Remote Greenland is the world’s biggest island, while the sea that surrounds it is either permanently frozen or chilled by the mainly cold currents. In the centre of the country, ice can be up to 3km (2 miles) thick. No wonder that most of the population huddles around the ice-free coastal region. Indeed, the name ‘Greenland’ is a bit of a misnomer, although there are sheep-laden green fields in the south.
Those wondering why anyone would want to inhabit such unforgiving terrain are ignoring the beautiful sights that Greenland grants. The arctic nights in the winter concoct a wondrous continuous twilight. In the far north of the country, complete darkness is coupled with the spectacular Northern Lights during the coldest months. While Greenland may not be top of many travellers’ bucket lists, where else can you visit such raw and unspoilt landscapes?
The profusion of snow creates the perfect conditions for activities such as dog sledging and tour cruises, which interweave in and out of Greenland’s dazzling array of fjords, mountains, islands and icebergs. You can even go kayaking in the waters, though best to play it safe. The wildlife does not disappoint, either: there is an abundance of whales, seals and birds in the area.
There are hardly any roads on the island, so expect to fork out for boat travel, or even helicopter journeys. The upshot is that glacial vistas, yawning fjords and soaring mountains are all there for the taking. Definitely bring a camera.
Although Greenland’s appeal rests with its wondrous nature, there are a few thousand Greenlanders living on the sparsely populated island, and on the western coast they offer up a handful of picturesque villages. Mostly living in brightly painted wooden cottages, Greenlanders may have a reputation for being rather closed, but give them time and space, and you will discover a truly compelling culture, one that fuses both Inuit and Danish heritage.
With transport options and tourism agencies having improved travelling conditions of late, there’s never been a better time to visit Greenland.
2,166,086 sq km (836,330 sq miles).
56,196 (UN estimate 2016).
0.03 per sq km.
Self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark.
HM Queen Margrethe II since 1972.
Prime Minister Kim Kielsen since 2014.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used, sometimes with a third grounding pin.