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Acacia Johnson

Greenland Cruises & Expeditions

Majestic Landscapes, Culture & Communities

Population
56,171
Size
836,297 square miles (2,166,000 square km)
Highest Elevation
Gunnbjørn Fjeld at 12,119 feet (3,694 meters)
Terrain
Rugged, rocky mountainous coastline
Greenland Overview

Overview

The best of Greenland can be explored along the rocky, fjord-lined coast, which is a good thing as there are no roads connecting the small towns scattered throughout this massive island. The coast seems like an endless reel of icebergs, glaciers, deep fjords, mountains and vast stretches of wilderness. 

Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory with its own parliament. The official language is West Greenlandic (Kalaallisut), though many also speak Danish and English. Greenlanders are an outdoorsy people. In fact, Greenland is considered the birthplace of kayaking.  

The landscape is rugged, the people are welcoming. Greenland’s traditional Inuit communities (descendants of the ancient Thule people) appeal to travelers with a passion for understanding older cultures. For nature-lovers, Greenland offers unrivaled wildlife-viewing: polar bears, muskoxen, humpback whales, walruses, sea eagles and reindeer. And of course, there’s the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, the explosion of green, purple and red lights dancing across the night sky.

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Greenland Overview

Destination Highlights

Ilulissat Icefjord

The world-famous Ilulissat Icefjord runs west 40 km (25 miles) from the Greenland ice sheet to Disko Bay, just south of the town of Ilulissat on the west coast of Greenland. Not only is it stunningly beautiful, it’s one of the best places in the world to witness glacier calving—huge chunks of ice crashing into the icy Arctic waters. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

Wildlife

A staggering 40% of the world’s muskoxen live in Greenland. The vast – and mostly remote – stretches of wilderness, deep fjords and nature preserves provide natural habitats for other wildlife, including polar bears, blue whales, narwhals, fin whales, humpback, ringed seals and rare Arctic birds.

Scoresbysund, East Greenland

What bucket-lister doesn’t want to visit the largest fjord in the world? The main body of Scoresby Sund, on the eastern coast of Greenland, is approximately 110 km long and reaches a depth of 1,450 metres (4,700 feet) in places. The ancient Thule people, ancestors of modern-day Inuit, lived in Scoresby Sund until about 1800. The fjord is home to seals, narwhals, polar bears, muskoxen, geese and seabirds.

Illulissat

Ilulissat (population 4,905) is the ideal destination for anyone wishing to learn about Greenlandic culture. Established in 1741, Ilulissat is the third-largest settlement (after the cities of Nuuk and Sisimiut) and is home to a handful of museums and art galleries, where travelers can do a deep-dive into Greenland’s history. But don’t miss the local shops where visitors can participate in a kaffernik, a traditional coffee gathering. Adventure-seekers can try their hands – and legs – at dogsledding, kayaking and hiking.

Nuuk

Nuuk may be the world’s smallest capital city (population: 17,000) but the Greenlandic capital delivers an unforgettable visitor experience. For starters, it’s picturesque: the city’s waterfront is lined with rows of brightly colored houses against the backdrop of the Sermitsiaq mountain. Situated on a fjord, Nuuk is a rarity in that the city views include waterfalls and icebergs. One of the must-visit venues is the Greenland National Museum: it houses scores of archeological, cultural and historical artifacts, as well as art and handicrafts. The most viewed exhibit is that of the four Qilakitsoq mummies, the remains of three women and a baby which were discovered in a tomb in 1972. Experts believe the mummies date back to 1475 AD.

Top Things to See

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

Few nighttime experiences rival the natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, an otherworldly explosion of multi-colored lights that sweep across the night sky. The green, purple and red lights of the Aurora extend from 80 kilometres (50 miles) to as high as 640 kilometres (400 miles) above the earth’s surface. Visitors to Greenland have the best chance of viewing the multi-colored light show between late September and April.

Prins Christian Sund

Prins Christian Sund

The 105-kilometer-long (66-mile) Prince Christian Sound fjord, which was named in honor of the prince who later became King Christian VIII of Denmark, is a stunning maze of fjords and channels which are home to calving glaciers, sheer cliffs and jagged mountains. The waterway in Southern Greenland separates the mainland from Sammisoq and other islands of the Cape Farewell Archipelago near the southernmost tip of Greenland. 

