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The popular saying goes the Iceland is green and also Greenland is ice, however is this true? and what room the distinctions or similarities between these 2 countries? Or which one need to you travel to and why? This short article should offer you a better idea of how Greenland compares come Iceland and, hopefully, accumulate you to visit both.

Because…. Spoiler alert… They are both very different, but equally stunning!

Good to know: In this article, we compare Iceland vs. Greenland indigenous a travelers’ perspective. We emphasis on things such together accessibility, tourism infrastructure, what there is come see and do in both countries, wildlife, crowds, and also costs. So that if you’re wondering wherein to travel and also why, you deserve to make an educated decision.

So here we go – Iceland vs Greenland! But prior to we acquire to more practical info, let’s an initial take a look at the most generally asked concern – what’s in the name.


Why Iceland is called Iceland

There are numerous theories regarding why Iceland is dubbed Iceland. Follow to iceland Sagas, it was very first named ‘Snowland‘ by among the an initial Norwegians that arrived right here when it to be snowing. Later, a Swede referred to as Garðar Svavarsson named the island ‘Garðarshólmi’ (Garðar’s Isle) ~ his own name.

Iceland’s present name is believed to come indigenous yet an additional Norwegian Viking Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson (9th century). He to be nicknamed Hrafna-Flóki (Raven-Flóki) since he take it ravens to aid him uncover his method to the island we right now know as Iceland.

The colonists cleared up in the present Westfjords and also had an amazing first summer, but weren’t in ~ all ready for the winter. Your livestock died in winter and also settlers decided to leave when spring came. Before leaving, Hrafna-Flóki is claimed to have climbed the hill from which he had actually a view over the existing Ísafjörður, filled v drift ice. That’s why he dubbed this place ‘Iceland‘: Ísland =ísur(ice)+‎land(land, country).

Hrafna-Flóki later on returned to Iceland and also lived below for the remainder of his life.

Winter landscape in ~ Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

Why Greenland is referred to as Greenland

Greenland got its surname from the first settlers who arrived in the southern component of the country that is actually an extremely green. That’s where those world lived, no in the phibìc of Greenland or inland wherein the substantial glaciers are.

It’s thought that Norwegian Viking Erik the Red (who lived at the finish of the 10th century) has started the very first settlement in Greenland. He was exiled native Iceland for murder, collection to look because that a brand-new place come live, and also ended up on the surrounding island. That course, he searched for a ar that was ice-free and had the potential for farming and also favorable life conditions.

Upon his go back to Iceland 3 years later, that talked around a place that he dubbed ‘Greenland‘, hope to do it an ext attractive to the new settlers. His marketing project was rather successful and he went earlier to Greenland with a big group the colonists. They established settlements nearby to locations where Qaqortoq (the biggest town in southerly Greenland) and Nuuk (the funding of Greenland) room today.

Green landscape of Disko Island in Greenland

Iceland vs. Greenland – part Facts

Iceland is a can be fried state through its own parliament, a president, currency, language, and also laws.

Greenland is an autonomous territory within the kingdom the Denmark. They do have some autonomy and, in addition to Danish, also speak Greenlandic, which is Eskimo – Aleut language spoken in Greenland, Alaska, and also several other Arctic regions. Greenland supplies the Danish krone together its currency.

With a total surface of end 2,166,000 km2, Greenland is much more than 20 time bigger 보다 Iceland (103,000 km2). However, the populace of Greenland is just around 56,000 people, if Iceland has around 360,000 inhabitants. Together you have the right to imagine, both nations are very scarcely populated.

Map of Greenland and Iceland – together you have the right to see, Greenland is vast and because that the most part, spanned in ice. Photograph credit GoogleMaps

Location and Accessibility

Both Iceland and also Greenland are situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about half-way in between Europe and North America. However, Iceland lies simply under the Arctic circle, if a big part of Greenland stretches numerous thousand kilometers more north.

With direct flights to many European as well as North American destinations, Iceland is an extremely easy to obtain to. Because that example, the takes just around 3hrs to fly to Reykjavik native Amsterdam or Brussels and about 6 hours from brand-new York. Some cruise ships also stop in Iceland and you can likewise get come Iceland by vehicle ferry indigenous Denmark via the Faroe Islands.

At the moment, over there are simply two nations with straight flights come Greenland – Denmark and also Iceland. When most people think the the only way to gain to Greenland is flying from Copenhagen, there are additionally direct flights indigenous Reykjavik.

