You’re going to be hearing a lot about Greenland over the coming year; travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet has named the country #9 in their top 10 countries to see in 2016. And as the planet keeps getting warmer, a country that’s covered in ice and snow is going to see some changes. While Iceland seems to have had its fair share of publicity in recent years, few travelers know very much about the nearby country of Greenland at all. Consider this an education in Nordic culture; here are 10 interesting facts about Greenland:
10. Not a lot of Green
In Viking legend, Greenland was described as a lush, green, fertile land. Today, however, ‘Whiteland’ would be a more accurate term since approximately 85 percent of the country is covered in ice and snow.
9. No Roads
Greenland is big, really big. But despite having a land size of over 2 million square kilometers there are no roads or railway systems. All travel between towns is done by plane, boat, helicopter, snowmobile, or dogsled (yes really.)
8. They’re Not Eskimos
And they will be quite offended if you call them this. The proper name for an indigenous person from Greenland is Kalaallit. Which actually means ‘Greenlander’ in the native Inuit language Kalaallisut.
7. Full of Gems
Literally. A large amount of gemstones like ruby and sapphire found in this country is surprising given that it’s such a barren place of ice and snow. Reportedly, gemstone mining could one day overtake fishing as the countries largest industry.
6. Not For Sale
In 1946 the United States tried to purchase Greenland from Denmark but the European Kingdom refused to sell this island to the Americans.
5. Cool Capital
The capital and largest city in Greenland is Nuuk, with a population of approximately 17,000 people. It’s home to the University of Greenland, an art museum, sports stadium, cultural center, the National Library of Greenland, and the country’s international airport.
4. No Cars
Well, there are some; an estimated 2,570 cars are owned in the entire country of Greenland. But given that there are no roads, the majority of these cars are located in the capital of Nuuk. The most popular form of owned transportation is a boat.
3. It’s Cold
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise actually since we already told you the country was 85 percent covered in ice and snow. July is the only month when the temperature actually gets above the freezing point.
2. The Sun Never Sets
Admittedly this only occurs in summer but it’s a pretty cool natural phenomenon. Know as the ‘midnight sun’ places north of the arctic circle do not see any darkness all summer. From late April to late August, the sun will rise and colors will change as the day goes on but the sun will still be visible throughout the entire day and night.
1. The Northern Lights
Though winters in Greenland may be long and dark, they do provide the opportunity to see the amazing Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis) in all their glory. From September to mid-April, you can see the lights on just about any night the sky is clear, and since there’s little light pollution here, the colors are extremely vivid.