Photo: Karsten Bidstrup Photo

20 Fun Facts About Greenland

Check out these fascinating facts about the world's largest island.

On a Greenland cruise with Hurtigruten, you will get an authentic experience with the ancient culture and stunning wildlife. In a land dominated by ice sheets, there are limitless natural attractions. Check out these fascinating facts about the world's largest island:

1. The name Greenland means "Land of People" and was discovered by vikings in the 10th century. 

2. Almost 80 percent of the land mass is covered by an ice cap and glaciers. Though a minority of land, the ice-free area is nearly as large as Sweden. 

3. The Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the biggest glacier outside of Antarctica.

4. Greenland has a population of roughly 57,000, about 15,000 of whom live in the capital Nuuk.

5. Sealing, whaling, hunting and fishing are the primary sources of income for inhabitants in Greenland. In recent years, the country's tourism industry has been expanding as well. 

6. Scientists have estimated that the Greenland ice sheet is between 400,000 and 800,000 years old.

7. Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953, when it became a country. It attained home rule in 1979 and began full self-government in 1981. The government is a constitutional monarchy, with a 31-member unicameral parliament called Landsting and a premier. They continue to maintain close ties politically with Denmark and send two representatives to the Danish Folketing and a nominal head of state is the Danish monarch. Greenland also uses the Danish krone as the official currency. 

8. There are a number of hot springs that attract visitors throughout the year to their balmy temperatures averaging between 98 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

9. The largest town in southern Greenland is Qaqortoq, which has been occupied for about 4,300 years. Stop by the Qaqortoq museum for a glimpse back in time with an art collection from the Dorset, Thule and Norse cultures. 

10. The Hvalsey Church, which was the first Christian church on the continent, is one of best preserved Norse ruins. 

11. In mid-March, golf lovers can join or watch the Ice Golf World Championships in Uummannaq. The two-day event takes place on a a course cut on the ice, between icebergs and out in the snow fields. 

12. The inhabitants of Greenland originated from Central Asia. 

13. The country is geographically part of North America, but politically is part of Europe.

14. The sun does not set from May 25th to July 25th. June 21, the longest day of the year, is a national holiday. July is the only month when Greenland's temperature reaches above freezing. 

15. Greenland had a closed and self-sufficient economy until World War II.

16. "Kayak" and "igloo" are Greenlandic words that have been adopted directly by other languages. 

17. The northeast Greenland ice sheet has lost more than 10 billion tons of ice a year since 2003, according to a Nature Climate Change study.

18. Much of Greenland tourism revolves around flora and fauna. The most sought-after wildlife includes polar bears, humpback whales, musk oxen, walruses, reindeer and sea eagles. 

19. The country's flag has a polar bear in a blue shield - the polar bear is meant to symbolize the fauna of Greenland and the blue represents the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. 

20. The official languages of the country are Greenlandic and Danish, though English is widely understood. 

Read more interesting articles about Greenland.