Greenland is the size of Western Europe. More than 85% are permanently covered by a huge ice cap - the Inland Ice / The Greenland Ice sheet, and the population lives scattered along the ice-free archipelago, with countless beautiful fjords and mountains. The majority live in the lower part of West Greenland, while a small part lives in the northern Thule area, and in two demarcated areas on the rugged east coast.
The Greenlandic name for Greenland is Kalaallit Nunaat, which means
Land of the Greenlanders (or people).
Greenlands Ice Sheet
The inland ice or ice sheet has an area of 1.8 million km2. Volume, 2.7 million km3 of ice – the equivalent of about 7% of all the fresh water on earth, estimated to a 7 meters rise in sea level worldwide if the ice sheet melt. The highest point of the inland ice is 3,300 m above sea level and it is more than 3,500 m thick.
Icebergs and glaciers
There are glaciers all over Greenland, which more or less actively produce icebergs at different times of the year, mainly in the summer. The most productive is the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier at Ilulisat isfjord, which is also the most visited. However, icebergs are found throughout most of Greenland, all unique in shape, color and size that can accommodate any guest. Top 30+ Icebergs & Glaciers
Photo by David Trood
In Greenland lives about 55,000 Greenlanders, of which 90% of these live in 16 towns, and the rest in small settlements.
The capital is Nuuk with about 16,500 inhabitants.
The official language is Greenlandic with Danish and English as second languages.
Greenlandic – Kalaallisut - is closely related languages spoken by Inuit in Canada and Alaska.
2,175,600 km2 - the same size as France, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium combined. The 341,700 km2 icefree areas are bigger than Norway – and ten times the size of Denmark.
From north to south: 2,670 km (same distance as from Bergen in Norway to Tunis in North Africa).
From east to west: 1,050 km (same distance as from Edinburgh to Stockholm).
Southernmost point, Cape Farewell, about the same latitude as Oslo. Northernmost point, Cape Morris Jessup, about 740 km south of the North Pole.
Westernmost point, Cape Alexander, about the same longitude as New York.
Easternmost point, Nordostrundingen, situated a little to the east of Iceland. Thus Greenland is east, west, north and south of Iceland.
The Northern Polar Circle is called the Arctic Circle located at 66°North, dividing Greenland into dogsled land above and land without dogsled dogs below.
The City of Sisimiut are located right on the Arctic Circle, and there are severeal tours including the Arctic Circle Trail.
No cities or villages are interconnected by roads.
There are 16 major towns, each with surrounding settlements. None of the towns or settlements are interconnected by roads. Although some are relatively close, nature is a barrier with high mountains, deep and wide fjords or glacier tongues from the ice sheet.
In North Greenland, the towns are Qaanaaq, Upernavik and Uummannaq. In the Disko Bay, the towns are Ilulissat, Qassiannguit, Qeqertarssuaq and Aasiaat. On the west coast are the towns Sisimiut, Maniitsoq, the Capital Nuuk and Paamiut. In South Greenland, the towns are Narsaq, Qaqortoq and Nanortalik. In East Greenland, the towns are Tasiilaq and Ittooqortoormiit.
Greenland has had more than 60 settlements, but many of them are now uninhabited. As in the rest of the world there is a continuing urbanization where people are looking towards the towns and the young people do not move back after end education.
The location of the settlements has primarily been due to fishing and hunting possibilities, with natural shelter from, for example, mountains on one side that made it possible to land by boat safely before there where ports.
All towns and settlements are located incredibly scenic, surrounded by mountains and fjords.
Therefore, most Greenlanders think that their native town or settlement is Greenland's most beautiful.
Highest point in Greenland
Mount Gunnbjørn in East Greenland, 3,733 m above sea level.
Modern and traditional
Greenland is filled with contrasts in many ways. One keeps track of the traditions while using the latest IT technology. It is therefore not abnormal to see a lady in national suit, with the latest Smartphone in her hand.
