Guide to Iceland vs Greenland – Which Place Should You Visit

Are you planning a vacation to Iceland or Greenland anytime soon?  If so, you are going to want to read this guide to Iceland vs Greenland to see which one of those two parts of the world could be a better option for what you want to do during your precious time away from home.  



Where is Iceland?

Iceland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, and it is fairly close to Greenland and a couple other European countries.  This country is owned by Norway and Denmark and is considered part of the European continent.  

Where is Greenland?

Greenland is a massive island and you will find it far to the north in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.  This island is considered part of Europe, even though part of it lies within the continental area of North America.  

Maps and Flags


Map and Flag of Iceland

When you are looking at the map of Iceland, you will see how close it is to certain countries and islands, as well as how far away it is from many others.  Just like Greenland, Iceland has some Nordic history, and that is why the national flag contains a red Nordic cross on a blue background. The cross is outlined in white, to show the third color of all three elements that this island is comprised of.  

Flag of Iceland

Map and Flag of Greenland

The map of Greenland shows how close the island is to Iceland, despite the fact that the two islands couldn’t be more different in a way.  The Greenland national flag is quite different from Iceland’s too, and it was designed by Thue Christiansen. There are only two colors on this flag, and they are red and white.  The top half is white with a red half circle and the bottom half is red with a white half circle that meets the circle from the top.  

Flag of Greenland

Population and Demographics


Population of Iceland

The last time the population was calculated in Iceland was 2017 and at that time, there were 348,580 people living within the country.  Most of those people live within the capital city of Reykjavik, while the rest are scattered amongst the countryside.  

Population of Greenland

Greenland might be a much larger island than Iceland, but not nearly as many people live there.  At the moment, there are 56,770 people living on the island of Greenland. Part of this is due to the harsh weather at certain times of the year.  However, it could be the fact that not as many people knew about Greenland or Iceland for many years, and while Iceland is making a comeback when it comes to travel, Greenland is still part of the unknown.  Of course, not many people are picking up and moving to Greenland like they are Iceland, Jamaica, and other parts of the world, and that is keeping the population lower than well! 



Weather in Iceland

The weather in Iceland is nice, but it never gets hot.  But you can expect to see a sixty-degree day on occasion during the short summer season.  Daylight is also longer during the summer, and that means even more sunshine to warm things up for your Iceland vacation.  While the winter months bring cooler temperatures, they hardly ever dip below zero, if they even get that low. It does snow during the winter months, but you may not notice it as much, since it is so dark outside for most of the day.  

Weather in Greenland

The weather in Greenland changes with the season, but you can expect it to be chilly at almost any time of the year.  Summer in Greenland offers the warmest temperatures, as well as the most sunshine and daylight. However, the winter months bring cold temperatures that go lower than freezing and it stays dark almost all day and all night long.  

Best Time to Visit


Best Time to Visit Iceland

Most people think that the summer season is the best time to visit Iceland, because the days are longer, the weather is warmer, and you can get outside for many of the outdoor activities and attractions.  However, the winter months bring the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, and these magical dancing lights will keep you captivated every time you see them. In fact, those lights alone will make up for the fact that you are facing the cold in Iceland during your visit.  


Best Time to Visit Greenland

Most people choose to visit Greenland during the summer months too, thanks to the warmer weather and abundance of daylight.  Plus, that is when many of the cruise lines arrive at the island, making it easier for people like yourself to see more of the sights without needing to worry about the almost non-existent transportation in Greenland.  The Northern Lights can be seen throughout Greenland as well and that would be the number one reason to visit this Arctic like destination during some of the coldest months of the year.  

How to Get There


How to Get to Iceland from Europe and Other Countries

Flights to Iceland are common from the United States, Europe, and many other countries.  Of course, you may find yourself flying from one country to another one that caters to the airlines that then fly directly to the airport in Keflavik.  

From the United States, you would need to take a flight to New York City or Baltimore and then hop onto a Delta Airlines flight over to Keflavik.  The flight from New York City or Baltimore to the Keflavik International Airport near Reykjavik normally takes around five hours.  

In European cities, and a few other countries, you can board Icelandair, Easy Jet, or Scandinavian Air for the quick three- or four-hour flight over to Iceland.  

How to Get to Greenland from Europe and Other Countries

It is not as easy to reach Greenland and that is one of the many reasons why Iceland will win when a traveler is considering Greenland vs Iceland.  However, the journey really isn’t that bad if you prepare in advance and know what you need when you reach every destination.  

Most of the time, you will need to fly into Copenhagen, Denmark or Keflavik, which is the airport near Reykjavik in Iceland.  When you reach those airports, you will either board Icelandair or Air Greenland for your connecting flight to the Kangerlussuag Airport in the northern area of Greenland.  If you want, you can choose to fly into the Narsarsuaq Airport, which is in southern Greenland, but the times are not as flexible as the other airport.  




Is Iceland Safe?