There are likewise cruise ships visiting Greenland in summer, but those room usually Arctic cruises that price a whole lot an ext than ‘regular’ cruises.

Flying over Iceland

Getting Around

You can conveniently visit Iceland by car. infrastructure is great and if public transportation outside of Reykjavik is quiet a bit limited, there room plenty of choices ranging from self-drive trips to 1-day excursions or organized multi-day team tours. You deserve to drive the whole Ring road of Iceland on her own and you’ll uncover excellent facilities anywhere you go.

Traveling around Greenland is a very different story. There space no roads between settlements in Greenland, for this reason you have to visit each location separately and then either fly or take a boat between different towns.

Just to be clean – over there are roads in Greenland, but only in towns and not in between them. In winter, it’s additionally sometimes feasible to travel in between different places by snowmobile, but only because that rather quick distances. Over there are now plans to open a brand-new road in between Kangerlussuaq and also Kangerluarsuk Tulleq, a fjord in the vicinity of Sisimiut, the second-largest settlement in Greenland. This road will be about 80 miles (130 km) – the longest in Greenland.

Tasiilaq, eastern Greenland


Both Iceland and Greenland space not her usual summer destinations. The being said, in summer temperature in southerly Greenland room quite comparable to those in Iceland. You have the right to have part really nice summer days through temperatures that 15-20°C (60-68°F) in both places, yet it can likewise be just 5°C (41°F)…

Northern Greenland is obviously not as heat as southerly Greenland or Iceland, but still, it’s not unexplained to have actually really nice heat days.

In winter, it it s okay much chillier in Greenland 보다 in Iceland, particularly up North.

There is one big difference in between the two areas though – it’s no as wet in Greenland together it is in Iceland.

Good to know: Both destinations can be went to the whole year-round. The selection of tasks will, the course, be an extremely different, depending upon the season.

READ ALSO: as soon as to Visit Iceland & ideal Time come Visit Europe

Diamond beach at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

Do they Speak English?

Pretty lot everyone speaks English in Iceland, for this reason it’s really simple to acquire around and also communicate through the locals.

It’s no the situation in Greenland. World who occupational in the travel sector (many of lock come indigenous Denmark), execute speak English. Yet very couple of locals speak English, which makes it a bit more challenging to communicate with them.

That gift said, it’s no something you’ll notice much in many hotels or as soon as doing tours. And also in the various other cases, you’ll always find someone that speaks English if absolutely require be. And in the worst case, a smile and some gestures will get you a long way too, simply as it did for us when we by chance crashed a local wedding in Qeqertarsuaq in Greenland…

Greenlandic civilization wearing classic costumes in ~ a wedding in Qeqertarsuaq

Food and also Drinks

Since Greenland is much an ext remote than Iceland, over there is usually less an option when it concerns food. Because nearly everything has to be imported from much away, price of fresh fruit or dairy assets are really high.

This isespecially notable in the supermarkets. Food offer and also prices at Iceland’sbigger supermarkets such as Bonus are really comparable to those in WesternEurope. Vice versa, Greenland’s supermarkets have actually much less choice and lot higherprices.

However, food and also beverage prices at the restaurants are really comparable in Iceland and Greenland. You can expect to salary 25-50 euro for a quite fish or meat dish. I discovered that price at the restaurants in Greenland were actually an ext reasonable than those in Iceland. We never paid an ext than 35 EUR because that the key course at dinner, conversely, in Iceland, over there are fairly a couple of restaurants charging more.

In bothcountries, alcohol is very expensive.

Crab food at a restaurant in Ilulissat, Greenland


While both – Iceland and also Greenland – room expensive destinations, traveling to Iceland is actually fairly a lot much more affordable than traveling come Greenland. This is mainly due to the fact that of the much more expensive flights to Greenland and transportation in ~ Greenland.

Accommodation prices and other prices are somewhat comparable in Iceland and in Greenland. But in Iceland, friend have an ext choice and also thus more possibilities to discover accommodation on a lower budget.

Organized tourism and activities are yes, really expensive in both countries, but some tasks are even much more pricey in Greenland. Simply think of a 600 EUR scenic helicopter trip of 1-2 hrs in Ilulissat… Iceland helicopter tourism are additionally expensive, but somewhat much more reasonable. The cheapest watercraft tours cost around 70-100 EUR in Greenland and about the same in Iceland.

