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Greenland is a country of enormous contrasts. Greenland is the largest island in the world and has the smallest population. Greenland is full of surprises, impressive facts and contrasts. Why is the country called Greenland = grassland, when it is covered to 80% by white ice?

Things to know about Greenland

If you are planning a trip to Greenland, you should find out about a few interesting, sometimes funny and definitely interesting facts. Greenland is very different from other countries and regions of the world. Greenland is truly incomparable in this world.

How big is Greenland?

Greenland is the largest island in the world with an area of 2,175,600 km2. The area of Greenland is larger than that of France, Germany, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, Greece, Switzerland and Belgium combined.

Facts about Greenland’s geography

Maybe you’ll take part in a quiz about Greenland one day. Then it is of course good if you know the following facts and figures.

  • It is 2,670 km from the North Cape to the South Cape in Greenland.
  • From east to west Greenland measures 1,050 km.
  • The smallest distance to the nearest neighbour, Canada, is 26 km.
  • The highest point of Greenland is Gunnbjørns Fjeld with 3.733 m above sea level.
  • The southernmost point of Greenland is called in Danish “Kap Farvel” (German: “Kap Wiedersehen”).
  • The northernmost point of Greenland is Cape Morris Jessup.
  • The westernmost point of Greenland is Cape Alexander.
  • The easternmost point of Greenland is called in Danish Nordostrundingen (The North-East Rounding).
  • Greenland lies both east, west, south and north of Iceland.

It can be astonishing that the southernmost point of Greenland is at the same latitude as Oslo in Norway, while the westernmost point is at the same longitude as New York. Greenland’s northernmost point is Cape Morris Jessup, which is only 740 km from the North Pole. Further north there are two small islands, the island “Kaffeklubben” (Danish for coffee club) and the island “Oodaaq”. However, they are so small that they are not included in the distance measurement.

How far does the Greenland ice sheet stretch?

About 80% of Greenland is permanently under ice. It is located in the middle of the island and is called “inland ice” or “ice sheet”. It is also the largest glacier in the world, several kilometres thick and in some places so heavy that it has pushed the land mass of Greenland well below sea level.

Wild facts about Greenland’s ice sheet

  • The inland ice covers 1.8 million km2.
  • The inland ice has a volume of 2.85 million m3.
  • The ice sheet contains approx. 7% of the world’s drinking water reserves.
  • The ice sheet is up to 3,500 m thick.

In which time zone is Greenland?

Greenland extends over three time zones, including the Thule air base. However, travellers in Greenland can simply refer to only one time zone, as almost all of Greenland sets its clocks according to the English Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) minus three hours. In Greenland, the time is 4 hours behind the Central European Time Zone (CET).

In the city whose name is hard to pronounce for non-Greenlanders, Ittoqqortoormiit on the east coast, they use GMT -1, and on Thule Air Base they use the East American time GMT -4.

Facts about Greenland’s population

If there’s one thing we can tell you about the Greenlanders, it’s this one: The Greenlanders are warm and friendly people. Visitors to Greenland, as their greatest experience in the country, often emphasise how warmly and cordially the Greenlanders met them.

How many people live in Greenland?

Greenlanders are one of the smallest peoples in the world. Greenland has about 56,500 inhabitants. Most of them were born here, but about 11% moved to Greenland from Denmark or other countries. Population growth is currently stagnating.

Where do the Greenlanders live?

If 80% of Greenland is covered by ice, where do Greenlanders actually live? – Along the coasts, of course. The ice-free areas of Greenland make up about 410,500 km2. This is about the size of Norway and almost ten times the size of Denmark.

Almost the entire population of Greenland lives in South Greenland and West Greenland, while only about 10% live in East Greenland and North Greenland. The living conditions and supply possibilities are simply better in the south and west than in the east and north. However, the inhabitants of the north and east live more like the original hunters or “catchers”, as they say.

Most of Greenland’s population lives in cities. 48,000 inhabitants live in 16 cities and the remaining 8,500 people live in the 60 settlements of Greenland. (In Danish you will often come across the word “bygd” for “settlement” or “small town in the far north”).

The capital of Greenland is Nuuk. Nuuk is located in West Greenland and with about 16,500 inhabitants is the largest city on the large island. The other big cities of Greenland are Sisimiut, Ilulissat and Qaqortoq. The largest of them is Sisimiut with about 5,500 inhabitants. – In view of such dimensions, the statement that most Greenlanders live in “cities” is relativized a little, of course.

Immigration to Greenland

Immigration to Greenland took place in four phases. Simplified immigration from the West by Inuit tribes was followed by immigration by Europeans from the East.

Saqqaq, Dorset and the Thule Cultures

About 4,500 years ago the first Inuit of the so-called Saqqaq culture settled in the country. About 2,500 years ago the Dorset culture followed from the West. However, many Greenlanders today are descendants of the Thule culture, which came to the country about 1,000 – 1,100 years ago.

The first two large immigration groups of Inuit are called Paleo-Eskimos. They once led a “primitive” life in the tundra, a large plain where they hunted reindeer and musk oxen. The later immigrated people of the Thule cultures are called “Neo-Eskimos”. They built their lives on catching animals from the sea.

Almost simultaneously with the Thule people came settlers from the north, from Iceland, who settled in the fertile south. During the 500 years they lived in Greenland, they built their farms from the southernmost tip of Greenland up to the Nuuk Fjord. These settlers were the first inhabitants of Greenland not to be attributed to any Inuit culture.

Sermermiut in Disko Bay on Ilulissat Ice Fjord is one of the most visited places in Greenland. The view of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord and the short distance to the village make Sermermiut a popular destination for visitors. In its 4,000-year history, Sermermiut has been the settlement of several Inuit cultures. With a well-informed guide at your side you can explore the remains of some of these settlements.