Magazine article Scandinavian Review

Go Greenland!

Magazine article Scandinavian Review

Go Greenland!

Article excerpt

Air Greenland and the island's travel industry are promoting tourism as never before and prospective visitors can be assured that there is far more to the island than its ice cap.

TELL SOMEONE YOU'RE GOING TO GREENLAND AND-AFTER a moment's hesitation-they will come with one of two basic replies. "Wow! That sounds exciting" or "What in the world do you want to go there for?" The naysayers are those who barely know where Greenland is but are convinced it is cold, remote and insufferable. The enthusiasts, on the other hand, will be the better informed, the curious, the adventuresome-those anxious for a vacation thrill out of the ordinary. For, indeed, Greenland has much to offer the inquisitive tourist, the one anxious to learn more about an island that is more than twice the size of Texas and Alaska combined and 85 percent covered by an ice cap up to two miles thick.

Obviously impressed by the growing destination popularity of its arctic neighbor, Iceland, and taking advantage of its clearly demonstrable effects of global climate change, popularly referred to as global warming, Greenland is poised to capitalize on its newfound tourist appeal. Perhaps no place on earth, outside the far less accessible Antarctic, are the results of a worldwide temperature rise so apparent as in Greenland.

For those with a fresh-or preexisting-interest in environmental concerns, therefore, it was welcome news when Air Greenland last summer inaugurated a new summer route between Baltimore, Maryland, and Kangerlussuaq, the principal international airport, formerly known as S0ndre Stramfjord. This direct flight takes less than five hours and, cloud conditions permitting, affords some dramatic aerial views of the island's coast during the final half hour. This service will be repeated this summer and makes Greenland far more accessible to Americans at least.

Taking advantage of the new route, experiencegreenland.com has put together two eight-day package tours either to Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat (Greenland's third-largest town with less than 5,000 inhabitants) or to Kangerlussuaq and Nuuk, Greenland's capital, humorously known for having the island's only two traffic lights. Both offer opportunities for boat cruising, seal, whale and musk-ox spotting, skiing, hiking and helicopter rides. Hotel accommodations are first-class and meals include native as well as international delicacies.

While the Ilulissat and Nuuk regions on the southwest coast are fascinating in their own right, they represent only a geographic tidbit of Greenland. Consider the enormity of the island-2,175,600 square kilometers. All five Scandnavian countries-Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden-can fit into Greenland, and you can also throw in France, Great Britain and Italy before you could fill it. Greenland's southern tip is about on a level with Helsinki, Oslo and the middle of Hudson Bay. Its northern tip extends farther north than any land in the world, although little specks of land may pop up as the Arctic Ocean gradually melts away.

Naturally, then, there is no end to what you can see and experience on Greenland. But bear in mind, there are no roads outside its scattered towns. Nor has there been any reason to have them. There are only about 57,000 inhabitants (and 30,000 dogs) in all. The only way to get around is by boat, plane or dog sled. It's probably safe to say that the Greenlanders who have traveled to any extent have done it abroad.

All this means that getting to large areas requires a great deal of time and money, especially in remote East Greenland whose three largest settlements have a combined population of 2,500. Greenland's only national park is the world's largest. At 972,000 square kilometers it occupies the entire northeast quadrant of the country. Activities in the northern half of Greenland are largely confined to the daily life struggle of the native Inuits and to the tasks of the various scientists who have made Greenland their laboratory. …

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