Northeast Greenland National Park

Northeast Greenland National Park

At 972,000 square kilometres, Greenland National Park, located in the northeastern part of the country, is the largest national park in the world. It’s not inhabited, except for a few meteorologists and armed forces personnel.  It’s estimated that 40% of the world’s musk oxen live in this park along with polar bears and, near the coastal regions, walruses and assorted whales. Other mammals include Arctic fox, stoat (a short-tailed weasel), collared lemming and Arctic hare.

Uummannaq

Uummannaq

The tiny island of Uummannaq is one of the few places in the world where local Inuit still follow a traditional lifestyle based on hunting and fishing. Formerly known as Thule (after the forbearers of modern Inuit), Uummannaq is located off the west coast of Greenland. It was founded in 1763 and is home to about 1,200 Inuit, making it the second-largest town in North Greenland. Approximately 80% of the land is covered by an ice sheet that reaches up to 4 km thick. 

Tasermiut Fjord

Tasermiut Fjord

Adventure travelers call it the “Arctic Patagonia.” The 70-kilometer long Tasermiut Fjord in southwestern Greenland attracts climbers and mountaineers from around the world who are eager to ascend one of the “big walls” in the world of climbing. Tasermiut Fjord is accessible by boat from Nanortalik Island,  which in Greenlandic means “Place of Polar Bears” or “Place Where the Polar Bears Go.”

Points of Interest

Ittoqqortoormiit
Ittoqqortoormiit

Many believe that Ittoqqortoormiit (population: 450) is the most isolated town in Greenland, which could be true since sea ice blocks ship access to the town for about nine months of the year. Ittoqqortoormiit, which is close to Greenland National Park, was founded in 1925 by settlers from Tasiilaq along with some families from west Greenland. It’s a haven for anyone with a yearning to explore true wilderness, experience a traditional Greenlandic lifestyle or try their hand at dogsledding. Many people living in Ittoqqortoormiit still hunt seals, polar bears, narwhals and musk-oxen.

Ittoqqortoormiit
Igaliku
Igaliku

The little village of Igaliku, home to about 50 inhabitants in southern Greenland, is Greenland’s oldest sheep-farming settlement. History buffs, on the other hand, flock to the remarkable red sandstone ruins of the Gardar Cathedral (the largest church in Greenland in the Middle Ages) and bishop’s residence, which date back to the early 12th century.

Igaliku
Kujataa
Kujataa

The Kujataa historical site is home to ruins and artifacts related to Norse and Inuit farming at the edge of the ice cap. Visitors can view remnants of Inuit farmhouses as well as archeological sites associated with the Norse settlements, including fields and pasturelands that were once part of local farms.

Kujataa
Hvalsey Ruins
Hvalsey Ruins

Hvalsey Church is the best-preserved Norse ruin in Greenland and houses the last written record of Greenlandic Norse culture: a record of a wedding that dates back to September 1408. Various ruins are located in the fjord of Hvalsey (Qaqortukulooq), close to Qaqortoq, the largest town in South Greenland.

Hvalsey Ruins
Ella Oya
Ella Oya

Ella Oya (or Ella Island) is a hiker’s paradise within Northeast Greenland National Park. It’s surrounded by tall rugged cliffs, ice-choked waters and gorgeous blue icebergs. Hikers are challenged by steep climbs but are rewarded with incredible views: sky-blue icebergs, rugged cliffs and tundra.

Ella Oya

When to Go

Best Time to See the Northern Lights

September to October. Later in the season is the best time for visitors to see the Northern Lights as increased darkness improves their visibility.

Special Insights from Our Guests

I hoped to see wildlife on the expedition and this voyage exceeded my expectations, not only in that area, but with the expedition crew. They gave us the “wow” factor on a daily basis and kept us busy, informed and well-fed the entire time. Their enthusiasm and knowledge just enhanced the experience and we could all sense how much they love their jobs. Now I’m hooked on Quark and am considering going to the Antarctic next year.

— Guest
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Greenland is waiting to be explored. Browse all of our expedition options to the world's largest island.