Greenland tends not to feature prominently on the typical bucket list. But this Danish constituent island of glaciers, mountains and fjords will reward the traveller seeking a glimpse of the untapped wilds. Odyssey’s tour of Greenland features travel by helicopter – the best way to view this rugged landscape, and indeed the only way to reach some of its more remote sites.
If you’re interested in learning about Greenland’s history, culture, architecture, food or landscape, the best way is to see it all for yourself. Small group educational cultural & history tour for mature & senior travellers to explore Greenland.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary.
However, travel options within Greenland are very limited, and on this short tour we travel mostly by plane and helicopter.
Accommodation in Greenland is limited. We select good, clean, en-suited 3-4 star hotels.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Weather & environment
Greenland is an autonomous constituent country in the Kingdom of Denmark.
It lies between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, to the east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Despite its physiographical ties to the American continent, Greenland is more closely related to Europe and especially Scandinavia.
Residents of remote Greenland are majority Inuit peoples, whose ancestors migrated from mainland Canada. Greenland is considered the world’s biggest island (Antarctica and Australia are continental landmasses).
It is the world’s least populated territory in terms of density. Just over 56,000 people reside here, and they are concentrated along the ice free coast, and in cities inluding the capital Nuuk. This is because three quarters of Greenland is covered with a permanent ice sheet.
As you might expect, Greenland’s climate is cold. The average daily temperature in Muuk is -8 to 7 degrees celcius. If Greenland’s ice sheet was to melt, the world’s sea level would rise by over 7 metres.
Interestingly, the northernmost part of Greenland isn’t covered by an ice sheet because the air is too dry to produce snow.
You must prepare for extreme cold if you are travelling to Greenland.
World Heritage sites
Kujataa, Greenland is a UNESCO World Heritage site, though it is listed as part of Denmark.
It is a subarctic farming landscape where Norse farmer-hunters arrived in the 10th century. It here that Inuit farming communities developed in the 18th century. The site is preserved for its historic value, as the first site of farming in the Arctic.
Festivals & events
The most celebrated events in Greenland are Christmas and New Year, along with their National Day on June 21st. This is the longest day of the year, and is marked with songs and entertainment hosted by every settlement and town.
Greenland’s only national TV channel broadcasts reports from different locations. Many people don national costumes in order to celebrate Greenland’s history and culture.
Greenland also celebrates the Return of the Sun, the day that signals a relief from months of darkness. On the day the sun first appears on the horizon, many families celebrate with excursions to enjoy coffee and cakes. In Ilulissat, families and school groups travel to Holms Hill by dogsled and sing songs.
- Journal of a Greenland Voyage by William Scoresby
- The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
- Rethinking Greenland and the Arctic in the Era of Climate Change by Frank Sejersen
- Exploring Greenland: Cold War Science and Technology on Ice by Ronald E. Doel, Kristine C. Harper, and Matthias Heymann (editors)
Eating & Drinking
Farmers grow select crops in small batches on Greenland’s limited agricultural land. Despite these limitations, however, cuisine in Greenland is surprisingly exciting and innovative. Much of the produce is gleaned from the sea and land, in the form of diverse fish species and Arctic mammals.
There are very much traces of Greenland’s hunting heritage in modern cuisine. But it also reflects increasing international influences. Fish features most prominently in the home.
A greater variety of ingredients are shipped in, or delivered by plane. Some of the more obscure delicacies include seal and whale. Mattak is made from a whale’s skin and blubber and is eaten raw. Suaasat is a traditional soup made with seal meat, but whale, reindeer or seabirds can be subsituted. But for the less adventurous among us, more standard fare can usually be sourced, particularly in the cities.
As for drinking in Greenland, dinner is often followed by a warming concoction of hot coffee, whiskey, Kahlua, Grand Marnier and whipped cream, which is set aflame before serving. A brewery in Greenland pioneered Ice beer, brewed with glacial water. Homebrewing is abundant in Greenland – alcohol was heavily restricted until 1954.
Health & Safety
While much of Greenland is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. As in any country, keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Greenland’s power sockets are of types C, F, E and K. The standard voltage is 230V and frequency 50Hz.
Aerial exploration of Greenland
Greenland’s generalized time zone in Atlantic Time (AT) or UTC -4.00/-3.00. Greenland
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. In Greenland, prices are inclusive of tips and gratuities, however if you enjoyed the service, a tip or compliment will be greatly appreciated by staff. It’s polite to round a bill up to the nearest whole figure or leave the change when buying drinks.
Internet access is available and most hotels and many cafes should be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Greenland. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Greenland.
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have on hand the local currency in a range of denominations. In Greenland, this is the Danish krone. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.
- If sightseeing in rural areas, remember to be respectful of residents and locals. As well as