Despite being the world’s largest island, Greenland is home to just 56,000 people. That means if its land were distributed evenly, each citizen would have over 35 square kilometres. That’s the size of just two of London’s boroughs combined—and incidentally, the population there is nearly half a million.
The population density – or lack thereof – is one of the reasons Greenland holidays are gaining attention from travellers. Escape from it all in untouched wildernesses that have, over millennia, been crumpled by towering volcanoes and carved by plunging fjords into picture-perfect mountainscapes and jagged coastlines. It’s an idyllic backdrop to everything from hikes, sea kayaking and boat rides to skiing, dogsledding and fishing. Its skies also reward with winter Northern Lights and summer midnight sun. Where to visit in Greenland? Well, that’s up to you… and your sense of adventure.
Ilulissat glows richly under late sunlight.
This UNESCO-listed ice fjord on the western coast is our top pick for Greenland. Spanning 3,000 square kilometres, its bay is packed full of icebergs broken off from the kilometre-thick Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. But, it’s also a landscape in motion. Advancing at a rate of 25 metres a day, whole ice sculptures, bridges and peninsulas form and deconstruct in front of your eyes. It’s the perfect spot for thrilling boat tours and hikes. And, while winter sees adventurers jump aboard dogsleds, snap pictures of the Northern Lights and strap on cross-country skis, summer brings midnight sun photography, wildflower strolls and chances to spot humpback whales on coastal cruises. Ilulissat manages all this while hosting a population of just 4,500, making it Greenland’s third largest town.
As a Danish trading post dating back to the 18th century, you’ll also find a historic fishing harbour, church and museums dedicated to polar exploration. However, the real history can be found in the 4,000-year-old Inuit settlements just outside of the main Disko Bay. At Sermermiut, for example, you can still see ancient ruins and artefacts as experts give talks on the rich history of this hardy culture. If you’re staying here, we can’t recommend Hotel Arctic enough. A fine dining restaurant serves up the best in local food cooked using only regional ingredients while igloo pods look out over the bay itself. To get here, flights and itineraries connect either through Copenhagen or Reykjavík.
A boat glides alongside one of Greenland's many glaciers, under the Midnight Sun.
When locals refer to Greenland’s ‘Banana Coast’ they do so with tongue firmly in cheek. However, with summer temperatures reaching a balmy 15°C and myriad hot springs that can reach nearly 40°C, it’s certainly comfortable. Here, you’ll find an inland dominated by fjords where granite spires sweep up from glassy waters to form peaks that attract climbers from around the world. Don’t worry though, public ferries and chartered ships mean that this stunning scenery is open to all.
Inuit homes lined up in a row, in Nuuk, Greenland.
Flying into Narsarsuaq, we’d also recommend a walk through the scenic Flower Valley for views of the town’s eponymous glacier. Elsewhere, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for river fishing on the fjord inlets and chances to try your hand at kayaking, said to have been invented by Greenland’s Inuit population. You’ll also uncover evidence of Norse settlements with Igaliko’s cathedral remains and Qassiarsuk’s longhouse reconstruction. Perhaps consider taking a boat up the west coast to stop off in quiet villages formed from small huddles of multi-coloured fishermen’s’ cottages. Whatever you do, you can expect a holiday well away from any city bustle.