When it comes to safety for Iceland vs Greenland, one really isn’t safer than the other.  The reason for this is that both these areas are quite safe from a tourist’s point of view.  The only area solo travelers will want to make sure to avoid in Iceland is Austurvöllur Park, because that is where many of the locals go after a night of drinking at the nearby pubs.  

Other than that, travelers must be aware of basic travel concerns like pickpockets and other types of petty theft.  

Is Greenland Safe?

As I mentioned above, Greenland is one of the safest places in the world to visit.  Solo female travelers can visit this island without too many worries other than the occasional pickpocket or another type of common vacation scam.  

Capital City


What is the Capital of Iceland

Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland and it is also the largest city within the country.  Most of the people living in Iceland live in this city, which is in the southeastern section of the island.  This capital city is also the center of all government activity, as well as the economic and cultural activity.  You will find many of the country’s popular attractions within Reykjavik and honestly, you can spend your entire Iceland vacation there and see at least half of the items on your list.  This is something I recommend if you have a lower budget for your Iceland vacation, because you won’t need to pay extra for renting a car.  


What is the Capital of Greenland

There is not as much to do in the capital city of Greenland, which is Nuuk.  However, Nuuk is the largest city on the island of Greenland, and it is also considered the area where all the government, economic, and cultural activities take place.  Almost a third of the people living in Greenland live in this city and it is where you will find the University of Greenland.  

Best Cities to Visit Besides Capital City


Best cities to visit in Iceland

The cities and towns in Iceland can be a little bigger than those found in Greenland, plus they are easier to reach during an Iceland vacation.  That alone might be a deciding factor when you are trying to choose between Iceland or Greenland for your next adventure halfway around the world.  The best cities to visit in Iceland include Akureyri, Húsavík, Vik, Kópavogur, and Selfoss.  

In Akureyri, you must take the time to see the Botanical Garden, while Húsavik is known for the best whale watching in the entire country.  Vik is the village that is furthest to the south and you must go to see the black sandy beaches below the massive volcano that is located there.  Kópavogur is not too far from Reykjavik and it is where you can see the Kópavogur Church and an Art Museum. The best time to visit Selfoss is during the summer, because that is when the summer festival is held. 

Best cities to visit in Greenland

Most of the cities and towns in Greenland are quite small and not many of them have much of anything going on.  However, that doesn’t mean you should skip over some of them completely! Ilulissat is near a massive ice fjord, while Aasiaat can be found directly on the beautiful Disko Bay.  

Qaqortoq has a museum, but it is the ancient Norse ruins, Hvalsey Church, that will capture your attention the most.  If you plan on doing a little hiking while on a Greenland vacation, you must tackle the Arctic Circle Trail or Sugarloaf Mountain in Kangerlussuaq.  


How to Get Around


How to Get Around Iceland

It is so easy to get around Iceland, especially if you are staying in the capital city of Reykjavik.  In that city, and a few others, you can easily take the bus or grab a cab to get to where you want to go.  You can even walk to many of the different attractions within the city.  

The best way to get around Iceland though is by renting a car and driving.  This can really increase your budget though, since gas is extremely expensive, so give this some thought during the planning stages.  However, if you want to see many of the different cities and towns in the country, as well as some of the incredible landscape out in the middle of nowhere, this is what you will need to do.  

How to Get Around Greenland

There really isn’t an easy way to get around Greenland, so if you love hopping into a car, you may want to rethink your plans when it comes to choosing Greenland over Iceland.  When you visit this island, you will either need to take a ferry to where you are going or hop onto a helicopter or small plane. There are hardly any roads, except for in Nuuk where you can find a bus or two, and railway lines are non-existent too.  It is for that reason that many travelers like yourself choose to take a cruise to Greenland, because then the entire transport thing is taken care of. 


Best Things to Do


Things to Do in Iceland

There are so many thrilling things to do when you are visiting Iceland.  I recommend starting with a soak in the hot springs at the Blue Lagoon, before heading out to see the puffins on Puffin Island.  Next on your list can be the waterfalls, whether Dettifoss, Gullfoss, Skógafoss, or any of the other dozens of waterfalls on the island.  

Long hikes can be done at Vatnajökull National Park or the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, which is inside the park, or you can simply walk on the black sandy beach near Vik.  Other must-see attractions during an Iceland vacation include Hallgrímskirkja Church, the Viking Museum, and Harpa Hall. Don’t forget to drive the Golden Circle, walk on a glacier, and watch the Northern Lights dance in the sky too!

Things to Do in Greenland

When you are contemplating Iceland or Greenland, you may think that Greenland is an area you couldn’t possibly fall in love with because there is not that much to do.  While it is true that there are not as many activities in Greenland, you will still fall in love with the beauty of the area.  

I recommend you begin in Nuuk, because you can tackle Colonial Harbor, the Greenlandic National Museum, and the Nuuk Kunst Museum all in one day.  Add in some time at the Nuuk Cathedral before grabbing a pint of beer at the Godthaab Bryghus and watching the sunset over in Myggedalen for the perfect ending to the day.  

