22 May 2017 by Simon Langley
There’s more than a touch of the Nordic humour about Greenland – a country of great, icy wildernesses named by its Viking discoverer to inspire others to join him there. In a similar vein, locals have started to refer to their southern shores as the ‘Banana Coast’. These are the same climes that, each winter, host millennia-old glaciers that ooze down mountainsides and giant icebergs that drift lazily down fissured straits. Indeed, it’s over the colder months that Greenland shines, with the likes of snowmobiling, snowshoeing and even dogsledding further north. It’s all backdropped by the Northern Lights, when the night sky comes alive with dancing greens and sweeping reds.
However, although this certainly isn’t the Caribbean, the tongue isn’t quite firmly in cheek. Thanks to a favourable microclimate, southern Greenland in summer is often warmer than more southerly American equivalents, averaging around 10° C and reaching highs of 20. Hillsides thaw into green, sheep-dotted pastures and hiking trails open up as wildflowers bloom. These sweeping landscapes are made that bit more idyllic by the Midnight Sun’s ethereal glow.
But, for the quintessential Greenlandic experience, be sure to take a dip in one of southern Greenland’s famed hot springs. Here, you can float in 38° C warmth as icebergs float past and green landscapes roll on. There are even pools reached only by pretty hikes for a true off-the-beaten track experience. Otherwise, take a walk out to a hidden waterfall for an invigorating dip in the ice-cool meltwater.
For something truly unique, you can even combine a summer trip with a hunt for the Northern Lights. Thanks to its southerly latitude, the region not only sits right in the middle of the aurora belt but it also enjoys inky-dark lights as early as late summer. This means it’s the only place in the world that you can combine a summer getaway with the Northern Lights’ celestial ballet.
In the warmer months, Southern Greenland also provides a ready supply of fresh vegetables grown in nutrient-rich soil. That said, it’s the seafood that really stands out. Expect the likes of snow crabs, Arctic char and Greenlandic shrimp, paired with fresh, locally sourced herbs. Fishing and hunting communities have been the country’s lifeblood for thousands of years, something that continues to this day in pretty harbours of multi-coloured houses. Enjoy hare and reindeer, hunted sustainably in the wild, just as the Inuit have done for thousands of years, as well as muskox and lamb. The latter is a particular highlight, sourced from local organic farms where sheep roam over those rolling green hills.
But, if you want a true taste of the island’s fascinating history, you’ll find that its Viking heritage lives on in ruined settlements hidden among dramatic landscapes. You can even visit the remains of ancient cathedrals and the farm of Erik the Red – Greenland’s 10th-century settler and the same that termed Greenland green. Or, pay a visit to the country’s other ancient inhabitants, the whales. Just as spring ushers in the sun’s rays, it also tempts these great cetaceans to Greenland’s waters, with boat trips offering privileged views of their mighty acrobatics.
However, unlike the Vikings or whales, you won’t have to brave an Atlantic voyage to get there. Using Copenhagen as a launchpad, Air Greenland offers regular flights to more than 30 airports across its homeland, putting the delights of Southern Greenland within easy reach.