LEARN MORE: How high value is Iceland

Glaumbær farm & Museum in Iceland

Facilities & Connectivity

Both destinations have all the modern-day facilities – from really nice hotels to good restaurants and good phone coverage.

However, in Greenland, many of the tourism infrastructure is focused in just a few biggest settlements, with the remainder of the country just beginning to catch up.

Iceland has come a long method in this regard and has a lot more infrastructure than ever before. There are plenty of accommodation choices in Reykjavik and even the most remote components of Iceland have quite some lodging options. In high season, girlfriend can also find cafés and small food shops even at the most remote destinations.

Using her cell call in Greenland is also really expensive and also many many hotels still fee a the majority of money because that WiFi. The being said, WiFi in many quality many hotels in Ilulissat is free of charge.

In Iceland, most hotels and also even restaurants offer totally free wi-fi. European roaming rules use in Iceland as well. If you space traveling from exterior of the EU, friend can additionally hire a portable wi-fi maker and use it pretty much almost everywhere the country. Also in some parts of the highlands, smart phones work just as well as in Reykjavik.

READ ALSO: wherein to continue to be in Iceland

French Cafe in ~ the far Raudasandur beach in the Westfjords in Iceland

Scenery, Glaciers & Icebergs

If girlfriend look increase some pictures of Greenland and also Iceland, it’s most likely that you’ll check out icebergs in Greenland and also green mountains, lava fields, and also waterfalls in Iceland. That’s probably where the saying the Iceland is green and Greenland is ice comes from…

However,this is just the first impression. If you look deeper, you’ll view that thereare just as numerous amazing environment-friendly landscapes in Greenland together there are in Iceland.And over there are rather some glaciers and also even (small) icebergs to be found inIceland.

One point that Greenland has that girlfriend won’t find in Iceland are vast icebergs. Castle come indigenous the calving glaciers the the enormous ice cape and also can be huge. The visible component of some icebergs is bigger 보다 the greatest apartment structures or cruise ships. Not also to cite that there’s 9 times as much ice underneath the surface… It’s tough to imagine this till you see few of these tremendous icebergs. Certain impressive. Magical. Surreal.

TIP! The finest place to view icebergs in Greenland is the Ilulissat Icefjord and the bordering area.

In the south of Greenland, girlfriend can likewise find high mountains, environment-friendly valleys, and even sheep farms. Additionally in the phibìc of Greenland, ~ above Disko Island, the scenery is extremely green. In fact, volcano Disko Island looks favor a miniature variation of Iceland – with black sand beaches, green pastures, waterfalls, fjords, and glaciers. With one added bonus – floating icebergs dotting the horizon, as much as one eye can see.

Iceland is extremely varied too. It’s a country of waterfalls, unlimited lava fields, and also moonlike scenery that you won’t find anywhere rather on the planet.

Just together Greenland, Iceland also has numerous glaciers, however of course they can’t be compared; no in dimension or in volume. Compared to the surface of around 80% the Greenland covered with ice, Iceland’s glaciers are simply a small snowflake top top the map.

Icebergs in Greenland are really impressive


Both nations have some remarkable wildlife, mainly marine animals.

In Greenland, you have the right to see numerous whales, seals, reindeer, Arctic fox, but likewise polar bears. However, because hunting and sealing is just one of the ways locals obtain their food, you won’t see many pets anywhere close come the settlements.

Since whaling is nearly forbidden, there are numerous whales around and also it’s simple to check out them from the shore. We saw so countless whales in Greenland, constantly from the shore, and also a couple of times also from ours hotel room window.

In Iceland, girlfriend can also see whales, however you’ll have to take a boat tour for that. Over there are additionally seals, reindeer, Arctic fox, and in summer likewise puffins.

There space no polar bears in Iceland, yet there have actually been sometimes sightings when bears acquired trapped on the floating ice and also couldn’t get back to Greenland in time.

Whale the town hall in Iceland – photograph by viktorio/

Hot Springs

Iceland is world-famous because that its warm springs and geothermal pools. You’ll find many natural warm pools all over the country and also also huge popular geothermal pools such together the Blue Lagoon or Myvatn Nature Baths. Also, pretty much every town and also every town in Iceland has actually a swimming pool with countless hot tubs.

There aren’t countless swimming possibilities in Greenland uneven you’re all set to dive into the ice-cold water of the Arctic ocean (not a great idea, btw).

While Qeqertarsuaq top top Disko Island additionally has several hot springs, lock are just ‘hot’ sufficient not to frozen in winter (2°C). Girlfriend can’t compare this to the geothermal pools that Iceland.

