Nuuk: Greenland’s Colourful Capital

Greenland has been at the top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Though I want to visit everywhere, places that are wild and remote intrigue me on another level. If these remote places are freezing cold and filled with ice and snow? Well that’s even better.

Greenland is considered by many to be one of the worlds final frontiers for travellers. Infrequent and expensive flights, minimal infrastructure and few tourist companies mean that for now, much of Greenland remains untouched, unexplored and wild. However, for better or for worse, this is quickly changing. If you want to experience authentic inuit culture, untouched arctic wonders and avoid crowds; go to Greenland NOW. I’d bet my left kidney that in the next few years Greenland will become much more of a tourist hotspot and many of the things that make it so appealing will fade away.

I had decided that the town of Ilulissat (Ill-oohl-iss-at) with its ice fjords and icebergs held the most appeal to me, but it seemed that the easiest way to get there would involve first flying from Reykjavik to Nuuk (Noohk); the capital of Greenland and the most northerly capital city on the planet. This flight with Air Iceland is a short three hours and was one of the more pleasant flights I’d ever been on. However it did set me back around 340€ ($525 AUD) which is a significant sum of money for such a short flight.

I had no plans for my time in Nuuk, other than to walk around and see what I could stumble across. People often think of Greenland and Iceland as being similar countries but they couldn’t be more different. Once stepping off of the plane this became glaringly apparent. In Iceland you’d be hard pressed to find someone who did not speak English; in Greenland I found it almost impossible to find a local who spoke even broken English. In Nuuk, most of the locals speak fluent Danish, but in the smaller cities and towns people tend to speak fluent Greenlandic and a small amount of Danish.

Despite the fact that Nuuk is the capital city of Greenland and the largest city in the country, it only has a population of approximately 17,000 people! It is a tiny city and as a result, it is super walkable. After dropping my backpack at the Nuuk Seamens Home (and having a totally inappropriate giggle at the name) I had my camera in one hand and a smile on my face, ready and raring to go!

This red building is Nuuk Cathedral, a Lutheran church. It was built in 1849 and is one of few churches in Greenland. The doors to these churches are usually locked and only opened for church services. As a result, I was unable to see inside, but even from the outside this church is beautiful, and unlike any other church I’d ever seen.

Looking out to sea just a stones throw from the church is the statue of Hans Egede. Hans Egede was a Dano-Norwegian missionary who after launching missionary efforts in Greenland, became known as the Apostle of Greenland. He founded the capital of Nuuk and as such, a statue of him overlooking the capital seems pretty fitting.

The statue itself isn’t overly impressive, but the views from of Nuuk from the bottom of Hans Egede are absolutely astonishingly beautiful.

I spent the rest of my afternoon in Nuuk admiring the colourful houses, pondering the street art and wandering through the numerous ‘Bloks’ – huge buildings housing the majority of Nuuk’s inhabitants.

This little harbour was tucked just behind my hotel and was a gorgeous place to sit and watch for a while. It is a working harbour, and at the end of the day as the sun began to set, lots of fishing boats were arriving back in and unloading their haul. The sights, smells and sounds were lovely and when I think back on my time in Nuuk, that is what I will remember.

T H E   L O W D O W N
Getting to Nuuk: Air Iceland flights between Reykjavik and Nuuk run twice per week in the summer season; expect to pay between 300€ and 400€
Sleeping: The Nuuk Seameans Home is clean, comfortable and serves great food; expect to pay $250 per night
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 12-40mm lens
Language: If you can speak any Danish it will come in handy, otherwise expect to have most people not understand you
Remember: Greenland is an expensive place to get to and stay in, but if you have the money, it is worth parting with to visit such an amazing country

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

99 thoughts on “Nuuk: Greenland’s Colourful Capital

  1. Hi Ellen!

    I love your blog! Just curious about your profession–do you enjoy being a midwife? How did you become one? And how does that tie into your travels?

    Sincerely, Erica

    1. I love being a midwife! As for how I became one, I studied a bachelors degree in midwifery, registered with the national health practitioner regulations agency and started working in a publicly funded hospital. I travel whenever I get leave from work, which is several times per year. 😊 Ellen

  2. A very nice post. You manage to get nice colours despite the poor, cold light. I was struck by the “blocks” concept. With so much space and so few people I would expect everyone to strive to have their own house. Or maybe packing together is way to ward off the cold? Weird though. 🙂

    1. It certainly was a day of poor lighting! It seemed to have too much sun but also not enough. I think that the blocks are for the many working class Greenlandic people. The country is not overly rich and most locals could not afford to own their own homes.
      There used to be a place called Blok P (now closed down) that housed 5% of the countries entire population!

    1. Sorry to jump in but I was thinking exactly the same thing as I read this post and I’m glad I’m not the only one. I thought I was going crazy for a second.

    2. I haven’t been there! I’ll have to add it to the list! My next few posts will be from much further north and will look very different though 😊

    1. That’s definitely a word for it! But I found it to be one of the most inviting and incredible places I’ve ever been! The next seven or eight posts will be from a town much further north than Nuuk and j can’t wait to share them 😊

  3. So beautiful, reminds me of northern Norway for some reason. Not going there while I actually lived in Scandinavia is one of my biggest regrets about moving to US.

