fjords, glaciers and Northern Lights

Confusingly named, enticingly distant and progressively preferred, the chilly island of Greenland is quick starting to be the dim horse of 2020 vacation destinations.

Before scheduling their visits, most site visitors know minor about the Arctic location past imprecise thoughts about its misleading nomenclature — “Greenland is icy while Iceland is eco-friendly, right?” — or its website link to well-known lifestyle, particularly: “It really is the just one singer Bjork is not from.”

The real truth powering the title

It’s legitimate that Greenland is a land of icebergs and glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet, the 2nd most significant continental glacier in the planet.

So why such a verdant name?

Numerous folks know the previous Nordic saga. Following being exiled from Iceland, Norse explorer Erik Thorvaldsson — much better recognised as Erik the Crimson — named his new property “Greenland” to bring in extra guests. Right after all, “environmentally friendly” sounds additional beautiful than “ice-loaded” for numerous holidaymakers.

Kulusuk, a distant island in southeast Greenland.


On the other hand, number of know that Greenland essentially was substantially greener all-around A.D. 1000, when the Vikings adopted Norse custom of naming something as they observed it.

Unfortunately, that is a predicament that is speedily turning out to be true yet again. Thanks to world-wide warming, Greenland’s icebergs are melting at a worrying fee. As photographs of a remote Arctic wonderland emerging from the ice are splashed throughout global media, tourists are commencing to see Greenland in a new light.

Melting icebergs calved from Jakobshavn Glacier floating in Disko Bay near Ilulissat, Greenland.

Paul Souders

Other individuals are finding the level of popularity of nearby Iceland to be as well substantially and rightfully perspective Greenland as a slower, quieter choice.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement about getting Greenland in August 2019 didn’t damage either. Greenland — which just isn’t for sale — expert a globally surge in Google searches for the reason that of it.

Melting Greenland morphed into a destination

A place the native Inuits know as Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland is an “available Arctic” nation of just 56,000 inhabitants. Tourism numbers outstripped the resident population in 2019.

CEO and co-founder of Nordic vacation specialist 50 Degrees North, Tietse Stelma, stated the company is enduring 400% expansion in travel bookings this yr.

“Greenland is a excellent choice to Iceland, with far fewer travelers and consequently, much a lot more authentic encounters,” he mentioned.

The colourful architecture of Greenland.

Elizabeth M. Ruggiero | iStock | Getty Photos

Even now, it really is not a spending plan holiday break.

“It can be a significant value to visit Greenland, and flights can be high-priced,” Stelma explained.

For vacation author, journalist and polar expedition information David McGonigal, who has frequented Greenland in excess of 20 instances in the previous two decades, the Danish protectorate has usually been shockingly tranquil.

“There are outlets and supermarkets, but the prices are pricey individuals are pleasant even though normally reserved,” McGonigal said. “It really is the landscape and the wildlife that (are) most intriguing.”

Two humpback whales swim close to a small iceberg (demonstrating indicators of melting) near Ilulissat, Greenland.

Monica Bertolazzi

Though McGonigal likens neighboring Iceland to Scotland or northern Scandinavia — “a northern European region total of lovely men and women and dramatic volcanic landscapes” — he spends his visits to Greenland climbing and sailing the deep fjords, having macro images of wildflowers or exploring villages dotted throughout barren foreshores and rocky islands.

“I the moment requested a Greenlander why they paint their homes in brilliant hues,” he laughed. “The respond to was: So we can come across our own residences on Saturday evening.”

What to do

Unsurprisingly, most visits to Greenland are spent in the wild. Intrepid site visitors hike on to the otherworldly environs of the Greenland ice sheet, kayak to place a person of 15 species of whales, view icebergs calve (or break up) at Eqi Glacier and fish for Arctic char in the rivers of the Kangia fjord.

Having close to isn’t uncomplicated, presented there are handful of roadways amongst towns. Only just one in 20 people owns a auto, with quite a few utilizing the Sarfaq Ittuk ferry to get all-around (the ship is also well-known with holidaymakers who want to wake up in front of an iceberg). Air Greenland flights are a different possibility they fly at small altitudes and pay for outstanding views.

Rafting close to the icebergs of Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland.


Of Greenland’s 70 inhabited towns, only 13 have runways, which makes helicopters a different well-liked kind of transportation.

“Each visitor to Ilulissat ought to grit their enamel and fork out for the helicopter flight above the icebergs,” McGonigal mentioned.

A polar bear mother and two cubs in northeast Greenland.

Raimund Linke

When most website visitors adhere to the west coastline, the wilder east coastline is property to Scoresby, the world’s most significant fjord. The east is also the most possible locale to see a polar bear, a simple fact McGonigal reported can make hiking in Greenland extra comfortable than somewhere else in the Arctic.

“In my practical experience, it can be only together the east coastline and other very distant regions that you have any likelihood of getting polar bears,” he reported.

When to go

The shorter journey time means visitation peaks all-around the Northern Hemisphere’s summer time months, when the midnight sunshine offers infinite daylight (late April to late August, based on the latitude).

Summer months temperatures can attain 50 levels Fahrenheit, even though the Northern Lights can been observed as early as September.

A winter season night in Nuuk, Greenland’s money.

Carlo Lukassen

Whatsoever time of calendar year, the “sila” (a Greenlandic thought this means weather or state of intellect) performs a vital function during journeys to Greenland.

“This is the Arctic … so the place you go, even in midsummer, can be dictated by wherever the ice just isn’t,” said McGonigal. “And as you head north, it can be additional of an problem, of training course.”

In which to remain

As the region prepares to manage an inflow of travellers who want to see what Stelma explained as a desired destination “unplagued by overtourism,” the fascination hasn’t yet translated to an equally large boost in accommodations.

Airbnb alternatives are few and far among, and quite a few motels are booked 6 months in advance.

Igloo cabins at Hotel Artic.

Courtesy of Resort Artic

Those people scheduling a take a look at may well try the igloo-shaped cabins at Ilulissat’s four-star Resort Arctic, a luxury hut overlooking the icebergs off the coast of Ilimanaq in the north, or an adventure normally reserved for scientists — tenting on Greenland’s ice sheet.

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