Frequently asked questions

When is the best time to visit?
Does it get really warm during the summer?
What kinds of food should I bring with me?
Do I need my winter jacket?
Are there icebergs during the summer?
Is it possible to get close to a glacier?
Can I rent a boat?
Can I rent a car?
Can I exchange money in Narsaq?
Are there a lot of mosquitoes?
Does everyone speak English?
Is it possible to go fishing?
Do I need my passport?
Is Greenland in another time zone?
Aren't those long dark winters horribly depressing?

 

 

When is the best time to visit?
It depends on what you want to see and do. Let's go through the months and seasons, starting with winter. November and December tend to have unstable weather, with not much snow but quite a few storms. January, February, and March are the nicest winter months, with plenty of snow and sun. April is extremely variable, with just about any kind of weather, from winter storms to sunny days. In May, spring starts to arrive and it gets markedly warmer, with an occasional cold day and scattered flurries. In June, the snow is finally gone and the mountainsides turn green and flowers begin to bloom. July and August are the most beautiful summer months, and you'll see an amazing variety of flowers. In late August the nights start to get noticeably longer and the first northern lights appear in the night skies. August is mushroom and berry picking season. In September, the mountainsides are colored red and brown when the plants get their autumn leaves. In the fall, the weather starts to get more unstable, with rain and storms. In October, the temperature regularly falls below freezing again. Having said all that, in this day and age of global climate change, you could say that all bets are off. We have had some extremely warm winter days over the past few years and, in general, the winters are not as cold as they used to be.

Does it get really warm during the summer?
Yes! This is the most commonly asked question and it's very difficult to answer. In Northern Greenland the climate is much harsher than in the South, where we have a subarctic or boreal climate. The average summer temperature in most Greenlandic towns is 10 degrees Celsius. But that says very little about the actual conditions that you will experience here. Temperatures are measured in the shade - but you won't find much of that because there are so few trees in Greenland. The sun shines with incredibly intensity during the day. So when it's 15 degrees Celsius in the shade, it can be way over 30 degrees in the sun - and during the high summer, the sun shines for nearly 21 hours a day in the South. The air in Greenland is also extremely dry. So even on colder days it doesn't feel as cold as in damper climates, such as Northern Europe. With such dry sunny conditions, it is important to use protective sun screen and wear sunglasses on your trip to Greenland.

What kinds of food should I bring with me?
You don't need to bring anything at all! In Narsaq you can buy virtually every food and beverage that you would normally consume at home. There are two large supermarkets, three small grocery stores, a bakery, and a fish market where you can buy the catch of the day. All the basic foodstuffs are available, along with some items that are downright exotic, like Japanese sushi rice, Chinese oyster sauce, and fresh pineapple. In addition, the domestic market offers organic local meats, including reindeer, mutton, seal and whale, not to mention a wide variety of fish and seafood. There are plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables on offer, from oranges, plums, and peaches to avocados, cauliflower, lettuce and asparagus. Prices are roughly equivalent to what you would pay at a (rather upscale) Scandinavian supermarket, in other words, higher than what you are probably used to paying at home. But that simply doesn't justify hauling huge quantities of food in your luggage to Greenland! Alcohol and cigarettes are expensive due to high taxes placed on luxury goods. A pack of cigarettes costs about 70 Danish crowns and a bottle of wine about 100 crowns. By the way, there is absolutely no need to spend money on bottled mineral water! In Greenland we have some of the cleanest water in the world, and you can drink directly out of any river, stream or lake on the island.

Do I need my winter jacket?
No! When it starts to rain or the sky is overcast, the temperature can drop very rapidly, even in summer. You should definitely have a warm sweater and a good windproof rain jacket. But when the sun shines out of a cloudless sky on a summer day, sometimes it's almost too hot to wear long pants. Wear layers and be prepared for a wide range of temperatures. And don't forget to bring decent hiking shoes that give you good ankle support!