Of course, you can also explore the ice fjords within Disko Bay and see the ancient Eskimo settlement of Sermermiut in Ilulissat before wandering through the Qaqortoq Museum in the city of the same name.  

Where to Stay


Where to Stay in Iceland

When it comes to hotels and other places to stay in Iceland, you have a plethora of options in many of the cities and towns.  While you will find the most options within Keflavik and Reykjavik, you will also find exactly what you need around the Golden Circle, the South Coast, East Fjords, and the Wet Fjords.  

Arctic Hotel
Credits: Greenland Travel, Flickr CC BY 2.0

Where to Stay in Greenland

There are definitely not as many places to stay in Greenland when compared to Iceland, so this may be what allows you to make the decision you do when considering Greenland vs Iceland.  A few favorite options include the Arctic Hotel, Glacier Lodge Eqi, and Ilimanaq Lodge near Ilulissat, Greenland.  

Costs and Expenses


How Expensive is Iceland?

Iceland is within the top five countries when it comes to being the most expensive, but you can find a few good deals depending on when you choose to visit.  As long as you are prepared for the higher price tags on everything and you budget accordingly, you won’t really notice the expensive side of this country during your vacation.  

How Expensive is Greenland?

Flights and transportation to and within Greenland can be quite expensive, but you will find that hotel rooms and food are not as expensive as you think.  Now, it is still important to set aside a good amount of money in your budget, because what you won’t spend on food, you will spend trying to get to this part of the world.  

What and Where to Eat


Where to Eat and What to Eat in Iceland

Some of the foods you encounter over in Iceland will be much different than what you have at home.  However, you should take the time to try some of them, because you never know when you will find a new favorite dish.  A few of the foods you must try in Iceland include smoked lamb, fish stew, skyr, liver sausage, and hot spring bread.  

You can find many of these traditional dishes, and many others, in restaurants that include Dill Restaurant in Reykjavik, Frakkar in Reykjavik, and Halldorskaffi in Vik.  

fish stew

Where to Eat and What to Eat in Greenland

The foods eaten in Greenland are the ones that have been eaten there since the Inuit people arrived thousands of years ago.  It is practically impossible to grow anything on this barren land, so you won’t be eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables during your Greenland vacation.  A lot of your meals may contain whale meat, narwhal blubber, seal, muskox, dried cod and Greenlandic fish and lamb.  

Surprisingly, there are quite a few restaurants in Greenland, so you will have your pick of where to try many of these delicacies!  A couple you may want to start with include Restaurant Mamartut in Ilulissat, Restaurant Roklubben in Kangerlussuaq, and Sarfalik in Nuuk.  



Nightlife in Iceland

Most of the nightlife in Iceland can be found in Reykjavik, so plan your Iceland vacation accordingly if you want to experience the nightlife more often than not.  You can easily walk to the clubs and bars in this city, which makes it easy to then make your way back to your hotel at the end of the night. During the week, you will need to leave most bars by one o’clock in the morning, but on weekend nights, the party continues until five in the morning.  


Nightlife in Greenland

There are not too many options when it comes to nightlife in Greenland, but you can find some thrills when you stay in the capital city of Nuuk.  Godthaab Bryghus is usually the top choice, so do not be surprised to find it packed when you arrive. The Manhattan Nightclub, Daddy’s, and the Skyline Bar are other options if you simply cannot handle the crowds at one of the other locations.  

Tips For Visiting Iceland and Greenland


What You Should Know Before Visiting Iceland

It is always best to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle and get a very detailed map before venturing out on the roads on your own.  You might also want to be flexible with your plans, because you never know when something will prevent you from doing something that you want to do.  

It is also important to always have a full tank of gas and make reservations well in advance when possible, or you may find yourself without a place to stay.  If you are visiting in the winter, remember, there is very little daylight, so most of your trip will be spent in darkness.  

Travelling to iceland & greenland

What You Should Know Before Visiting Greenland

You should always be prepared for the unexpected when it comes to traveling to Greenland, because you never know when your plans will change at the last minute.  It is important to know that getting from one place to another is not as easy as other parts of the world, and not planning ahead is the worst thing you can do for this type of trip.  

You should also pack many extra items, because you never know what you will need when you are visiting this island.  Use caution when purchasing souvenirs, because you will not be allowed to leave the country with certain items unless you have been given a permit which is rare.  

Iceland vs Greenland, it can be so difficult to choose between the two.  After all, they both offer amazing things to do and gorgeous views. However, it can be very difficult to reach Greenland vs Iceland, because it is not as easily accessible.  Add in the fact that the cost of the flight can add extra money to your trip and Iceland may look a little better than Greenland.  

While the cost might make it appear to be a no-brainer, you must keep in mind the activities you want to do while you are traveling and where those activities can be found on these two continents.  Add in the fact that Greenland is not as touristy as Iceland at the moment and you may decide you want to be one of the first people to explore that part of the world.  

Iceland vs Greenland, or Greenland vs Iceland, there really is no difference when it comes to the uniqueness of each one.  So, choose one to visit now and see the other on your next trip to that part of the world.  

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