Greenland is the world’s largest island, but much of the land consists of nothing but permanent ice and snow. Hills and rugged scenery dominate the topography of this self-governing Danish province. Perhaps the best reason to visit Greenland is the arctic wildlife you’ll get to observe and the crisp clean air your lungs will get to enjoy – certainly a “change of scenery” for those who live in smog-infested metropolises.
Greenland is surrounded by sea all around that have been permanently chilled by cold currents. In some parts of the island, especially in the central regions, the ice can be as thick as two miles. Very few areas on the island, except for the coasts, are actually ice-free. As a result, most of the island’s population of 57,000 live in the coastal regions, particularly in the west.
Greenland is definitely no ordinary vacation destination. But its unforgiving terrain belies the beautiful sights the island has to offer. During winter, the Northern Lights at night provide a continuous twilight, a spectacle of colors decorating the sky. Greenland also dazzles with an array of icebergs, fjords, mountains, and islands that are inhabited by abundant wildlife such as whales, musks, polar bears, artic foxes, sea walruses, reindeer, birds, and seals. It also has the perfect conditions for outdoor snow activities such as dog sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, and kayaking through ice sheets.
It would be a shame if travelers fail to even consider Greenland as a possible vacation destination; it may well be just the kind of unusual holiday experience some people are looking for.
One of the major attractions of Greenland is the Greenland National Museum in the capital of Nuuk. This museum features the frozen mummies of a group of women and children who died around 1475 when their boat capsized. Visitors will also find that the museum is charmingly located in the oldest part of Nuuk, where buildings date back to the early 18th century.
Greenland, of course, is all about outdoor winter activities. Visitors can play golf in thick ice in Uummannaq; watch for fin whales around Qasigiannguit, Aasiaat, and Qeqertarsuaq; trek the trails of Narsarsuaq, Qaqortoq, Ammassalik, and Narsaq; kayak or dog sled through the world’s largest national park, the Northeast Greenland National Park, to view the island’s arctic wildlife; explore Ittoqqortoormiit where the largest fjord complex in the world is found, including the largest fjord in the world known as Scoresby Sund; or climb the steep peaks and mountain fjords of the Nanortalik Skyscrapers in Nanortalik, which is highlighted by the challenging Ulamertorsuaq and Ketil Mountain (both mountains should only be braved by experienced climbers).
Historic sights in Greenland include Sermermiut, a settlement southwest of Ilulissat that contains traces of habitation dating back to 2000 BC; the island’s oldest wooden house in Disko Bay, which dates back to 1734; the 1000 year-old ruins of Viking Eric the Red found in southern Greenland between Narsarsuaq and Qassiarsuk; and the 200-year old colonial era buildings and monuments of Qaqortoq, where replicas and exact copies of old Inuit houses and Norse settlements are found at the Inuit Museum.