Be dazzled by the northern lights
If there is one thing about Greenland that makes your trip a truly humbling experience, it is the sight of the fascinating Aurora Borealis.
Imagine standing on the icy ground with your eyes looking straight up. Right above, you can see the glow of soft, green light as it gracefully dances against the backdrop of a night sky.
The religious experience leaves spectators in awe. The closest that the rest of humanity could come to seeing such a wonderful celestial sight is by using up so much energy to ignite the heavens with loud-yet-brief fireworks displays.
But in places like Greenland, such light shows occur quietly and regularly almost every time the sky is clear and the sun is far, far away.
The Inuits used to say that each strand of the northern lights was the soul of a dead person, and the combined strands we see is actually a team of souls playing soccer in the sky, using a walrus skull for their ball!
Today, this belief has been relegated to just being a mere legend. Still, the fascination and the magic of the northern lights remain.
See the icebergs
Over 80% of Greenland is covered with ice. A great ice sheet dominates much of the inland features, particularly in the northeast, that the Greenlanders thought it would be best to leave it unsettled. A national park has even been set aside to make sure the landscape remains unspoiled.
From the ice sheet come the icebergs. These huge chunks of frozen water break away from the ice mass to drift into open waters, and like massive cruising ships on its way to a dream destination, the crest of some of these monoliths can reach 15 storeys high.
They say no two icebergs are alike, and you only get to see the tip of these floating sculptures as the base remains a mystery. These icebergs are best seen during summer, when the midnight sun casts a long, lonely shadow over the horizon.
Why not sit at the edge of a cliff and find inner peace while watching these monoliths slowly drift into the sea?
Stay up and watch the midnight sun
There are a few places on earth where the sun never sets. Instead, it stays on the horizon for months and bathes the landscape in a deep orange light.
One of these places where you can experience this semi-eternal sunshine is in Greenland.
And how this sunshine befits the place! The towns north of the Arctic Circle practically compel you to take a stroll along their empty streets. With the sun still peeking just behind the mountains at two in the morning and the world completely still because everyone else is asleep, the surreal tranquility and strangeness of your surroundings will take your breath away.
The higher you go up the Arctic Circle, the longer the White Nights become. There are places in Greenland where the sun never sets for five months of the year.
The only time when you might not appreciate the light is when your watch tells you it’s time to go to sleep but your eyes and your mind keep telling you it’s still daytime.
There is no need to fret when it’s bedtime, though. All hotel rooms have blackout curtains to make sure you do not lose any sleep due to the persistent sun.
Drive a dogsled
A pack of twelve wolflike dogs restlessly waiting for the signal to go, a wooden sled with seats warmed by reindeer hides, and a featureless landscape in an ocean of ice — where the road ends, the adventure begins.
In some parts of Greenland, the only way to reach the next village is by dogsled.
The dogsled has been the mode of transportation in Greenland long before snowmobiles and helicopters were imported from Denmark. Its use is still popular in villages north of the Arctic Circle and in the eastern towns of Tasiilaq and Ittoqqortoormiit.
While there’s a big chance that you will end up being the passenger rather than the driver, it is possible to get a dogsled license in Tasiilaq. Before being allowed to drive a dogsled on your own, you will get a couple of days’ training, which is an experience in itself.
The months of February to April are the best for dogsledding. While it is not possible to drive a dogsled in larger cities such as Nuuk, the southern tourist towns of Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq still allow dogsleds on its streets during winter and spring.
With vast, untouched landscapes open for discovery, Greenland is and will always be a hiker’s paradise. The wilderness beckons just a breath away from the town center. Each town sets up hiking trails for tourists, and an hour or two of walking will let you experience what Greenland is without people – pristine nature.
In towns like Ilulissat, a hiking trip will reward you with the breathtaking sight of ice fjords and glaciers.
Hire a guide not just to learn more about the plants and animals you see on the way but also to hear more about the area’s local history.
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