If you asked someone what they know about Greenland, most people just say it is a damn cold country somewhere up in the north. In fact, Greenland is an amazing country boasting breathtaking natural beauties, numerous interesting primacies and a reputation of adventurers´ paradise. Occupying a total area of well over 2 million square kilometers (almost 840,000 square miles), Greenland is the largest island in the world. However, its population of just 56,000 people makes it the world´s least densely populated country at the same time. Geographically belonging to North America but politically and culturally associated with Europe, Greenland is an astonishing country that you absolutely have to visit and these 25 things will prove it.
Surprisingly rich history
Despite being a country with an extremely cold climate, Greenland has been inhabited since as early as at least 2500 BC. Over the time, many different tribes and nations including Arctic tribes from today Canada, Vikings or Inuit people have lived on this island. Today, the population consists of Greenlandic Inuit (89%) and a mixture of European nations (11%).
The majority of Greenland is less than 1,500 meters (almost 5,000 feet) in elevation but there are also peaks reaching thousands of meters in height. The highest mountain of the country is Gunnbjorn Field at 3,700 meters (12,139 feet).
Climbing and mountaineering
It is not only the Greenland´s mountains that attract extreme sportsmen from around the world. Local glaciers also offer great conditions for climbing and mountaineering.
Located on the eastern coast of Greenland, Scoresby Sund is the largest and longest fjord system in the world. It has a tree-like structure, with a main body approximately 110 kilometers (68 miles) long that branches into a system of fjords covering an area of about 38,000 square kilometers (14,700 square miles).
Northeast Greenland National Park
Greenland hold several more impressive primacies. Established in 1974, Northeast Greenland National Park, for example, is the world’s largest and most northerly national park. With its area of 972,001 km2 (375,000 sq mi), it is bigger than all but thirty countries in the world.
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Unique arctic wildlife
Talking about the Northeast Greenland National Park, we should also mention that Greenland is home to a wide range of animal species including polar bears, humpback whales, musk oxen, lemmings, walruses, rare Arctic wolves as well as about a hundred bird species.
Unexpectedly rich flora
Although Greenland might give the impression of a permanently frozen and snow-covered place, there are periods when many parts of the country flourish with lush vegetation and colorful plants. In fact, over 500 different plant species can be found in Greenland.
Arctic Circle Race
If you want to test your physical as well as mental endurance, you should take part in the Arctic Circle Race, known as the world´s toughest cross-country race. Held annually since 1998, the ACR has become an important cultural and athletic institution in the community in Sisimiut where the race is based.
If you get overwhelmed by the boisterous but magnificent Greenland´s nature you can visit Nuuk, the country´s capital and largest city. Although it began only as a small fishing settlement, today Nuuk is the economical, cultural, shopping and political centre of the country.
We already talked about the Greenland´s rich and old history so it comes as no surprise that the country boasts several great museums that serve as a modern voyage of discovery through the country´s turbulent past. Located in Nuuk, the Greenland National Museum features objects related to archaeology, history, and art as well as frozen mummies of people who died centuries ago.
As incredible as it may sound, there are numerous hot springs in Greenland. In fact, there are hundreds of them scattered through the landscape. The most popular ones, located on the island of Uunartoq, provide natural bathtubs sitting at temperatures reaching up to 140 F (60 C).
A canyon known as the Birthday Canyon is one of the most fascinating sceneries that ice has created in Greenland. Named after one of its discoverers´ birthday, the 150 feet (46 meters) deep canyon carved by melt-water might have been already gone though because of the constantly changing structure of the ice.
Also known as Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights are considered one of the greatest natural spectacles on Earth. During clear winter months, the dark sky is often lit up with an astonishing light show featuring a variety of colors ranging from green (the most common) to blue or even red (the rarest). The best time to watch this phenomenon is from November to March.
Located in western Greenland, the Ilulissat Icefjord is one of the most famous and visited natural landmarks of the country. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, it runs west 40 km (25 mi) from the Greenland ice sheet to Disko Bay. At its eastern end is the Jakobshavn Isbraeglacier that flows at a rate of 20–35 m (66–115 ft) per day, resulting in around 20 billion tons of icebergs calved off and passing out of the fjord every year. You can get to the fjord by a boat, helicopter or even on land.
For animal lovers, seeing a whale from close proximity is one of the greatest experiences they can have and Greenland is a prefect destination for this exciting activity. During summer months, humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales and other species can be easily spotted when quietly sailing through the melted icebergs.
Another amazing experience that every animal lover will enjoy is definitely dog sledding. Many tourists guides say dog sledding is by far the best way to explore and experience the unique Arctic nature. Contrary to other Arctic locations, dog sledding in Greenland is a way of life, by choice if not by necessity.
No doubts the fjords are breathtakingly beautiful when looking at them from land but if you want to enjoy really original and unforgettable view on these ice giants, you should try cold water diving. Once you deal with the harsh environment under the sea surface, you will also admire impressive shipwrecks as well as unique local marine fauna and flora.
Another great way to explore the Greenland´s natural beauties is kayaking which is, similarly to dog sledding, another iconic means of transport for the local people. In fact, it was here in Greenland where kayak was invented at least 4,000 years ago.
Located in Southern Greenland, Narsaq is one of the major Greenland´s cities (with a population of just over 1,500 though) and a popular tourist spot notable for its picturesque colorful houses. Local fjords are full of marine life so fishing is the mainstay of the city´s economy but visitors also come here to hike, take boat trips or collect rare minerals.
Yes, you read it right. Midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle, when the sun remains visible at the local midnight. Around the summer solstice the sun is visible for the full 24 hours. Greenland is one the best places to enjoy this incredible natural spectacle.
As a real winter wonderland boasting numerous great mountains and passable glaciers too, it is not surprising that Greenland is also heliskiers´paradise. In fact, some even consider Greenland the place where this adrenaline sport was born.
The harsh Arctic climate has forced the locals to be very creative and resourceful when it comes to cooking. With seafood being by far the most important ingredient of local culinary, Greenland´s staples are fish such as cod, trout, Arctic char or legendary Greenlandic halibut as well as snow crabs, shrimps etc. Homegrown fruits and vegetables still remain more of a side dish than a main course.
We already mentioned that Greenland is the least densely populated country in the world, which is also why the locals are very friendly and helpful to foreigners and visitors. Generally, the Greenlanders are considered cheerful, easygoing people who don’t take themselves too seriously but always know how to solve problems with whatever is available.
Elephant Food Glacier
There are thousands of the so called peripheral glaciers in Greenland that are isolated from the main ice sheet, flowing independently to the sea. Despite the abundance of them, they only make up just 5 to 7 percent of Greenland’s total ice coverage. The Elephant Food Glacier located in northeast of the country is arguably the most famous one.
While snowmobiles usually look like super cool and trendy devices to visitors, for the locals, these machines have become an integral part of their daily routines. In some parts of the country, the snowmobiles are the only available means of transport and many people even use it to get to work.