Are there icebergs during the summer?
We guarantee it! Narsaq is only roughly 30 km from the ice cap - and you can see it on a clear day. There are numerous glaciers in the area that calve enormous amounts of ice into the fjords. Strong currents sweep this ice through Narsaq Sound, into the adjoining fjords, and out to sea. The warmer the weather, the more active the glaciers become, and the more icebergs you will be able to see in the water. By contrast, during the winter months, large icebergs are rather seldom.

Is it possible to get close to a glacier?
Yes! In Narsarsuaq, you can walk directly to the edge of a glacier. From Narsaq you can take a boat trip to the ice cap.

Can I rent a boat?
Unfortunately, no! In a country where neighboring towns and settlements can only be reached by air or by sea, it's not surprising that a lot of people have speedboats and small motorboats. Most boats are used for commercial purposes, for hunting and fishing. Of course there are a lot of leisure boats, but no one would run the risk of renting their boat out to a stranger, especially someone from abroad who is unfamiliar with the local conditions: the large difference between high and low tide, dangerous reefs and currents, sudden strong winds, shifting icebergs, black ice, etc.

Can I rent a car?
No, you can't! The road network in Greenland is so limited that you can only rent cars in the capital, Nuuk. There are no roads connecting any two towns in Greenland.

Can I exchange money in Narsaq?
No! But there is an ATM in Narsaq that accepts nearly all bank and credit cards. In our experience, this is even cheaper than exchanging money for Danish crowns at a bank.

Are there a lot of mosquitoes?
No, there really aren't! There are days when they can be a bit pesky, but in general they are not a problem. Around Narsaq there are a lot of sheep farms and the sheep run free through the mountains. Mosquitoes and sheep apparently do not mix (!). Directly on the coast, where there are frequent breezes, the mosquitoes don't have much of a chance either. In Narsarsuaq and in protected valleys in the backcountry, there can be swarms of the little beasts, and it's very practical to have a net to protect your head. You can buy these nets in most shops during the summer.

Does everyone speak English?
No, not everyone - in fact, far from it! Greenlandic is the main language on the island, a language that is closely related to what is spoken by the Inuit of North America, Alaska and Siberia. In Greenland, the second official language is Danish, and a few words of Danish will go a long ways toward making yourself understood. An increasing number of Greenlanders are also learning English. With a mixture of English, Danish, Greenlandic and lots of gestures, you can communicate with just about anyone.

Is it possible to go fishing?
Oh, yes! Greenland offers excellent opportunities to catch fish. Fishing licenses can be purchased at the post office.

Do I need my passport?
Yes, you do! Greenland officially belongs to Denmark, so if you are a European citizen, you should be able to enter the country with your identity card. But since Greenland is no longer a member of the EU, you officially need a passport. Most border checks are not especially strict, but it is recommended that you have a valid passport.

Is Greenland in another time zone?
Yes! There are four time zones between Western Europe and South Greenland. In fact, Greenland is so large that there are a number of different time zones on the island. When it's noon in Paris, it's only 8:00 am here in the South, but in the Southeast, the time is 9:00 am and in the North, in Ittoqqortoormiit, it's already be 10:00 am. The American airbase Pituffik (Thule) in Northwest Greenland has a time zone that is only one hour ahead of US Eastern Standard Time, so it's 7:00 am there.

Aren't those long dark winters horribly depressing?
No, not at all! Greenland is enormous, measuring 2,700 km from north to south. Narsaq is in South Greenland, roughly on the same latitude as Helsinki and Anchorage, and a good 800 km south of the Arctic Circle. We have no midnight sun during the summer and no polar night during the winter, in other words, all year round, the sun rises and sets. There are large variations between winter and summer. On the shortest day of the year, the winter equinox (December 21st), we have about 5 hours of daylight, and on the longest day of the year, the summer equinox (June 21st), we have nearly 22 hours of sunshine - and you can read a newspaper outside at midnight. In general, we tend to get much more sunlight than most of Europe and North America.