Greenland - a handy guide to my dream travel destination!

We all grow up with travel dreams, and no matter how surprising it may sound now, one of my dream destinations was Greenland. It looked like a huge lump of ice somewhere far far away, and maybe that's why I was so fascinated by it. Interestingly this fascination with Greenland didn't GPO even as I grew up, and in fact only grew with time. As I started traveling more and more to add Scandinavia (especially Norway), I got even more exposed to the political history of this huge island, and with that also grew my desire to travel there. I haven't made it there yet, but hopefully someday I will. In the meanwhile me share some more details to get you also excited about traveling there!

East Greenland (Photo credit: Greenland Travel)

What exactly is Greenland?

Greenland is often considered to be world's biggest island (Australia and Antarctica are continents, though technically they are bigger) located in the Northern Hemisphere in the arctic circle. Even though geographically Greenland is right next to Canada, it's politically and culturally more affiliated with Europe, especially Scandinavia.

The capital and the largest city is Nuuk and almost a third of it's population lives there. The currency is Danish Krone as it's loosely a part of Denmark.

Northern Lights in Greenland (Photo credit: Mads Pihl)

Despite the extreme climatic conditions, the island has been inhabited by humans for about 4,500 years - so when pyramids were getting built in Egypt, we the humans, were in Greenland as well! That's rather fantastic! However, in recent times, the island has been occupied by Norway and Denmark, and it's currently loosely a part of Denmark but with a lot of autonomy.

Is Greenland really as big as it looks?

Interestingly I always thought Greenland was really huge, because of the way it looked in the maps. Have a look at the map below and you will understand what I mean. Just compare the two entities - India and Greenland, and Greenland actually looks at least thrice (or even four times) as large as India, though in reality it's about 2/3rd the size of India. While the size of India is 3.287 million km², the size of Greenland is only about 2.166 million km²!

India vs Greenland (comparison in size) - which one do you think is bigger?

There is due to a projection called Mercator and there is a huge controversy about the maps that we follow and think represent the world correctly, but are in fact an absolutely incorrect representation of the world in reality. You can read more about the project here. Some educational institutions are actually correcting these, like this one in Boston.

Things to do in Greenland

Unlike what you might think, there is actually a lot to do in Greenland. It depends a lot on the season that you pick so make sure you decide that in advance.

East Greenland after sunset (Photo credit: Markus Trienke)

Summers

Just like Norway and other Nordic countries, summer days are long in Greenland as well. I remember vividly how odd it was for me to be in Norway during summers - I always got up with full sun and slept with full sun - the nights were so short that I never saw a dark night at all. Though unusual, the experience is quite unique and I would be very excited to experience it in Greenland as well. Anyway, here are the top five recommended activities there in summers.
  1. Midnight sun
  2. Icebergs
  3. Nature and wildlife
  4. Hiking
  5. Fjord tours (read more: Cruising Nuuk fjords)

Winters

Unlike summers, winter days are short and can be very short. So what do you do when it gets dark so quickly? Well, you watch the sky fill with colorful lights - the Northern Lights! 

Here are the five most recommended activities to do in summers.
  1. Northern lights
  2. Snow
  3. Dog sledging
  4. Arctic circle race
  5. Heliskiing

How to reach Greenland?

Now this is a rather important question, and not-so-surprisingly, it's actually not that difficult to reach Greenland. The best way to reach Greenland is through commercial airlines served by airports in Denmark and Iceland. Alternatively you can also arrive with a cruise ship. Two of the airlines which fly there are Air Greenland and Air Iceland connect.

The Greenlandic airline Air Greenland flies all year around from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq in West Greenland and to Narsarsuaq in South Greenland in summer time. In the winter period there are four flights a week to Kangerlussuaq and up to ten flights a week in the summer. Narsarsuaq is served up to twice a week during the summer.

Onward transport to the towns on Greenland’s west coast takes place by airplane or helicopter, and there are frequent connections that ensure that it is normally possible to reach your final destination the same day.

Read more: Reaching Greenland

Visa for Greenland?

Even though Greenland isn't a part of EU, it is a part of Schengen through it's association with Denmark, so the same visa rules apply as they would for Denmark. If you have a valid Schengen visa, you can absolutely plan a trip there! 

Comments

  1. Greenland is one gorgeous land! Glad to know more about it.

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  2. Greenland is the dream destination for many people, this is such a nice place to visit once in life.

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  3. I was always fascinated by Greenland in part because of someone's flippant comment that Greenland and Iceland were named the wrong way around, in that Greenland has more ice and Iceland is (in the summer at least) very green! I've been to Iceland but not yet to Greenland. I think from your post I'd love a summer visit though the winter opportunities of Northern Lights appeals too.

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  4. I am always amazed flying over Greenland and stare down at the rivers between the huge blocks of ice wondering what life would be like. Think you need to make this trip happen!

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  5. Greenland is another place that really intrigues me. Like Iceland, it is a land of extremes and there is certainly much beauty to explore. I like the idea of going with a short list of things to do and really soaking it all up!

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  6. I have also always thought Greenland was huge. The thing I had never contemplated is the length of the days and nights. It makes sense that the summer days are long, just like Alaska because it is so far north. The Northern Lights are something that I have always wanted to see in person and I have heard that Greenland is the best place to experience them. Now I just have to visit Greenland!

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  7. Honestly I had thought of Greenland as a big hunk of ice too, so it's interesting to learn more about it - I had no idea it was part of Denmark! The Northen Lights are definitely on my bucketlist, although I'd love to enjoy the midnight sun too - it looks like 2 trips are needed!!

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  8. Sid, Greenland is on my dream list too. Dunno when and how it will happen. Yes I am aware of the mercator projection which seems to stretch the earth more and more as we near the poles . This is the only way a sphere could be depicted on a 2D flat paper. A globe is always the best place to check out the sizes and distances I think.

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  9. Alright, now that you made it easy for me to get to Greenland, I am so moving it up by notches on my bucket list. I did not realize that all it took was a Schengen Visa. Though my guess is that I will have to save up a lot more pennies. And I definitely want to go to spot the Northern Lights. Sigh!

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  10. You know I'd never though of really visiting Greenland, but now my interest is piqued! Definitely didn't imagine this was a good Northern Lights spot which is actually still on my bucket list after all these years. I'd try a fjord tour too!

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  11. Greenland is indeed the stuff that dreams are made of. The name itself conjures up images of exotic landscapes that one can scarce believe exists on the face of the earth. My favourite is of course the Northern Lights, one of the most fascinating phenomenon on earth. Hope to get to Greenland someday and this guide is sure to stand in good stead.

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  12. Sounds like a beautiful place to visit Mmmmmmm one day hopefully

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  15. Greenland is one of the most beautiful places and most of the traveler dream to visit here, All the picture makes my heart beat faster, and all the information and tips inspire us for visit this beautiful place. I visit many of the beautiful places all over the world, Now I want to explore this beautiful island, Much of its land surface is covered in ice. The weather condition is extreme, I want to feel the summer’s midnight sun of Greenland. my next trip will be this haven, all of your tips will help me to explore this place properly and give me best travel experience. thanks for sharing this one, keep inspire us for travel.

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  16. Looks beautiful and mysterious, thanks for sharing

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