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Greenland

Main attractions

Fjord in south-eastern part of Greenland
Fjord in the south-eastern part of Greenland / Visit Greenland, / CC BY 2.0

Although Greenland is the largest island in the world, its wonders and landmarks are surprisingly little known.

The middle part of the island is covered with ice shield but the extensive, jagged "rims" of the island are very interesting. Here are found unique minerals and rocks, hot springs, endemic plants, ruins of old Viking buildings (the only true medieval European architecture in America!).

Most memorable is the breathtaking scenery of this northern land. Greenland offers harsh, rugged sights, but in the late spring the meadows are covered with millions of flowers - and in the south could be found even a small forest!

Natural landmarks

Kullorsuaq, Greenland
Kullorsuaq - Devil's Thumb / Algkalv, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Cliffs

  • Ketil - Kujalleq. Very tall monolith resembling a very steep pyramid. This pinnacle rises more than 1 km tall above the surroundings.
  • Kullorsuaq (Devil's Thumb) - Qaasuitsup. Spectacular, 546 m tall rock pinnacle.
  • Maujit Qaqarssuasia (Thumbnail) - Kujalleq. One of the tallest cliffs in the world, rising 1,560 m tall over the fjord. It reaches this height over a distance of some 860 m. Located in one of the most rugged mountain regions of the world. It is well possible that there are taller and steeper cliffs elsewhere in Greenland.

Glaciers

  • Elephant Foot Glacier - Northeast Greenland National Park. Unusual glacier - giant poodle of ice. This near perfect circular glacier has a diameter of 5 km.
  • Ilulissat Icefjord (Kangia) - Qaasuitsup. Unique fjord with Sermeq Kujalleq glacier at its end. This is the most productive glacier in the Northern Hemisphere flowing 40 m per day and producing many icebergs. Many icebergs are up to 1 km high and remain stranded in the fjord until pushed by the force of glacier again.

Rare materials and gemstones

Ivittuut - former cryolite mine in Greenland
Ivittuut - former cryolite mine / Visit Greenland, / CC BY 2.0

Greenland has several unique or near unique finds of very rare natural materials.

  • Asuk beach, Uivfaq beach and other finds of raw iron in Disko Island - Qaasuitsup. Some of the richest finds of native iron in the world. Largest iron boulder was 22.7 tons heavy.
  • Ikaite tufa columns in Ikka Fjord - Sermersooq. Almost unique phenomenon - submarine tufa columns created by cold seeps from submarine springs. Columns are formed of ikaite - unstable mineral which disintegrates in temperatures above 6 - 7 ° C. In total here are more than 700 such columns up to 18 m tall.
  • Ilimaussaq intrusive complex - Kujalleq. Very unusual alcalic intrusion, 8 by 17 km large. Contains numerous unique types or rocks and many very rare minerals, uranium deposits and large deposits of rare earth elements and other rare metals.
  • Ivittuut - Sermersooq. Abandoned mining town, which developed around the only large find of cryolite in the world. Cryolite - important agent in extraction of aluminium - was discovered here in 1799, mining took place in 1859 - 1987. Today natural cryolite is replaced with synthetic one.
  • Kvanefjeld - Kujalleq. Second largest deposit of rare earth oxides in the world, also a very rich find of uranium. Minerals are enclosed in unique rock named lujavrite, some minerals are fluorescent.
  • Qeqertarsuatsiaat ruby find (Ruby Island) - Sermersooq. Rich find of gem quality rubies and sapphires - gemstones are included in anorthosite rock.

Fossil finds

  • Akilia sediments - Sermersooq. On the south-western tip of this small island are located possibly oldest sedimentary rocks on Earth, 3.85 billion years old. It is possible that these rocks hint at the existance of life on Earth, thus, possibly challenging the current views on the development of life on Earth.
  • Ymer Island - Northeast Greenland National Park. Devonian sediments in this island have provided rich and very interesting finds of fossils belonging to early fishes and tetrapods. Here have been discovered fossils of Ymeria and Ichthyostega.

Other natural landmarks

Uunartoq geothermal springs, Greenland
Uunartoq geothermal springs / Svíčková, / public domain
  • ATOW1996 - Northeast Greenland National Park. Northernmost documented point of land on Earth - some 10 m long and up to 1 m high island 708 km from the North Pole. Discovered in 1996. More northerly islands have been seen but it is not checked whether these lands are permanent. Often the Kaffeklubben Island and Oodaaq Island are announced as the northernmost lands - although these islands are located a bit more to the south.
  • Qorlortorsuaq (waterfall) - Kujalleq. Reportedly the largest waterfall in Greenland, although this enormous island has countless very tall and often - powerful waterfalls which are not listed.
  • Qinngua Valley - Kujalleq. The only forest in Greenland, with willows and birches several metres high. Valley has more than 300 species of plants. This is a place of unsurpassed beauty, with a clean river and tall, snow clad mountains around.
  • Uunartoq geothermal springs - Kujalleq. Group of warm springs, temperature of water - 34 - 38 ° C. The only hot springs in Greenland where one can bathe - and actively used for this. Next to the springs stand ruins of monastery, which was built circa 11th century.

