Most people cannot imagine an existence where snow dominates the calendar for the better half of a year. They cringe at the thought of long dark winter nights. For the locals who live in places like Greenland, however, the concept of polar nights is as regular as clockwork. Plus, there’s something cosy about it. And you’ll be surprised at how quickly the light comes back.

The lowdown on Winter in Greenland

  • The more North that you go, the longer that polar nights last. In Uummannaq (70° 40'N) there is darkness from October to about February. 
  • On the flip side, it gets about 2000 hours of sunshine during the summertime, collectively more hours than a regular city would experience down south.
  • You can check how many hours of light there are by clicking here.

Here’s a few things locals say and do during Wintertime:

They enjoy light from other sources. People expect polar nights to be complete darkness, but the locals often say that it’s brighter than you expect. The soft light coaxes out alluring shades of pastel pinks and blues in the dusky sky. When the sun has set (or if it never rose), the snow reflects the moonlight in the winter time, and the northern lights in the dark skies produce another form of brightness to the evening.

The light diminishes quickly heading towards the darkest evening of the year on the 21st of December. After this Winter Solstice, however, the light returns rapidly to Greenland, and becomes slightly brighter every day until the days of the midnight sun.

The light diminishes quickly heading towards the darkest evening of the year on the 21st of December. After this Winter Solstice, however, the light returns rapidly to Greenland, and becomes slightly brighter every day until the days of the midnight sun.

“We enjoy light from other sources than the sun, including the northern lights, the stars, the moonlight lighting up the land reflected in the snow. In preparation for Christmas, there are lots of festive lights, stars in windows and candles.” – Local from Maniitsoq.

The Danish word “hygge” comes to mind, but Greenlanders have made their own version of this word. Think tealight candles and hearty food like reindeer soup, playing music or games together and lots of storytelling (mainly involving ghost stories). 

‘Hygge’ at home

The Danish word “hygge” comes to mind, but Greenlanders have made their own version of this word. Think tealight candles and hearty food like reindeer soup, playing music or games together and lots of storytelling (mainly involving ghost stories).

The home is such an important concept in the North because friends and family spend more time indoors relaxing at home. The minimal number of restaurants in towns also mean that making food plays a very important part of life, creating a natural culture of good slow food. If you’re invited to a meal, you might be treated to a feast that was caught, carried and prepared by your host. How’s that for quality of life?

Embrace the winter wonderland!

So the snow is here to stay for awhile, ok? The locals don’t just accept it, they embrace it! Many locals take the time to do outdoor winter activities that are not possible during the summertime.

This could be as simple as catching the light whenever it is possible, be that taking a walk during the day, or snowshoeing on frozen fjords, cross country skiing near town, or ski touring in Greenland’s vast back country.

The traditional hunters of Greenland also enjoy the winter landscape, because suddenly new roads are opened up for travel. They often dog sled to remote locations for days on end and stay in simple huts that offer little but shelter from the natural elements. On the other hand, the hunters get the most luxurious view of the night sky: a pure view of the heavens with all of its stars, northern lights, the moon, or whatever mother nature brings.

The locals don’t just accept it, they embrace it! Many locals take the time to do outdoor winter activities that are not possible during the summertime. 

How can you live like a local?