10 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About Greenland

You’re going to be hearing a lot about Greenland over the coming year; travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet has named the country #9 in their top 10 countries to see in 2016. And as the planet keeps getting warmer, a country that’s covered in ice and snow is going to see some changes. While Iceland seems to have had its fair share of publicity in recent years, few travelers know very much about the nearby country of Greenland at all. Consider this an education in Nordic culture; here are 10 interesting facts about Greenland:

10. Not a lot of Green

In viking legend, Greenland was described as a lush, green, fertile land. Today however, ‘Whiteland’ would be a more accurate term since approximately 85 per cent of the country is covered in ice and snow.

Greenland houses

9. No Roads

Greenland is big, really big. But despite having a land size of over 2 million square kilometers there are no roads or railway system. All travel between towns is done by plane, boat, helicopter, snowmobile or dogsled (yes really.)

Dogsledding Greenland

8. They’re Not Eskimos

And they will be quite offended if you call them this. The proper name for an indigenous person from Greenland is Kalaallit. Which actually means ‘Greenlander’ in the native Inuit language Kalaallisut.

7. Full of Gems

Literally. The large amount of gemstones like ruby and sapphire found in this country is surprising given that it’s such a barren place of ice and snow. Reportedly, gemstone mining could one day overtake fishing as the countries largest industry.


6. Not For Sale

In 1946 the United states tried to purchase Greenland from Denmark but the European Kingdom refused to sell this island to the Americans.

Greenland flag

5. Cool Capital

The capital and largest city in Greenland is Nuuk, with a population of approximately 17,000 people. It’s home to the University of Greenland, an art museum, sports stadium, cultural center, the National Library of Greenland and the country’s international airport.

"Godthabhallen" by Egggeo - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

Godthabhallen” by EgggeoOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

4. No Cars

Well, there are some; an estimated 2,570 cars are owned in the entire country of Greenland. But given that there are no roads, the majority of these cars are located in the capital of Nuuk. The most popular form of owned transportation is a boat.

Greenland Boat

3. It’s Cold

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise actually since we already told you the country was 85 per cent covered in ice and snow. July is the only month when the temperature actually gets above the freezing point.

Winter in Greenland

2. The Sun Never Sets

Admittedly this only occurs in summer but it’s a pretty cool natural phenomenon. Know as the ‘midnight sun’ places north of the arctic circle do not see any darkness all summer. From late April to late August, the sun will rise and colors will change as the day goes on but the sun will still be visible throughout the entire day and night.

Midnight sun greenland

1. The Northern Lights

Though winters in Greenland may be long and dark, they do provide the opportunity to see the amazing Norther Lights (aka Aurora Borealis) in all its glory. From September to mid April, you can see the lights on just about any night the sky is clear, and since there’s little light pollution here, the colors are extremely vivid.

northern lights greenland