Standing high atop a towering peak at the southern tip of the largest island in the world, you’ll find it easy to see how Greenland earned its name. Fertile farmland gives way to lush valleys teeming with yellow arctic poppies and buttercups. On the coast, native fishermen bring in the day’s catch.
South Greenland is home to spectacular vistas and scenery, but is also a place rich in Greenlandic history and culture. Here, the cultural influences of Denmark, Norway and indigenous inhabitants are evident not only at historic sites, but in everyday life. Read on to learn more about South Greenland and what you can see and do there, when to go, and how to get there.
Greenland, a self-governing part of Denmark since the 1950s, has the lowest population density on the planet and offers vast wilderness areas for you to explore. Tiny communities of fishermen, farmers and traditional artists dot this immense country’s southern coast.
In South Greenland, you can relax in the hot springs at Uunartoq, explore fascinating Norse and Viking historic sites, and cruise the rarely visited Lindenow Fjord. Photographers of all skill levels are in for a treat; the stunning scenery of places like the big-walled Tasermiut Fjord and the massive tidewater glaciers of Prins Christian Sund have earned this area of Greenland the nickname “Arctic Patagonia.”
Bathing in the hot springs at Uunartoq in South Greenland. Photo: C. King
“Changing into my bathing suit had to be quick, as the arctic air outside was biting at my skin. It also made scampering into the pool that much more satisfying. We were in awe as we sat back and looked over the hill at giant icebergs floating by, with layers upon layers of rustic mountain edges in the background.” - Brianna Wiens, A Brit & A Broad, on bathing at Uunartoq Hot Springs
If you’re interested in Viking and Norse history, you should certainly check out:
- Historic ruins at sites like Brattahlíð, a famed viking’s 10th century estate where you’ll see replica Norse longhouse and a reconstruction of what many consider to be the first church of the New World;
- Settlements founded by Erik the Red, who settled Eystribyggð and Vestribyggð, with many tiny farming communities springing up between 985 and 1002 AD; the country’s southernmost settlement, Narsaq Kujalliq (also known as Narsarmijit), 31 miles (50 km) north of Cape Farewell;
- Herjolfsnes, the site of an excavated Norse farm and a great place to take a hike;
- The well-preserved ruins of a Norse church abandoned in the 15th century, in Hvalsey.
You’ll spend your days exploring your surroundings on guided excursions by Zodiac or, where possible, on guided hikes. You can also take part in optional activities like kayaking for a whole new vantage point of South Greenland’s stunning coastal areas and fjords.
All of our expeditions take place in the Arctic summer, and we visit the different regions of Greenland at the best time to experience each one.
Early to mid-August is a great time for an in-depth exploration of West Greenland, South Greenland and East Greenland. Days are long with only a little actual darkness each night, so your photography opportunities both on land and on deck are great.
A little later in the season, in late August to mid-September, more hours of darkness means improved visibility of the Northern Lights. By this time, sunshine and salt water have gone to work on the icebergs you’ll see floating by in fjords, leaving each one a unique, naturally sculpted work of art.
Hvalsey in South Greenland, the site of Greenland’s largest and best preserved Norse ruins. Photo: Greenland.com
“...passenger energy was high. No one really knew what to expect. The expedition was billed as the Greenland Explorer: Valleys and Fjords – and we got all that as well as the local culture and fascinating wildlife on the same trip.” - Lynsey Devon, Greenland Explorer passenger
So how can you get to South Greenland? You can spend three days in the region on our 15-day Greenland Explorer: Valleys and Fjords expedition, which also gives you the opportunity to start out in Iceland, transfer by charter flight from Kangerlussuaq for an aerial view, and explore East and West Greenland, as well.
Or, you could choose the 18-day Iceland, Greenland, and Baffin Island: Arctic Circle Traverse to spend three days in South Greenland while also visiting Reykjavik and Hornvík in Iceland, and spending several days exploring the remote wilderness of Baffin Island, Canada.
Want to learn more about planning your own South Greenland expedition?
- Read passenger Lynsey Devon’s story about exploring South Greenland
- Get your own free Greenland Destination Guide
- Explore Ways to Save on Greenland expeditions