In North Greenland you can see a four-wheel driven Mercedes holding back for a dog sled that crosses the road, and in southern Greenland you can experience sheep, cows and horses with farmers who harvest grass to hay or harvest potatoes while majestic icebergs are quietly sliding past the fjord at the end of the fields.
The merger between European and Greenlandic food is seen in modern variants of classic dishes based on Greenlandic raw materials and musk, reindeer and lamb meat, in contrast to the Suassat, a Soup consisting of seafood, walrus and razorbill meat as the favorites, boiled with rice and onions in the soup itself and served with aromatic or curry in large amounts.
The rich wildlife is seen everywhere in the form of whales, eagles and many other birds, musk oxen, reindeer, seals, polar fox and hares. It is only rarely that people see Greenland's national animal number one - Nanoq – the Polar Bear.
Greenland's strong symbols
The beautiful female national costume is with its pearls and embroidery, a symbol that traditional Greenlandic culture remains important in modern society. Family and friends are of great importance, and even though Greenland is in the top 10 with the number of Facebook accounts measured per capita, you will continue to gather wearing national costume at everything from childbirth to funeral with at a coffee Mik – a gathering which not only offers coffee but often both cakes and food too. Among other things, a traditional delicacy like Mattak - whale skin – that is eaten raw as it is, or with aromatics as the only spice.
Words to the world known as Igloo (dome shaped house of snow) and Kayak (small narrow boat) originate from the Greenlandic words Igdlo and Qajaq.
The first people came to the Thule Region 4-5000 years ago from Canada. In all, 6 Inuit cultures immigrated at various times and the present population are descendents of the Thule Culture that came to Greenland around the 9th century. It was about the same time as the Norsemen and Erik the Red arrived in Greenland in 982, as described in the Icelandic Sagas.
Many of the Inuit cultures remains are still to be found in their former kitchen middens, but now threatened with climate change and thawing of areas with used to have permafrost.
Norsemens ruins are more weather resistant, and still visible in South Greenland and near Nuuk, and a unique sight for the few tourists who know.
In South Greenland you can still see stone fences around the fields close to Igaliku, built by the norsemen 1000 years ago, and one can drink from the source still running at the same place as described in the Saga.
Visit to the Arctic
There are large variations in weather and temperature in Greenland, and it changes rapidly from good to rough weather. There may be summer in South Greenland, while the last sea ice and snow are still not melted in North Greenland. A good advice is never to move alone in nature, and always have several layers of clothes so you can put on clothes on or off after the conditions. Especially the chill factor can surprise in cool weather, so respect the nature and rather bring too much than too little clothes.
It is not possible to drive between Greenland’s towns and settlements
because there are no roads outside the builtup areas
Infrastructure is based on air traffic and shipping.
Before you book
The infrastructure and distances in Greenland make it impossible to book a tour to South Greenland and a daytour in Nuuk during that trip. Be aware of this geographic fact before you book. Fortunately most areas has a huge selection of day tours and things to do, all listed her on Guide to Greenland.
1721-1953 Danish colony, 1953-1979 County-like status, 1979 Home Rule, 2009 Self Governance.
Greenland is a parliamentary democracy and part of the Danish realm together with the Faroe Islands.
Fishing is Greenland’s main industry and it makes up most of the total export – mainly prawns and Greenland halibut.
All towns and most settlements have internet acces of various speed.
Country code +299
As in other sparsely populated areas on earth, Gigabytes and Roaming costs are high.
The currency is Danish kroner. DKK.
There are Bank outlets in several cities, and most larger Hotels and stores accept major international credit cards. To avoid problems, book and pay your stay here at Guide to Greenland.
Do not go to the Arctic without securing a roof over your head. Secure accommodation and sightseeing from home here on Guide to Greenland. Also see our list of attractions and things to do in Greenland, and get more knowledge from some of our free arcticles.