Exploring Greenland: A travel guide

Posted on December 5, 2016 by Guest Writer
Red and blue houses in the mountains of Greenland

Greenland is one of the few places that combine magnificent scenery with incredible clarity of light and the raw power of nature.

The clear air and beautiful, unfenced wilderness, gives way to the freedom to wander at will. Hike or ski across untamed countryside or go skiing, kayaking, rock climbing or salmon fishing – opportunities for outdoor adventures abound.

Be prepared for the varied weather. Greenland has an Arctic climate with average temperatures that rarely exceed 10 degrees centigrade, even in the warmest months. However, in southern parts of the country amid the fjords, temperatures can rise to over 20 degrees centigrade in June, July and August. Make sure you plan enough time at each destination to relax, soak up the midnight sun or to be transfixed by the magic of the aurora borealis.

If all this whets your appetite, let’s look at some of the things that are on most visitors’ wish lists:

The southern fjords

Whether you are climbing or boating, the astonishingly grand granite spires soaring from Greenland’s southernmost fjords are sure to leave you with lasting impressions. Often likened to the teeth of a crocodile, the rock faces of peaks like Ulamertorsuaq (Uli), Uiluit Qaaqa (Ketil) and The Baroness are rated by climbers as some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Start at Nanortalik, a delightful village with an old town that has been preserved as a stunningly picturesque living museum – well worth a wander. From here you can pick up public ferries, boat hires, tours or even a ride with local hunters. Choose between Tasermiut, a grand fjord which leads to the nose of a glacier or the shorter yet spectacular Torssuqatoq which ends at the superbly photogenic village of Aappilattoq. Meanwhile, beyond Aappilattoq other fabulous fjords are waiting to be discovered, provided the floating ice-floes don’t prevent your passage.

Ilulissat Kangerlua

Not to be missed is the greatest tourist attraction in all of Greenland. Ilulissat Kangerlua’s immense iceberg-packed bay was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and hosts bergs the size of apartment blocks or even entire towns. It is fed by the 5 kilometres-wide glacier, Sermeq Kujalleq, which moves an average 25 metres each day.

There’s little more mesmerising than gazing at these monsters and hearing the almighty thunder-claps they emit when fissuring in the warm summer sun.

Emanuel A Petersen Art Museum, Ilulissat Town

The glories of Greenlandic landscapes are represented in this sizeable museum where most of the paintings are created by the early 20th century Danish artist, Petersen. The prolific painter made several trips to Greenland, gaining inspiration to paint its extraordinary landscapes and light. He showed his works in numerous exhibitions while his illustrations in “Greenland in Pictures” published in 1928 introduced the beauty of the Arctic to the rest of Europe. When he died, much of his extraordinary collection of paintings was brought to the museum for exhibition.

Nuuk Town

The capital city of Nuuk is by far its biggest and most cosmopolitan place in Greenland. A main attraction is its commanding position overlooking an impressive fjord system, backed by a splendid mountain panorama.

The spacious, well organised Greenland National Museum is a must-see when visiting the city. Built in a former warehouse, its exhibits include a geology room holding the world’s oldest rocks dating back some 3.8 billion years and originating from the Nuuk region. A room-full of mummies houses a trio of mummified 15th century women along with a spooky six-month-old child, all staring out from dimly lit display cases. The cause of death is unknown but their fur clothes and traditional boots (kammiks) are intricately embroidered and well worth a look.

Paamiut Museum, Paamiut

Paamiut Museum is the perfect opportunity for a historical stroll around a circle of five stone and timber buildings constructed around a turf-ringed well house. Amongst a wide range of other things, the museum accommodates archaeological finds from the area.

The main museum exhibition hall and tourist office are located in the 18th century former governor’s residence and trading post. Upstairs you will find an old cooperage where barrels and casks were made and a geological collection showcasing local finds. Downstairs, a whaling exhibition includes an extremely rare sealskin diving suit. Other buildings like the 1878 goat house contain no exhibits but the Carpenter’s workshop still has the little bell that once announced availability to work.