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Remote Greenland is the world's biggest island, while the sea that surrounds it is either permanently frozen or chilled by the mainly cold currents. In the centre of the country, ice can be up to 3km (2 miles) thick. No wonder that most of the population huddles around the ice-free coastal region. Indeed, the name 'Greenland' is a bit of a misnomer, although there are sheep-laden green fields in the south.
Those wondering why anyone would want to inhabit such unforgiving terrain are ignoring the beautiful sights that Greenland grants. The arctic nights in the winter concoct a wondrous continuous twilight. In the far north of the country, complete darkness is coupled with the spectacular Northern Lights during the coldest months. While Greenland may not be top of many travellers' bucket lists, where else can you visit such raw and unspoilt landscapes?
The profusion of snow creates the perfect conditions for activities such as dog sledging and tour cruises, which interweave in and out of Greenland's dazzling array of fjords, mountains, islands and icebergs. You can even go kayaking in the waters, though best to play it safe. The wildlife does not disappoint, either: there is an abundance of whales, seals and birds in the area.
There are hardly any roads on the island, so expect to fork out for boat travel, or even helicopter journeys. The upshot is that glacial vistas, yawning fjords and soaring mountains are all there for the taking. Definitely bring a camera.
Although Greenland's appeal rests with its wondrous nature, there are a few thousand Greenlanders living on the sparsely populated island, and on the western coast they offer up a handful of picturesque villages. Mostly living in brightly painted wooden cottages, Greenlanders may have a reputation for being rather closed, but give them time and space, and you will discover a truly compelling culture, one that fuses both Inuit and Danish heritage.
With transport options and tourism agencies having improved travelling conditions of late, there's never been a better time to visit Greenland.
Greenland is the world's biggest island. The surrounding seas are either permanently frozen or chilled by cold currents.
The inland area is covered with ice, stretching 2,500km (1,500 miles) north-south and 1,000km (600 miles) east-west. In the centre, the ice can be up to 3km (2 miles) thick.
The ice-free coastal region, which is sometimes as wide as 200km (120 miles), covers a total of 410,449 sq km (158,475 sq miles), and is where all of the population is to be found. This region is intersected by deep fjords which connect the inland ice area with the sea.Government:
Self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark.Head Of State:
HM Queen Margrethe II since 1972.Head Of Government:
Prime Minister Kim Kielsen since 2014.Electricity:
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used, sometimes with a third grounding pin.Timezone:
Danish Krone (DKK; symbol kr) = 100 øre. Notes are in denominations of kr1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of kr20, 10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50 and 25 øre.Credit Cards:
Credit cards are restricted to the major towns and most hotels. Some major towns, like Ilulissat, have ATMs.ATMs:
Some major towns, like Ilulissat, have ATMs.Travellers Cheques:
Cheques in major currencies may be exchanged as indicated in the currency exchange section above. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Pounds Sterling or US Dollars. However, exchanging traveller's cheques in Greenland has been reported to be problematic.Banking Hours:
Mon-Thurs 0930-1530; Fri 0930-1500.Currency Restrictions:
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared if travelling from or to a country outside the European Union.Currency Exchange:
Cheques drawn on Danish banks can be cashed at banks and cash can also be exchanged. Postal cheques can be cashed at all post offices. Grønlandsbanken (PO Box 1033, DK-3900 Nuuk; tel: 70 1234; www.banken.gl), has branches in Nuuk, Sisimiut, Oaqortoq, Ilulissat and Maniitsoq. KNI/POST represents the bank in other towns and villages. There is no banking service in Søndre Strømfjord at present.Currencies: Exchange Rates:
- 1 AUD = 5.25 DKK
- 1 EUR = 7.44 DKK
- 1 GBP = 8.69 DKK
- 1 USD = 6.58 DKK
Best Time To Visit:
Greenland has an Arctic climate, but owing to the size of the country there are great variations in the weather. As the climate graph shows, winters can be severe and the summers comparatively mild, particularly in areas which are sheltered from the prevailing winds. Precipitation, mostly snow, is moderately heavy around the coast. The north of the country, and much of the interior, enjoys true Arctic weather, with the temperature only rising above freezing for brief periods in the summer.Required Clothing:
Conditions in all parts of the country can become hazardous when there is a combination of a low temperature and a strong wind. Local advice concerning weather conditions should be followed very carefully. Nevertheless, the summer months are suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities.
Good-quality windproof and waterproof clothes, warm layers and moulded sole shoes at all times of the year; also some slightly thinner clothes - it is important to be able to change clothing during a day's climbing as temperatures can vary greatly during one day. Sunglasses and protective sun lotion are strongly advised. In July and August, mosquitoes can be a problem, especially inside the fjords and so a mosquito net can prove indispensable. Extra warm clothes are necessary for those contemplating dog-sledge expeditions. Extra clothes are not always available for hire in Greenland.