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Scott Wasserman //

5 reasons to visit Greenland

There’s an old maxim that Iceland is green and Greenland is ice. While this for the most part may be true about Greenland, it’s only half the story.

Greenland is an adventurer's paradise. From the polar desert in the north to glacial-carved fjords in the south, the country hosts more than its share of exciting destinations that explorers can take full advantage of.

Here’s a look at five things to do on the world's largest island:

Hike the prehistoric ice sheet

The Greenlandic Ice Sheet covers 80 percent of the country, dating back up to 10,000 years. In some areas, you can walk on this permanent remnant from the last ice age where you'll see snowy mountains, frozen freshwater and an array of fauna. As a little-known fact, the ice sheet’s total area of 695,000 square miles equals 14 times the size of England, and the ice contains 10 percent of the world's reserves of fresh water.

The most immense glacier outside of Antarctica

The iconic Ilulissat Icefjord is Greenland’s biggest natural attraction and one of the northernmost UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the globe. The massive collection of icebergs that have calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier (the biggest glacier in the Icefjord), presents a chilling natural gallery as well as a story of the planet's history. Visitors can appreciate all its glory by boat, helicopter or land. You can also cruise among the gigantic icebergs, take an excursion on a helicopter for stunning vistas, or hike along trails edging the Icefjord.

Take a hot tub, naturally!

If you’re looking for the complete opposite experience, Greenland's hot springs are perfect for thawing chilly limbs. There are hundreds of them scattered throughout the landscape. The most popular are the Uunartoq hot springs on the island of Uunartoq (East Greenland) and Disko Island's hot springs, which are a short boat ride away from Ilulissat. These natural "baths" sit at a cozy 100 degrees Fahrenheit, though some do get as hot as 140 degrees!

Northern Lights.  Need I say more?

During the winter months the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis are an amazing sight. The dark sky glows with neon brilliance that makes for an unprecedented natural wonder. For those taking a Greenland cruise to witness the lights, be sure to travel no earlier than September when the nights are adequately dark.

Greenland has the world's largest national park

Greenland National Park takes the title of the largest park on earth, spanning 870 miles. Its enticement is undoubtedly its abundance of flora and fauna. However, the park is difficult to access as no one lives in the region. Ittoqqortoormiit (formally known as Scoresbysund) in Northeast Greenland is the gateway to the park itself. If you can take an expedition cruise there, you can gaze across crystal-clear waters that separate towering mountains, with the opportunity to spot walrus, Arctic fox, several varieties of seals, myriad birdlife and Beluga whales. Greenland National Park is truly an Arctic delight.

Visit the whales up close

A whale watching tour is an incredible experience, though you'll need to travel in the summer months to do it. Most coastal areas along western Greenland typically melt by mid-May, so that's a great time to cruise into Disko Bay and spot the whales. Later in the season, when southeast Greenland is ice free, is also an ideal time for whale spotting.

If you love making the most of the daylight hours while on vacation, Greenland is a great destination. The midnight sun offers unique opportunities for cruising and sightseeing at "night." Depending on where you are on the island, the midnight sun is visible from late April to late August. South of the Arctic Circle, where the sun does eventually set you’ll still enjoy 20 hours of sunlight during their summer months.

If you have more to add, please do so in the comments!

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