10 Fascinating Facts You Need to Know About Greenland

Aasiaat Greenland
Town of Aasiaat, Greenland, during winter season – Photo by Filip Gielda | Visit Greenland

Every year, despite its remote location and chilly climate, Greenland (an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark) welcomes tens of thousands of visitors.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on on the world’s largest non-continental island, outlined below are ten fascinating facts that everyone should know.

1. Greenland: The Basics

The capital city of Greenland is Nuuk. This is the largest city in the country and serves as its economic and cultural center. Approximately 16,800 people live in Nuuk.

The entire population of Greenland is 56,906 people (as of Friday, November 19, 2021). This means nearly one-third of the country’s population resides in the capital.

Greenland measures 836,330 square miles (2,166,086 square kilometers), and the country has two official languages: Greenlandic and Danish (English is also spoken).

2. Where’s the Green?

Scoresby Sund Greenland
Scoresby Sund, Greenland – Photo by Dylan Shaw

For the majority of the year, there isn’t much green to be found in Greenland.

The country is made up of over 80 percent ice. However, this may change in the future as a result of climate change, which has contributed to mass melting throughout the island.

3. How to Travel in Greenland

Greenland is accessible via plane from Iceland or Denmark or cruise ship. The real fun begins once you arrive on the island, though.

Greenland does not have any real roads (not like those that most people in the world are used to, anyway). Instead, most people here travel by kayak, skis, or dog sled.

Boats, planes, and helicopters can also be chartered, but this is a very expensive option.

4. Best Time to Visit Greenland

For those who want to take ski tours of the country or experience a fun dog-sledding adventure, northern lights, and stargazing, April is considered the best time to travel to Greenland.

If you want to experience the yearly melting season, when temperatures climb a bit and become a little more tolerable, then book your trip between July and mid-September.

5. Top Things to See in Greenland

Despite the cold temperatures, there is still plenty to see in Greenland. The following are some of the most impressive sites to add to your travel itinerary:

●     Norse Ruins at Qassiarsuk: Qassiarsuk is a village with about 50 inhabitants; it’s home to many impressive Norse ruins, as well reconstructions of Inuit dwellings

●     Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier: This is one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world

●     Uummannaq Island: This island, located off the northwestern coast of Greenland, is named after the Greenlandic word for “heart-shaped”

6. Top Things to Do in Greenland

Dog sledding near Ilulissat, Greenland
Dog sledding near Ilulissat, Greenland – Photo by Mads Pihl | Visit Greenland

In addition to sightseeing, there are also lots of activities you can participate in while visiting Greenland. Some of the most popular options include dog sledding under the midnight sun (visible from late April to late August) and kayaking around Tasiilaq village.

7. Must-Eats

Greenland is home to a few distinct delicacies that are worth sampling during your stay. 

Because of the country’s harsh climate, you won’t find a ton of plant matter here. However, you will find signature staples like preserved shark meat, caribou, whale meat, narwhal blubber, and dried cod.

8. Must-Drinks

If you enjoy a nice cocktail, you’ll need to order a Kalaallit Kaffiat (or Greenland Coffee) during your stay. This drink features Kalua, whiskey, and fresh coffee. It’s also topped with whipped cream, which represents ice, and flaming Grand Marnier, which represents the northern lights.

9. Don’t Try to Count Too High

You may be surprised to learn that numbers in the Greenlandic language only go up to 12. After 12, the people of Greenland use the word “amerlasoorpassuit,” which means many. You can also use Danish numbers to represent those greater than 12.

10. Greenland’s National Costume

Beads brought by Europeans became a part of Greenland’s traditional female outfit – Photo by Mads Pihl | Visit Greenland

Greenland’s national costume is a stunning combination of animal skins (a tribute to the Inuit people) and glass beads, which were originally brought from Europe and signify wealth and prosperity.

The national costume is typically worn on occasions like Christmas, Easter, weddings, confirmations, and Greenland’s National Day.