The Ultimate Greenland Travel Guide

March 24, 2022

As the world’s largest island, Greenland is a mosaic of geological and ice formations, Indigenous culture, natural wonders such as the Northern Lights, and wildlife, such as polar bears and muskoxen. Located on the southern borders of the Arctic Ocean, and flanked by Canada to the west and Iceland to the south, Greenland is a polar adventurer’s paradise.

Polar bear sightings lure many wildlife enthusiasts to Arctic regions such as Greenland.

Polar bear sightings lure many wildlife enthusiasts to Arctic regions such as Greenland. Photo: Sam Crimmin</>

Due to the sheer size of the island, approximately two million square kilometers, there is an endless expanse of ice and land to explore. Imposing icebergs float offshore, frequently serving as unofficial entrances to some of Greenland’s most beautiful fjords. Additionally, you’ll find rare and incredible wildlife species that prefer the geographical seclusion of Greenland. You can think of this article as a Greenland travel guide to prepare you for an adventure you won’t forget.

Why should you travel to Greenland?

Greenland’s history is rooted in stories of chronicling voyages by land and sea. The Inuit were the first known humans to inhabit the island, migrating west towards Greenland across the frozen waters of nearby Baffin Bay at the height of the Ice Age. During this period, all of the Earth’s water was frozen over into thick sheets of ice, allowing our ancestors to migrate across what is now the world’s major oceans and waterways.

Inuit culture is thriving throughout much of Greenland, which is one of the reasons that Quark Expeditions’ Tundra to Table: Inuit Culinary Experience is becoming a staple for Greenland adventurers. This culinary experience pays homage to Inuit traditions, allowing travelers to immerse themselves in Inuit food and culture through meals prepared by local experts in Inuit cuisine and through Inuit storytelling by locals. Examples of common dishes include: 
Muskox that is braised in beer served with mashed potatoes made in true Greenlandic style with mushroom sauce and a berry jam; and Lamb from the south of Greenland served with sweet turnip ragu, pickled angelica, Pomme Anna (layers of thinly sliced potatoes), and wild gravy.
 

Quark Expeditions guests get to fulfill a bucket list dream of witnessing the magical Northern Lights. Photo: Acacia Johnson

When is the best time to go to Greenland?

Greenland offers visitors an impressive combination of both green lush fields coupled with beautiful icy tundra. Due to the thickness of the Greenland Ice Sheet, the island can be dangerous for vessels to navigate throughout the winter. During the winter months, the sheer force of the elements can become too intense for boats to navigate.

For that reason, it’s best to book a summer adventure to the island when the water is more welcoming to seafaring explorers. This is also the time of year when the famous Greenland Ice Sheet can be explored by sea, land, and air, providing you with incredible opportunities—some by twin-engine helicopters—to see this amazing polar landscape in ways that others can only dream to see. You’ll be able to take photos and videos that capture rich memories to last a lifetime.

Greenland has some of the most varied terrain in the Arctic.

Greenland has some of the most varied terrain in the Arctic. Photo: Mad Phils/VisitGreenland

Greenland offers a diversity of experiences to travelers. You’ll have opportunities to see imposing polar bears roaming the icy shoreline; opportunities to witness the Northern Lights; experience local Inuit culture during community visits; and a chance to witness some of the first settlements erected by Viking explorers. On top of that, there is a huge range of wildlife in Greenland that cannot be seen elsewhere (such as the rare muskoxen), as well as pods of playful whales swimming near the shoreline. You can use this helpful guide on things to do in Greenland for more inspirational ideas.

If the timing works outright, you may have an opportunity to see Aurora Borealis by boat while traveling on the Under the Northern Lights: Exploring Iceland and East Greenland adventure. Beginning with a departure from the Icelandic capital, you’ll travel north on a 14-day adventure towards the southeast coast of Greenland. While there, you’ll have opportunities to enjoy Zodiac cruises through rivers and inlets near the shoreline, including a special journey near the famous King Oscar Fjord on the east coast. You may even get to see parts of the Northeast Greenland National Park during a heli-adventure aboard one of our twin-engine helicopters.

How to get to Greenland

Without the Ice Age freezing entire bodies of water, the only way to reach the island of Greenland is by air or by sea. However, traveling by air means you’re only arriving at the airport, limiting your opportunity to see the natural wonders that make Greenland such a beautiful island.

For that reason, hopping aboard the Essential Greenland: Southern Coasts and Disko Bay voyage might be one of your best ways to get to Greenland. This is a 15-day journey and, unlike the northern lights expedition, this adventure takes you along the southern and western coast of the island. This is one of the best journeys to immerse yourself in local culture as you’ll travel towards nearly a dozen different communities along the coast of the island, including all that awaits in the capital city of Nuuk.

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is the cultural and administrative hub of the island, which is part of the Realm of Denmark.

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is the cultural and administrative hub of the island, which is
part of the Realm of Denmark. Photo: Sam Edmonds

Guests hike along Lindenow Fjord, Greenland.

Guests hike along Lindenow Fjord, Greenland. Photo: Courtesy Quark Expeditions

What to expect on expedition cruises to Greenland

We’ve mentioned the Greenland Ice Sheet, Inuit culture, Viking landmarks, and the vast range of wildlife that await when you sign up for a Greenland expedition cruise. Among the best adventures to the island is the 9-day Greenland Adventure: Explore By Sea, Land, and Air journey.

This is a very special voyage on the game-changing ship Ultramarine that includes Zodiac cruises and off-ship adventures on Quark Expeditions’ twin-engine helicopters that allow you to witness the Greenland Ice Sheet by both sea and air. You’ll pass by imposing icebergs floating off the southern coast and witness the beauty of the glistening ice sheets accentuated by the rays of sunlight that glisten along the surface.

Plus, you’ll also have a chance to travel across the ice sheet on foot if you join an Ice Sheet Experience. Your Greenland travel guide will take you to some of the most infamous (and safest) places across the ice sheet so that you can witness the best of this adventure up close and personal. You can also participate in heli-mountain biking, or hang out by your tent at Tasermiut Camp and just enjoy the scenery, soaking up the incredible ambiance of South Greenland. You can be as active or as reflective as you like during this Greenland Adventure: Explore By Sea, Land, and Air experience.

After all, it’s your polar dream trip. You get to choose how to explore the incredible domain of Greenland.

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