NUUK, Greenland

Nuuk is the capital of Greenland and the largest city, with a population of around 17,000.  It is the world’s northernmost capital and its closest major cities are Iqaluit & St John’s, Newfoundland in Canada, and Reykjavik in Iceland.  Nuuk means “the headland” or “cape”, and lies on the edge of a large peninsula at the mouth of a vast fjord which is the second largest in the world.  I wish we had more than one day here.  I elected to go on the Fjord & Whale watching tour (still hoping to see a whale or even a seal would make me happy at this point!!), and I so did not have time to see the town itself other than from our boat. They told us Nuuk is small but acts like a big city!

It is the largest city in Greenland, but the smallest capital city in the world.  It is the economic and cultural centre of the country and also the seat of government.  I understand the National Museum has a wonderful collection of art and cultural items including ancient dog sleds & Inuit skin boats – kayaks – originally brought here by the Inuit, and the 500 year old Inuit mummies that are remarkably preserved because of the cold.  The Cultural Centre is not only a fine piece of architecture but home to musical and theatrical performances and the Nuuk Museum of Art which is a private museum has a unique collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures collected over the past 45 years.  There are a couple of hotels, cafes, restaurants, shopping and a fish market, hospitals and schools.

The article & photo I borrowed from the museum’s website. The ancient farmers, including a baby, who experts believe was buried alive at six months old, lived in Greenland 500 years ago. They were found by hunters at an abandoned Inuit encampment in 1972. The mummies still had their skin, fingernails, hair and clothing intact after hundreds of years. It’s believed the mummification process was accidental and resulted from the region’s ice cold climate. The settlement of Qilakitsoq, on Greenland’s wet coast, is 450 KM north of the Arctic Circle. Archeologists think the group died there sometime around 1475AD.
Six month old mummified baby

I also read that Nuuk has probably the highest percentage of aboriginal people of any city. Almost 90% of Greenland’s population of 58,000 is Inuit, and at least eight in 10 live in urban settlements. Nuuk also celebrates Inuit culture and history to an extent that is unprecedented in many cities with higher total aboriginal populations. By proportion and by cultural authority and impact, it may well be that tiny Nuuk is the most indigenous city in the world.

So off we went on a lovely boat built in Finland. Our ‘captain’ told us it was his father’s boat and has often been used to take dignitaries around the fjords. It was very comfortable and they served us tea and cookies.

Many of the high rise buildings we sailed past were built in the 60/70s when the government decided to take residents from the smaller communities and put them there.  It was not successful.  The people felt displaced.

Jobs – the fishing industry is vital everywhere, and to the national economy. It creates the most jobs.  Our captain told us there were many entrepreneurs in Nuuk in a variety of businesses but didn’t elaborate.  Education is free and many go to Denmark for higher education. 

The ice sheet over Greenland is several million years old and the icecap is between two and three kilometres deep, and we have all heard that it has been melting at a very fast rate recently.  With the warmer climate, our captain said the sea does not freeze over anymore.  There is a great variety of fish in the area – cod, haddock, char, salmon, and a variety of whales including humpbacks.  He also said you become a man only after you have killed a seal. Our captain has not yet killed a seal! Also there is a golden rule – if you wound any animal, you must stay with it and kill it.  We saw a sea eagle.  They are huge with a wing span of around eight feet. 

Out on the water in the fjord it was magical. We had a lovely sunny day and the water was calm. and even though we did not see whales or seals, there were a few smaller icebergs floating around and we were able to get close to them. I think they call them ‘growlers’. Enjoy the beauty and serenity of the fjord!



2 responses to “NUUK, Greenland”

  1. Beautiful photos, Pat. What a trip! xo ________________________________


    1. Thanks Susan. I loved both countries and enjoyed learning about them. I would go back in a heartbeat. Don’t think I could live in Greenland at this stage of my life, but Iceland is certainly a wonderful country.


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