Tourism in Greenland is growing in popularity, but why? Why is this industry so important and how should it best be managed? Read on to find out…
Tourism in Greenland
Greenland, the world’s largest island, beckons as a realm where nature’s grandeur meets timeless traditions. With its expansive ice caps juxtaposed against fjords, and the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights, Greenland promises an unparalleled travel experience. This article offers an insightful foray into Greenland’s tourism landscape, revealing a destination where nature’s wonders and rich cultural tapestry come to life.
Geographical overview of Greenland
Greenland is the world’s largest island and is located in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the North American continent and is politically a territory of Denmark. The island covers an area of approximately 2,166,086 square kilometres, making it the world’s largest non-continental island.
The majority of Greenland’s land is covered in ice, with the Greenland Ice Sheet covering approximately 80% of the island’s surface. The ice sheet is up to 3 kilometres thick in some places and holds the world’s second-largest reserve of freshwater after Antarctica.
The coastline of Greenland is extremely rugged and indented, with many fjords, bays, and small islands. The country’s western coast is particularly mountainous, with peaks reaching over 3,000 metres in height. The eastern coast is less mountainous, with a number of large, flat-topped mountains and valleys.
Greenland’s climate is classified as Arctic, with cold temperatures and short, cool summers. The coastal areas of the island are generally milder than the interior, where the ice sheet dominates.
In terms of flora and fauna, Greenland has a relatively limited range of plant and animal life due to its harsh climate and largely ice-covered landscape. However, there are a few species of Arctic plants and animals that are adapted to the extreme conditions, including musk oxen, Arctic foxes, and polar bears. Additionally, the waters surrounding Greenland are home to a variety of marine life, including whales, seals, and fish.
The tourism industry in Greenland
Greenland is a unique and increasingly popular destination for tourists who are seeking an authentic Arctic experience. Due to its remote location and pristine natural environment, Greenland offers visitors a chance to experience a truly untouched wilderness.
The tourism industry in Greenland is still relatively small, but it is growing steadily each year. The country offers a wide range of activities and experiences for visitors, including hiking, dog sledding, skiing, wildlife watching, cultural experiences with the indigenous Inuit people, and the opportunity to witness the spectacular Northern Lights.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Greenland is the town of Ilulissat, which is located on the west coast of the country and is home to the famous Ilulissat Icefjord. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a breathtaking sight and offers visitors the chance to witness huge icebergs calving from the glacier and floating out to sea.
Other popular tourist destinations in Greenland include the capital city of Nuuk, which has a rich cultural heritage and offers a range of cultural experiences and attractions, and the town of Kangerlussuaq, which is located near the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet and offers opportunities for hiking and wildlife watching.
The tourism industry in Greenland is still relatively small, but it is seen as an important economic driver for the country’s future. The government of Greenland is actively working to promote sustainable tourism practices that respect the fragile natural environment and the cultural traditions of the Inuit people.
Statistics about tourism in Greenland
The tourism industry in Greenland is still relatively small compared to other countries, but it is growing steadily each year. Here are 10 key statistics about tourism in Greenland:
- In 2019, Greenland received approximately 37,000 tourists, which represents a 10% increase from the previous year.
- The majority of tourists to Greenland come from Europe, particularly Denmark, which is Greenland’s colonial power, and other Nordic countries.
- The tourism industry in Greenland generates approximately 3% of the country’s GDP.
- The number of cruise ships visiting Greenland has been increasing in recent years, with 70 cruise ships visiting in 2019, up from 35 in 2010.
- The most popular tourist destinations in Greenland are the towns of Ilulissat, Nuuk, and Kangerlussuaq.
- The average length of stay for tourists in Greenland is approximately 8 days.
- In 2019, the most popular activities for tourists in Greenland were hiking and cultural experiences with the Inuit people.
- The tourism industry in Greenland is seen as an important economic driver for the country’s future, with the government actively working to promote sustainable tourism practices.
- The majority of accommodations in Greenland are small guesthouses and hotels, with a limited number of larger chain hotels.
Most popular tourist attractions in Greenland
Greenland is a vast and beautiful country with a wide range of natural and cultural attractions. Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Greenland:
- Ilulissat Icefjord: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in western Greenland and is home to the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, which is one of the most active and productive glaciers in the world. Visitors can take boat tours to see the glacier and its many icebergs up close.
- Nuuk: As the capital city of Greenland, Nuuk is the largest city in the country and offers visitors a mix of modern amenities and traditional Inuit culture. Visitors can explore the National Museum of Greenland, the Nuuk Art Museum, and the Katuaq cultural centre.
- Disko Island: This island off the west coast of Greenland is known for its stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. Visitors can take boat tours to see humpback whales, seals, and seabirds, or hike the island’s many trails to see the stunning glaciers and mountains.
- Qaqortoq: This picturesque town is located in southern Greenland and is known for its colourful houses, charming harbour, and rich history. Visitors can explore the town’s museums and galleries, or take a boat tour to nearby hot springs.
