Some sightseeing adventures produce a cache of memories to last a lifetime, especially if the sightseeing adventures are in a destination far removed from your everyday life. Such as the Arctic, for example. The world is full of beautiful places to explore yet there’s something especially alluring about islands—especially large islands such as Greenland which is the biggest in the world.
As the world’s largest island, Greenland is a rich tapestry of rugged beauty, mountainous landscapes, Arctic flowers, and wildlife, highlighted of course by nature landscapes such as the Greenland Ice Sheet, which is the second-largest ice mass in the world, and some of the largest fjords in the world. Since the island has one of the lowest population densities on the planet, most of the land remains untouched by humankind. That enables visitors to appreciate exactly how nature created Greenland thousands and thousands of years ago.
View from a helicopter taken en route from Narsaq to Qaqortoq in South Greenland. Photo: Mads Pihl/Visit Greenland
Why you should go on a Greenland sightseeing trip
Greenland is home to some of the most impressive natural wonders and wildlife anywhere in the world. Muskoxen, polar bears, and walruses all make their homes across much of the island’s surface. Even more intriguing for passionate explorers is the opportunity to see whale pods that may swim near the shorelines of Greenland’s southern borders. You can capture some great photographic moments of animals in their natural habitats during your Greenland sightseeing adventure.
In addition to the array of wildlife on the island, you’ll also experience diverse environments and landscapes: icy terrain, mountainous regions, and some of the most incredible fjords on the planet. You’ll even have the chance to see some of Greenland’s most spectacular glaciers that cover much of the shoreline, creating an illuminated vision that captures your attention as you approach the island from the sea. Plus, you’ll get to see massive icebergs floating near the shoreline, remnants of previous glaciers, and frozen tundra that have broken off from Greenland’s main shoreline to float off the coast in the chilly Atlantic Ocean.
On top of all of those impressive attractions, you may even have a chance to see the fabled northern lights. Greenland is one of the greatest locations in the world to witness the Aurora borealis in large part due to the island’s small and dispersed population. A lack of manufactured light leaves the skies at their darkest at night, providing an excellent opportunity to witness the northern lights in Greenland.
A view of the Northern Lights in East Greenland. Photo: Acacia Johnson
Best time to go sightseeing in Greenland
Since Greenland is located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, it can be difficult for cruise ships to approach the island in winter conditions.
For that reason, it’s best to plan to go sightseeing in Greenland during the summer months. Voyages are most likely to occur from July through September when the conditions are more welcoming to seafaring adventurers.
What to keep in mind when going sightseeing in Greenland
Animals, landscapes, fjords, icebergs, wildlife. The list of prime attractions to see and experience in Greenland is extensive.
There are several UNESCO sites in Greenland that ensure the natural beauty of those destinations remains intact for generations to come. You can also go ashore for amazing hiking excursions across the land or hop into a kayak or zodiac cruise ship to navigate through the fjords along the coastline.
10 places to visit on a Greenland sightseeing trip
So what are some examples of places to visit and activities to experience on your Greenland sightseeing adventure? Here’s a quick rundown of places and activities you should include in your Greenland travel guide as you voyage to the world’s largest island.
A group of Quark Expeditions guests go kayaking in Ilulissat Fjord in West Greenland. Photo: Acacia Johnson
This is one of the most incredible fjords you’ll come across anywhere on the planet. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014 . Located 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, the Ilulissat Icefjord is known for dramatic glacier calving and, consequently, the site of an incredible number of icebergs.
City of Nuuk
No trip to a new destination is complete without exploring its capital city. The city of Nuuk is the capital of Greenland, and it’s awash in amazing history that pays tribute to the Indigenous people who first settled on the island as well as the Vikings that settled upon the land in the Middle Ages. The colourfully-painted houses and public buildings, such as churches, grab visitors' attention as they approach by boat. Nuuk is one of the smallest capital cities in the world.
Another of Greenland’s most incredible fjords, this is one of the highlights for polar adventurers from all over the world. We also included this fjord in our guide on the top 10 things to do in Greenland.
Greenland Ice Sheet
The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second-largest ice sheet on the planet. It spans across much of the southern coast of the island, attracting the eyes of voyagers approaching from the sea. When the sun’s beaming rays reflect off the surface of the ice sheet, the light is reflected further into the ocean. You may be able to capture clear photos of the ice sheet before you even approach the Greenland shoreline.
Heli-flightseeing and Ice Sheet landings are perfect photo ops on a trip to Greenland. Photo: Hugo Perrin
Viking and Norse ruins
As previously stated, the Vikings were one of the earliest settlers in Greenland, and they established many settlements that remain, in various forms, to this day. Greenland was a hotbed of Norse culture and descendants for many years after the Viking era before the island passed into the hands of the Kingdom of Denmark as an independent territory.
Greenland Northeast National Park
The Greenland Northeast National Park spans over 972,000 square kilometers of the island’s surface, encompassing nearly one-quarter of the entire landmass. Today, it remains one of the largest national parks in the world and it contains some of the most rugged yet beautiful landscapes in the Arctic region.
Disko Bay lies along the southwestern coast of Greenland, and it’s one of the principal destinations to visit on our Essential Greenland: Southern Coasts and Disko Bay adventure. This is a 15-day exploration of the island, and Disko Bay will be on the highlight list in the middle of your adventure. You’ll have the chance to see icebergs floating through the waters off the coast of Ilulissat en route to your final destination.
Prins Christian Fjord
Named after one of Denmark’s most infamous royal figures, the Prins Christian Fjord is one of Greenland’s most impressive attractions for voyagers. This 105-km fjord is known for its rivers, towering cliffs, and calving glaciers.
This is a remote destination nestled in the high mountains and surrounded by thick patches of ice and tundra. There are over 300 nights of the clear unobstructed sky in and around Kangerlussuaq, which makes it a perfect location to witness the Northern Lights if you’re lucky enough to visit when they make an appearance in the night sky.
This northerly town was once known as Thule, named after the ancient Indigenous people that first lived in Greenland thousands of years ago. Today, local Inuit descendants of the Thule people welcome visitors from the sea to share in their culture and traditions. The local museum also sheds more light on life and history near the top of the world.
Best way to get to Greenland
Icebergs are among the most sought-after photo opportunities while sightseeing
in Greenland. Photo: Aningaaq R. Carlsen/Visit Greenland
The best way to get to Greenland is by choosing a polar expedition that fits with the kind of sightseeing at the top of your list. At Quark Expeditions, we offer journeys to several destinations that you can learn more about in our helpful Greenland polar adventure travel hub and destination guide.
One thing that we do want to mention is the opportunity to travel to Greenland from Canada, which is an especially promising voyage due to the proximity between the two locations. One of our most popular voyages is the Best Of The Western Arctic: Canada and Greenland experience that spans 20 days and allows you to explore most of Western Greenland en route to the northern islands of the Canadian Arctic. It’s a great opportunity to explore parts of the route that became the fabled northwest passage that once captured the imaginations of European explorers in search of a route to Asia through Arctic Canada.