Our world is ever warmer, ever more crowded, and ever more plugged-in. So there’s something wildly refreshing about a place that’s about 80% ice covered, boasts the world’s lowest population density, and has cellular coverage so poor that many rely on satellite phones. Come to see the midnight sun on the glaciers, sail among breaching whales, ride across the tundra on a dogsled, watch the Northern Lights dance across the ice sheet.
In March 2016 Greenland (technically a territory of Denmark rather than an independent country, although one with a great deal of autonomy) will host the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of its kind ever. Competitions range from snowshoeing to native games like pole-pushing (think reverse tug-of-war with a tree trunk). There will also be a cultural festival with song, dance and food. If you’re going to visit Greenland, this is the time to go. Luckily for you, it is easier than ever to access. It’s a quick four-hour flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s main airport. And now there are also seasonal and yearly flights from Reykjavík in Iceland to Nuuk, Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk and Narsarsuaq.
Witness icebergs the size of the Empire State Building calving in the Ilulissat Icefjord, home to the northern hemisphere’s most productive glacier. The town of Ilulissat, next to the glacier, is known as ‘the iceberg capital of the world’, and offers a huge number of iceberg-watching adventures. Kayak through the fjord’s navy blue waters, soar above the glacier in a fixed-wing plane, or hike along the icy cliffs with a pair of crampons strapped to your shoes.
From September to April, Greenland becomes one of the world’s prime places to see the aurora borealis, nature’s own laser light show. Though you can see the eerie green sine waves from anywhere in the country, for a true once-in-a-lifetime experience join a dogsledding expedition to the interior, where you can pitch a tent on the ice sheet and watch the sky in delicious solitude.
Eating local. Yeah, yeah, so calling yourself a locavore is trendy everywhere from Peoria to Little Whinging these days. But Greenland is an Arctic island with little agriculture and no ground transportation. So cooking and eating local here is hardcore. A new generation of young chefs, some of whom have trained abroad in Denmark or elsewhere, are taking on the challenge and making meals with the delicious, albeit limited, local ingredients. Think juniper-poached musk-ox fillets, razorbill with crowberries, kelp salad studded with reindeer bacon, bellflower gelée atop local honey ice cream.
Though Greenland sits atop substantial uranium deposits, the mining of radioactive materials was illegal for a quarter century. Then, in 2013, uranium mining was approved by the government in a close and hotly debated vote. Now the country must decide whether to move forward. Some decry the environmental hazards and potential destruction of Greenland’s way of life, while others say the mining of uranium and other substances is the key to Greenland’s financial woes
- The iceberg that took down the Titanic most likely came from Ilulissat Icefjord in western Greenland, where it began as a snowflake 15,000 years earlier.
- Greenland’s first brewery invented ‘ice beer’ – beer brewed with water from melted icebergs.
- There are no roads between towns and settlements in Greenland. Locals and visitors must travel by plane, boat, snowmobile or sled.