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Greenland Cruises

About Greenland

Sitting high north in the Arctic Ocean, Greenland has long been misunderstood. Upon its first discovery in the 10th century, when a small group of Norse Vikings led by Erik the Red called it Groenland, meaning “green land,” it was in hopes of attracting more settlers. Today, the island-nation is far from green, covered almost entirely by a large ice sheet. But its coastal towns and villages are spared the glacial atmosphere that freezes the inland regions. Indeed, the ice-free coast, characterized by homes and hamlets, is a quiet, tranquil place that relies on the sea and a narrow skirt of land for its survival.

The Norse established three main settlements in Greenland: the Eastern, Western and Middle. But they were not the first to settle here. The indigenous Dorset people had lived off the land and the ocean for many hundreds of years before. Over the next few centuries, Thule and Inuit tribes arrived and the island was visited by expeditions from Portugal and Denmark. When Norway entered into a union with the Danish crown in 1380, the Norse settlements lost their influence, though they didn’t entirely cede their land to Denmark until the 1814 Treaty of Kiel.

During World War II, after Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany, the United States stepped in to occupy Greenland to protect it from a possible Nazi invasion. After the war, the US offered to purchase Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000, but was rejected. In 1953, Greenland was incorporated as a Danish equal. Today, the country retains control over some internal matters, with the Parliament of Denmark preserving control of external policies and security.

Greenland Lifestyle and Culture

Given that many Greenlandic people are descendants of the Inuit, modern island culture shares much in common with that of its ancestors. Ice fishing, hiking and dog racing are all common activities, enriching locals and travelers alike. Over 81 percent of Greenlanders identify as Inuit, and hunting is a vital component of their lifestyle. Many hunt part-time for both food and pelts.

Greenlandic music has been influenced by Inuit and Danish tradition and often takes cues from popular music in the United States and the United Kingdom. The traditional music of eastern and northeastern settlements includes storytelling elements, drums and occasionally religious elements.

Sports also play an important role in Greenlandic culture; a large percentage of the island’s population maintains some form of athleticism. Given Greenland’s climate and landscape, hiking, ice climbing, fishing, rock climbing, skiing and snowboarding are all popular forms of recreation.

Traditional Greenlandic dishes derive mostly from meat collected by Inuit hunters—locals dine on birds, fish, game and marine mammals. After colonization and international trade were introduced to the area, Danish and Canadian cuisine influenced modern Greenlandic food. Suaasat, a traditional Greenlandic soup made with seal, whale, or reindeer, is the country’s national dish. Shrimp, mussels, deepwater redfish and Atlantic halibut are also popular.

Greenland Sights and Landmarks

The seaside town of Qaqortoq is one of many tiny settlements you’ll find along the Greenland coast. Its hills are speckled with colorful houses sporting bright reds, greens, yellows and blues. There are a number of interesting attractions within the town, including the Qaqortoq museum, housed in one of its oldest buildings. Originally a blacksmith’s shop built in 1804, the structure now hosts a collection of Norse and Inuit artifacts from boats to clothing to hunting equipment.

In the early 1990s, Qaqortoq was transformed into an open air art gallery by local artist Aka Høegh. His “Stone and Man” project united eighteen artists from five nations to sculpt the rocks and boulders throughout Qaqortoq. Visitors can view over 40 incredible sculptures sprinkled throughout the town, each embodying its creator’s own inventive flair.