Outdoor Greenland

Regions
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Overview map for Greenland

If you're a typical GORP reader, you'll be pleased to know that Greenland's tourist industry is still in it's nascent stage. In other words, travellers to Greenland can be pretty much on their own to explore wild landscape and fascinating culture. Of course, that's not to dissuade you from hiring an experienced tour outfitter— in fact it's almost a necessity for visiting remote reaches of the island.

To get you started on your research, we've divided up the island into five general regions— Central, Northern, Southern, Eastern and Thule. We've also suggested basecamps for each region and ideas on what you can do there.

Central Greenland

Basecamp: Nuuk

Sitting snug at the end of a long fjord, Kangerlussuaq Airport is Greenland's nerve center. Some 90% of all travellers to, from and within Greenland pass through Kangerlussuaq. Direct connections can be made from Copenhagen, Ottawa, and Iceland.

With its 13,000 inhabitants, Nuuk, Greenland's nearby capital, has more than twice as many residents as the country's second-largest town of 5,000. As a capital, it is not only the administrative headquarters of Greenland's Home Rule, but also the home of schools and cultural institutions. The island-wide media—two newspapers, radio and TV—are headquartered here. In short, Nuuk is a good place to land, learn about the island, and make connections.

The local town of Maniitsoq is fashioning itself into a sports center, with events and tours offered all summer long for anglers, kayakers and hikers. A glacier-top ski resort called Apussuit is 15 miles away.

Attractions in the area include Sisimiut, which with a whopping population of 5,000 is Greenland's second largest town. Activities offered in the area include hiking, skiing and dogsled excursions. Godtheb Fjord, the world's second-largest fjord complex, is also worth a visit.. You can go on foot, by boat or helicopter.

Northern Greenland

Basecamp: Ilulissat

This is the Disko Bay region, an excellent place to go if you want to experience classic arctic experiences such as dog sledding, midnight sun, and icebergs. In fact, Ilulussat, the town in the region with an airport, translates as"The Icebergs."

The fjords of nearby Uummannaq are a good locale for whale watching. You should also make a point of venturing to Qeqertarsuaq, a quiet but colorful little town. The town is surrounded by high mountains covered by glaciers and with valleys rich in Greenlandic flora. Translation: good hiking.

Southern Greenland

Basecamp: Paamiut

The climate in South Greenland is warmer than the rest of the country, and impressive gardens outside people's homes are not an unusual sight. Paamiut can be approached by sea all year round, which is an advantage for shipping and fishing alike. Just like many other towns in the country, the economy revolves around fishing. Paamiut means "The People at the Estuary" (i.e. the mouth of the Kvane Fjord) and the area is known for the widespread occurrence of white-tailed eagles.

Other places in the region include Nanortalik, which has a wonderful hotspring; the Qinngua Valley, Greenland's only natural woodland; and the Nanortalik area which is characterized by imposing mountains beckoning to hikers and climbers.

East Coast

Basecamp: Ammassalik

Eastern Greenland has a stronger Danish cultural influence. Basecamp Ammassalik is near tall mountains that are well suited to skiing. In fact, a ski lift takes off from town. The area also offers excellent, if rigorous, hiking.

If you want to visit Greenland National Park, the world's largest, head for Ittoqqortoormiit, population 600, situated at the very northernmost point of the East Coast. On one side, the town borders on the world's largest fjord; on the other, the park. This is a peak wildlife viewing area. But remote, and undeveloped. This is not a U.S. style national park designed for vacationers, but rather a biosphere reserve, set aside for ecological preservation. In the U.S. this area would probably be a designated wilderness, or even wildlife refuge. Permission to enter the park must first be obtained from:

Dansk Polarcenter
Strandgade 100H
DK-1401 Copenhagen K
Denmark

Thule

Basecamp: Qaanaaq

No discussion of adventure travel in Greenland would be complete without a mention of the icy and remote Thule area. In fact, the name of the municipality reflects its remoteness - it means "The Far North". The municipality is the world's northernmost inhabited area—population 800.

The area has been known as a base and destination for expeditions through the ages. Both Perry and Rasmussen spent time here. Most recently in 1993, two hunters on dog-sleds drove from Greenland to Alaska in the sled-tracks of Knud Rasmussen. Today, the town's economy centers on hunting for marine mammals and birds.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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