Man made landmarks

Prehistoric heritage

  • Deltaterasserne - Northeast Greenland National Park. One of the largest archaeological sites in northernmost part of Greenland - Peary Land. These terraces were inhabited circa 4000 - 3700 BC by Independence I and Independence II cultures. Remnants include tent rings, hearth, pavements.
  • Qilakitsoq - Qaasuitsup. Settlement of native people, where has been excavated a tomb from 1460 AD. In the tomb were found eight mummified bodies and interesting samples of clothing which show a sense of fashion.
  • Qoornoq - Sermersooq. Old settlement, inhabited since at least 2200 BC (Saqqaq culture). Contains ruins of Inuit and Norse buildings.

Norse (Viking) heritage

Hvalsey Fjord Church, Greenland
Ruins of Hvalsey Fjord Church - the only remaining early medieval European structure in America / Visit Greenland, / CC BY 2.0
  • Brattahlíð - Kujalleq. Erik the Red's estate, established at the end of 10th century AD. Here most likely was built the first Christian church in New World - Þjóðhildarkirkja. This small chapel is reconstructed now. Another church was built in the 14th century, with tombstones and runes for Ingibjørg's Grave. The best farmland in Greenland is here.
  • Garðar - Kujalleq. The seat of Norse bishops in Greenland, established in 1126. Here was built Garðar Cathedral of St. Nicholas (12th century). Last bishop served here until 1378. Ruins of Norse settlement are seen here up to this day.
  • Hvalsey - Kujalleq. Best preserved Norse farmstead, established by Erik the Red's unkle Þorkell (Thorkell) Farserkur in the late 10th century. Here was built also Hvalsey Fjord Church. This church was built from enormous stone blocks, some up to 5 tons heavy. Fell in disuse in the 15th century.
  • Kingittorsuaq Runestone and cairns - Qaasuitsup. Northernmost Viking site. On the summit of this small, rocky island in 1824 was discovered Viking runestone which was located in the group of three cairns. Stone was engraved in 12th or 13th century, part of this inscription has not been deciphered and might be a secret, coded message.
  • Landnamsgaarden - Kujalleq. Ruins of homestead, built by Vikings circa 1000. This area contains many ruins of Norse buildings. Nearby are located some of the few plots of arable land in Greenland.

Historical buildings

Moravian Brethren Mission House, Nuuk
Moravian Brethren Mission House, Nuuk / Algkalv, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Bethel-kirken, Sisimiut - Qaasuitsup. Oldest standing church in Greenland, built in 1775.
  • Gammelhuset, Sisimiut - Qaasuitsup. Historical house, built in 1725.
  • Nuuk Cathedral - Sermersooq. Red wooden church building, constructed in 1849.
  • Moravian Brethren Mission House - Sermersooq, Nuuk. Large historical building, constructed in 1747 from a wood which was shipped from Netherlands. Served as a centre of Moravian Brethren Mission in Greenland.
  • Old Sisimiut - Qaasuitsup. Group of historical buildings from 18th and 19th centuries, part of them brought from nearby villages.
  • Paul Egede's house in Qasigiannguit - Qaasuitsup. The oldest surviving wooden building in Greenland, constructed in 1734 and moved to its present location in 1806. Now it serves as a museum.
  • Qaqortoq Museum - Kujalleq. Museum in one of the oldest buildings in the town, constructed in 1804. Museum informs about the rich local history. Next to museum stands even older building, constructed in 1797.
Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility, Greenland
Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility / Visit Greenland, / CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Ameralik Span - Sermersooq. The longest span of overhead powerline in the world. Length of span is 5,376 m, constructed in 1993.
  • Arboretum Groenlandicum - Kujalleq, at Narsarsuaq. Botanical garden with some 110 species of trees, in total - more than 50,000 trees.
  • Rosenvinges Trees - Kujalleq, at Narsarsuaq. Oldest planted trees in Greenland, planted in 1892. These four Scots pines have reached 5 m height. Elsewhere larch trees are up to 11 m tall.
  • Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility - Qeqqata. Ionospheric and atmospheric research facility with more than 20 instruments. Most recognizeable is L band incoherent scatter radar with 32 m large antenna.

List of described attractions by municipalities

Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. This largest island in the world is divided into four municipalities and unincorporated national park.

Kujalleq
ArrowQinngua ValleyEcosystems
Northeast Greenland National Park
Qaasuitsup (includes the Thule Air Base)
Qeqqata
Sermersooq

Map of Greenland