Iceland Vs Greenland: Which Remote Island is Calling Your Name?

We’re sure you’ve heard everyone raving about Iceland (because it’s amazing), but what do you know about its friendly neighbour, Greenland? From out-of-this-world glaciers to the elusive Northen Lights and hipster-friendly capital cities, Iceland and Greenland share many attractive traits. With both destinations having piqued the interest of visitors from across the world, there is no better time to kickstart your Nordic adventure.

Let’s take a look and compare Iceland Vs Greenland to find out which destination is for you.  

IcelandVs Greenland

Ilulissat, Greenland

IcelandGreenland
Capital cityReykjavíkNuuk
Population 334,252 (2016)56,186 (2016)
LanguageIcelandicGreenlandic

Iceland

Naturally, Iceland speaks to travellers searching for vast landscapes and there is plenty to keep outdoor-enthusiasts entertained. Complete with dramatic waterfalls, a huge variety of outdoor activities available and more makes it one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.

Northern Lights

Capital of Iceland: Focus on Reykjavík

Reykjavík is colourful, futuristic, exciting; and visitors will feel instantly welcomed by the friendly atmosphere and local hospitality. Like most Nordic countries, Icelanders have a taste for quirky design and this can be seen throughout Reykjavík. Take note of the Harpa building or the Hallgrímskirkja Church, which can be can be spotted from miles away. 

iceland

Iceland

An alternative town: Why you should also visit Akureyri

If you’re looking for an alternative escape to the ever-so-popular city of Reykjavík, divert your eyes to northern Iceland and check out Akureyri. This smaller, less-popular destination has many museums, galleries and exhibitions to rival the likes of the capital.

Highlights of Iceland

Experience Icelandic nightlife

Despite Iceland’s small size, Reykjavík is having a moment when it comes to the growing craft beer scene. Once upon a time, the bars in the capital simply served mainstream lagers such as Gull, Víking or Carlsberg. Today, you can find a number of delicious craft beers at most bars in downtown Reykjavík.

While you’re there, take a look at Skúli Craftbar, MicroBar, and Mikkeller & Friends or Bryggjan Brugghús.

Dive between tectonic plates

To dive between the American Tectonic Plate and the Eurasian Tectonic Plate is an unforgettable experience. Water-enthusiasts and divers are attracted to Silfra’s clear water, geological significance and of course – the rare opportunity to swim between continental plates.

Meet the (furry) locals

The Icelandic horse is an intrinsic part of the history and culture of the country and these furry creatures are worthy of a meet and greet. A number of local tour operators can organise one-day horse riding tours through the ice fields around Reykjavík.

Iceland is a magical destination. You feel like you have landed on the moon when you arrive when your trip is over you won’t want to leave! Iceland has plenty of active volcanoes, (the last volcanic eruption was in April 2010) so the highlight of my trip was taking an ATV volcano tour through the mountains. The landscape in Iceland is gorgeous! Our private tour guide Mio, from Arctic Adventures, told us stories of this eruption along with tales of Icelandic Sagas. We also saw the Northern Lights and amazing waterfalls, hiked a glacier, visited a black sand beach, and stood at the breathtaking Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American plate and the Eurasian plate meet! – Vanessa, Glitter and Mud

What you need to know before you go to Iceland

  • The official currency is the Icelandic kroná.
  • Iceland is not cheap – and by that, we actually mean it’s actually pretty expensive for food, drinks and shopping. This doesn’t mean you can’t travel on a budget, it just means might need to be cautious when planning your budget.
  • Free Wi-Fi is (almost) everywhere so you can easily stay connected while you’re exploring.

Getting around Iceland

  1. Car: The most common mode of transport, most visitors will hire a car however if you are just staying in Reykjavík or if you have booked a group tour; a car will not be necessary.
  2. Air: Domestic flights operate frequently and regularly if you wish to steer clear of driving.
  3. Ferry: There are a number of reliable ferry options that run to various locations.

I have visited Iceland in the winter and spring and both seasons offer beautiful landscapes and exciting activities. My favorite spring-time adventure was a guided ATV quad bike tour in the country’s western, rugged mountains. We rode over blue-tinged icefields and climbed steep plateaus to admire the region’s awe-inspiring vistas.
Plan to visit Iceland? the car rental agencies tend to be expensive and prices vary; book ahead online for the best deal. There are numerous tour companies and all offer a variety of packages. Plan your activities and sites based on the sides of the island you wish to visit for an easy trip itinerary. – Max, Go Nomad

Greenland

The true land of ice (sorry, Iceland!), Greenland is wildly different from its eastern neighbour. Greenland is the world’s largest non-continental island and has the world’s sparsest population. Given the remote location and limited accessibility, if you go to Greenland, you’ll have it practically to yourself. Not only are there fewer visitors here but there’s more space to explore.

