Exploring Greenland: A Glimpse into the Arctic Wilderness

Positioned between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada, Greenland stands as the world’s largest island, excluding Australia, which is considered a continent. With its vast 2,166,086 square kilometers, all of which is land since it claims no water area apart from its coastline, Greenland presents a blend of arctic beauty and isolation. Unlike any other, this country, with zero land boundaries and no border countries, is encircrossed by an impressive 44,087 km coastline.

Geography and Climate

The geography of Greenland is dominated by a massive ice cap that covers most of the island, leaving only a narrow, mountainous, barren, rocky coast exposed. The climate varies from arctic to subarctic, featuring cool summers and cold winters—a testament to the harsh living conditions that its inhabitants have adapted to over centuries. The terrain’s starkness is broken only by the elevation extremes, from the Atlantic Ocean at sea level to the highest point at Gunnbjorn Fjeld, which reaches 3,694 meters above sea level.

Natural Resources and Land Use

Despite its icy facade, Greenland is rich in natural resources including coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, molybdenum, diamonds, gold, platinum, niobium, tantalite, uranium, as well as abundant fish, seals, and whales. Only a small fraction of the land, 0.60%, is dedicated to agricultural use, with no forested areas and the absence of irrigated lands, reflecting the challenges of agriculture in such a climate.

Population and Culture

With an estimated population of 57,616 as of July 2020, Greenland boasts a sparse population distribution, primarily concentrated on the southwest shoreline. Most of the interior remains uninhabited, preserving vast stretches of untouched Arctic wilderness. Greenlanders, or Greenlander(s) as they are known, share their culture in settlements scattered along the coast with the capital, Nuuk, hosting about 18,000 residents. Greenlandic is the official language, highlighting the nation’s unique cultural identity. Remarkably, about 87.30% of the population resides in urban areas, indicative of the modern lifestyle many Greenlanders have adopted.


Greenland’s economy revolves around fish processing, specifically shrimp and Greenland halibut, along with emerging industries like anorthosite and ruby mining. Sheep, cattle, reindeer, fish, and shellfish form the backbone of Greenland’s agricultural products. The handicrafts, hides and skins, and small shipyards also contribute to the local economy. Denmark remains Greenland’s primary export partner, absorbing 82.5% of its exports, which primarily consist of fish and fish products. Denmark also ranks as the top import partner, signifying the close economic ties between Greenland and its former colonial ruler.

Trade and Industry

The export products of Greenland are heavily dominated by fish and fish products, accounting for 91% of its export value in 2015. Its import partners are primarily Denmark and Sweden, providing machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, and petroleum products. This trade dynamic underscores Greenland’s reliance on external sources for technological and consumable goods, while its economy benefits from the export of natural and marine resources.

Infrastructure and Development

Greenland has achieved 100% electrification, a significant accomplishment that underscores its progress in infrastructure development despite geographical challenges. The GDP per capita stands at an impressive $41,800 as of the 2015 estimate, reflecting the high living standards relative to many other parts of the world. This economic indicator speaks volumes about the effective utilization of Greenland’s limited resources and its focus on sustainable development.

In summary, Greenland is a country of extreme contrasts, from its ice-covered landscapes to its vibrant local economies focused on fishing and mining. It embodies a unique blend of traditional and modern lifestyles, set against the backdrop of one of the planet’s most inhospitable environments. Greenland’s strategic location, vast natural resources, and commitment to development continue to shape its role on the global stage, offering valuable insights into living sustainably within the means of our environment.

Country data

Country Code GL
Region North America
Surface 2166086 sq km
Land Surface 2166086 sq km
Water Surface n/a sq km
Agricultural Surface 0.60%
Forest Surface 0.00%
Lowest Elevation Point Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest Elevation Point Gunnbjorn Fjeld 3,694 m
GDP / capita $41,800 (2015 est.)