The world's largest island, lying in the North Atlantic Ocean and noted for its vast tundra, immense glaciers, and links with old Nordic sagas, Greenland is surprisingly quickly becoming a popular new tourist destination. Here are just a few of the reasons why.
With its melting icebergs, Greenland is starting to increasingly resemble the ancient land the Vikings once named.
80 percent of the island is covered in ice, but it was significantly greener around A.D. 982, judging by ice core and mollusk shell data, when Erik the Red first landed in the southwest of the island, naming the land Grfnland (Greenland).
Currently, ice is being lost from Greenland seven times faster than it was in the 1990s, at a scale and speed much higher than predicted in the studies of global climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The developments stunned a team of polar scientists behind findings published in 2019 in the journal Nature.
Yet while Greenland's icebergs fading away at a worrying rate has raised numerous concerns, images of the mysteriously remote Arctic land emerging from the ice are beginning to entice tourists, with the melting glaciers themselves considered a fascinating sight.
The Authentic Experience
The autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark, which is in charge of Greenland’s foreign affairs, military issues and constitutional matters since 1979, while the island decides its internal affairs, including taxation and economic development, has always been very peaceful and "unplagued by overtourism."
Many travelers who find nearby Iceland too popular a tourist hub, are starting to turn their sights to Greenland as a welcome, quieter option.
US President Donald Trump's statement about buying Greenland, which isn't for sale, in August 2019, also worked to the island’s advantage by generating a worldwide Google search buzz, with people eager to find out more about the remote destination.
At more than 836,000 square miles, Greenland is home to only around 56,000 people, and in 2019 tourism numbers outstripped the resident population.
The CEO and co-founder of Nordic travel specialist 50 Degrees North, Tietse Stelma, was quoted by CNBC as saying the company was demonstrating 400 per cent growth in travel bookings in 2020.
"Greenland is a great alternative to Iceland, with far fewer tourists and therefore, much more authentic experiences," he said.
Off the Beaten Track
Greenland has an Arctic wildlife refuge like few other places on the tourist map, both on land and in the seas framing it.
Most visits to Greenland are spent in the wild, with visitors hiking to the environs of the Greenland ice sheet, kayaking to spot whales, watching icebergs at Eqi Glacier and fishing in the rivers of the Kangia fjord. The even more remote east coast boasts the world's largest fjord – Scoresby – offering an opportunity to see polar bears.
This is a region where you can also see musk ox, arctic fox, arctic hare, seals, whales, even narwhals.
For many, an added bonus are Greenland flights, their low altitudes affording truly spectacular views.
Helicopters are both popular and a necessity since of Greenland's 70 inhabited towns, only 13 have runways.
"Every visitor to Ilulissat should grit their teeth and pay for the helicopter flight over the icebergs," says McGonigal.
Brief Travel Season
The travel season in Greenland is short, with visitation peaking around the Northern Hemisphere's summer months (late April to late August) to observe the endless daylight offered by the midnight sun.
Seeing the Northern Lights is on the bucket list for many traveler, and the best time to observe the magical natural phenomenon is around September and October when the sky darkens as winter takes hold. The other option is to try your luck around March and April.
Not a Budget Holiday
Enticing it may be, but the remote Greenland destination is no for those on the lookout for a budget vacation.
"It's a considerable cost to visit Greenland, and flights can be expensive," admitted Tietse Stelma.
Travel author, journalist and polar expedition guide David McGonigal is quoted by CNBC as saying:
"There are shops and supermarkets, but the prices are expensive; people are friendly while naturally reserved… It's the landscape and the wildlife that (are) most intriguing."
Accommodation is still only trying to keep up with the newly-surging influx of tourists, with many hotels booked six months in advance.
Of course, there is always the option for true adventure-seekers: camping on Greenland's vast ice sheet.