How To Take A Trip To Greenland

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Greenland is an autonomous island that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. This vast frozen landscape sits in the Arctic circle and is a location rife with adventure and intrigue. To plan a trip to Greenland, you must understand the different settlements and weather conditions. The different locations such as Nuuk and Ilulissat offer varying activities. Furthermore, both the winter and summer provide a completely different Greenland experience.

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It is also important to consider other locations like Svalbard and Iceland, and how you wish to tour this huge island. Cruises are common, for example, that traverse the east coast of Greenland and Iceland. Alternatively, guided tours with hotel lodgings are common too. Once you have chosen your tour, you can plan flights and any additional activities like dog sledding and hiking.

After the trip is booked, you can look at purchasing any warm weather clothing – this is essential if you are visiting during the winter months. Also, if you are hiking, don’t forget a fly net as the midges are a nightmare!

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Getting started

Greenland is the largest island in the world. It is also one of the least inhabited regions too. Apart from a handful of coastal towns, this vast icy wilderness is untouched by humans. For the intrepid traveler, it offers intrigue, adventure, and excitement.

The coastal regions are home to immense icebergs, colorful Greenlandic settlements, and pods of whales. If you travel into the interior however, you are met with an endless expanse of the Greenland ice sheet. In addition to this, the weather can be both delightful and unforgiving. If cold weather travel and exploration are your forte, Greenland is a must-visit destination.

The best time to take a trip to Greenland depends on what activities you wish to undertake. Generally, this island is open to tourists all year. The winter provides minimal sunlight and maximum snow. Alternatively, summer offers warmer conditions and even an abundance of Arctic flowers. The following are examples of times to visit Greenland, and the activities you can join in:

  • Midnight Sun – May to September
  • Hiking & Cruises – June to September
  • Whale Watching – May to August
  • Dog Sledding – January to April
  • Northern Lights – September to April

If these activities sound interesting, read on to find out how to take a trip to Greenland!

Research which coast you want to visit – east or west

The west and east coasts of Greenland offer varying experiences. The west is generally more developed and has some larger settlements. Alternatively, the east coast features some remote villages with only a handful of inhabitants.

Flying times and flight availability vary depending on which coast you travel to.

The following are the main towns on both the east and west coast of Greenland:

  • East Coast
    • Tasiilaq
    • Kulusuk
    • Isortoq
    • Ittoqqortoormiit
  • West Coast
    • Ilulissat
    • Nuuk
    • Sisimiut
    • Qaqortoq

Check out these destinations and see what each one has to offer – this should help you formulate your Greenlandic adventure.

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Look for additional stop-offs like Iceland or Svalbard

Greenland tours usually last between 4-7 days. If you want a longer trip, we advise looking at other destinations such as Iceland and Svalbard.

A trip to Greenland offers the perfect opportunity to visit Iceland – in most instances, you will fly from Reykjavik. Alternatively, you can fly from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq Airport – Copenhagen also facilitates flights to Longyearbyen in Svalbard.

Some extended cruises setting off from Iceland will also travel along the coast of the country before heading to Greenland – there is ample opportunity to explore other Arctic destinations.

Research trip types like a cruise or guided tour

Traveling to Greenland offers two main trip types – cruises, or guided tours. Consider which type of holiday you would prefer. A cruise allows you to see more of the island whereas a guided tour gives you the chance to stay in Greenland and experience local life. Both holiday types have their drawbacks and advantages. Furthermore, a cruise and a guided tour provide completely different experiences.

Look at the different activities available

Greenland is a location that offers amazing activities. It is not a location where you sit and relax – it provides an active adventure with the chance to step outside your comfort zone and try something different. We have listed some of the popular excursions below:

  • Dog Sledding
  • Whale Watching
  • Northern Lights trips
  • Glacier Hikes
  • Glacier boat trips

Your tour package may include some of these excursions. If you have additional time in a location, or you are planning your own trip, we suggest booking some trips. This will ensure you make the most of your time and fully experience what Greenland has to offer.

Consider the requirement for warm protective clothing

Whilst warm weather clothing is a must in Antarctica, Greenland presents a different experience. Speaking from my own experiences, the weather can be absolutely beautiful. When hiking through the countryside near Ilulissat, I had to strip down to my base layer because it was that warm. On the flip side, I also experienced freezing temperatures when taking a boat tour through the Ilulissat ice fiord.

You must be prepared – as a minimum, we advise taking warm weather clothing including thermals and a waterproof coat. Also, be prepared to utilize your layers if you experience warm weather. When I got warm I simply took off my jacket and coat and tied them around my waist. Some form of insect repellant or face net is also essential. Greenland is home to a myriad of midges during the summer months. 

Find suitable flights for your trip to Greenland

Greenland has several airports, but flights are limited to either Copenhagen (Denmark) or Reykjavik (Iceland). Carefully planning is therefore required. Air Greenland is the sole operator for commercial flights into the region. They do operate a frequent service, but as with hotels, these flights book up quickly. The following are the main airports in Greenland and where they fly too:

  • Nuuk Airport (from Reykjavik)
  • Kangerlussuaq Airport (from Reykjavik & Copenhagen)
  • Ilulissat Airport (from Reykjavik)
  • Kulusuk Airport (from Reykjavik)

Choose a tour provider or look for a hotel

Depending on which type of holiday you settle on, you must find a tour provider or suitable accommodation. Remember that hotels in Greenland are limited. Rooms book quickly so ensure you leave sufficient time to find a hotel. Alternatively, if you are using a tour operator or cruise company, the accommodation is included within the package. The following are some reputable tour companies that offer guided tours and/or cruises:

Actionable Steps


Choose your preferred location

This is the first thing you should decide before looking at any flights, or tour providers. The east and west coast of Greenland offer two completely different experiences. Research both coasts and the different towns you can visit – from there you can start planning the rest of your adventure.


Create travel plans

Once you have chosen your preferred location, you can then start formulating travel plans. Consider any additional locations you wish to visit, such as Iceland. Next, look at cruises or flights and hotels. Finally, look at available dates and start booking your trip.    


Book excursions

If you have free time at any of the locations in Greenland, it is advisable to look at pre-booking excursions. This can save time but also ensure you are not disappointed. Examples of excursions include dog sledding, glacier boat tours, and whale watching.


Make sure you go prepared!

Check out our other popular posts to ensure you set off for your trip to Greenland fully prepared to have a great time:
– Best Tech Items for Travelers
– Going on a Trip? Consider Travel Insurance
– How to Meet People While Traveling Solo
– The Thrifty Guide to Traveling the World on a Budget

About the Author

Paul Skidmore

Paul Skidmore

Travel Writer

Paul specializes in travel and photography. His passion for travel spans back to his childhood and has been a life-long obsession. He has seen much of the world including cold climate destinations like Antarctica, Greenland, Svalbard, and Iceland. This combined with a thirst for knowledge, and a love of literature, has allowed him to craft a successful career as a writer. Through his writing, he loves to empower readers to see the world just as he has.
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