Church, Southern Greenland
Church, Southern Greenland

Greenland

Cruise ship tenders to and fro Qaqortaq, South Greenland
Qaqortaq, South Greenland

Greenland. This country tops our list as a destination travel multi-categorical oddity. It’s one of the most out-of-the-way destinations on Earth. It’s a place you’d hardly give a thought to visiting unless you’re a researcher studying the polar ice caps, global warming or indigenous cultures.

Yet, if you live the America’s, it’s in your continental backyard since it’s part of North America geographically. Politically, it’s semi-European and under joint self- and Danish rule. Culturally, it’s Native American with Polar Eskimos known as Inuit’s making up most of its  57,000+ inhabitants.

Are these features enough to qualify for our destination travel oddity list? No. Here's the deciding factor: Greenland will not change significantly unless the Greenland polar ice cap retreats.

A Cruise Through the Prince Christian Sound

Some places on this Earth are just easier to visit by boat. Greenland is one of them. That’s how we ended up visiting the two coastal towns of Qaqortak and Nanortalik during the summer of 2016.

Cruising the Prince Christian Sound was our first exposure to this country. It’s a marine channel in the state of the Vestgronland (West Greenland) and one of the most beautiful cruise experiences on earth.

Glacier, Prince Christian Sound, Greenland
Glacier, Prince Christian Sound, Greenland

Navigation of this waterway is tricky, even during the summer, because of the number of icebergs the Greenland ice gap produces all year long. Sometimes helicopter surveillance is necessary to ensure that a vessel getting into the sound can also get out!

But once you’re inside this area, the views are stunning. Steep glaciers project their alien-like shapes carved out during the last ice age rendering an other worldly look to the landscape. At some point to a viewer it becomes obvious that cameras simply cannot capture this grand display by Mother Nature. Black and white photos are a great alternative for photographers.

The Prince Christian Sound presents a stark, natural beauty regardless of the weather. A sunny day reveals sparkling white and blue ice amidst the shear, near jet-black cliffs. A misty or ground-shrouded day only adds mystery to the atmosphere of this millions-of-years old natural phenomenon of glaciers, steeped fjords and plummeting waterfalls stemming from the enormous force of the Greenland ice cap.

A Home To Polar Eskimos and Explorers

Most inhabitants of this place are Inuit’s (Polar Eskimos) living in coastal towns since conditions are harsh if not impracticable in the interior of this ice cap bound country.

Native Boys, Greenland
Native Boys, Greenland

The only way to get around is by helo, boat or bush plane. There are few roads outside the small coastal towns. In fact, Air Greenland vehicles are a common sight throughout the country.

Air Greenland Helo on Medivac Duty
Air Greenland Helo on Medivac Duty

Qaqortak and Nanortalik are two small coastal towns on the southern tip of Greenland. The former has a population of 1500. The latter 3100.

Nanortalik, Greenland
Nanortalik, Greenland

Fishing is the primary industry here. Boats large and small decorate the harbors of coastal towns around the perimeter of the island. Yet, many supplies are shipped in from other continents with Denmark taking the lead in this respect.

Fishing boats-Greenland
Fishing boats-Greenland
Karla @ RoverTreks and an anchor symbolic of the seafaring culture of Greenland
Karla @ RoverTreks and an anchor symbolic of the seafaring culture of Greenland

Take a look at the signs. The official language of the country is West Greenlandic. It's part of a family of languages broadly referred to as Eskimo-Aleut (Eskaleut) spoken by polar dwellers from Siberia to Eastern Greenland. Although related, speakers of regional dialects of these languages find them to be mutually unintelligible given the vast areas of the polar ice cap combined with isolation and separation from one another. In the mid-19th century,  a Moravian missionary laid out an alphabet for this language using a western Roman Latin character structure.

Nanortalik, Greenland
Nanortalik, Greenland
Signpost
Signpost

Take a look at the structures. Tough, sturdy building materials forged to withstand a harsh, often foreboding climate, cling to the land tempered by generations of ingenious construction methods known to withstand the test of time.

Church, Qatortoq, Greenland
Church, Qatortoq, Greenland
House on a hill in Nanortalik, Greenland
House on a hill in Nanortalik, Greenland

Little goes to waste in these towns. This bar features the front end of a Volkswagen jutting out of a sidewall to attract patrons. Clearly, this feature must be for visitors as the locals certainly know of this place. Or, perhaps, it’s a building mark, to distinguish this place from other buildings in town, when the locals want to visit the bar and need this distinguishing feature to differentiate this place from other buildings in blinding snow storms.

Local bar wall, Qaqortoq, Greenland
Local bar wall, Qaqortoq, Greenland

Why Go to Greenland?

Greenland presents an astonishing collection of sights. It’s a place with an other worldly look oppositionally akin to the American wild west of the 1850’s except that its northerly location and climate inhibits cultural growth.

This is place you visit, usually, for one of three reasons. Most folks visit for a day or two just to experience the shock and awe of this very different place. Explorers of the great outdoors visit to kayak the waters, dogsled, or traverse the ice cap to snag an up-close and personal experience with critters and a landscape found few places on Earth. Researchers visit to study the polar ice cap, global warming or indigenous cultures.

When to go

You can visit Greenland anytime although the North American summertime hours present a wider range of travel choices. The major cruise ships lines call at the southern ports of the country during June-August every year. Dogsledders and those wanting to see the northern lights might pick the wintertime. The official tourism site for the country offers 68 organized tours throughout the country.

How to Get There

Signpost-Nanortalik, Greenland
Signpost-Nanortalik, Greenland

You can travel to Greenland by sea or air.  If you’re looking for a quick look-see, several commercial cruise lines offering trans-Atlantic passage stop by Nuuk, Qaqortak and Nanortalik during July and August each year. Holland America, offers various cruises spanning 19 to 38 days that span Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands (under the rule of Denmark and between Iceland and Norway), the Shetlands, the coast of Norway, and areas north of the Arctic circle such as Spitsbergen.

SS Rotterdam, in harbor, South Greenland
Holland America SS Rotterdam, in harbor, South Greenland
Cruise ship tenders to and fro Qaqortaq, South Greenland
Cruise ship tenders to and fro Qaqortaq, South Greenland

The official Greenland site presents a host of information about this country including 68 packaged tours offering something of interest to almost anyone wishing to visit this out-of-the-way place.

See these related stories about Shetland and Iceland in our island hopping adventure.

Go and enjoy!

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