Greenland isn’t a popular destination for travelers, but that’s changing quickly. Over the last few years, tourism to the area has increased substantially, and thousands of adventurers have visited the country to explore the ice sheet, see whales, or experience the northern lights for themselves.
Greenland is a beautiful place to visit during any season. If you’re traveling there -- or if you’re looking for a few more reasons to set up a trip -- here are some of the most outstanding places to visit to enjoy the tranquil beauty of this incredible country.
Most Greenland travelers will spend the majority of their trips in Nuuk, and for good reason: Greenland’s capital is a great place to learn about the country’s culture and is a popular starting point for cruises and other expeditions.
From here, you can head up Quassussuaq, a 1,420-foot mountain overlooking the city. It’s a fairly easy hike, and guided hiking tours are available. Of course, you can also stay in the city and marvel at the unique architecture or head to the Greenland National Museum to learn about the country’s Norse and indigenous roots.
2. Ilulissat Icefjord
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ilulissat Icefjord is one of the most active glaciers in the world. Whales frequently visit in the summer, thrilling the thousands of tourists who stop by on guided boat tours.
While this fjord is remarkable at any time of year, it’s an especially wonderful place to visit near the summer solstice from late May to late July. At this time, the Earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, and countries toward the tip of the globe enjoy an amazing phenomenon called the “midnight sun.” The name says it all: The sun stays in the sky late into the night, casting a pale glow that leaves viewers feeling calm and rejuvenated.
Many of the aforementioned boat tours stop by Qasigiannguit, a quaint settlement with beautiful natural surroundings and a gorgeous view of Disko Bay. Locals know Qasigiannguit as the Capital of Whales, since whales often congregate near the bay, but the word Qasigiannguit literally translates to “spotted seals,” referring to the seals that were once common in the area.
Here, sled dogs are a more practical form of transportation than cars or snowmobiles. Book a sled tour, and a team of Greenland Dogs will carry you over the ice as you marvel at the country’s harsh (yet beautiful) landscapes.
4. Uunartoq Hot Springs
Greenland has a fairly unforgiving climate, but the southern part of the country features numerous hot springs. Unfortunately, most of those springs are too cold to bathe in -- but that’s not the case on the island of Uunartoq, where a number of warm pools await weary travelers.
You’ll take in views of ice-covered mountains and grassy fields while enjoying the warm waters, which reach temperatures of up to 100 degrees. Inuit ruins near the springs provide another good reason to visit Uunartoq, but you probably won’t meet many tourists; as the United States Geological Survey cheekily notes, “the worldwide club of ‘viewed icebergs while sitting in hot springs’ is very small.”
5. Hvalsey Fjord Church
The best-preserved pre-Columbian European building in the Americas, Hvalsey Fjord Church, was constructed sometime around 1300. It’s a popular tourist destination, and while time has certainly taken its toll, you can still view its arched windows and walk around its two stone halls. You’ll also see 14 stone structures near the church, the former homes of the area’s 14th-century residents.
Walking near Hvalsey tends to impart a sense of solemnity in travelers, and it makes for a great photo opportunity. You might see a few sheep nearby, grazing on the short green grass that covers the area in the summer. If you have any interest in architecture (or if you’re simply curious about Greenland’s early settlers), you’ll want to put this stop on your itinerary.
This small settlement is one of the best places to see the aurora borealis (or northern lights). Of course, it’s not the only place; the phenomenon can be seen throughout Southern Greenland from November through March, though you’ll stand your best chances of catching a clear view in December and January.
Kangerlussuaq provides easy access to the Greenland ice sheet, a serene (if harsh) area with clear skies and miles of untouched snow. Be aware: With approximately 540 residents, Kangerlussuaq is exceptionally small, and best used as a jumping-off point for a trip -- not as a complete destination.
Remember, while Greenland isn’t highly developed for tourism, that’s a huge part of its appeal. Here, the days are long, the weather is harsh, and the natural surroundings are virtually untouched -- for nature lovers, Greenland offers an unbelievable array of experiences. Add this trip to your bucket list, and you won’t be disappointed.