Greenland is the world’s largest island and home to roughly 56,000 people, featuring vast landscapes and over 60 villages spread throughout the country.
You’re spoiled with places to visit, so when considering travel options, it makes sense to question if driving there and using your car on the island is an option.
It’s not possible to drive to Greenland from another country as there are no land, bridge, or road connections to the island. Car ferries are also not an option.
The most common method of travel to Greenland is by flight, and depending on your location it might be possible to rent a car on the island.
Methods of travel to Greenland
The most common method of travel to and from Greenland is by flight. Formerly, if flying from the U.S., there was a compulsory layover at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, where you had to take a car to Reykjavik City Airport, which is the only direct flight option to Greenland.
As of 2022, it’s possible to travel from North America directly to Reykjavik City Airport, avoiding the lengthy journey between Keflavik and Reykjavik City.
Although it’s not possible to travel to Greenland by boat, it’s possible to travel via water on a commercial cruise liner. Departing locations vary from the U.S, Canada, Northern Europe, Iceland, and Norway.
Although, if considering this method of travel, stay mindful of the type of cruises on offer, as coastal cruises avoid docking and allow you to walk ashore.
On the other hand, some ships will dock at certain ports in Greenland, enabling visitors to extend their stay and visit the country independently.
Can you ship your car to Greenland?
Car ferry is not an option
There are no car ferries that travel to Greenland from any other country, so you won’t be able to travel with your car overwater to the island.
Shipping your car is an option
International car shipping is available from the U.S and other countries to Greenland via 30+ top international ocean freight companies. This is not a practical option for those planning a vacation to Greenland, but if you’re planning to relocate, then this is a viable, albeit expensive option.
Can you drive around Greenland?
The short answer is yes, you can drive around Greenland, but not as you’d expect, as there are limited road networks throughout the country.
Travel is by local roads only (no highways), without connections between communities. The one exception is between Ivittuut and Kangilinnguit, and a 2.8 mile (4.5km) drive between the two locations. In general, driving is limited to specific towns.
Given the sparse emptiness of the roads in Greenland, in the majority of towns, you aren’t likely to run into issues with traffic congestion or impatient drivers.
However, in the Capitol City of Nuuk, the single road leading 3.1 miles (5km) throughout the town (not outside it) can experience congestion during peak times (lasting 15-20 minutes).
For a greater perspective, Greenland covers an area of 836,300 square miles, and there are only 93 miles (150km) of drivable roads! Of these, only 37 miles (60km) of them are well-paved.
- To legally drive in Greenland, your driver’s license will need to be written in the Roman alphabet, and if not, you will need an international driver’s license.
- For car rentals, you will need a valid driver’s license and credit card.
- If you are planning to live in Greenland, you will need to obtain a Greenlandic driving license. If you have a valid license from an EU or Nordic country, this is acquired at your local police station. However, those outside the EU will need a medical certificate and to undergo a driving test for license approval.
- The minimum unrestricted driving age and to rent a car is 18.
- The majority of towns have a speed limit of 25 miles/40km hr. in urban areas and 37 miles/60km hr. in rural areas.
- Passengers must wear front and rear seatbelts at all times.
- Car lights must be kept on at all times.
Cars are expensive in Greenland, whether you are buying, renting, or for general maintenance. The cost of road tax per year has been reported to be two times the cost of taking the local bus.
Time of year affects driving
The time of the year you want to drive also impacts your driving experience, as Greenland experiences up to 24 hours of sunlight during the summer (the midnight sun), and depending on how far North of the Arctic Circle you travel, this can last from a single day up to five months.
Also, during the winter certain areas of the North will experience days without a shed of daylight (polar nights), which are accompanied by ever-changing weather conditions and temperatures, and roads might be snowy or icy, which can certainly make driving a difficult experience.
Renting a car in Greenland
Renting a car in Greenland is possible, but rental offices are often few and far between.
Also, given the limited framework of roads and the impracticality of shipping the car via ferry to another part of Greenland, you will be limited to driving in the area of rental.
So, for those who are expecting to drive to different destinations and explore the country, this is not a practical option.
It may be possible to rent a car from a local Greenlander or informally from a tourist office, but of course, you will have to find someone willing to do this.
Methods of travel around Greenland
Aside from renting a car, there are plenty of creative options for maneuvering internally around the island.
- Planes are a common option to travel between towns.
- Ferries run from late March to early January, connecting settlements far North and South.
- Jump on a snowmobile with no driver’s license necessary (must be over the age of 18).
- Ride a dog sled. If you’ve seen this in movies and want to try it out for yourself, then Greenland is the place to go.
- A helicopter ride is an exciting option that’s often available to travel from settlement to settlement.
The best places to drive in Greenland
Greenland is a fantastic place to view the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) during the darker nights between October to March.
Driving around the darkest sites of the capital city Nook can be an unforgettable experience! In some locations, there are even guided Northern Lights tours.
Northeast Greenland National Park
Greenland is home to the largest National Park in the world.
People have driven for weeks on end in the park, visiting new places and seeing different wildlife every day, covering thousands of kilometers in this space of time!
Greenland is an island without external land connections via roads or bridges, and therefore it’s not possible to drive there from another country.
The only way to get your car onto the island is via international shipping, and the easiest method of travel both to the island and between locations on the island is by flight.