About 4,500 years ago, early man migrated thousands of perilous miles from Canada into Greenland. And when they got there and saw the ice-covered mountains, glaciers and resident polar bears, they stopped and said ‘Yep, this looks like the spot.’ And who can blame them? It may be cold, but the unfenced wilderness of the world’s biggest (and least populated) island is worth wearing a scarf 11 months of the year for. Although technically still part of Denmark, Greenland is now self-governing and has a proud Inuit culture. And with no crowds, little crime and only a few roads to break up the endless ice flow, it’s easy to see the appeal (just don’t forget that scarf).
Greenland Tours & Travel
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At a glance
|Time zone:||(GMT-03:00) Greenland|
|Electricity:||Type K (Danish 3-pin)|
Best time to visit Greenland
Generally the summer months of June, July and August are the time to see Greenland, but it does depend what you’re looking for. At midyear the country isn’t as chilly as it can be (temperatures can rise as high as a sweltering 15°C…) and you’ll get to experience the phenomenon of the midnight sun. Of course, if it’s the night lights of the aurora borealis you’re after, the time to go is definitely October through to March, when temperatures can plummet to well below freezing. Pack accordingly.
Geography and environment
Top 5 wildlife experiences in Greenland
1. Humpback whale
Humpback whales migrate to the cooler waters of the Arctic to feed each year. It’s a mammoth journey, often spanning thousands of kilometres (and all at travelling just a few kilometres per hour). That’s probably why humpbacks like to blow off a bit of steam in Greenland. Around Aasiaat, Qeqertarsuaq and Sisimiut between April and November it’s not an uncommon sight to see a 30-tonne humpback leaping clear out of the water.
In the Middle Ages, Inuits and Norse tribesmen would trade narwhal horns for fabulous sums (they were the marine equivalent of a unicorn). Thankfully the horn trade is over and these beautiful toothed whales can swim and eat in peace. They’re usually found in Melville Bay and around Qaanaaq, where their spiralling three-metre tusk can be seen poking through the surface of the water.
3. Polar bear
This is the world’s largest land predator, and the chances of seeing one increase when you’re on the water. Cruising along the coast of west or north-east Greenland is your best shot at spotting one of these creatures, but don’t hold your breath – they can be quite aloof. But the good news is that if they are out there, they are quite easy to see due to their off-white fur standing out against the snow-white ice.
4. Arctic fox
Technically there are two types of Arctic fox in Greenland – the classic white and the blue. Both species change colour depending on the season in order to blend in with the rocky landscape and the polar ice sheet. Arctic foxes live on an almost exclusive diet of lemmings – so when lemming populations drop, so do the number of foxes. Thankfully numbers are strong, and the Arctic fox isn’t a threatened species.
5. White-tailed eagle
Don’t forget to look up every now and then: Greenland has a huge and colourful variety of birdlife. The biggest and most striking bird is the white-tailed eagle (known as the nattoralik in Greenlandic). You’ll usually find them circling along the west coast down to Cape Farewell, hoping to find a cod, char or smaller sea bird to stoop. These birds are as rare as they are beautiful, and are officially a protected species in Greenland.
FAQs on Greenland
Simple lunch at a cafe = 17 USD
Dinner in a restaurant = 45 USD
Train ticket = 3 USD
Bottle of water = 1.5 USD
For more information on insurance, please go to: intrepidtravel.com/au/booking-intrepid/our-services/travel-insurance
January 6 – Epiphany
April 2 – Maunday Thursday
April 3 – Good Friday
April 6 – Easter Monday
May 1 – Prayer Day
May 14 – Ascension Day
May 25 – Whit Monday
June 21 Ullortuneq (National Day)
December 24 – Christmas Eve
December 25 – Christmas Day
December 26 – Second Day of Christmas
December 31 – New Year’s Eve
Belgium: No - not required
Canada: No - not required
Germany: No - not required
Ireland: No - not required
Netherlands: No - not required
New Zealand: No - not required
South Africa: Yes - required in advance
Switzerland: No - not required
United Kingdom: No - not required
USA: No - not required
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Greenland Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Greenland
1. 1. Be considerate of Greenland’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. 2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
3. 3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
4. 4. Signposts (and signage in general) are rare in Greenland, but locals are more than happy to offer directions.
5. 5. Make an effort to learn some Greenlandic before you go. Locals do speak Danish and (often) English, but will really appreciate the effort.
6. 6. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
7. 7. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
8. 8. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, especially children.
|Last places – A journey in the north||Lawrence Millman|
|This cold heaven: Seven seasons in Greenland||Gretel Ehrlich|
|The fate of Greenland: Lessons from abrupt climate change||Philip Conkling|
|The crooning wind: Three Greenlandic poets||David R. Slavitt|