Greenland — the world’s largest island — holds a captivating blend of history, natural wonders, and the Arctic allure.
The Inuit people, also found in Alaska and Canada, migrated to Greenland in the 13th Century, and today, they make up about 90 percent of the inhabitants there. They are fascinating people with a distinct language and culture, and interacting with them will also make your visit worthwhile.
This article explores things to do in Greenland, but first, how did the place get its name when it is mainly covered by snow?
How did the island get the name Greenland?
Norse settlers led by Erik the Red settled on this island in the 10th Century. Erik the Red had been exiled from Iceland after committing murder. He feared retribution for what he had done, so he decided to journey west of Iceland to an island he had heard about from explorer Gunnbjörn Ulfsson.
He arrived at the Island, and despite being covered by snow almost everywhere, he named it Greenland. Erik hoped that this name would attract more settlers.
How to travel to Greenland
A trip to Greenland is expensive since it’s a remote island. You can visit the island by ship or air through Denmark or Iceland to a town called Kangerlussuaq in Greenland.
The best time to visit is during summer when the temperatures are fair, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors. You also get to enjoy the midnight sun in summer. Since the trip to Greenland is expensive, visiting for a week or more is advisable, or combining it with a trip to Iceland.
Places to visit in Greenland
1. Ilulissat Icefjord
Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its magnificent icebergs. These icebergs originate from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier.
You can take a tour boat, hike along the trails surrounding the fjord, or take a helicopter ride to view these mesmerizing icebergs. And depending on the season, you can take in the view under the midnight sun or the Northern Lights.
This is Greenland’s capital, and it offers a fantastic blend of modernity and traditional culture. Here, you can visit the Greenland National Museum, the Katuaq Cultural Center, and the Nuuk Art Museum and stroll through the colorful buildings of the Old Harbor.
Other places to explore while in Nuuk include the Nuuk Cathedral, Mother of the Sea (a reference to an Inuit folklore about greed), and the Northeast Greenland National Park. In this park, you can see animals and birds such as polar bears, the arctic fox, walruses, Beluga and narwhal whales, barnacle geese, and the gyrfalcon.
3. Disko Island
Disko Island is located in the Baffin Bay. It’s known for its stunning landscapes, including mountains, coastal cliffs, and hot springs.
Animal lovers will have a field day at Disko Bay, watching animals like pelagic fishes, seals, narwhals, killer whales, and humpback whales. There are also birds like cormorants, eider ducks, harps, gulls, and kittiwakes.
Besides animals, you can visit the old town of Qeqertarsuaq. And a short distance from Disko Island, you can explore the Magnificent Ice Cap. This Greenland Ice Sheet is so massive that if it were to melt, the sea level would rise by a whopping 7 meters.
4. East Greenland
This pristine and remote place offers unique wildlife and amazing landscapes. It’s the perfect place to explore the vastness of the country’s untouched wilderness and see arctic animals like polar bears and seals.
Also, explore Scoresby Sund, one of the largest fjord systems in the world.
5. Uunartoq hot springs
Greenland has several hot springs, but only Uunartoq offers fantastic natural hot springs for visitors. It’s the best place to soak in warm waters surrounded by icy landscapes.
This island is located in southern Greenland, so you can also take in the views of snow-capped mountains and sea ice as you relax in the hot springs.
As mentioned, this place is the gateway to Greenland. So, if you come in by air, everything starts and stops here.
Kangerlussuaq offers a unique blend of cultural experiences and arctic landscapes. While here, you can go musk ox spotting, visit the Russell Glacier, and explore Greenland’s tundra while hiking or biking.
This is the largest town in East Greenland, where you can enjoy stunning mountains and fjords. Some things to do in Tasiilaq include hiking to Flower Valley and taking a boat tour to Sermilik Fjord.
Don’t forget to interact with the local Inuit people to learn about their culture.
This picturesque town in southern Greenland is renowned for its vibrant art scenes and colorful houses.
There are stone sculptures scattered throughout the town. You can also explore the Qaqortoq Museum and enjoy the scenery of the surrounding landscapes.
Greenland is the perfect place for adventurers who appreciate the raw beauty of the Arctic. Depending on the time you’ve visited, you can enjoy kayaking, hiking, dog sledding, seal spotting, whale watching, and bird watching.
Besides its natural wonders, Greenland is also full of historical mysteries. For instance, the Norse people disappeared in the 15th Century, leaving behind ghost towns. While there, also engage with the local Inuit people because they always have a story to tell. You’ll enjoy the interactions as you learn the myths and history of these resilient people who have survived for centuries in this polar paradise.