Thinking of Greenland probably conjures up images of northern lights over frozen tundra, polar bears roaming around snowy hills, icebergs, and Inuit culture.
We love this jewel of the north and think it’s a unique country that people sometimes misunderstand. So we wanted to share some fun Greenland facts about the world’s largest island (hidden fact#1 right here) to inspire you to make a dream trip a reality, or at least spark your interest...
- For a special travel experience off the beaten path, browse these Greenland travel packages
Your intro to Greenland
Before we dazzle you with fun facts about Greenland, let’s start with a quick-fire bonus round of essential facts about this country:
- Greenland is located both north and south of the Arctic Circle.
- It's closest to Canada’s east coast and is actually connected to North America via a submarine ridge.
- Greenland's closest European neighbour is Iceland.
- The country is technically part of Denmark, but has home rule with its own domestic government.
- Greenland's capital is Nuuk, a small settlement of 18,000 inhabitants.
- The people are called Greenlanders, of whom almost 90% are Inuit, and their official language is Greenlandic.
- Greenlanders also speak Danish and English.
- They use the Danish krone (DKK) as their currency.
FUN FACT #1: It was once green
If your first thought about Greenland was, ‘Why is it even called Green?’, well that is an excellent question. The majority of the land is covered in ice.
The name is said to have been given by Erik the Red, who settled there in the 900s after being exiled from Iceland for murder. Some say he gave that name as a kind of medieval marketing, hoping to get more settlers to join him.
Others believe temperatures were higher and the land greener at the time, leading many people to join him. There were about 280 farms in the two earliest main settlements.
FUN FACT #2: Most of Greenland is covered by an ice cap
Greenland boasts one of the largest ice sheets in the world, second only to Antarctica. It affects sea level and covers more than 1.8 million square kilometres. That is, in fact, nearly the entirety of the island: a whopping 80% of it. Which means there is an ice free area in Greenland!
FUN FACT #3: It still has some green parts
While only 20% of the land isn’t covered by the Greenland ice sheet, the remaining land lives up to the country’s name. South Greenland is technically at a lower, warmer latitude than Iceland, but unlike Iceland it doesn't sit on the Gulf Stream.
- Come discover Greenland in summer to enjoy whale watching and hot springs
FUN FACT #4: You could bathe in a hot spring here
Hot springs are often reminiscent of Iceland, but Greenland also offers a wonderful landscape full of naturally-occurring hot springs. On the island of Uunartoq, you’ll find springs that are warm enough to bathe in.
FUN FACT #5: It boasts 3 World Heritage sites
Speaking of ice, one of Greenland’s three UNESCO World Heritage sites, is the Ilulissat Icefjord on the west coast. That is where you will find Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the most active glaciers in the world, and also the most visited glacier in Greenland.
The other two are Kujataa and the Aasivissuit to Nipisat region. Kujataa is a subarctic farming landscape which highlights the cultural histories of the Norse and Inuit hunters and farmers who developed the area. Aasivissuit – Nipisat, meanwhile, is an Inuit hunting ground located inside the Arctic Circle.
- Browse these Greenland ice cap tours and iceberg tours to experience these fascinating landscapes firsthand
- Read more about travelling to Greenland and seeing the glaciers on a short stay
FUN FACT #6: You can only fly there from Iceland and Denmark
If you’ve been interested in visiting Greenland, you may have Googled some flights and realised that you can’t fly directly from either the USA or most of continental Europe – unlike what The Secret Life of Walter Mitty shows us.
But don't worry: you can fly to one of Greenland’s many airports via Iceland and Denmark.
- If you're keen to discover Iceland at the same time as Greenland, combine both countries for one incredible trip
FUN FACT #7: There are no roads
People can take a misconception from films and believe there are roads across Greenland. There are not. Some roads exist within the towns themselves, but not between settlements.
Transportation here centres on boats and air traffic – there are airports and heliports across the country. And you can also travel on snowmobiles and dogsleds.
FUN FACT #8: It is extremely sparsely populated
The total population of the island is only around 57,000 people, or about the same size as Port Orange, Florida (US) or Aldershot (UK).
This population size is incredible when you think of its size, which is comparable to the land size of France, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium combined. That's three times the size of the state of Texas!
- Learn more about the local communities with an Inuit culture tour of Greenland
FUN FACT #9: Some popular words come from Greenlandic
Ever been 'kayaking' or wanted to know how it is to sleep in an 'igloo'? Those common terms we use in English actually come from Greenlandic words.
FUN FACT #10: Traditional food is heavily based on hunting
There is a rich wildlife that thrives in and near Greenland, including musk oxen, whales, reindeer, and a variety of birds.
The local communities still take part in sealing and whaling, and other forms of hunting for their culture and food.
If you’re a foodie who eats meat, you may love the unique dishes you can encounter here. Local cuisine can include marine mammals, as well as birds and other game.
The national dish is suaasat, a meat soup. It usually contains seal, whale, reindeer or seabird and is cooked with onions, bay leaves and other aromatic ingredients.
FUN FACT #11: Summer temperatures are surprisingly high
During the summer months, in the southern part of the island, you may find that temperatures rise to 20° C (68° F) or higher. Perfect weather for sightseeing and enjoying the outdoors.
Greenland is a diverse nation of marvellous, rugged landscapes, traditional culture, and hidden gems. Hopefully, these fun facts will have debunked what you thought you knew about this island, and maybe inspired you to come visit!
Come discover Greenland's secrets for yourself!
To start planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Greenland, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our dedicated travel consultants. We’re here to help you make the most of your time in this Nordic jewel!