A good 80% of Greenland, the world's largest island, is covered with ice—by the Greenland Ice Sheet, in fact—but don’t let that fool you. This is an Arctic domain overflowing with breathtaking landscapes, natural wonders, and adventure! Having been settled for more than 5,000 years, Greenland also offers visitors a fascinating history and culture to explore.
5 Reasons to Visit Greenland
1. Cruising the Fjords Is the Ultimate Greenland Adventure
Scoresbysund, an immense fjord system on the east coast of Greenland, offers plenty of opportunity for exploration. The longest fjord in the system extends some 210 miles (350 km) inland, with steep mountains rising from the water’s edge. Icebergs here can be as big as an apartment building – it’s a sight you’ll never forget!
This fjord system is large enough that you might spot bowhead, humpback, or minke whales feeding or see a walrus sunning on the rocks as you cruise by. Zodiacs take us into places even small ships have no hope of reaching, enabling you to explore some of the most remote and pristine places in Greenland.
There are several chances to stop and explore, with hikes of varying degrees of difficulty. This is where you might spot Arctic wildlife such as musk oxen, arctic foxes, arctic wolves, and lemmings as you walk. And don’t forget the birds: large colonies of auks, puffins, skuas and kittiwakes breed on the mountainsides.
If you're interested in Greenland's wildlife, check out the world's largest national park, Greenland National Park, in the northern part of East Greenland. You might even be lucky enough to spot polar bears — from a safe distance, of course!
2. Massive Glaciers and Icebergs are an Iconic Arctic Expedition Sight
Off the coast of West Greenland, Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers an entirely different experience. Icebergs aren’t the exception here – they’re the rule. One of the most active glaciers in the world, Sermeq Kujalleq is a virtual iceberg-making machine, calving about 35 billion tonnes of icebergs annually.
The wind and weather combine to shape the ice into fantastic sculptures that will look even better as you cruise amongst them in a Zodiac, snapping pictures.
3. Epic Northern Lights Shows Are Better in Greenland
There’s no better place in the world to see the Northern Lights (the Aurora Borealis) than Greenland. Some communities experience as many as 300 clear weather days a year, creating the perfect canvas for nature’s spectacular light show.
Although science tells us that the lights are caused by electrically charged particles entering the earth’s atmosphere, many legends are built around the visually stunning display.
In Greenland, the aurora borealis were once believed to be spirits of departed ancestors playing football (soccer) in the sky, while some Inuit believed them to be the spirits of animals they’d hunted. This is the perfect place for photographers to capture amazing shots of the northern lights and the starry night sky.
The Northern Lights are best when viewed in the winter when it's dark, but if you travel to Greenland in the Arctic summer months, you'll get to experience the midnight sun.
4. Thule and Viking Culture Make for an Educational Arctic Expedition
The Thule people were the most successful and longest lasting of the half-dozen cultures to live on the Greenland ice sheet over the past 5,000 years.
Believed to have followed the migrating bowhead whale – which was the chief means of survival by way of its whale meat, blubber (for oil) and whalebones (used to construct dwellings) – the Thule left their mark in many places around Greenland, and in Inuit culture and traditions still practiced today.
The Norse also called Greenland home for a while. After Erik the Red was banished from Iceland and settled in South Greenland, the Norse eventually moved into 3 areas of the island.
You’ll have a chance to explore this culture at Herjolfsnes, an excavated Norse farm, and in Hvalsey, the site of the well-preserved ruins of a Norse church that was abandoned in the 15th century.
5. Trips to Greenland Can Include Kayaking Adventures & Demonstrations
Greenland is the birthplace of the kayak, which was used for hunting and as a means of transportation. Visitors to Sisimiut will have the opportunity to explore this quaint fishing village – the home of Greenland’s kayaking champion – and enjoy a traditional kayaking demonstration.
Kayaking is one of the most intimate and inspiring ways to explore the coastal regions you’ll be visiting, and it provides an excellent vantage point from which to see life both off and onshore. When paddling amongst the icebergs, keep your eyes open for curious seals and whales surfacing to catch a breath of air.
Quark Expeditions' newest Greenland helicopter-supported itineraries, such as Greenland Explorer: Sail and Soar the Alpine Arctic, and Greenland Adventure: Explore By Sea, Land and Air, both developed with local Greenlandic partners, enables guests to embrace more off-ship adventures than offered by any other polar operator from Heli hiking and Ice Sheet Landings to kayaking and Zodiac cruising.
Plan your Greenland Visit
Visiting Greenland and exploring the country’s fjords and spectacular scenery is a unique and unforgettable experience. Want to learn more about planning your own Arctic circle expedition to Greenland?