    1. Stay tuned then! The next seven or eight posts will be about a town further north and I’m pretty sure they’ll make you even more keen for a Greenlandic adventure 😊

      1. Hi, been following your posts. You have a lovely style. I am a lazy blogger I’m afraid and haven’t posted since last year when I was also in The Maldives. Spent a bit of time in East Timor too not long after they achieved independence.Where are you now?
        This whacky world though has reinvigorated my blogging for the moment tho. Extreme events and all. Anyway I hope you’re grand and keep on blogging. Cheers, Lucy.

      2. Thanks so much Lucy! I am in Darwin, Australia at the moment – but have trips to Bali, Thailand and Japan coming up in the next few months. Where is your next trip going to be?

  4. I really want to go to Greenland now. I’ve been thinking about it for years, but now I NEED to go! It looks so beautiful, like a mix between Denmark and Iceland.

    1. You definitely should! Stay tuned, there’s about seven or eight more Greenland posts to come and I’d be willing to bet that they’ll make you want to visit even more! 😊

  5. It’s awesome that you went there. I saw trips to Greenland when I was in Iceland, but didn’t do it because it seemed so expensive. Now I see this I wish I had.

    1. You still could visit! It’s definitely an expensive place to get to, but I don’t regret spending a single dollar! It was worth every bit 😊

  6. I used to fly across Greenland on my way back and forth from Iceland, who knew it had such a charming town down below! Your pictures are beautiful, and you make a convincing argument for adding it to my bucket list 😉

  7. Hi there it was so interesting to read a post of a fellow Australian? I’ve lived in Nuuk for close to three years now, and it seems that Aussies do somehow visit here =) I especially found the part about not finding people who can speak English easily curious. I never found this was the case – I guess because I was also comparing to in China, where the language skills are much lower.

    I would say that Nuuk is one of the only places in Greenland where it is really easy to find people who can speak English – Before I could speak Danish I got around with only English…. having said that I did know some basic Danish words prior.

    For places to stay next time I would recommend people to consider Inuk Hostels (more like a high end private cabin) – it is such a beautiful place. Also, there are more and more Airbnb’s emerging in Nuuk, slowly following the trends of the world. =)

    Inussiarnersumik / Sincerely

    Tanny Por Connect with me on Linkedin and Twitter Join me on my adventure at The Fourth Continent

    1. Do many Aussies get there? I was in Greenland for a week and didn’t meet a single other Aussie! That’s strange for me- usually wherever I go is full of us!
      As for English speaking, I must’ve just had a very unlucky run then! Granted I was only in Nuuk for one day before heading to my main destination of Ilulissat, so I definitely didn’t spend enough time there. A return trip is definitely on the cards 😊

      1. Possibly. Have a friend studying for her doctorate in Edinburgh who will be spending a couple of summers on a dig in Iceland, Working in Greenland would be a good plan. Don’t want to go in winter, see enough of that here in Calgary.

      2. Could be. Definitely need to go. Iceland looks very interesting. Volcanoes are dangerous and cool. Spent some time in the Canaries a while ago. The landscape is amazing.

      3. Don’t forget about Canada. Amazing place as well. We started touring late but are managing to see a lot of things now. I think we have hit 19 countries now. Only 180 or so to go. Lol

      4. I won’t! I am very keen to visit the Inuit northern parts of Canada and also the Rockies 😊
        I know the feeling! I’ll get there one day!

      5. We have a place in Kootenay lake where we keep our boat. Has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

  8. OMG I nearly went in September (but I ran out of money after Scotland/new camera so it will have to wait); what was the temperature like when you visited? I want so much to go; Greenland’s been on my list ever since I found out it was a place (sadly buying a new camera had to take priority but that means better pics when I get there)! It looks so awesome and yet calm at the same time.

    1. In Nuuk it was mild but in Ilulissat it is very cold! Super humid on some days too so it does chill you down to your bones but nothing insanely unmanageable! I loved every second 😊

  9. I’ve been thinking of going to either Iceland or Greenland because I’m tired of going to crowded concrete jungles. I want to see space but it seems so expensive there. Thanks for this post. I’ve always wanted to see pictures of Greenland.

    1. Go to Greenland! Iceland is getting more busy by the day and you really have to go out of your way to find solitude, Greenland has it in spades 😊

  10. Hey – just wondering if you mind me using one of your greenland pictures in a new blog? I’ll obviously credit you – but as we were speaking just the otehr day thought you may not mind and they are so incredible 🙂

      1. Ah it’s just one photo about my top ten wanderlust list in Europe and Greenland is definitely in that. Usually take them from free sites but always refer back. Just thought it’s a free link to your blog which o follow and really like by the way… Where is next on your agenda?

      2. Sounds good to me! Well I’m moving my home base from Adelaide to Darwin in a few weeks so I’ll be exploring the NT in Australia and lots of Asian countries as they are so close by! Then hoping to get to the Middle East at the end of next year 😊 how about you?

      3. Amazing… I lived in Sydney for a year in 2005 and explored Australia expensively including the east and west coasts… Sundry to Melbourne to Adelaide – Uluru to Daren – Broome all by car and coach… We honeymooned in Indonesia and recommend it highly… Also recommend Vietnam… Next for is in nyc at Christmas, then maybe the Greek Isles in Easter

      4. I’ll make sure I write something on the gillis for you and also kakadu and broome which are my favs … Thanks for letting me know regarding image I won’t be posting it til later next week but will email you

  11. I’m working toward a trip to Greenland next year! As I was doing some research I stumbled on your blog — super helpful! And made me want to go there more. I am curious about how you traveled from Nuuk to Ilulissat.

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