Kalaallit Nunaannut tikilluaritsi! (Welcome to Greenland!)

Greenland is preparing to receive the largest number of people ever to gather in its capital, Nuuk, at one time when the 2016 AWGs start March 6. Tourism officials are eager to promote the attractions in the city and around the capital region in the country's southern extreme, where most of the population resides.Photo courtesy of Tourism Greenland.

It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a country to create a successful Arctic Winter Games.

That is the story from Sarah Woodall, a Tourism Greenland official who deals with North American media.

“It’s going to be the biggest event we’ve ever had in Greenland, and the amount of dedication and involvement from people all over Greenland in the last year, plus to make the committees and volunteer work and all the small tasks, is really a testament to how much we’re looking forward to it,” she said. “We are so very excited to host the circumpolar delegations to Greenland for Arctic Winter Games in March.”

Greenland likes to lay claim to the Big Arctic Five concept, a play on the “big five” great beasts roaming the African continent: the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and White/Black rhinoceros, known as the five hardest animals to hunt on foot. In Greenland, they are proud of their pioneering people, dogsledding, the Northern Lights, whales, and last but not least, ice and snow.

“Every story we tell – even if it’s about nature – has some human element involved,” Woodall said. “In Greenland the nature and culture are not separated; in fact they cannot be separated.”

The most popular tourist activities are by far sailing, hiking/walking, flightseeing, and city tours. In winter, dog sledding is definitely a key attraction, too, but there are other unique activities like snowshoeing, glacier walking, ice fishing for halibut, staying in fishing camps and going for Arctic Char.

Hiking is one of the most popular ways to explore Greenland.

Photo: Photo courtesy of Tourism Greenland

Hiking is one of the most popular ways to explore Greenland.

Greenland is a nation of diversity and the Greenlandic people are proud of their vast diversity: Arctic metropolis to small settlement, modern and cosmopolitan to traditional, extreme cold in winter to surprisingly warmth in summer, advanced architecture to farm country and rugged, pristine outback.

“An exciting thing about Greenland is that it really is much more accessible than most people think,” Woodall said. “Particularly for North Americans, Reykjavík is an incredibly valuable connection point. There are two year-round routes (Nuuk is one of them) that connect Greenland via Reykjavík, plus another three seasonal routes. So in fact you can reach all five tourism regions of Greenland in less than three hours’ flight time.”

The capital of Nuuk, which they call the Arctic metropolis, has tourism options year-round. There’s great opportunities for whale watching in Nuuk summer, as the same pod of eight-12 whales travels annually between the Caribbean and Nuuk to feed. “In summer, it’s all about hiking in the backcountry which is just outside the front door, sailing into Nuuk Fjord, which is one of the most intricate fjord systems in the world, or the handful of surrounding fjords,” Woodall said. “You can fish there, visit small weekend huts, and you can even have a lunch of Thai specialities in the fjord and sail home afterward.”

In winter, you can bring skis and go cross-country skiing, plus there is a downhill ski and snowboard mountain and snowmobile rentals.

Throughout Greenland, transportation is either by plane or more commonly helicopter, or by boat. There is also a passenger ferry that sails up and down the west coast nine months a year, which Woodall said is a “fantastic little package” for getting to experience the scale of Greenland: the full spectrum of big city and small settlement, the farm land in the south to the tall and very old mountains in the north, and nature versus culture.

“Three-quarters of the passengers are locals using this ferry as a transportation not a tour, so the opportunity to sit at the café tables with Greenlanders and try a conversation about life in Greenland is there 24 hours a day.”

If you have time, check out:

  • North Greenland – focusing on Ilulissat, the international airport town, which is a winter and summer destination – all about ice, ice, ice all year round – and Disko Bay and the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Destination Arctic Circle – focusing on Sisimiut, a coastal town which is nice for walking and sailing – and on Kangerlussuaq as well which gives the very best access to the Greenland Ice sheet all year ‘round.
  • South Greenland – Garden of Greenland – farms, Viking culture, and hot springs.
  • East Greenland – wild and remote – considered exotic to even Greenlanders who have never left the west coast.

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