The name Greenland is pretty ironic. With 75 percent of the island covered by a massive ice sheet, it's far more icy than it is green. And despite its enormous size (bigger than the entire East Coast of the US, from Maine to Florida) just 56,000 people live there.
But with so much space and nature to explore, few of us know much about this enormous island nation. Like a larger version of Iceland, Greenland boasts even more rugged landscapes, fewer people (and anything resembling a road), all sprinkled in a mix of Inuit and Scandinavian culture. And there you have it – your next outdoor adventure paradise.
While the intriguing Danish territory may seem a world away, getting there actually isn’t too difficult. For North Americans, the easiest route is typically to fly to Reykjavik in Iceland and then connect with an Air Greenland flight to Nuuk or an Air Iceland flight to Kulusuk. All in all, the travel time is about nine hours in total. And if you find yourself in Europe beforehand, Copenhagen offers direct flights year-round to both Narsarsuaq and Kangerlussuaq.
That being said, a trip to Greenland is something you definitely want to plan ahead of time. Accommodation is kinda limited and while you can camp anywhere outside of town limits, we don’t suggest it due to frequent polar bear sightings. Even more important to know is that Greenland has no rivers, railways, or roads between towns. Anyone who suggests renting a car and driving from town to town, will most likely be met with hysterical laughter from locals. The only options are to fly between towns or hop on a boat along the coast. If you're daring enough to visit in winter, you might just have the option to travel by dog sled as well (yaasss!).
Being so enormous, one of the trickiest choices is deciding where to go. Given the island is mostly made up of unexplored wilderness, we suggest honing in on the regions of Nuuk, Illulissat, Kulusk, and Qaqortoq, home to the widest variety of activities and landscapes. As far as capital cities go, Nuuk does not quite fit the urban metropolis mould. Though it technically is the largest city, it's better known for its brightly-colored houses and breathtaking fjords, which you can literally kayak straight into.
Of course, fishing is always an option here and the whale watching is some of the best in the world. For a more cultural experience, stop by the Greenland National Museum, which houses everything from mummies to Inuit artifacts. Hotels here are admittedly more on the basic side, but we suggest Hotel Hans Egede. The location is convenient and they offer apartments for up to four people, not to mention a live piano bar with fantastic views from the hotel's top floor.
From Nuuk you can hop on a short flight north (about an hour and a half) to Ilulissat. This town’s claim to fame is undoubtedly its icebergs, so brace yourself for both the cold and the photo opps. If you happen to be here during the summer, capitalize on the opportunity to take a midnight boat tour out to Disko Bay and the ice fjord, Illulissat Kangerlua, which constantly has icebergs breaking off from the larger glacier.
Once you’ve had your fill of ice, stroll through the streets lined by super colorful houses in town (fun fact: it's home to almost as many sled dogs as humans). And while it’s certainly not elegant, Cafe Iluliaq is a cozy little place to grab a warm meal and some local brews.
If you have time, your next stop should be Qaqortoq (pronocuned "Ca-core-talk"), located on the southern part of the island. Here you will find the Greenlandic version of tropical weather – hot springs and green meadows. The hot springs are just off the coast on the island of Uunartoq and allow visitors to relax in steamy 100-degree waters, while taking in views of the icebergs and fjords. Culturally, Qaqortoq has a great deal to offer, as it's the site where vikings first set foot in Greenland over 1000 years ago. Even today you can still seem the remnants of this, from church ruins to farm relics.
And in the spirit of saving the best for last, there's a lovely region to explore near Kulusuk, located on the far eastern seaboard. Not only does the airport make it easily accessible, but the adventure sports here are phenomenal year round. One of our favorite aspects of this area is the fact that the towns are much smaller, which allows the natural wonders, as well as the local polar bears, to dominate the landscape. In fact, only a short distance from here visitors can actually ski onto the ice shelf. Definitely not your typical ski holiday.
Despite being so remote, the accommodations at Hotel Kulusuk are pretty damn comfortable. Not only that, but its location allows guests the unique opportunity to experience the traditional Inuit hunter settlement surrounding it. Don’t expect gourmet food here, though… just simple, fresh fish. And spectacular Insta moments.
For those that are up for a new adventure that is off the beaten track, or quite literally off the paved road, Greenland may just top your travel bucket list.