Greenland: Everything you need to know before you go

Often overshadowed by other nearby destinations, Greenland is an amazing country to visit. But when should you go, what is the best way to get around and what activities are on offer?

There’s an old traveller’s saying that goes along the lines of “When you’ve seen the world there’s always Greenland”. Yet, with an undulating west coast dotted with photogenic villages full of colourful wooden cottages, a fascinating and flourishing Inuit culture, and uninterrupted swaths of magnificent scenery, including gargantuan fjords, neverending mountains and grand glaciers, the Land of Ice may just be the most overlooked travel destination there is. So why wait to discover this shimmering world of white and endless wilderness?

Still largely untouched and unchartered by mainstream tourism, Greenland will thrill adventurers who like to make first tracks. Here’s everything you need to know before you go.

How to get around

In a place without a real road system, one of the best ways to get to know the island is through cruise travel, which can bring you closer to Greenland’s beautiful landscapes and people. Here, Inuit culture is thriving and adapting to the changing times, and Greenlanders are famously friendly people. Cruises offer a number of on-shore excursions, so you can meet local residents, go on hunting trips, enjoy some wildlife spotting (such as sea eagles, seals, muskoxen, Arctic foxes and whales), and more.

MS Fram in Qullissat © Andrea Klaussner

When to go

Whether you’re looking to get active in the summer months or experience some of the delights of winter, you’re in luck – there’s never a bad time to make the trip to Greenland. While most people know it’s quite cold (the icy answer to Iceland’s truly green surrounds), there’s much more to Greenland, and you don’t have to forgo the trip entirely if you’re not a fan of winter weather.

However, you should consider what’s important to you. If your heart is set on the Northern Lights and meeting sled dogs, it’s best to wait until winter (even if you have to pack all of your wool clothing).

If you’d rather have a more temperate experience, summer is a lovely time to go. In fact, most expedition cruises to Greenland take place between June and August because the melting ice makes it possible to navigate the fjords and bays along the coast. As the snow and ice melt, a whole new world is revealed: flowers bloom, animals emerge to enjoy the warmer air and the beguiling Midnight Sun becomes your constant companion.

Ivittuut, Greenland
Ivittuut, Greenland © Stian Klo

What to pack

No matter which season you choose to visit, it’s important to pack warmly and stay dry. Solid base layers and wind- and water-resistant outerwear are key, and woolly items such as gloves, hats and scarves, as well as insulated boots, are a must.

What to eat

One of the things everyone should do on their Greenland journey is get serious about sampling the local cuisine. Whether you opt to go on an escorted excursion from your cruise ship or on your own to explore restaurants, you’ll find freshly caught fish (Greenland is the only place you can try Greenland salmon), as well as wild game that has recently been hunted. You may choose to sample delicacies like seal and musk ox, reindeer, snow crab, halibut and tender lamb cooked with Arctic herbs. Challenge your tastebuds and don’t avoid unfamiliar food, some are only available in Greenland.

Dombrava, Greenland
Dombrava, Greenland © Chelsea Claus

What to do

Make sure to look around you at every step of the way. Greenland is beautiful, from its glaciers to its green meadows, and taking an excursion for the sole purpose of hiking around a little is a great idea. It’s unlike any landscape you’re likely to have encountered, so take plenty of pictures or even schedule a special photography tour to treat yourself and bring home some seriously enviable holiday snaps.

There are many excursions available for the bold, such as dog sledding, whale watching, bathing in hot springs, exploring several thousand-year-old Viking ruins, kayaking (fun fact: kayaking was actually invented here) and a several-night hunting experience (which is only suitable for the very fit). Simply put: if you’re an adventurer, Greenland can cater to you exquisitely.

What to buy

Greenlandic crafts, such as woollen clothing, bone jewellery, soapstone ornaments and carved tupilaq, make for excellent keepsakes, and embody the Inuit and Arctic way of life.

Hurtigruten’s New Year Global Expedition Sale

Welcome in a new year of discoveries with Hurtigruten’s New Year Global Expedition Sale. Enjoy savings of up to $1,000 on select 2022 Greenland cruises and immerse yourself in this island’s vibrant culture and people.

Whale spotting in Greenland
Whale spotting in Greenland © Julie Skotte

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