Iceland Vs Greenland

Stunning scenery in Greenland

Capital of Greenland: Focus on Nuuk

Greenland’s capital, Nuuk is not to be overlooked by visitors who are eager to explore the famous ice fields and glaciers. In this small town, you can find a growing number of cool restaurants, quirky shops and alternative architecture. If you’re planning on spending extra time in the capital city, Nuuk, be sure to hike one of the nearby mountains.

An alternative town: Why you should also visit Ilulissat

Located in what must be one of the most magnificently located towns in the world, the harbour of Greenland’s third-largest city has the Jakobshavn Glacier as their scenic backdrop. For the iceberg-fiends out there, 35 billion tonnes of icebergs pass through Ilulissat’s ice fjords each year.

Iceland Vs Greenland

A Greenland sunset

The highlight of my trip to Greenland was without a doubt was Ilulissat. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the world’s fastest moving icebergs. The icebergs are estimated to be approximately 20,000 years old! Most people just do the short walk to Illulissat, but I recommend doing one of the well-marked hikes to explore the area further and to break away from the crowds. The best piece of advice I have is to see Greenland from a boat. The coastline is spectacular and you get a much different perspective than if you just stay on land. – Laurel, Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel

Highlights of Greenland

Hike to a World Heritage ice fjord

The Jakobshavn Glacier is seriously massive. As the largest of its kind outside Antarctica, Jakobshavn Glacier is 55 kilometres in length. To see this grand creation, you can take a 40-minute hike from the centre of Ilulissat and set foot along the blue hiking trail (clearly marked along the coast) and take a look at the phenomenal views of this Unesco World Heritage site.

Double the sun equals double the fun

The phenomena of the Midnight Sun needs to be seen to be believed. In the Arctic north, the summer sun does not set. If you’re due to explore Greenland from June to August, this means long days, but beautiful days. Travellers can benefit from more time in the day to explore, however, if you’re hiking late, be sure to let your hotel know where you are heading and what time you’re expected back.

Iceland Vs Greenland

Friendly locals in Greenland

Take an art walk

Similar to the burgeoning outdoor art scene of Reykjavík, Nuuk’s art scene has sparked the interest of visitors from across the globe. Crafted and curated by the Nuuk Art Museum, you can down embark on an art walk and admire local pieces by Greenlandic and international artists. You can visit the mural of a woman with a polar bear or the Kaassassuk sculpture in front of the parliament house. Otherwise, if you want to stay indoors, take a trip inside the Nuuk Kunst Museum.

You can download the art walk guide here.

Iceland Vs Greenland

Explore the local art scene

Cruise among icebergs

There is no better way to see icebergs than to cruise among them. These blocks of ice stand tall above the water and glow with under the permanent sunlight of summer.

Visit Ittoqqortoormiit – the most isolated place in Greenland

Ittoqqortoormiit is one of the most isolated places in Greenland. Home to just 450 people, this little hub is complete with a few hotels and local tour companies to help you explore the area with a range of excursions such as kayaking, snowmobiling, camping, fishing and dog-sledding.

The Northern Lights

Last but not least, the Northern Lights can be found over the winter months in both Iceland and Greenland.

What you need to know before you go to Greenland

  • The water in Greenland is unbelievably fresh and clean. No matter where you are, simply fill your water bottle and drink up.
  • When in Greenland, it pays to take two different credit cards with you as surprisingly, a large number of places won’t accept Mastercard.
  • The weather in Greenland is incredibly temperamental. A warm parka should be carried with you and depending on when you travel, a pair of waterproof boots will come in handy.
  • There are only two banks in the capital city of Nuuk, so try to keep that in mind when planning how much spending money to take with you.

Iceland Vs Greenland

Sample the water in Greenland

Getting around Greenland

Transport is Greenland is unique in that there are no railways, no inland waterways, and hardly any roads between towns – just 150 kilometres of paved roads in the entire country, to be exact. Historically the major means of transportation has been by boat around the coast in summer and by dog-sled in winter (yes, for real).  

  1. Buses: The only main bus line is Nuup Bussii A/S, Nuuk’s small inner-city bus service.
  2. Boat: Ferries are among Greenland’s most important means of transportation, especially after the spring ice melts. 
  3. Car: Renting a car in Greenland can be expensive and given the limited roads, might not be the best option.

While will you go? Iceland, or Greenland?