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Greenland Travel Guide – An Overview of All Regions In Greenland

Greenland Travel Guide – An Overview of All Regions In Greenland

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There are plenty of reasons to visit Greenland and each region has something unique to offer. In this guide we will cover the reasons to visit Greenland with a break down region by region.

Greenland is the world’s largest island that is not a continent. Roughly equivalent in size to western Europe or about one-third the size of the US or Australia, it should come as no surprise that its landscapes and ecosystems vary significantly. This in turn affects the activities and experiences you can have in different parts of the country. This Greenland Travel Guide provides an overview of all regions, and highlights the reasons why each one of them is worth exploring.

Fjord zodiac cruise between icebergs Greenland

The Capital Region

Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, is the cultural center of the nation. Here you’ll find significant landmarks like the National Museum, National Theatre, Nuuk Art Museum, and Katuaq Cultural Centre. The city also has fantastic shopping opportunities, including a diverse range of local fashion, pottery, glassware, and artwork available for purchase. Located at the head of the world’s second-largest fjord system, Nuuk has access to an amazing wilderness in its surroundings. Towering thousand-meter peaks drop right into the fjord, fed by two remote glaciers at its far end. Various activities provide opportunities to explore the diverse facets of the fjord, including boat tours to glaciers and remote settlements, whale and puffin watching during summer, fishing for your own dinner, or stand up paddleboarding amongst icebergs. Alternatively, you can choose on-foot exploration, ranging from day hikes in the nearby mountains to week-long trekking tours. While Nuuk is the primary city, the Capital Region also encompasses the town of Paamiut, located 265 kilometers further south. Paamiut is known for its striking Norwegian-style church and is home to Greenland’s largest population of Sea Eagles.

Reasons to visit Greenland’s Capital Region:

  • Culture: Being Greenland’s capital, Nuuk holds rich cultural heritage
  • Shopping: Shop unique local goods, fashion, pottery, and more
  • Boat Trips: Embark on a scenic sailing adventure between icebergs and glaciers in the Nuuk Icefjord
  • Hiking: Explore a wide range of trails with varying difficulty levels
  • Kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboarding: Navigate amongst icebergs and join migrating whales
  • Remote Settlements: Explore the charming community of Kapisillit, the abandoned settlement of Kangeq, and savor exquisite cuisine at one of Greenland’s finest restaurants in Qooqqut
  • Scenic Flights: Take a flight to land near the summit of the towering mountains or opt for a twilight flight over the fjord and city
  • Wildlife Observation: Spot whales, puffins, reindeer/caribou, and witness sea eagles near Paamiut
  • Winter Activities: Enjoy the winter wonderland with skiing, snowshoeing, and the chance to witness Northern Lights

To learn more about visiting Nuuk check out our Ultimate Guide To Nuuk.

Nuuk during sunset Greenland

Northeast Greenland National Park

The entire North-east quarter of Greenland forms the world’s largest national park. Established in 1974 and expanded in 1988 to its current size, it serves as a sanctuary for Arctic wildlife, including polar bears, walrus, and musk oxen. Only a few people ever visit the area as special permission from the Greenlandic Government is required. Although, boat trips along the coastline are offered and are increasingly gaining popularity.

Reasons to visit Northeast Greenland:

  • Expedition Cruises: Embark on a small expedition ship to witness the remote, untamed coastline. Secret Atlas offer Expedition Micro Cruises with 12 guests to explore Northeast Greenland.
  • Wildlife Observation: Spot polar bears, walrus, whales, and musk oxen.

East Greenland

In the Greenlandic language, East Greenland is known as “tunu” (back side), which only makes sense considering how vast and untamed this region is. With only two towns and a few smaller settlements, East Greenland is among the most remote inhabited places in the world. Consequently, its infrastructure tends to be less developed, offering visitors a glimpse into a more traditional way of life. It remains one of the only regions where Greenlandic Sled Dogs, unique and hardy creatures with a history of working alongside the Inuit for thousands of years, continue to play a vital role in daily life. For wildlife enthusiasts, East Greenland stands out as one of the best places to see polar bears in the country. The two primary towns in this region are approximately 800 kilometers apart. With a population of around 2000 people, Tasiilaq is the more significant of the two and acts as the logistical hub of East Greenland. It serves four smaller settlements and plays a big role in supporting tourism in the area. Further north lies Ittoqqortoormiit, which is accessible by plane from Akureyri in Iceland, and serves as the gateway to the scenic Scoresby Sund and the Greenland National Park. Scoresby Sund is the largest fjord system in the world and is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, featuring colossal icebergs, towering mountains, and pristine Arctic wilderness. Secret Atlas offers Micro Cruise Expeditions to this region. With only 12 guests onboard our ships, we provide an intimate, authentic and sustainable way to explore this remote and untamed part of the world.

