Greenland is an adventurer's paradise but it is also perfect for wildlife enthusiasts and culture-seekers. From the rugged, polar desert in the north to glacial-carved fjords and sheep farms in the south, the country hosts more than its fair share of thrilling destinations. Take a look at the best nine things to do on the world's largest island:
1. Trek the prehistoric ice sheet
The Greenland ice sheet covers 80% of the country, dating back to 10,000 years at its edges. In some places you can walk on this permanent historical monument – a remnant from the last Ice Age – where you'll see snowy mountains, frozen freshwater, and thrilling array of fauna. Fun facts: The ice sheet's total area of 695,000 square miles equals 14 times the size of England, and this ice contains 10% of the world's reserves of fresh water.
2. See the most massive glacier outside of Antarctica
The iconic Ilulissat Icefjord is Greenland's biggest natural attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage sites. True to its 'iceberg capital of the world' nickname, Ilulissat is home to thousands of icebergs that can be seen year round and are comparable to the icebergs found in Antarctica. The massive collection of icebergs that have calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier, the biggest glacier in the Icefjord, presents a chilling, exquisite natural gallery as well as a story of the planet's history.
3. Hop in the hot springs
The 'yin' to the glaciers' 'yang', Greenland's hot springs are perfect for thawing chilly limbs – and there are hundreds of them scattered throughout the landscape. The most popular are the Uunartoq hot springs on the island of Uunartoq (east Greenland) and Disko Island's hot springs, which are a short boat ride away from Illulissat. These natural hot springs sit at a cozy 100 degrees Fahrenheit, though some get as hot as 140 degrees!
4. Witness the stunning northern lights
The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are referred to as the "biggest light show on the earth". During the winter months, the dark sky glows with illuminations that make for an unprecedented natural phenomenon. For those taking a Greenland voyage to witness the lights, your best opportunities to see the lights are between December and February when the nights are clearer than other times of year.
5. Visit the world's largest national park
Spanning 870 miles, Greenland National Park takes the title of the largest national park on Earth. It is described as the 'Patagonia of the Arctic' and its biggest draw is its rugged beauty and abundance of flora and fauna, including caribou, fox, and musk oxen, the largest land mammal in Greenland. In the park you can gaze across crystal-clear waters tucked between towering mountains moments before spotting giant walrus or even the majestic polar bear. Greenland National Park is truly an Arctic paradise.
6. See mummies in the Greenland National Museum
As one of the first museums established in Greenland, the National Museum houses collections that stretch 4,500 years in history, from Danish artifacts to archaeology to preserved ruins. The Inuit Archaeological Collections and the Norse Collections are popular, though the jewel in the museum is the four people buried in full dresses who lived in the year 1475. These are natural mummies, produced by freezing temperatures.
7. Get up close and personal with whales
Embark on a whale-watching tour. For animal lovers, this is an incredible experience, though you'll need to travel during the summer months to do it. Most fjords typically melt by May, so June and July are the best times to sail between the icebergs and spot whales. A good launching-off point is Narsaq, where the glaciers north of town leave the waters rich with minke whales, not to mention seals, salmon, and trout.
8. Explore Viking sites
Walk through the vestiges of Erik the Red's 1,000-year-old Norse colonies in southern Greenland. The Viking explorer set sail from Iceland to venture across a land covered in ice, which he settled and named 'Greenland'. Today, the oldest and best-preserved remnants in the country are Hvalsey Church, an abandoned Greenlandic settlement in Hvalsey. The church was the location of the last written record of the Greenlandic Norse: a wedding in 1408.
9. Experience Arctic wildlife on a sled
How often do you get to go mushing through the snow to spot reindeer, musk oxen, and polar bear? Take a sled excursion January through April to see some breathtaking wildlife in the Arctic terrain, such as eagles, ptarmigan, lemmings, and the rare Arctic wolf. The most common sightings of polar bears occur in northern and eastern Greenland, where the beast hunts from the sea ice.