Greenland is the world’s largest island and one of the least densely populated on the planet. Due to the size of the landmass, the relatively small human population, and even factors like the coveted preservation of the Northeast Greenland National Park, the island presents many great hiking opportunities for adventurers eager to immerse themselves among the beauty of Greenland’s incredible natural wonders.
For polar adventurers who appreciate seafaring voyages, hiking in Greenland allows people to get the best of both the mesmerizing landscapes and the ocean that surrounds the island.
So how does one prepare for an adventure to the island and the best hikes in Greenland that lie in wait for curious adventurers? In this guide, we’ll address those questions and provide some helpful answers that enable you to prepare for your unforgettable polar adventure to Greenland.
Two Quark Expeditions guests hiking in snowy East Greenland. Photo: Acacia Johnson
Why should you go hiking in Greenland?
One of the most amazing things about Greenland is the number of fjords along the coastline. Arguably, the most famous of Greenland’s fjords is Ilulissat Fjord near the southwest coast of the island on the cusp of Disko Bay. This has been a designated UNESCO heritage site since 2014, and it’s one of the best places on the planet to witness the glacier calving, which is when huge chunks of ice that shape the fjord end up crashing into the icy Arctic water on the edge of the shoreline.
You may also have the opportunity to witness Scoresbysund Fjord in East Greenland. This is the world’s largest fjord at approximately 110 km long. When you visit the area, you’ll also come upon landmarks that pay homage to the ancient Thule people who were the ancestors of today’s Inuit.
Quark Expeditions guests explore Skipperdal Valley at Kong Oscar Fjord in East Greenland. Photo: Quark Expeditions
At various points along the shoreline, you’ll also come across an impressive variety of Greenland wildlife. This includes entire herds of seals, polar bears, muskoxen, geese, and seabirds. One of our esteemed adventure guides put together a detailed Greenland wildlife adventure guide that you can peruse to get a better idea of what types of wildlife species you’ll see on your Greenland adventure.
Best time to go hiking in Greenland
Since Greenland lies on the edge of the Arctic Circle, the land and the surrounding water are both strongly affected by changes in weather and climate patterns. Depending on the time of year, the conditions near can be unpredictable.
We recommend that you plan your Greenland adventure during the summer months of July through September. This is the time of year that the temperatures are warmer, the winds are calmer, and the waves near the shoreline are a little more controlled. It allows vessels to approach the island safely so that you can get the most out of the experience. You can also experience the Land of the Midnight Sun—when the sun never dips below the horizon—giving you the experience of non-stop daylight. (You’ll want to pack an eye mask to ensure you get a good night’s sleep!)
Depending on where you are—and what part of the season—you could also witness the Aurora borealis. That, of course, would be in areas where the skies darken at night and are free of light. Luckily, Greenland’s relatively small human population and the absence of human-made light are favorable for observing the Northern Lights. Refer to our helpful guide on when to visit Greenland for the northern lights.
How to prepare for the best hikes in Greenland
A hiker on a hill by Sermilik Fjord in South Greenland. Photo: Mads Pihl/Visit Greenland
So what should you know about how to prepare for the best hikes in Greenland? At Quark Expeditions, all of our hiking expeditions in Greenland are designed for people of all backgrounds and different ages, skills, and levels of experience. We often offer hikes to four or five different levels (from slow and easy, to advanced). You have the option of taking the slower option which allows you to stop and take plenty of photographs and check out your surroundings, or you can join a more advanced group who want to test their limits on a faster walk over rugged terrain. All walks are accompanied by an expedition guide who’s familiar with the area.
Most of our guided hiking adventures stick fairly close to the coast, which enables visitors to get a closer look at the coastal towns and fjords, but guests can also set foot (with the help of a helicopter) on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Our seasoned polar team will function as your guides when you disembark from your vessel as they accompany you on what will become one of your best hikes in Greenland.
One of the best ways to experience these hiking excursions is to book a spot aboard the Greenland Adventure: Explore By Land, Sea, and Air adventure. This is a 9-day journey on our brand new ship Ultramarine, which includes two twin-engine helicopters, 20 quick-launching Zodiacs, and very comfortable onboard amenities (such as a sauna and spa), and the biggest portfolio of Adventure Options in the Polar Regions.
To help you prepare for this unforgettable experience, we’ve put together a video guide on what to pack for your Greenland polar expedition, which you can review in advance of your journey. If you’d like a more comprehensive description, we also offer our detailed ultimate polar adventure packing list to help you assemble the proper gear ahead of your journey to Greenland.
Some of the best hikes in Greenland
Now, what are some of the best hikes in Greenland? There are several established trails. However, to keep you safe (remember the polar bears!), all of Quark Expeditions’ Greenland hikes are guided and handled with the utmost safety at all times.
This is one of the most remote areas of Greenland, and it includes the Karale Fjord as a starting point for your trekking journey. The mountains on this part of the island are higher and steeper than most areas of Greenland, allowing you to see more of the land and the ocean from a high-altitude vantage point.
Above Greenland’s Arctic Circle
Most of Greenland’s landmass is located on or above the Arctic Circle, creating a crystallized surface. Despite its name, Greenland is in large part covered in sheets of ice that travelers can explore by land, air, and even by sea. Along the shore of west Greenland is a hiking trail that explores much of the Arctic Circle boundary, including a trek across the world’s second-largest polar ice cap.
The Ammassalik area is one of the most secluded and least populated areas on the planet, which means it’s one of the best locations for polar adventurers to witness the beauty of nature untouched by humans. The Sermilik Fjord is one of the most unforgettable sights you’ll witness on this adventure as you roam across mountains and glaciers. If you hop aboard a Zodiac, you can even get relatively close (but safely so) to icebergs visible from the shores.
Visit Quark Expeditions for more Greenland hiking ideas
Whether you venture deep into the island’s interior or stick to the shoreline, there are plenty of hiking and walking opportunities in Greenland, and you can choose which areas you’d like to explore in greater detail. If you want to get more ideas about how you can appreciate shoreline treks, visit our guide to exploring the beautiful wonders of Greenland for more ideas and inspiration