Look we know that everyone and their mom is telling you to go to Iceland this year. We’re pretty big fans of the Land of Fire and Ice ourselves. But with popularity comes crowds and with crowds comes…a lot of waiting, photobombing and selfie sticks. That’s why we ventured to Greenland, a country left mostly untouched by tourism over the past few decades. We were tasked with determining first hand if Greenland has a chance to unseat Iceland as the reigning champion of the North.
Here are 11 things you can do in Greenland that proves this country has just as much to offer as Iceland.
Marvel At The Midnight Sun
If you’re planning on visiting Greenland in the summer months, make sure to tick off watching the Midnight Sun from your bucket list. Depending on where you are in the country, you may either never see the sun fully set or you may see it set for no more than three and a half hours. Climb up one of the many hills that fill the countryside to experience this arctic phenomenon for yourself.
If you happen to be in Nuuk, head to Myggedalen (known best as mosquito valley) to watch the sunset over the city’s iconic landmark, Sermitsiaq. Wherever you plan on viewing the spectacular Midnight Sun, make sure to pack a few extra layers and bug spray as it can get quite cold as the last rays of daylight leave the sky.
When: You can experience this truly unmissable sight from June to August
Quench Your Thirst by Drinking Directly from Any River or Stream
There are few places in the world where it’s safe to drink directly from any old stream but Greenland is one of them. Home to some of the world’s cleanest and freshest water, you can drink directly from any water source you stumble upon without worrying. This especially comes in handy when you’re looking to quench your thirst halfway through a challenging hike. Get your reusable bottle ready or simply use your hands and enjoy some fresh glacier water at your convenience.
Note: Do not dive in, wade through or splash about in the rivers and streams you come across as to not contaminate the water.
When: Drink up year round!
Explore One of Greenland’s Many Ghost Towns
As a large portion of the country is covered by the Greenland Ice Sheet, the entire population lives on the coast. These Greenlanders, much like their Inuit ancestors, rely heavily on fishing for food and income. Thus when the fish move (due to a drop in water temperature), the people move too, leaving everything behind.
Scattered along the coast are tons of abandoned settlements (or ghost towns) like Qoornoq or Kangeq with washed out and dilapidated homes atop hills, and rundown train stations. Though a majority of these settlements are slowly becoming re-inhabited for the summer months, there is still a certain magic in exploring a place that was once completely empty.
Walk Through a Wall of Mosquitoes
When the snow starts to melt and the sun lingers in the sky, so too do the mosquitoes. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking ‘how on earth can mosquitoes survive in Greenland of all places?’ Well, we’ve got news for you: they not only survive, they thrive.
Known lovingly as Greenland’s Royal Air Force, these giant winged creatures travel in packs searching for their next meal and will swarm at a moment’s notice. That giant black wall that seems to be moving towards you isn’t a figment of your imagination, it’s a swarm of Greenland mosquitoes. You can rest easy knowing that despite their size and ferocity, these mosquitoes are harmless and do not carry any human diseases. So grab some bug spray and a mosquito net (yes, seriously, a mosquito net) and experience a truly Greenlandic summer!
When: July to August
Strap On Your Hiking Boots and Hit the Trail (Any Trail)
One of the main reasons people visit Greenland is its raw, untouched nature. In many ways, discovering Greenland means exploring an incredible, expansive backcountry. Home to massive snow-capped peaks and deep valleys at what feels like every turn, there’s really no better place in the world to get your hike on. Whether you’re a seasoned long-distance trekker or a casual day-hiker, you’re sure to find an ideal trail to match your skill and style.
If you’re planning on staying in the capital city, Nuuk, be sure to hike one of the four nearby mountains. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenging climb, hike the city’s iconic landmark, Sermitsiaq at 4,200 feet in just under three hours. The ascent is quite steep, requires a guide and can only be accessed by boat.
If you’re looking for something a little bit easier, opt to hike Lille Malene (Quassussuaq in Greenlandic) or Store Malene (Ukkusissat in Greenlandic). Whichever mountain you choose to conquer, you can rest assured the trail will be empty and that you will feel like a Greenland pioneer.
When to hike: You can hike all year round, though for safety reasons summer is best
Cruise Along Icy Fjords in the World’s Largest Fjord System
With only 150 kilometres of paved roads in the entire country, boating is not only one of the most convenient, logical and favoured forms of transportation, it is a way of life. In fact, more Greenlanders own boats than they do cars as the country is best connected by water. So, what better way to discover Greenland than by cruising along pristine Arctic waters in the world’s largest fjord system?
As there are no pre-defined boating routes, you can go wherever your heart desires. You can experience the serenity of the country’s untouched wilderness by cruising past massive icebergs, remote islands and flowing mountain waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a whale!
When: Though you can go boating any time of the year, it is best advised to go in the summer when the conditions and weather are more favourable
Travel to: Greenland
Try Your Hand at Arctic Deep-Sea Fishing
A large part of Greenlandic culture is centered around food, and in Greenland, you eat what you catch. Reeling in 20-pound redfish or cod from 150-metres beneath the water’s surface and feasting on it a couple hours later brings a new meaning to farm-to-table. You will not only enjoy a good workout on your forearms, but it will likely turn out to be one of the best meals of your life.
When: Any time of the year
Experience Greenlandic Culture
Discover Greenland’s rich history by spending an afternoon exploring the National Museum. Be transported back in time to when the Inuit people and the Norsemen roamed the land. A visit to the National Museum will not only give you a deeper understanding of how this great nation came to be, but it will also grant you the opportunity to feast your eyes on one of Greenland’s famed mummies as well as one of the world’s only skin boats that is almost fully intact, the Pearyland Umiaq.
If you’ve got a penchant for modern art, then a trip to the country’s only art museum, Nuuk Kunst Museum, will serve you well. The museum will give you a chance to experience Greenland through the eyes of artists who call it home and those who simply visited to see its great wonders first-hand.
When: All year-round
Enjoy a Traditional Greenlandic Barbecue
Sure, Greenland is best known for its unspoilt nature and unique culture, but it’s the food that keeps travellers coming back. Made from some of the freshest ingredients on the planet, you can indulge your tastebuds here. Eat everything from reindeer (Greenlandic Caribou) and muskox to a variety of different arctic fish. Though many of these exotic delicacies can be found in restaurants and lodges across the country, there is nothing quite like grilling it up for yourself.
Head to a scenic beach, grab some shrubbery and get to cooking. It is best to have a local assist you in constructing a traditional Greenlandic barbecue so that you can learn how to prepare both the fire and food. It also helps that they are extremely friendly, encouraging you to learn a bit more about their culture and cuisine first-hand.
Lose Yourself in the Vast Landscape
Mountains, rivers, islands and icebergs make up Greenland, creating an ideal landscape for a true escape from your daily routine. A short boat ride outside any city or town will lead you straight into the country’s wilderness, which will leave you stunned by its sheer vastness.
Whether you’re boating, hiking or walking in Greenland you will always be only a few minutes away from the country’s natural wonders. With very little tourists and a modest population of 57,000 people, it’s one of the few places you can lose yourself without actually getting lost.
Make Long-Lasting Friendships with the Locals
More often than not it’s the people of a given region that make your travels unforgettable and Greenland is no different. Being greeted with a huge smile and a friendly “Hello!” in the capital city of Nuuk is an extremely common occurrence. Take a break from pioneering and sit down for a warm meal with a local Greenlander and learn about everything their uniquely remote lifestyle has taught them. You’re bound to not only have a great meal and laugh but also create a long-lasting friendship.