- Kangerlussuaq: This former U.S. military base is now a popular tourist destination and serves as the gateway to the Greenland Ice Sheet. Visitors can take guided tours of the ice sheet, or explore the nearby Russell Glacier.
- Uunartoq Hot Springs: These hot springs are located on an island in southern Greenland and are accessible only by boat. Visitors can soak in the warm waters while enjoying stunning views of the surrounding mountains and sea.
- Northern Lights: The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that can be seen from many parts of Greenland during the winter months. Visitors can take guided tours to see the Northern Lights and learn about the science behind this spectacular light show.
- Sisimiut: This town is located on the west coast of Greenland and is known for its traditional Inuit culture and outdoor activities. Visitors can hike the nearby mountains, go fishing, or take a dog sled tour.
- Qeqertarsuaq: This small town is located on an island off the west coast of Greenland and is known for its stunning fjords and hiking trails. Visitors can explore the town’s many historic buildings and museums, or take a boat tour to nearby glaciers.
- East Greenland: This remote and sparsely populated region of Greenland is known for its stunning scenery and wildlife. Visitors can take guided tours to see polar bears, walruses, and other Arctic wildlife, or explore the region’s many glaciers and fjords.
Most popular types of tourism in Greenland
Greenland offers a unique and remote destination for tourists seeking adventure, natural beauty, and cultural experiences. Here are some of the most popular types of tourism in Greenland:
- Adventure Tourism: Greenland is known for its stunning natural landscapes, and adventure tourism is one of the most popular types of tourism in the country. Activities such as hiking, kayaking, and dog sledding are popular among tourists looking for an adrenaline rush.
- Ecotourism: As a remote and largely untouched destination, ecotourism is a growing trend in Greenland. Tourists can explore the country’s vast and pristine wilderness areas, observe wildlife in their natural habitats, and learn about sustainable practices for preserving the environment.
- Cultural Tourism: Greenland has a rich cultural heritage, with many Inuit communities still living a traditional way of life. Tourists can visit local villages, meet with Inuit elders, and learn about the country’s history and cultural practices.
- Northern Lights Tourism: The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, is a natural phenomenon that can be seen from many parts of Greenland. Northern Lights tourism is growing in popularity, with tourists coming to Greenland during the winter months to witness this spectacular light show.
- Cruise Tourism: Greenland is a popular destination for cruise ships, with many visitors arriving by boat to explore the country’s many fjords, glaciers, and coastal towns.
- Photography Tourism: With its stunning natural landscapes and unique culture, Greenland is a popular destination for photographers. Tourists can capture images of the country’s glaciers, icebergs, wildlife, and traditional Inuit communities.
- Skiing and Snowboarding: Greenland has several ski resorts and backcountry skiing areas that attract tourists looking for a winter sports adventure.
- Fishing Tourism: Greenland is known for its excellent fishing opportunities, with tourists coming to the country to fish for salmon, trout, and Arctic char.
- Wellness Tourism: With its clean air, pristine nature, and remote location, Greenland is an ideal destination for tourists seeking a wellness experience. Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and yoga, or relax in hot springs and spas.
- Research Tourism: Greenland is also a popular destination for researchers and scientists studying climate change, Arctic ecology, and other environmental topics. Visitors can participate in research expeditions and learn about the latest scientific discoveries in the region.
Economic impacts of tourism in Greenland
Tourism has the potential to be a significant source of revenue for Greenland’s economy. Here are some of the economic impacts of tourism in Greenland:
- Job creation: The tourism industry creates jobs in various sectors, including transportation, accommodation, food and beverage services, and tour operations. These jobs provide income and employment opportunities for local residents.
- Increased revenue: Tourism generates revenue through taxes, fees, and direct spending by tourists. This revenue can be used to support local infrastructure development and community services.
- Diversification of the economy: Tourism provides an opportunity for Greenland to diversify its economy beyond traditional industries such as fishing and mining.
- Small business development: Tourism can provide opportunities for small businesses to thrive, such as local tour operators, souvenir shops, and restaurants.
- Improved standard of living: The revenue generated by tourism can improve the standard of living for local residents by providing funds for community development, education, and healthcare.
- Preservation of cultural heritage: Tourism can provide incentives for the preservation of cultural heritage sites and traditions, which can promote local pride and community engagement.
- Increased foreign investment: A thriving tourism industry can attract foreign investment, which can provide additional funding for infrastructure and economic development.
However, tourism also has potential negative economic impacts, such as overreliance on the industry, competition for resources, and environmental degradation. Careful management and planning are necessary to ensure the positive economic impacts outweigh the negative ones.
Social impacts of tourism in Greenland
Tourism can have various social impacts on a destination, including positive and negative effects. Here are some of the social impacts of tourism in Greenland:
- Cultural exchange: Tourism can promote cultural exchange between visitors and locals, helping to preserve and promote local traditions, languages, and customs.
- Job creation: Tourism creates jobs, which can help reduce unemployment and improve the standard of living for local residents.
- Improved infrastructure: Tourism development can lead to improved infrastructure such as transportation, communication, and health facilities, which can benefit both visitors and locals.
