Bright orange fishing boats in the harbour at Ilulissat, Greenland

Greenland, Land of the Midnight Sun - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 25th March 2018

What Continent Does Greenland Belong To?

  • Greenland is a massive island, the largest in the world. (Australia and Antarctica are deemed to be continental land masses.)
  • It is geographically part of North America, but politically it is part of Europe, as it is constitutionally ruled by Denmark.

Is Greenland a Country?

  • The Vikings ‘discovered’ Greenland in the tenth century, and the exiled Erik the Red called it Greenland, in the hope that the name would attract more settlers,
  • Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953, when it became a country. It attained full home rule in 1981. There is a 31-member parliament called the Landsting, with a prime minister. However, Greenland's wide-ranging autonomy does not include foreign and security policy or finance. The nominal head of state is the Danish monarch and the country sends two representatives to the Danish Folketing. The currency is the Danish krone.
  • The official languages are Greenlandic and Danish; kayak" and "igloo" are Greenlandic words that have been adopted directly by other languages.

Facts and Factoids

  • Most of Greenland is in the Arctic Circle, so almost eighty percent of the land mass is covered by the second largest ice sheet in the world and glaciers. Though a minority of land, the ice-free area is nearly as large as Sweden. Scientists have estimated that the Greenland ice sheet about two miles thick and between 400,000 and 800,000 years old. It holds the equivalent of about 7% of all the fresh water on earth. If it melted there would be an estimated 7 meter rise in sea levels worldwide. The highest point of the inland ice is 3,300 metres above sea level.
  • The sun does not set from May 25th to July 25th, so Greenland is known as The Land of the Midnight Sun. June 21st, the longest day of the year, is a national holiday. July is the only month when Greenland's temperature rises above freezing.
  • The inhabitants of Greenland are Inuit, coming from Canada, but originally from Central Asia.
  • Greenland is a great place to live, if you love nature, don't mind the cold and are happy to to live in a small community.
  •  The total population is 56,081 (2020), making it the least densely populated territory in the world.
  • The capital is Nuuk, with 15,469 inhabitants, so that's the place to head if you're feeling lonely.
  • Traditional food, unsurprisingly, is heavily based on meat from marine mammals, mainly seal and whale. Reindeer, muskox, birds and other game are also eaten. The national dish of Greenland is a meat soup called suaasat. This is based on seal, whale and reindeer or seabirds.

What to See in Greenland?

Again, Greenland is a great place to holiday, if you love the outdoors and don't mind the cold. The scenery, especially the icebergs and glaciers, is spectacular. And there are plenty of activities on offer - walking, kayaking etc. I stayed in Ilulissat and went on a boat trip in Disko Bay, took a freezing husky sled ride and had great views of the Northern Lights.

How to Get to Greenland?

From the UK, you can fly via Copenhagen or Iceland. There are also boat cruises that call there.

Is Greenland Expensive To Visit?

Greenland is very expensive to visit. Flights and hotels are both costly and nearly all food has to be imported.

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