Reasons to visit East Greenland:

  • Expedition Cruises: Embark on a small expedition ship to explore Scoresby Sund, the longest fjord system on Earth with countless icebergs and jaw dropping landscapes. Secret Atlas offer Expedition Micro Cruises with 12 guests to explore East Greenland.
  • Northern Lights: Scoresby Sund offers one of the best places on Eqarth to encounter the Northern Lights. Check out our Northern Lights Photo Tour with 12 guests.
  • Off-Trail Hiking: Explore the vast and uncharted wilderness with off-trail hiking adventures
  • Wildlife Observation: Spot polar bears year-round and whales during the summer
  • Remote Settlements: Discover unique settlements like Tiniteqilaaq, Kuummiut, and Kulusuk, which is where the airport and an Inuit museum are located
  • Kayaking: Paddle amongst icebergs and encounter whales during the summer
  • Ice Caving: Venture into ice caves and experience glaciers from the inside
  • Winter Activities: Enjoy the winter wonderland with dog sledding, snowmobile excursions, ice diving, snowshoeing, and heliskiing.
Scoresby Sund icebergs in fjord

South Greenland

The southern tip of Greenland lies even further south than Iceland and therefore has a considerably milder climate compared to the rest of the country. It can be divided into two main regions. The Tasermiut Fjord area, centered around Nanortalik, is more similar to East Greenland and often considered as the westernmost extension of the East Coast. It is known for its striking, towering rock formations that attract climbers from all over the world. Surprisingly, it’s also home to Greenland’s only natural forest in Qinngua Valley. The remaining part of South Greenland is less rugged and forms Greenland’s limited “farm belt,” featuring rolling green hills used for large sheep farms. The farming tradition in this area was initiated by Eric the Red and his Vikings a thousand years ago and has persisted ever since. In 2017, this subarctic agricultural landscape, known as Kujataa, got listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Norse Viking Ruins such as Hvalsey, Igaliku, and Qassiarsuk are South Greenland’s primary tourist attractions, especially for history enthusiasts. Furthermore, a stay at a Greenlandic sheep farm is a popular choice among visitors, with Sillisit being a favorite. At this farm, they offer horseback riding excursions as one of their activities. Another popular farm to visit and explore is the experimental research station of Upernaviarsuk, where horticultural and farming techniques are tested for potential application in the harsh Arctic environment. Qaqortoq is the largest town in South Greenland and serves as the centre for tourism activities, including trips to the somewhat remote Uunnartoq hot springs. The historic centre of Qaqortoq boasts Greenland’s oldest fountain and the open-air Stone and Man exhibition as a standout attraction. Furthermore, most helicopter scenic flights around South Greenland depart from here. Narsarsuaq is an important settlement since its airport serves as the primary gateway to South Greenland. Both the airport and town were originally established as a United States airbase during WWII, a history well-documented in the town’s museum. In the surrounding area, there are a few marked hiking trails leading to mountains with stunning views of the town and nearby glaciers.

Reasons to visit South Greenland:

  • Norse Viking Ruins: Discover these distinct and historically significant sites
  • Uunnartoq: Take a bath in Greenland’s only natural hot spring
  • Hiking: Explore the surroundings of each settlement, embark on multi-day hikes, or venture into the Tasermiut Fjord on a guided hiking expedition
  • Boat Trips: Set sail to witness the impressive glaciers or go fishing
  • Kayaking: Explore the area from sea level and get up close with the icebergs
  • Scenic Flights: Catch a flight to view glaciers, the hot springs, or the Viking Ruins from above
  • Horse Riding in Sillisit
  • Wildlife Observation: Spot whales during Summer 
  • Farms: Visit the experimental farm of Upernaviarsuk or stay overnight at a Greenlandic sheep farm 
  • Winter activities: Beyond scenic flights and the chance to witness Northern Lights, there is very little scheduled tourism in winter
Flower field in South Greenland

Destination Arctic Circle

As the name implies, Destination Arctic Circle encompasses the region of West Greenland situated along the Arctic Circle. This region’s geography is diverse, ranging from spectacular jagged mountains near Maniitsoq to expansive, rolling Arctic tundra around Kangerlussuaq. In this area, you will also find another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Aasivissuit-Nipisat, an Inuit hunting ground of significant historical importance. There are three main towns in this region. Kangerlussuaq, often considered Greenland’s gateway, is home to the country’s only commercial international airport with daily direct flights to and from Copenhagen in Denmark. Located at the end of a roughly 160km long fjord, it stands as Greenland’s only inland town. A roughly 30km gravel road offers direct access to the Greenland icecap, allowing visitors to stand before and view the impressive 60m high Russell Glacier from close up. It is also possible to hike onto the expansive ice sheet itself at Point 660. While in Kangerlussuaq, visitors can enjoy a dinner at one of Greenland’s finest restaurants, Roklubben, or venture out to spot musk oxen that inhabit the area. For those in search of a more extreme adventure, consider doing the Arctic Circle Hiking Trail which leads all the way to Sisimiut. Sisimiut, Greenland’s second-largest city, is known for hosting two major annual events: The Arctic Circle Race, often hailed as the world’s toughest cross-country ski race, and Arctic Sounds, a renowned music festival. The city has an extensive and beautiful backcountry that is easily accessible, making it a haven for hikers. The surrounding area offers numerous well-marked trails for day trips and the impressive 160km long Arctic Circle Hiking Trail to Kangerlussuaq. Those seeking comfort after a day of exploration can unwind at Hotel Sisimiut, which features an Arctic Spa and one of the country’s finest Traditional Greenlandic Buffets. Maniitsoq, situated further south and below the Arctic Circle, offers a distinct landscape within the region. With dramatic 2000m peaks dropping directly into the fjords and glaciers coming down nearly every valley, it stands as one of the most breathtaking landscapes on the West Coast of Greenland. This rugged terrain provides an exceptional setting for world-class heli-skiing and ski touring during the winter season. In the summer, exploring the Eternity Fjord and the serene Inussuit Tasersuat lake is a must in this region.

