Greenland is the largest island in the world, formed back in the days when the world’s supercontinent Pangaea was fractured by the elements. As landmasses broke away from each other, they settled in pockets of the oceans where today’s maps show the seven continents, thousands of islands, and two polar ice caps. Greenland became the largest island to survive the fracturing of Pangaea.
Fittingly, as the world’s biggest island, Greenland is also home to the largest national park in the world. The Northeast Greenland National Park is maintained by teams that work out of a handful of meteorological stations, and the Danish Armed Forces also maintain a surveillance unit within the park’s boundaries. Other than that, the land is largely untouched by human activity.
The massive Greenland Ice Sheet is located within the Northeast Greenland National Park. Photo: Hugo Perrin
The largest national park in the world
Not only is the Northeast Greenland National Park the largest national park in the world, but it’s also one of nine of the world’s largest protected areas as a whole. In partnership with the Danish government, Greenland first established the national park in 1974 and expanded the inclusive area to its present-day size by the late 1980s. Today, it encompasses an area of approximately 972,000 square kilometers.
One of the most renowned landmarks within the national park is the Kaiser Franz Joseph Fjords, located near the east coast of the park. The fjords are among the largest in Greenland and can be viewed by traveling along the island’s east coast towards Foster Bay that juts inward from the Greenland Sea.
An estimated 40% of the world's muskoxen are found in the coastal areas of Northeast Greenland National Park.
Where is the Northeast Greenland National Park located?
In terms of geographic location, the Northeast Greenland National Park encompasses nearly one-quarter of the entire island of Greenland. Much of the interior of the park includes parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet that dominates much of the island’s terrain.
Since the park is largely uninhabited by humans and human-made structures, such as transportation routes, it’s very difficult to reach the park by land. The nearest community is the town of Ittoqqortoormiit in northeastern Greenland with an economic backbone driven largely by fishing and whaling businesses.
The Aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, are visible in various areas of
Greenland. Photo: Acacia Johnson
The landscape of the Northeast Greenland National Park
Most of Greenland rests above the Arctic Circle, and the climate across the island can be described as mainly Arctic or subArctic by nature. Since the Greenland Ice Sheet sheet covers much of the park, the conditions of the land are largely influenced by its proximity to the polar conditions of the Arctic Circle.
The land comprises mountains, rivers, fjords, frozen lakes, and areas of the ice sheet. But the park also contains an impressive collection of fauna that attracts the attention of scientists and climatologists every year. Studies have been conducted across various areas of the park to analyze the health of the fauna and the impact it has on the surrounding environment.
The ice sheet itself is also very attractive to polar adventurers who are fascinated by the frozen landscape and the wonderful attractions it provides. That’s why people are excitedly booking Quark Expeditions’ Greenland Adventure: Explore By Sea, Land, and Air voyage. This 9-day experience takes you along the coast of Greenland to explore the ice sheet as well as the coastal glaciers and fjords that are so predominant. You can enjoy excursions aboard our twin-engine helicopters to view the incredible beauty of the Greenland Ice Sheet from the air at angles that no other adventurers will get to experience. Plus, guests who participate in Quark Expeditions’ Greenland Ice Sheet Experience on Ultramarine get to walk on the expansive ice sheet.
Wildlife found in the Northeast Greenland National Park
Large wildlife populations are found in the Northeast Greenland National Park and, as a nationally preserved piece of land, it functions in many ways as a wildlife sanctuary to protect these thriving species. One of the most interesting animals within the borders of the park is the muskox.
The muskox is the largest land mammal in Greenland, and both males and females weigh an average of 630 pounds. Both genders of the muskox species sport long, curved horns and impressive trailing beards. They’re known for their shaggy coats of fur that are either black, brown, or shades of gray that help insulate them from the extreme weather conditions that can take hold in the Arctic climate.
How do I get to the Northeast Greenland National Park?
As an island, the only ways to access Greenland are by air or by sea. One popular option is to book a polar expedition. At Quark Expeditions, you have an experienced polar expedition company to guide you through the most amazing destinations to see across Greenland. We have several cruises and expeditions that make such voyages possible. One of the most exciting is Greenland Adventure: Explore by Sea, Land, and Air.
Discover the Northeast Greenland National Park on a cruise
If you'd like to experience the Aurora borealis while in Greenland, we recommend the Under The Northern Lights: Exploring Iceland & Eastern Greenland itinerary. You’ll particularly enjoy Days 5 through 12 of this voyage, which is when you’ll travel across the eastern shoreline of Greenland. You’ll have an opportunity to enjoy Zodiac cruises and shore visits to several locations across the island. Our experienced guides will also keep watch for grazing muskoxen that you can capture on camera or video. Believe it or not, the Northeast Greenland National Park is home to up to 40 percent of the world’s muskoxen population.