Exploring Greenland: The Next Frontier for Travelers

July 22, 2015 by

Action, Adventure & Adrenaline, Animal Encounters, Places to Go, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

A beautiful iceberg in Greenland

A beautiful iceberg in Greenland

Call it the Walter Mitty effect, but Greenland is suddenly on the cusp of shedding its arctic-explorers-only reputation to become the next great travel destination. Rather than cold and inhospitable, its shores now appear like an unexplored frontier to sure adventure.

While most won’t take an ice-cold leap of faith from a helicopter into the north Atlantic, there’s no shortage of awe-inspiring Mitty moments that will send chills down your spine. Just a quick search for “things to do in Greenland” results in a list from Arctic wildlife viewing to thermal hot spring swims. In between lie options to scuba dive, sea kayak, fly fish and, perhaps most in-demand, watch the Northern Lights. Then there are the opportunities to discover Norse and Inuit culture while interacting with native Greenlanders. Let’s call Greenland off the grid, but on the radar.

Nuuk, capital of Greenland

Nuuk, capital of Greenland

In the undisputed hub for land-based exploration, the capital city of Nuuk, it becomes clear that tourism is still in its infancy. The city has just two hotels, along with a handful of smaller accommodation options. Home to 16,000 residents, Nuuk prides itself on being fueled by fresh air, strong coffee and colorful personalities. Whether dining at a gourmet restaurant or visiting the Greenland National Museum, you soon learn that diversity in Greenland is measured in quality, not quantity.

The de facto Greenland bucket list is commonly called the Big Arctic Five, and it includes cornerstone activities like dogsledding, Northern Lights gazing and whale watching; however, it also celebrates two Greenland-specific interests: the ice and snow landscape (which covers 85% of Greenland) and the pioneering people who call it home.

Northern Lights in Greenland

Northern Lights in Greenland

The fjords provide rich fishing grounds that sustain the local communities. The communities, in turn, offer visitors a look inside the spirit of a truly pioneering people. The blend of tradition and community in Greenland is entirely unique, born of a mix of Inuit hunters, Norse settlers, northern European traders, missionaries and early explorers.

These local people act as storeowners and innkeepers; fishermen and hunters; backcountry guides and boat skippers. As guides, they help visitors discover a truly incredible wilderness. Wildlife-watching tours include polar bears, musk oxen, caribou and artic foxes. Seagoing trips can mean spotting humpback, killer, minke, beluga, blue, sperm, fin and Greenland whales, along with a wide variety of seal species, narwhals and walruses.

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland

Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland during the summer

For the active traveler, the options never end. World-class fly fishing, extreme heli-skiing and climbing and mountaineering opportunities abound, alongside snowmobiling and multi-day hiking opportunities.

Arctic cruises remain the most popular way to visit Greenland. Despite their hefty price tag, these cruises often provide the best way to see large swaths of the country. Lasting anywhere from 7-28 days, cruises explore the fjords, make shore excursions to discover local culture and wildlife and, weather permitting, offer a sure-fire way to see the Northern Lights.

By land, sea or air, it seems that tourism in Greenland is about to boom, and it’ll be specializing in Mitty moments for those daring enough to set course North.

Contributed by Jeff Bartlett

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