten path’ experience for the budding adventurer in all of us.
Want to learn more about Greenland?
Where is Greenland?
Greenland is located far to the north, just east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago between the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Despite its political and social connection to Europe, the world’s largest island can be considered one of the final frontiers of North America.
When is the best time to visit Greenland?
Summer is short but more mild and pleasant compared to the extreme cold of winter. You’ll be able to enjoy some great hiking and boat rides along with actual green in the south. Wintertime can be brutal but if you come prepared there is dog sledding, northern lights, skiing, and more!
Getting around Greenland
Getting around Greenland is half the adventure. Towns are not connected by road, so you’ll have to rely on alternative means of transportation such as planes, boats, dog sleds, or snowmobiles. It can be pricey and time consuming, but this does help to set Greenland apart from any other place you’d care to mention.
Language in Greenland
Greenlandic is the national language, though large portions of the population also speak Danish. Some of the younger Greenlanders speak English, though it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few local phrases regardless.
Nuuk and the West
The likely first stop for any intrepid traveller to Greenland is the capital – Nuuk. It’s found on the west coast, which is the Greenland your mother told you about (if she told you about Greenland that is). The town is surprisingly happening, with foreign business and locals converging. While it boasts an impressive setting (including a large harbour and nearby fjords), Nuuk is home to one too many drab apartment buildings – although the multicolored houses help alleviate the same-y aesthetic.
Beyond Nuuk, the west coast of Greenland is awash with frozen wastes, fjord lands, and icebergs aplenty. Take a dog sled between the many small settlements, sample the local cuisine (including petrified shark if you’re feeling adventurous), or just admire the topography. While inland is mostly a vast expanse of ice and snow, the picturesque coast is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip.
It may not be the Caribbean, but the south coast of Greenland is the most temperate and least harsh part of the island. While the nickname “Sineriak Bananeqarfik” (Banana Coast) may be a bit tongue in cheek, the region does present more in the way of geographical diversity. The icebergs and fjords are still here, but you’ll also run across some relatively fertile land upon which sheep graze and flowers bloom. There’s some good hiking around if you’re careful, while the village of Narsarsuaq combines American military history and a spectacular setting to great effect.
Leaving the southwest of Greenland means leaving the relative comforts of civilization. There are fewer villages here in the east, although the harbour town of Tasiilaq is worth it for the mountains and location alone. Beyond that, this region is a bit of a ‘do it yourself’ destination – even more so than the rest of Greenland. Hiking, mountain climbing, and kayaking are plentiful, ensuring that the most adventurous among us might get more from a trip here than to the Banana Coast.
There’s no point beating around the bush, Greenland is cold…and the further north you go, the colder it gets. With that in mind, visiting the northern reaches of the island can be a rewarding excursion. The Northeast Greenland National Park covers a large portion of the, well…the northeast and is home to some of the hardiest life on earth. Overall, the north is extremely sparsely populated. If getting here is a chore, getting around is a bonafide expedition – however if you have the means and experience (and layers) to become a true Arctic explorer…why not give it a try?
Flights to Greenland
Flying into Greenland is not always easy or direct. Your best bet for getting to Greenland is through Air Greenland or Air Iceland. The former flies out of Copenhagen and sometimes Iceland (seasonally), while the latter is only taken from Iceland. Depending on the season, you should have a lot of different options for your destinations – including Nuuk as well as smaller, more remote settlements.
Prices in Greenland ($$$$)*
Unfortunately, Greenland’s remote nature and difficult transportation ‘network’ make it a fairly pricey destination to visit. An average day will likely cost around $270 Canadian. Thrifty travellers can keep costs closer to around $118 a day while the higher end could costs upwards of $523 a day. You should expect a lot of variation, especially when it comes to getting around. It’s not cheap, but it is a one of kind destination – so expect to pay a one of a kind price.
Is Greenland safe?
Greenland is a mostly safe country with no nationwide advisory and a low crime rate. Most of the dangers are associated with travel and the cold climate. If you plan on travelling between settlements by way of snowmobile, dog sled, or really any method, you should travel with companions, make sure you have proper supplies and navigational equipment, don’t overstep your skill level, etc. Beyond this, your trip to Greenland should be unforgettable for all the right reasons.
For more on travel safety, check out the Canadian Travel Advisory for Greenland.
Check out the official Greenland tourism page for more.
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