In Greenland, the past is never very far away. Nor in Nuuk, Greenland's capital. Also here and in towns further south you will discover examples of the country's strong culture. You discover Inuit culture in museums, the cultural centre in Ilulissat, at art exhibitions, in handicrafts, in music and theatre, often mediated through new expressions and new forms. Basically, nature was all-pervading and equipped with a special life force, an internal energy.
It can be hard to imagine how the Inuit have lived and survived for generations in the Arctic? A visit to the Greenland National Museum and Archives provides a good insight into Greenland's past and here you also find the famous mummies from Qilakitsoq. Also stop by the Nuuk Museum of Art and Katuaq Culture House that primarily focuses on contemporary art. In Paamiut, you will find exciting archaeological finds and a beautiful wooden church.
A sightseeing tour of Nuuk provides a unique insight into old and new. At the Greenland National Museum, the past is unfolded and puts the present in perspective. Learn about kayaks, women's boats and see the world famous mummies. Experience modern theatre, and music and art in the cultural centre Katuaq. A few hundred kilometres further south, you can go with a local guide on a tour of Paamiut's old town and see exciting archaeological finds or visit the geological museum in Ivittuut.
Shops and the product range in the capital are big. In many instances, natural materials are used in modern Greenlandic design, among other things, sealskin. And to wear a seal product is like putting on the essence of the country's culture and nature. Greenlandic souvenirs are not mass produced. They are handmade arts and crafts that are shaped and designed by artists - marked by traditions and customs, but each manages to make their own impression.
In the wilderness near Nuuk, there are large populations of reindeer and hunting is a favourite pastime for many locals. Usually, there is a large number of wildlife and typically the game is killed relatively close to the coast, so it is not that far to walk. However, it is an advantage to be in good shape when the trophy and meat has to be transported to the coast. The Arsuk region and Ivittuut, farther south, also have good conditions for trophy hunting for reindeer and musk oxen.
The vicinity of Nuuk offers plenty of hiking trails. Some can be done in a few hours, while others are many kilometres and take several days. You can also choose a guided hike that combines physical exertion with knowledge of plant and animal life, the area's history, geology and learn how climate change is experienced in the Arctic. Good hiking boots, a hiking map, warm clothing and food are a must - your thirst can be quenched with spring water en route.
Whales at eye level? It is not impossible if you choose a trip in a kayak in the Nuuk fjord. In any event, it is a fantastic way to experience the capital. Anyone can try to sail. Places where nature is particularly harsh, requires sound knowledge and experience of kayaking. Both in Nuuk and Paamiut it is possible to rent a kayak and dry and wet suits, which are a must as the water temperature is very low.
Nuuk is a modern town with all it entails. Yet you can still feel the Greenlandic hospitality. You can experience close contact on a stall at the market or on a cruise. Tourist boats are not very big, and the skipper is often willing to talk and answer questions, if there is no guide on board. Several towns also offer private accommodation, and it provides a good opportunity to see what a Greenlandic home looks like. If you are lucky you might get good advice for the day's tour.
The farther south you go, the smaller the icebergs. In Nuuk Fjord, icebergs are born from active glaciers at the bottom of the fjords. On boat trips along the coast towards Paamiut in the south, you meet icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Notice that they make sounds, they creaks and boom when they rotate and break. They all originate from glaciers at the edge of the ice sheet, deep in the fjords, where the calving glaciers make their way towards the Atlantic Ocean on their long journey southwest. Icebergs make sounds, they creak and boom when they rotate and break.
On sailing trips in Nuuk and the surrounding area, and along the coast at Paamiut, there are fantastic views of the glaciers, calving out toward the coast. Here you get a sense of the ice's tremendous forces.
The Greenland ice sheet is composed entirely of glacial ice formed by the freezing of water and compression of snow. Not less than 2.8 million cubic kilometres of ice are contained in ice sheet that covers approx. 85% of Greenland.
In Nuuk, there are fantastic whale experiences to be had. Nuuk is on the whales' migration route north-south, and whether you're on board a tour boat or looking out of one of the capital's windows, it is not unusual to spot the big animals, the whale's dorsal fin and geyser-like exhalation. If you go on a trip to Paamiut, whale watching is also an option. 20 species of whale live in Greenland. Remember to look up, because in this area Greenland's large bird of prey lives - the sea eagle.
Seals swim everywhere along the coasts of Greenland, and on a cruise you'll see them poke their heads up. Whales are easier to spot and you will see them often in the summer in Nuuk. In Nuuk's hinterland live reindeer, arctic foxes and snow hares. Further south you may be lucky enough to see sea eagles. Greenland's largest population of sea eagles live in Paamiut. 50-60 species of birds regularly breed in Greenland, while 160 species are summer visitors.
Some stay in town and go shopping and visit museums, others choose a helicopter tour to the inland ice sheet. Every year Nuuk has an increasing number of cruise ships. And the explanation is simple. The seaway is a great way to experience a large part of Greenland. The food is good and comfort tip-top. You find your spirit during the voyage, discover whales, icebergs and the gangway to small towns and settlements, and you have the time and space to comprehend the many impressions.
Passenger ships from Arctic Umiaq Line sail between Ilulissat in the north and Qaqortoq in the south. Along the coast are towns and settlements out to the sea, which has always been the main source of income for the population. The ships call at Paamiut and Nuuk, and great experiences wait at both places. Also life on board is something special. People meet, and it is not difficult to get into conversation with other passengers. Some are on their way to visit family, others to visit friends, on holiday or something completely different.
The capital's cafes and restaurants combine the Greenlandic ingredients with French, Japanese and Thai cuisine. The offers are numerous and often garnished with a unique view of the city and the fjord. In Nuuk you will also find one of Greenland's two microbreweries. The Greenlandic beer from Godthåb Brewery is made from some of the world's purest water. The water comes from the Greenland ice sheet and belongs in a class that not only Europe, but also USA and Dubai are looking for.
The way to the ice sheet is not directly available on a holiday in Nuuk. However, there is good advice for this. Take a helicopter tour that takes you over glaciers, fjords and magnificent valleys. Combine your visit with a landing on Greenland's great ice cap and proceed to the wilderness and beautiful areas with thousand year old memories from the time of the Norsemen. There are three possibilities to fly by helicopter: Embark on a scheduled flight, an organised tour or charter your own helicopter.
In a country where no towns are linked by roads, sailing has a unique role to play. It is just a natural part of everyday life, as cars are for others. You can go on boat trips to places where you would otherwise never be able to get to in Nuuk's huge fjord complex. Enjoy lunch on board or a picnic in the mountains, while the guide tells about the area, wildlife, plants, cultural memories and good local stories.
It's a good idea to move away from the lights of the town a little if you really want to enjoy the Northern Lights dancing on the winter sky. The Northern Lights occur year round and are best seen during the winter months on the background of the dark night sky. Instinctively you sense man's insignificance when nature's energies unfold so magnificently. Legends are fed by nature's amazing expression of energy, and you understand why Greenlanders of the past thought that the Northern Lights were linked to life in the hereafter.
In the Nuuk area, there are good opportunities for climbing and rappelling, and not least, there is a good opportunity to get lessons. Both beginners and the experienced can take part and have active adventures in the countryside, not far from the capital. Ice axes and glacier equipment are essential if you go out on your own. The local tourist office has the best information on exactly the area you are interested in.
Nuuk and Paamiut are located south of the Arctic Circle and here there is neither midnight sun in summer or polar nights in winter. Even so, the nights are long in summer.
The Norsemen arrived in South Greenland in the 980s. Most settled in South Greenland, but a great number went north and founded Vesterbygden (Western Settlement) in the fjord systems around Nuuk. The Norsemen were farmers, who cultivated grass and knew about irrigation. They also lived largely by fishing, trapping and hunting. In Vesterbygden there are a total of around 100 groups of ruins registered, while in South Greenland today there are about 500.
Nuuk's huge fjord complex makes the area a true angler's paradise. Fishing trips are from boats, which are usually left to drift or lie at anchor. You can fish for the coveted redfish and cod. Red fish is a bottom fish, which is caught at depths of 100 metres and more. It can be up to 1 metre long and weigh up to 15 kilo. The fish are often in shoals, so once you have found a redfish site, you can usually catch many.
In the vicinity of Nuuk there are unique opportunities to whizz down the mountainsides. The dramatic mountainsides are a major challenge, even for hardened heliskiers. The season starts from the middle of March and lasts until early June with powder snow conditions early in the season and corn snow late in the season.
Some rivers in the Nuuk area are so filled with trout, it's almost too much. Some water is close to being virgin ground and in some places the trout are packed together in their hundreds, waiting to swim up to the spawning grounds. Trout are typically caught in river estuaries or at the point between the lake and river. As a rule of thumb, trout are found where the concentration of food is highest, and the water is deep enough to cover their dorsal fins, and where the water is relatively still.
The ski season starts in March. The capital's residents love to put on their skis and take a trip along the city's well-prepared slopes. It is possible to rent skis at several places in the town, and while tourists might not go to town for skiing, cross-country skiing in the town is a fun and different way to experience the capital. There are no woods to seek shelter, because trees are sparse, so you can only keep warm by speeding up. If you prefer downhill skiing, then the ski slope with a lift by the airport is a possibility.
On small-game hunting trips you can take down foxes, hares and birds. Hunting for small game is not as physically challenging as trophy hunting for reindeer and musk ox, but it is an advantage to be in good shape. In Nuuk's huge fjord complex there is also excellent fishing, which can easily be combined with hunting small game. Hunting in Greenland must take place in an organised form.
Greenland's countryside creates a unique setting for many of the events that take place every year. Most demand good physique and psyche, but the driving force is first and foremost a desire and an appetite for adventure in a world of ice, snow, strong sunlight and green mountains. One of the most traditional events is the Nuuk Marathon. The route is demanding with many inclines along the way and the 21,098 metres is run twice. If you are lucky, you can also consider attending local and national championships for kayak.