There is far more to Greenland than icebergs, and by stepping ashore you’ll be able to appreciate the vegetation that carpets much of Greenland’s tundra. Although 80% of the island lies under an ice sheet, there are some 500 species of flowering plants, horsetails and ferns here that make a traipse through the tundra a pleasantly picturesque experience.
The stark beauty of this land is softened somewhat by the native flora, with the ubiquitous ice and stone combining with bursts of colour that make for fantastic photographic opportunities. There is also a tremendous sense of verticality in Greenland that can only truly be experienced when hiking through the landscape, with pillars of rock and precipitous mountains rising into the sky everywhere you look.
By traversing hill, mountain and meadow you’ll also be able to look out for the hardy mammals that make their home here. Muskoxen, Arctic fox, Arctic hare and collared lemming are often seen, while reindeer, although numbering in the tens of thousands, are restricted to the country’s west coast. Polar bears are rarely seen on land in Greenland, but they do migrate down from the pack ice in the north from time to time.
East Greenland is the country’s most wild, remote and mountainous region, with just a handful of settlements and much less ice-free land than the more densely populated west coast. Hiking here will allow you to scale mountains and grant you spectacular views of the rock, ice, snow and water that stretch away beneath you as far as the eye can see. There is no shortage of trekking options here, so you’ll be able to pick the trail that suits you best, from the most precipitous peak to the gentlest incline. Travelling around Greenland on a small ship cruise will make the coasts more accessible and grant you greater flexibility when it comes to landing sites, which is ideal for hikers seeking the perfect area to explore.
Further south is where Greenland truly lives up to its name, with grasses, shrubs and Arctic flowers making for wonderfully scenic hikes. There are even trees here: Greenland’s only native forest can be found in the Qinngua Valley, where downy birch, grey-leaf willow and green alder liven up the tundra. South Greenland also has a well-maintained system of hiking trails that connect the region’s towns and villages, as well as plenty of farms and even Viking ruins.
For the serious hiking aficionado, the Arctic Circle Trail is a true test of mettle and endurance on Greenland’s west coast. The country’s longest waymarked trail stretches inland for 160km, from the coastal town of Sisimiut – Greenland’s second-largest city – to the settlement of Kangerlussuaq at the head of Kangerlussuaq Fjord. The trail takes around 9 – 11 days to complete depending on your level of fitness, and the only evidence of human habitation along the way are the various stone waymarks and the occasional wooden hut, built for those needing shelter or a place to recharge the (figurative) batteries. This is the route for hikers wanting to commune with nature and really get away from it all.
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