Greenland is an extreme destination for intrepid explorers, it is so much more than a frozen wasteland (and don't forget to try Greenlandic cuisine). The sights you see in Greenland are unique and not to be found anywhere else in the world. It is the world's largest island by far and it is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. In Greenland, you can see abandoned Viking settlements, eye-watering fjords, Arctic wildlife, and the unique Inuit culture. In this article, we will concentrate on the main settlement of Nuuk and what you can see and do in this vicinity. Remember Greenland is not a cheap destination and it is best explored with guided tours like from Greenland Tours.
Greenland: The Facts
- Capital And Largest Town: Nuuk
- Currency: Danish Kroner
- Official Language: Greenlandic (A Collection Of Innuit Dialects And Languages)
- Population: 56,000
Brief History Of Greenland
There were early populations living on Greenland, but by the time the Vikings (they were Icelandic and Norwegian Vikings) first arrived in 986 AD, the island was probably uninhabited - at least in the south. Through climate change and other pressures, the Vikings disappeared from Greenland in the 15th century. Today the Thule culture is the ancestor of the modern indigenous inhabitants, the Inuit. They migrated from what is now Alaska to Greenland in the 1300s and populated the northern part of the island. So there was likely a time when Vikings and Inuit cohabited opposite ends of the island. The Kingdom of Denmark in the 1600s started searching for the lost Viking settlements and later established control over the island.
Getting To Greenland
Greenland is not part of the Schengen Zone in Europe but it maintains an open border with it. All citizens of the Schengen Zone can visit Greenland visa-free (plus Iceland and Norway). For America, Greenland is also visa-free but you must have return tickets.
- Visa: Visa-Free For 90 Days
There are two ways of getting to Greenland, by cruise ship, and by air. To fly into Greenland there are flights from Iceland, so you will need to transit through Iceland. Currently, the airport is being upgraded but at the moment it can't handle long-distance flights from Denmark. When the airport is complete it will be able to receive direct flights from Denmark and other countries in Europe.
- When To Go, Option 1: Summer To Explore The Fjords And Settlements
- When To Go, Option 2: Winter To See The Northern Lights
Largest Settlement Nuuk
Nuuk has around a third of Greenland's population and has a population of around 18,000 making it by far the largest settlement in Greenland. In Greenland, there is little road infrastructure and the road network does not extend much outside of the town. Roads are only to get around the town and locations adjacent to the town. To get to other settlements you will need to fly or take a cruise (or dog sled!).
There are numerous things to see and do while in Nuuk. Places to see in the town include:
Nuuk Ark Museum: Includes A Notable Collection Of Various Artworks
Greenland National Museum And Archives: Learn About Greenland's History And See Local Artifacts
Katuaq: Nuuk's Cultural Center
Church Of Our Saviour: Iconic Red Church Built In 1849
But the most popular activities here are to go on boat tours and cruises. With these tours, you can explore the stunning fjords and islands and visit isolated and abandoned settlements in the area. In the winter, the big attraction is the northern lights, but there will be little else you can see or explore in the long, dark and bitterly cold winters.
Visiting The Abandoned Settlement Of Kangeq
- Cost: From $135
- How To Get There: By 6 Passenger Boat
- Learn: About The History And The Danish Priest, Hans Egede
- Date Abandoned: 1960s
Boat Tour Of Local Fjords
- Cost: From $115
- See: Greenland's Picturesque And Rugged Coastline With Stunning Icy Fjords
- Watch: Marine Wildlife (Whales, Seals, White Tipped Eagles)
- Spot: Icebergs
Ice Fiord Cruise
- Cost: From $310
- See: Massive Ice Formations Up Close
- Hear: The Crackling And Groaning Of The Icebergs
- Perhaps: Watch The Icebergs Break Off And Fall Into The Sea
- Watch: Marine Wildlife
Paying For Things And Currency
Denmark is not part of the Eurozone and so does not use the Euro. Instead, the national currency of Denmark is the Danish Kroner and this is the currency of Greenland. Few places on the island will accept Euros or American Dollars. But it is generally not needed to bring cash, as the main towns like Nuuk have ATMs and the establishments here accept credit cards like Mastercard and Visa.
Greenland is a very large place with a lot to see. We will cover other sites and attractions in other articles - like the mysterious settlement and disappearance of the Vikings.
Fun Fact: Greenland Has One Natural Forrest In The Qinngua Valley
In short, Greenland is a stunning location for those wanting to visit the high Arctic. It is a wonderland filled with Arctic wildlife, icebergs, fjords, and steeped in history. The Norse were not the first resident population to disappear here!