'When you've seen the world there's always Greenland' goes the old travellers' saying. But why wait till then? Greenland is not a cheap destination, but few places combine such magnificent scenery, such clarity of light and such raw power of nature. Vast swaths of beautiful, unfenced wilderness give adventurers unique freedom to wander at will, whether on foot, by ski or by dogsled. With virtually no roads, transportation is expensive, but splurging on helicopter and boat rides is worth every penny. These whisk you over truly magnificent mountainscapes and glaciers or through some of the planet's most spectacular fjords. Greenland also offers world-beating but charmingly uncommercialised opportunities for sea kayaking, rock climbing and salmon fishing.
The world's biggest noncontinental island has the world's sparsest population. Nonetheless, scattered mainly along Greenland's west coast are dozens of photogenic little villages of colourfully painted wooden cottages, plus a few small towns as well as the capital, Nuuk Town (Godthåb). In the south there's an appealing sprinkling of emerald-lawned sheep farms.
Culturally, the unique blend of Inuit and Danish blood has produced a Greenlandic society all of its own. This sometimes discordant mix of ancient and modern combines seal hunting and dogsledding with Carlsberg and kaffemiks. While it has many underlying social problems, Greenland suffers negligible crime, and sensitive visitors with a passionate but unaggressive interest in local ideas will find a fascinatingly rich culture beneath the thick façade of Greenlandic taciturnity.
With an ever-improving network of tourist offices, and comfortable if unflashy mini-hotels and hostels, Greenland is no longer the sole reserve of plutocratic cruise-ship passengers. However you travel, it's wise to schedule a wide safety margin for unpredictable weather. Leave ample time in each destination to unwind, soak up the midnight sun, watch icebergs explode or be dazzled by the magic of the aurora borealis.
Make it happen
Ready to go? If you’re after the highlights, consider skipping the lines with our recommended tours: