Greenland | “The Land of the People”
This is one part of the world largely forgotten by many travelers compared to the much advertised destination at the opposite pole, Antarctica. Greenland is the largest island on earth and some question why it is not a continent itself.
Located in the north Atlantic between Iceland and Canada’s north, Greenland can be visited by cruise ship. Many cruise lines include in their itineraries a sail by and a port stop in this area of the world which is largely isolated due to its geography and climate. Most of the country lies above the Arctic Circle. For the more adventurous explorers, one can fly into Greenland from Denmark or Iceland to explore further inland and for longer periods of time.
Qaqortoq (Image: Bigstock)
High Rises in Nuuk, the Capital (Image: Pixabay)
You might be forgiven the misconception that Greenland is remote, backward, and inhabited by nothing but polar bears and seals. Nothing to see there, right? The Vikings started the misconceptions a thousand years ago with its name” Greenland”, as 80% of the country is covered by a vast ice sheet. The population is above 58K (mostly Inuit); there are busy towns, hotels, paved roads, cars, hospitals, historical sites, tourist tours, cultural events, and so on – just as you would expect of most destinations. There are farms growing vegetables and raising sheep. Most of these are found in the southern tip area as would be expected. Greenland has it own government, but it does belong to the Kingdom of Denmark.
The climate is cold but not extremely so. You would probably visit in summer especially if by cruise when the average temperature is 50 degrees (F) with higher temperatures achieved deep in some of the southern fjords. You’ll be wearing a heavier jacket, perhaps a hat and gloves too. The air is dry and of exceptional quality resulting in clearer views of the surrounding – and distant – topography. (Bring your camera!)
The native people are Inuit and their language is Greenlandic. With the many “q’s” and double vowels the written word looks quite daunting to the visitor! The Inuit name for this island is Kalaallit Nunaat: “The Land of the People”.
Prins Christian Sund (Image: Pixabay)
Prins Christian Sund Glacier (Image: Pixabay)
Prins Christian Sund is a usual cruising day with most cruise lines and for good reason. This body of water separates the mainland from the Cape Farewell Archipelago. The fjords here seem to rise abruptly from the ocean to soar straight and high to peaks scraping the sky. With huge icebergs calved from the glaciers, there is many an amazing sight: it is a photographer’s dream. For those who have cruised Alaska, be prepared for more magnificent sights than those you’ve seen there if that’s possible – and doesn’t that entice you to this remote island?
Qaqortoq is a port of call on many itineraries. It is southern Greenland’s largest town with colorful buildings and all the amenities. From here you can arrange a trip to hot springs for a dip, a kayak excursion, or a take a tour to an historic Viking site. One such Viking place, Kujataa, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Be sure to purchase a souvenir of your visit. Inuit artwork and carvings are highly prized, or perhaps you would prefer a piece of traditional clothing.
For those that visit by airplane and plan to stay awhile, there is so much more to explore. For the active adventurer try biking, hiking, scuba diving, climbing or bird watching. If visiting in colder weather, there’s also snowshoeing, dog sledding, skiing (including heliskiing), snowmobiling, and ice fishing. You’ll see the hot springs, the Northern Lights, and wildlife such as arctic hare and fox, whales, seals, and more. Take the ferry along the coast to tiny settlements or a guided tour inland. Walk on the 100K-year old ice sheet in Kanqerlussuaq. Because Greenland is such a large land mass, most sparsely inhabited, and with dangerous terrain and wildlife, plus unpredictable weather, it is recommended to purchase guided tours or do your homework beforehand.
Contact your travel expert at this agency if you are contemplating a Greenland visit either by air or by cruise. It may become one of your most memorable of all your travel journeys.
Arctic Hare, a less dangerous form of wildlife (Image: Andy Brunner on UnSplash)
Ice Climbing (Image: Pixabay)
Erik the Red surveying his domain (Image: Pixabay)
Header image of Ittoqqortoomiit courtesy of Annie Spratt on UnSplash. Article first appeared on Real Travel Experts.
Author’s Note: Due to climate change, Greenland is changing. The ice sheet is melting. It now rains there. This warming impacts the wildlife, the native people, and indeed, the world as the melting ice cap causes oceans to rise. In ten or twenty years, this article may not represent Greenland at all. Visit now but better yet, do your part to keep Greenland “icy white”.