Six things you never knew about Greenland

Monday, 21st September 2020

Will Gray

west greenland colourful houses of sisimiut istk

‘When you’ve seen the world there’s always Greenland’ goes the old travellers’ saying. Combining magnificent scenery and raw nature, Greenland offers something for everyone – mountainscapes, glaciers and some of the world’s most spectacular fjords.  But how much do you know about this beautiful country? We’ve rounded up six amazing things that you never knew about Greenland.

east greenland kulusuk houses on shoreline istk

1. It has the lowest human population on Earth

The Greenlandic name for the world’s largest island is Kalaallit Nunaat, which means “Land of People”. But with just over 56,000 inhabitants, Greenland has the lowest human population density on Earth – 0.03 people per square kilometre. With some 2.166 million square kilometres to spread out, you could say it’s the ultimate destination for social distancing – although 80% of its landmass is covered in an inhospitable ice cap. Settlements are located around the coast, in sheltered fjords.

Loan polar bear in Greenland

2. You can find an abundance of Arctic wildlife

Penguins aren’t found in Greenland (but then you knew that already…). Far from being a frozen wasteland for wildlife, however, the ice-free fringes of Greenland are home to a surprisingly diverse range of Arctic critters – from polar bears, musk oxen and Arctic foxes to whales, walruses and white-tailed eagles. The most abundant species on Greenland is probably the little auk – millions of these seabirds (the size of a starling but black and white, like a penguin) nest on sea cliffs each summer.

west greenland iceberg in disko bay albexp

3. The World Ice Golf Championships are held here

The World Ice Golf Championships are held on the small island of Uummannaq in West Greenland each March. During the two-day tournament, players use red or green balls as they chip their way around a frozen course where icebergs – not trees or bunkers – are the main obstacle. Bulky thermal clothing, shifting pack ice and the risk of graphite clubs shattering in sub-zero temperatures all add to the challenge. If ice golf isn’t your thing, West Greenland also offers iceberg cruises and dog sledding.

Plan your own adventure in West Greenland or join our exclusive small ship West Greenland Voyage with Ben Fogle

kayaking in greenland ae

4. Sea kayaking is all the rage

Sea kayaking is all the rage – whether you’re messing about in an inflatable at the seaside, or embarking on a multi-day paddle in the wilderness. But did you know that ‘kayak’ is actually a Greenlandic word? It comes from the Inuit word ki-ak, meaning ‘hunter’s boat’ or ‘man boat’. The Inuit invented the kayak thousands of years ago, stretching seal skins over a driftwood or whale-bone frame to create the ultimate lightweight, single-seater vessel, perfect for hunting or transportation.

south greenland narsaq iceberg istk

5. You can travel sustainably to Greenland

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting. Satellite data revealed that in 2019, the warmest summer ever recorded in the Arctic triggered the loss of 600 billion tons of ice from Greenland. At Discover the World we offset all our carbon emissions as a business and offer our clients the option to offset their own emissions through the World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced scheme. It’s also worth considering travelling less and staying longer, by combining two or more regions in Greenland.

Read more about our Pillars of Sustainable Travel

west greenland illulissat aerial sea ice boat greenlandtb

6. Greenland is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Surprisingly, Greenland has just three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The oldest – and best-known – is the Ilulissat Icefjord (inscribed on the revered list back in 2004). Carved 61km into the West Coast, it’s home to the world’s fastest moving glacier and some of its largest, most breathtaking icebergs. Further south you’ll find Aasivissuit-Nipisat – a recent addition in 2018 that’s been an Inuit hunting ground for 4,200 years. In the south, Kujataa celebrates Inuit and Norse farming heritage.

Discover our Essential West Greenland break exploring the incredible scenery and culture of Ilulissat

west greenland arctic fox against iceberg backdrop disko bay vg

Feeling Inspired?

If you have any questions about any of our Greenland holidays or want to start planning your own trip, call us on 01737 214 250 or you can email our travel specialists to start discussing your options.

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