Hot springs in the Westfjords in Iceland


Both – Iceland and also Greenland – are a genuine paradise because that outdoor-lovers. Summer or winter, over there is always so much to it is in experienced! from hiking, hill biking, or kayaking in summer come dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice-caving, or aurora searching in winter…

There is an ext infrastructure and therefore much more possibilities when it involves all kinds of organized activities in Iceland. However in terms of diversity of activities on offer, both areas are quite comparable.

Hiking on Disko Island in Greenland. This photo could have actually just too been taken somewhere in Iceland. The scenery is really similar…

Northern Lights

Both – Iceland and also Greenland – are an excellent for see the north Lights in winter.

Due to your latitude and also the place of the Aurora Oval, some components of Greenland are better located because that auroras 보다 Iceland, however seeing lock still stays a gamble.

You require clear skies, darkness, and greater aurora task in bespeak to watch the northern Lights. Because that that, your possibilities in Iceland and in Greenland are fairly comparable.

READ ALSO: Northern lights in Iceland

Northern lamp in Iceland


As you canimagine, the variety of tourists is much higher in Iceland than it is inGreenland. End 2 million tourists visit Iceland each year, whereas that numberis not also close come 100,000 in Greenland…

This method that the most well-known places in Iceland (like the gold Circle and also the SouthCoast of Iceland) room really busy throughout the year, vice versa, in Greenland you’re really likely to have actually some the the world’s many incredible locations all to yourself even in high season.

While it’s still feasible to gain off the beaten path in Iceland (mostly in the iceland highlands), the entirety of Greenland is still really much off the to win path.

However, the won’t stay prefer this for long. Greenland has actually so much to offer and is therefore beautiful that it’s just a issue of time before infrastructure captures up and the whole people finds out exactly how amazing the is…

Scenery in east Greenland

Greenland vs. Iceland – Conclusion

As you have the right to see native the above, regardless of the fact that Iceland and also Greenland space so nearby to every other, they space also very different…

Visit Iceland: If you room on a lower budget, are searching for a location that’s basic to acquire to and basic to visit on her own, then Iceland is a better choice.

Visit Greenland: If friend are in search of a unique location that no many world have checked out yet and also you don’t psychic doing a bit an ext research, planning, and preparation for your expedition (and have actually a higher budget), climate Greenland is absolutely precious the trip.

Visit both: ns wouldn’t say that Iceland is a much better destination than Greenland or the Greenland is far better than Iceland. Lock are simply so different that castle both worthy a location on her bucket list. And if you can’t choose, why not just visit both. With straight flights of simply a few hours, Greenland is straightforward to obtain to from Iceland. So girlfriend can acquire a taste that both destinations in one trip and also decide because that yourselves…

As for me, I’ve been to Iceland numerous times and to Greenland just once and also I would certainly go ago to both locations in a heartbeat. There’s so lot to be discovered!

Nuup Kangerlua fjord in southwestern Greenland

Planning a Trip

Because of more infrastructure and also a enlarge choice, it’s much much easier to plan your own trip come Iceland than to Greenland.

For Iceland, you have the right to easily book everything online (flights, accommodations, tours, vehicle rental, etc.). View a suggested Iceland one mainly itinerary for some inspiration.

For Greenland, you can publication your flights and also accommodations online, and likewise some tours, yet a lot has to be arranged either via tour agents or as soon as you’re already there. This, obviously, renders it more challenging to to compare prices and find far better deals.

Most the the tourists we met in Greenland, booked their expedition via a take trip agent (here you can discover a good selection of organized Greenland tours). Whereas in Iceland, many civilization just book their very own trips.

TIP: On our blog, friend can uncover lots that information, practical tips, itineraries, and destination guides for Iceland. Please check our Iceland take trip guide because that the complete selection.

See more: What Is The Difference Between The Coastline And Shoreline? ?

We also have an post with take trip tips and basic Greenland itinerary, as well as a an extremely comprehensive overview to visiting Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island and a Greenland pack list.

If you are looking for travel motivation or have any type of general inquiries for traveling to Iceland or Greenland, i encourage you to check out those articles. If girlfriend don’t find response to a an ext specific question, feel free to leave a reply under among the related articles and also we’ll try to help. Alternatively, friend can additionally join ours Facebook group for traveling to Iceland and the Nordic Countries, and also ask your concerns there.

READ ALSO: Best places to Visit in Iceland

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