All photos and words by Lisa Germany.
For 25 years I dreamed of visiting Greenland.
Back in the day, I bought the newly released 1991 Lonely Planet guide to “Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands” and poured over the central section. I would tell anyone who asked that it was the top destination on my bucket-list. But somehow, I never made it happen. I spent a lot of time travelling in Latin America and Central Asia. I even visited Antarctica! But it wasn’t until 2017 that I finally fulfilled the dream of a quarter of a century and visited the world’s largest island.
I can’t believe I waited so long!
Here are 5 reasons why you should not make the same mistake and book your ticket to Greenland now:
Forget the crowds of Iceland. International visitors are only just beginning to discover Greenland.
With less than 50,000 non-Greenlanders purchasing accommodation in 2018 (exact tourism figures are difficult to come by as data collection is still in its infancy), and another ~25,000 tourists visiting on cruise ships (the majority in June, July, August), it is extraordinarily easy to find yourself all alone in this vast place.
This also means it has not been over-photographed. It is relatively easy to find a unique angle on even the most Instagramed places in Greenland, and the potential to find your own unique shot is enormous.
Do you prefer jagged mountains – head to East Greenland. Rolling hills, mild temperatures and green vegetation – South Greenland near Qaqortoq in the Summer. Easy access to walk on the great Greenland Icesheet (the second-largest in the world behind Antarctica) – Kangerlussuaq on the Arctic Circle. The biggest icebergs in the northern hemisphere – Ilulissat in North Greenland. Awesome climbing walls – Nanortalik region of South Greenland.
No matter what your preference for landscapes, Greenland has you covered. And everywhere you look – ice. From the Icesheet itself (make sure you have a window seat for your flight to Greenland – you will fly all the way over the top of it to reach West Greenland), to the glaciers that spill down from it, and the icebergs that calve off into the innumerable fjords – there will not be a day go by where you do not see ice in Greenland.
No matter what time of year you visit, you will find amazing light in Greenland.
During Summer – the Midnight Sun means 24/7 daylight in regions north of the Arctic Circle, and an eternal twilight for those lying South of 66.5oN.
In Spring and Autumn – twilights are shorter, with vibrant oranges following the setting sun and spectacular pastel colours in the opposite direction. The deep reds and oranges of the vegetation in the fall just add to the incredible beauty of whatever photograph you take.
During Winter – the long, dark days allow you to photograph the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) early and be in bed at a reasonable hour. In fact, North of the Arctic Circle, the Sun never rises – resulting in a perpetual twilight and the opportunity to see Northern Lights at almost any time.
Although Greenland has been tied to Denmark for over 300 years, many aspects of the traditional Inuit culture remain quite visible. Their prevalence depends on exactly where you visit in Greenland, with the smaller settlements and/or East Greenland maintaining the most traditional ways of life.
It is not uncommon to see Greenlanders dressed in their colourful and intricate National Costume if you are passing by a church on the weekend. And visiting the East or the North during Winter gives you an opportunity to try your hand at photographing from a moving dogsled or catching your own fish through a hole in the sea ice. Hot tip: Make sure you bring your Ipsoots and Alta over-mitts to keep your fingers toasty!
Perhaps one of the reasons tourism has been slow to take off in Greenland is the fact that very few people know anything about the country. That can be quite scary for many! The good news is that despite having few tourists, it is remarkably easy to visit. In brief:
Finally, you may have heard that Greenland is an expensive country to visit. While there is no denying that this is true, for the most part it is not much more expensive than other Nordic countries. The biggest differences are in the cost of transportation and the cost of fresh food. Getting to and from and travelling around Greenland is much more expensive than elsewhere, and almost all food must be imported from Denmark, which adds to the expense.
But paying that little extra to make the trip is absolutely worth it. Those that do, return home with incredible memories and photographs, and most dream of visiting again in the near future.
There is something very special about Greenland. But you have to come and experience it for yourself.
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