- Community pride: Tourism can instil a sense of pride in local communities and encourage the preservation of cultural heritage and traditions.
- Increased awareness: Tourism in Greenland can raise awareness of local social and environmental issues and promote sustainable development practices.
- Cultural erosion: Uncontrolled tourism development can lead to cultural erosion, where local cultures and traditions are overshadowed by commercial interests and international tourism culture.
- Social disruption: Large numbers of tourists can disrupt local social structures and daily life, especially in small communities where tourism is concentrated.
- Pressure on resources: Tourism in Greenland can put pressure on local resources such as water, food, and energy, leading to competition and shortages.
- Gentrification: Tourism development can drive up prices and make living costs unaffordable for locals, leading to gentrification and social inequality.
- Loss of authenticity: Tourism development can lead to the commodification of local culture, resulting in a loss of authenticity and cultural heritage.
It’s essential to manage tourism sustainably, balancing the positive and negative impacts on the destination’s social, cultural, and economic well being. Sustainable tourism development should prioritise community engagement, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation while providing meaningful experiences for visitors.
Environmental impacts of tourism in Greenland
Tourism in Greenland has the potential to impact the local environment, which is sensitive and fragile due to its Arctic climate and limited resources. Here are some of the environmental impacts of tourism in Greenland:
- Carbon emissions: Tourism in Greenland often involves long-haul flights, which contribute to carbon emissions and climate change. Additionally, the use of fossil fuels to power accommodation and transportation can also increase carbon emissions.
- Waste generation: Increased tourism in Greenland can lead to an increase in waste generation, which can impact the local environment. Proper waste management and disposal systems are essential to minimise the negative impact of tourism.
- Land use: Tourism development can lead to land use changes, such as the construction of hotels, lodges, and other infrastructure, which can impact the local ecosystem and wildlife.
- Wildlife disturbance: Tourism can also disturb local wildlife, especially in areas where animals are sensitive to human presence. The disturbance can alter the animals’ behaviour, causing stress and affecting their natural habitats.
- Water pollution: Increased tourism in Greenland can lead to water pollution, such as the release of untreated wastewater and chemicals from activities such as fishing and boating.
- Glacier retreat: Climate change and the increased use of fossil fuels associated with tourism can contribute to the retreat of glaciers, which can impact the local environment and wildlife.
It’s crucial to manage tourism sustainably in Greenland, considering its unique environment and limited resources. Sustainable tourism development should prioritise environmental conservation, minimise the negative impact on the local environment, and promote responsible tourism practices. The Greenlandic government has set strict regulations to ensure that tourism activities are sustainable and responsible, protecting the environment and preserving the local culture and traditions.
Budget requirements when visiting Greeland
FAQs about tourism in Greenland
Now that we know a bit more about tourism in Greenland, lets answer some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic:
What is the best time of year to visit Greenland?
The best time to visit Greenland is during the summer months from June to August, when the weather is relatively mild and the days are long. However, the northern lights can be seen from September to April.
Do I need a visa to visit Greenland?
If you are a citizen of a Nordic country or the EU, you do not need a visa to visit Greenland. Other nationalities should check with the Danish consulate or embassy in their home country.
How do I get to Greenland?
The easiest way to get to Greenland is by air. There are several airports in Greenland, with the main ones being Kangerlussuaq and Nuuk. Flights are available from Copenhagen, Denmark and Reykjavik, Iceland.
Is it safe to drink the water in Greenland?
Yes, it is generally safe to drink the water in Greenland. Tap water is safe to drink in most places, but bottled water is also readily available.
What is the official currency of Greenland?
The official currency of Greenland is the Danish krone. Most places accept major credit cards as well.
What languages are spoken in Greenland?
The official language of Greenland is Greenlandic, but Danish is also widely spoken. English is also spoken in many tourist areas.
What is the local culture like in Greenland?
The local culture in Greenland is influenced by its indigenous Inuit population, and traditional practices such as hunting and fishing are still an important part of the culture. Visitors are encouraged to respect local customs and traditions.
What are some popular activities to do in Greenland?
Popular activities in Greenland include hiking, kayaking, dog sledding, skiing, and viewing the northern lights.
Are there any restrictions on photography in Greenland?
There are no restrictions on photography in Greenland, but visitors are encouraged to respect local customs and traditions when taking photographs.
What is the best way to explore Greenland?
The best way to explore Greenland is to take a guided tour or hire a local guide. This will allow you to experience the local culture and see the natural beauty of the country while staying safe and respecting the environment.
To conclude- Tourism in Greenland
So, that sums up this article about tourism in Greenland. Greenland, with its pristine landscapes and enduring traditions, offers a travel experience like no other. As we conclude our journey through its majestic fjords and vibrant communities, it’s evident that Greenland’s magic lies in its ability to intertwine the vastness of nature with the warmth of its people. A trip to Greenland isn’t just a holiday; it’s a deep dive into a world both ancient and ever-present, leaving an indelible mark on the heart of every traveller.
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