Located mostly in the Arctic region in the far northeast of North America, Greenland is the world’s largest non-continental island. It has the lowest population density in the world. The fact that the place is mostly covered in snow, should not, however, deter anyone from planning a trip to the awesome place. The place offers every form of entertainment and adventure ranging from mountaineering, hiking, sledging, and skiing to fishing, sea gliding, kayaking and hunting. Not to mention the heavenly sightseeing and the cuisine. You can reach Greenland either by air or the sea. Air Greenland offers quite regular flights from Denmark, Iceland and Canada, which will take you to Nuuk, Kulusuk, Narsarsuaq and Ilulissat. However, the sea route is not much well developed, because of which, more and more shipping companies are trying to get into the tourism business by making passenger ships available to the coast of Greenland.
For the purpose of travel, it is best to chalk out the country into eastern, western and southern regions. East Greenland is one of the remotest parts, where one can spend some quality time in Tasiilaq, watching the lifestyle and culture of the Greenlanders and midnight hiking to Ammssalik Island. A helicopter trip over the beautiful village is exciting, and can offer much to lift up your spirits for the rest of the trip. The best way to visit the famous Knud Rasmussen Glacier is through kayaking along the stunning Ammassalik fjord, which is surrounded by high mountain walls. West Greenland offers a better taste of the Arctic environment. The Icefiord, near Ilulissat, a UNESCO’s World Heritage site, calves the most impressive icebergs of the northern countries. South Greenland, on the other hand, presents a contrast between the green of the landscape and the blue colours of the ice calved from the ice caps. The settlements here are closely spaced and one can easily hire a boat for nearby trips. Some of the places that one must visit include the Nuussuaq Peninsula, Mara Mountain, Sarqarput Strait, Jameson Land and Maniitsoq.
The places in Greenland usually have two names – the official Greenlandic and the non-official Danish, which can get confusing at times. The people out there are very hospitable and one need not think twice before asking for directions from a local inhabitant. Most places are too small to put up signboards for directions, and the people know every nook and corner fairly well. So, do not be surprised if you bump into a grey factory-like building in the middle of nowhere, only to find a fully equipped supermarket inside!
The Northern Lights
Due to the geographical location of the country, the tourists may easily experience the midnight sun, depending on the season and location. Far north of the Arctic Circle, Midnight Sun can be experienced for a period lasting from one day to five months. For enhanced experience, the best time to visit is between May and July, during which, the soft, warm rays from the low-lying sun make the surrounding scenery appear ethereal and dream-like. Icebergs and hilltops, in the Disko Bay glow in a colourful bath of pink, purple, yellow and red light, which presents a breathtaking sight. But, above all, be sure to experience the “Aurora Borealis”, the biggest light show on earth, which occurs due to a natural geographical phenomenon. The best time to watch the northern lights is between November and March, though December through February are the best months to see the lights because nights are clearer. Qaqortoq (south Greenland), Ittoqqortoormiit (east Greenland) and Kangerlussuaq (west Greenland) are some of the best spots to observe the lights from.
The fauna of the place primarily consists of the polar bear, the arctic dogs, reindeer, musk oxen, the white-tailed eagle and the whales, which can be spotted all the year round. The best way to experience Greenland’s Arctic nature is usually on a sledding tour or snowmobiling excursion. If you happen to be during the summer, then you can also take a whale watching tour between the Fjords and the melting icebergs along the coastal towns of Nuuk, Qeqertarsuaq and Aasiaat. During the summer months, you can see Humpback, Minke, and Fin whales in Greenlandic waters, while, during the winter, Beluga, Narwhal, or Bowhead whales are the most spotted ones.
When it comes to Greenland, the first things that comes to mind are the Eskimos and their Igloos. The Sermermiut settlement in Greenland has some of the best preserved remnants of Eskimo indigenous cultures in the Arctic region. You can get a taste of the history of the country from the colourful colonial buildings and cute wooden churches in the towns located along the west coast of Greenland that offer a nice glimpse into Greenland’s Danish past. When you visit south Greenland, you can see the remnants of Eric the Red’s one thousand year old Norse colonies and Viking ruins, which include the Hvalsey Fjord Church and Brattahlid ruins located near the town of Qassiarsuk.
Greenland offers some of the best places to stay and enjoy, combines with exquisite mouth-watering cuisine. One may stop at the Arctic café, which offers much more than just coffee and cupcakes. The food tastes better, when taken with the waiters’ appropriate wine combination suggestions. To one’s surprise, Greenland also has a plethora of hot springs where one can enjoy a warm relaxing soak, the most popular of them being the Uunartoq hot springs in the island of Uunartoq (east Greenland) and Disko Island’s hot springs, which are just a short boat ride from the town of Ilulissat. The country also provides a unique accommodation in the form of Ice-hotels that is bound to make your trip memorable. It is a hotel, make completely out of snow and providing living facilities according to the environment. One can get a room in an Ice hotel at Kangerlussuaq, where the rooms are actually in the form of small igloos. Therefore, it really does not matter if you are an Eskimo or not, you can always get an igloo for yourself!
Housed in a spacious warehouse, the Greenland National Museum some of the world’s oldest rocks from the Nuuk region, highlighting the geological changes that took place over the ages. However, the main attraction is the spooky display of the mummies of two 15th-century women and a very spooky six-month-old child, whose cause of death remain uncertain, dressed in beautifully embroidered fur clothes and kammiks.
Paamiut Museum is a spectacular house, constituting of a circle of five historic stone-and-timber buildings around a turf-ringed well house. Among its various geological collections, it has a whaling exhibition that includes a very rare sealskin diving suit, a reproduction of an original sold in 1913 and now in St Petersburg.
Technology enthusiasts might also pay a visit to the Tele-Museum that traces Greenland’s role in the development of transatlantic communications. It has many mechanical curiosities like the 1900 telephone-switching table, which, although already archaic in Denmark, was sent for use in Nuuk in the 1950s.
You can also drop by the Qasigiannguit Museum to discover an excellent, well-preserved collection of finds dating from the Saqqaq culture to the present Inuit culture, which gives a detailed picture of life in Greenland’s earliest Stone Age culture. Things available for display include a large collection of tools and the northernmost discovery of the now extinct great auk. The Emanuel A Petersen Art Museum, offers an exotic collection of Greenlandic landscapes, mostly the works of the eponymous Danish artist, Petersen.
The Qaqortoq Museum, housed in a tar-blackened building, dating back to 1804, hosts the works of explorer Knud Rasmussen when he was preparing his later expeditions and that of the famous American aviator Charles Lindbergh when he was scouting sites for a Pan Am stopover airport.