Greenland (Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaat; Danish: Grønland) is the world's largest non-continental island, in the far northeast of North America, largely within the Arctic Circle. Although it is still part of the Kingdom of Denmark, it was granted self-government effective in 1979, more recently it voted for more autonomy, in effect making it a separate country with formal ties to Denmark. Some inhabitants are now projecting the eventual road to independence. Copenhagen remains responsible for its foreign affairs, and of course is a source of investment. The closest neighbouring countries are Iceland to the South-East, Canada to the West and Svalbard in Norway to the North-East.
The Greenland Tourism and Business council's official website provides a wealth of information for the would-be visitor.
Although some maps with flat projections of the globe tend to make Greenland look the size of Africa, it is actually "only" about the size of Mexico. Greenland has the world's lowest population density.
It represents some 97% of the area of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish territorial claim is rooted in the 10th-century explorations of the Vikings, though administrative power has changed hands several times over the centuries due to developments in Europe. The native Greenlanders, or Kalaallit, are Inuit descendants of nomads from northern Canada. ("Eskimo" is offensive in some parts of the Arctic.)
According to the Icelandic Sagas, Erik the Red chose the name "Greenland" to entice settlers from Iceland. In fact, Greenland has far more ice cover (about 84% of its immense surface area) than Iceland does. This may only be legend: the southern coasts the Vikings settled are green in summer, and were likely more so during the Medieval Warm Period.
Be careful with maps of Greenland, as many Greenlandic names simply reference a particular geographical feature. For example, "Kangerlussuaq" means "Big Fjord" and so is not only the Greenlandic name for Søndre Strømfjord.
When visiting a city or village don't be afraid to ask for directions of shops, places to eat or somewhere to sleep, even if you think there might not be any. Most places (even Nuuk) are small enough for everyone to know where everything is, and therefore no one bothered to put up a sign. Don't be surprised to find a fully equipped supermarket inside a grey factory-like building in the middle of nowhere.
Greenlandic places generally have two names: the (traditional and now official) Greenlandic, or Kalaallisut, and the (once but no longer official) Danish. Greenlandic is abbreviated 'kl;' Danish is 'da.'
Danish and other Scandinavian citizens do not need a visa for Greenland, but your passport needs to be valid for at least three months after your visit.
Generally, if you need a visa for entering Denmark, you also need to apply for a special visa for entering Greenland. Visas for entering the Schengen-area (including Denmark) do not automatically apply for Greenland; visas are available from the Danish embassy or where you usually would apply for a Danish visa so make sure that you mention that you are going to Greenland. If you stay for more than three months, you need to apply for a residence permit at the police station.
If you stay on the typical tourist paths you do not need any permissions, but any expeditions (including any trips to the national park, which by definition are expeditions) need a special permit from the Danish polar center. If travelling with an agency they will usually take care of the paperwork for you. If you are entering or travelling through Thule Air Base, you also need a permission from the Danish department of foreign affairs, since it is a US military area (doesn't apply for children u. 15, Danish police and military, US military or US diplomats). See Qaanaaq for details.
Flights to Greenland will almost always go to one of two airports: Kangerlussuaq (Danish: Søndre Strømfjord, English: Sondrestrom) or Narsarsuaq. From there local flights or boats will take you to your final destination, Scientific and technical personnel travelling from North America for research purposes typically fly into Kangerlussuaq aboard New York Air National Guard C-130s. If you are looking for the airport, the name of Greenland's airport service is Mittarfeqarfiit. Note that SAS ceased its operations to Greenland in 2009.
Realistically, there is no ferry service from Europe or North America.
There are cruise ships from both continents that visit Greenland.
There is no road or rail system. The easiest way to get around Greenland is by plane, particularly Air Greenland. In the summer, Arctic Umiaq Line passenger ships provide service to destinations between Narsarsuaq and Uummannaq along the west coast.
The official language - Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) - is actually that of the more populated western coast. The eastern dialect is slightly different. Both are highly challenging languages to learn, as words are very long and often feature "swallowed" consonants. Try uteqqipugut or Ittoqqortoormiit on for size.
The good news is that almost all Greenlanders are bilingual Danish speakers, and many will even have a functional command of English. Greenlandic words may come in handy for travellers wanting to experience the "real Greenland", though.
Greenlandic is different enough from Inuktitut, the language of the Canadian Inuit who share similar historical roots to the Greenlanders, that the two peoples have difficulty understanding each other. However, attempts are being made to unify the Inuit language, and Greenlandic - with its existing libraries of translated Shakespeare and Pushkin - seems like the most natural option.
These are the names to look for, if you need to buy groceries:
Food in Greenland is generally not that different from American or continental European tastes. Restaurants carry typical European fare. Local food can be purchased at local markets in each town. Many Greenlandic restaurants combine traditional foods (locally-caught fish, shrimp and whales; also muskox and reindeer) with more familiar dishes. Expect to find whale meat at a Thai restaurant and caribou in a Chinese joint. Nuuk also has several burger joints and a couple of very high-end restaurants, most notably Nipisa, which specializes in (very expensive) local delicacies. Prices are high everywhere, but servings are generally large, especially with fries.
A local specialty is Greenlandic coffee. Its creation in some places is pure performance and it hits hard: its coffee laced with liberal amounts of kahlua, whisky and Grand Marnier. One of the best places to buy is at the Sukhumvit Thai Restaurant, for about $22CAD.
Greenland is expensive. Nice hotels exist in all of the more visited areas (Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk, Hotel Arctic - with its igloo rooms - and Hotel Hvide Falke in Ilulissat), but cheaper options exist. Try for the Seaman's Home hotel in Maniitsoq, Nuuk, Qaqortoq, Sisimiut and Aasiaat. Also check with the Nuuk Tourism office for its hostel program, where locals have rooms they will rent out for a third the price of the town's hotels. They usually speak Danish and Greenlandic, along with very rudimentary English.
Crime, and ill-will toward foreigners in general, is virtually unknown in Greenland. Even in the towns, there are no "rough areas." So long as the visitor uses basic common sense and etiquette, he or she should be fine.
During the northern summer, the days in Greenland are very long. Always make sure that you get as much sleep as you're used to, as sleep deprivation can lead to all manner of health problems.
During the summer, also watch out for the Nordic mosquitoes(Although they are not dangerous, they don't transmit any diseases, they can be irritating .
As mentioned above, the word "Eskimo" is considered pejorative by many Arctic peoples, especially in Canada. While you may hear the word used by Greenlandic Natives, its use should be avoided by foreigners. The group of "Eskimos" are used to call themselves Inuit and for the ones in Greenland Kalaallisut, a Greenlander.