Reasons to visit Greenland’s Arctic Circle:

  • Easy access to the Greenland Icecap and Russell Glacier
  • Hiking: Sisimiut offers numerous options for day hikes and the Arctic Circle Hiking Trail that leads all the way to Kangerlussuaq
  • Boat Trips: Embark on day sailings to explore the stunning fjords and glaciers
  • Stand Up Paddleboarding in Sisimiut, Kayaking in Sisimiut and Maniitsoq
  • Wildlife Observation: Enjoy whale watching during the summer in Sisimiut and Maniitsoq, encounter musk oxen and reindeer/caribou in Kangerlussuaq
  • Remote Settlements: The picturesque abandoned settlement of Assaqutaq is an easy day trip from Sisimiut, the settlement of Kangaamiut serves as the gateway to the Eternity Fjord and is accessible from Maniitsoq
  • Winter Activities: Enjoy the winter wonderland with dogsledding, snowmobile excursions, snowshoeing, skiing, and heliskiing in Maniitsoq, and a chance to see Northern Lights
Musk Ox in Greenland

North Greenland

While icebergs are a common sight throughout Greenland, North Greenland is the ultimate destination for those seeking truly colossal ice formations. This expansive region stretches from the Disko Bay area all the way up to the northernmost tip of Greenland, offering a diverse range of landscapes and experiences. Ilulissat, Greenland’s third-largest town, is renowned for the UNESCO Heritage listed Ilulissat Icefjord and is the most popular tourist destination in Greenland. And for good reason! The Icefjord is continuously fed by the most active glacier in the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in a mesmerizing display of icebergs in various shapes and sizes. Interestingly, the name Ilulissat itself translates to “iceberg” in the Greenlandic language, perfectly reflecting the town’s captivating natural feature. Boat trips and kayak excursions that take you amidst these icebergs are offered, and there are three marked hiking trails, all starting in town, that provide breathtaking panoramic views of the Icefjord. Furthermore, the highly active Eqi Glacier, located approximately two hours further north, is the best place to witness calving events in the region. During the summer season, the area is frequently visited by whales, particularly the playful Humpbacks. Disko Island is unique in Greenland as the only island of volcanic origin. From the black sand beaches of Qeqertarsuaq, the island’s main town, to the striking columns of black basalt and the impressive Lyngmark Glacier, this island is a haven for hiking enthusiasts. Aditionally, it’s the only place in Greenland where you can experience dogsledding during the summer season. Uummannaq, situated further north, derives its name from a distinctive heart-shaped mountain nearby. The town is nestled on a small island within the Uummannaq fjord, where enormous, freely drifting ice formations create a surreal landscape in the summer, and a frozen ice blanket with trapped icebergs forms during the winter. This exceptionally beautiful region is also were Greenland’s Qilakitsoq were discovered, the country’s oldest mummies. Uummannaq is surrounded by a significant number of glaciers, a strikingly vibrant yellow Arctic desert, and a scattering of small settlements – both active and abandoned. For those seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure in North Greenland, Uummannaq is one of the prime destinations to visit. Qaanaaq, Greenland’s northernmost town, is a remote settlement with a population of only 600. Accessibility is limited, and travel expenses can be relatively high. However, during the summer months, the town does offer excursions for visitors. For those seeking authentic Greenlandic experiences, Qaanaaq holds promise. The town has less infrastructure compared to other settlements, and its population largely consists of subsistence hunters and fishermen.

Reasons to visit North Greenland:

  • Hiking: Explore the Ilulissat Icefjord, the unique geology of Disko Island, or venture off-trail in the far north of Greenland
  • Boat Trips: Embark on a sailing tour to get up close with icebergs, or to see the calving Eqi Glacier
  • Kayaking: Experience kayaking amongst colossal icebergs
  • Scenic Flights: Take scenic flights to witness the UNSECO World Heritge listed Ilulissat Icefjord from above
  • Wildlife Observation: Enjoy whale watching during the summer season
  • Remote Settlements: Ilulissat provides easy access to Oqaatsut, a typical and traditional Greenlandic settlement, and Ilimanaq, wich offers luxury accommodation and an excellent restaurant within the settlement
  • Winter Activities: Enjoy the winter wonderland with dogsledding, snowmobile excursions, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and the chance to see Northern Lights

For more information about visiting Ilulissat please check out out Ultimate Guide To Ilulissat.

Ship with icebergs in Ilulissat Icefjord Greenland

Join Us On An Expedition Micro Cruise Or Photo Tour To Explore Greenland

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