Photos of Greenland

Introduction

Background

Greenland, the world's largest island, is about 80% ice-capped. Vikings reached the island in the 10th century from Iceland; Danish colonization began in the 18th century, and Greenland became an integral part of the Danish Realm in 1953. It joined the European Community (now the EU) with Denmark in 1973 but withdrew in 1985 over a dispute centered on stringent fishing quotas. Greenland remains a member of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association of the EU. Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament; the law went into effect the following year. Greenland voted in favor of increased self-rule in November 2008 and acquired greater responsibility for internal affairs when the Act on Greenland Self-Government was signed into law in June 2009. Denmark, however, continues to exercise control over several policy areas on behalf of Greenland, including foreign affairs, security, and financial policy in consultation with Greenland's Self-Rule Government.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Northern North America, island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada

Geographic coordinates

72 00 N, 40 00 W

Map references

Arctic Region

Area

total: 2,166,086 sq km

land: 2,166,086 sq km (approximately 1,710,000 sq km ice-covered)

comparison ranking: total 13

Area - comparative

slightly more than three times the size of Texas

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

44,087 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 3 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line

Climate

arctic to subarctic; cool summers, cold winters

Terrain

flat to gradually sloping icecap covers all but a narrow, mountainous, barren, rocky coast

Elevation

highest point: Gunnbjorn Fjeld 3,694 m

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

mean elevation: 1,792 m

Natural resources

coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, molybdenum, diamonds, gold, platinum, niobium, tantalite, uranium, fish, seals, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas

Land use

agricultural land: 0.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 99.4% (2018 est.)

Population distribution

settlement concentrated on the southwest shoreline, with limited settlements scattered along the remaining coast; interior is uninhabited

Natural hazards

continuous permafrost over northern two-thirds of the island

Geography - note

dominates North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe; sparse population confined to small settlements along coast; close to one-quarter of the population lives in the capital, Nuuk; world's second largest ice sheet after that of Antarctica covering an area of 1.71 million sq km (660,000 sq mi) or about 79% of the island, and containing 2.85 million cu km (684 thousand cu mi) of ice (this is almost 7% of all of the world's fresh water); if all this ice were converted to liquid water, one estimate is that it would be sufficient to raise the height of the world's oceans by 7.2 m (24 ft)

People and Society

Population

57,777 (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 206

Nationality

noun: Greenlander(s)

adjective: Greenlandic

Ethnic groups

Greenlandic 89.1%, Danish 7.5%, other Nordic peoples 0.9%, and other 2.5% (2022 est.)

note: data represent population by country of birth

Languages

Greenlandic (West Greenlandic or Kalaallisut is the official language), Danish, English

Religions

Evangelical Lutheran, traditional Inuit spiritual beliefs

Age structure

0-14 years: 20.46% (male 5,992/female 5,827)

15-64 years: 67.66% (male 20,271/female 18,820)

65 years and over: 11.89% (2023 est.) (male 3,641/female 3,226)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 43.6

youth dependency ratio: 30

elderly dependency ratio: 13.6

potential support ratio: 7.4 (2021)

Median age

total: 35 years (2023 est.)

male: 35.7 years

female: 34.4 years

comparison ranking: total 97

Population growth rate

-0.04% (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 200

Birth rate

13.7 births/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 127

Death rate

9.1 deaths/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 56

Net migration rate

-5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 203

Population distribution

settlement concentrated on the southwest shoreline, with limited settlements scattered along the remaining coast; interior is uninhabited

Urbanization

urban population: 87.9% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.41% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

18,000 NUUK (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.08 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.13 male(s)/female

total population: 1.07 male(s)/female (2023 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 8.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2023 est.)

male: 10.1 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 7 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 143

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 74.3 years (2023 est.)

male: 71.6 years

female: 77.1 years

comparison ranking: total population 140

Total fertility rate

1.9 children born/woman (2023 est.)

comparison ranking: 121

Gross reproduction rate

0.92 (2023 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2020 est.)

Physicians density

1.87 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Hospital bed density

14 beds/1,000 population (2016)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2020 est.)

Education expenditures

10.2% of GDP (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 4

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 100%

male: 100%

female: 100% (2015)

Environment

Environment - current issues

especially vulnerable to climate change and disruption of the Arctic environment; preservation of the Inuit traditional way of life, including whaling and seal hunting

Climate

arctic to subarctic; cool summers, cold winters

Land use

agricultural land: 0.6% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 99.4% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 87.9% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.41% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 198

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 89

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.51 megatons (2016 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 50,000 tons (2010 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Greenland

local long form: none

local short form: Kalaallit Nunaat

etymology: named by Norwegian adventurer Erik THORVALDSSON (Erik the Red) in A.D. 985 in order to entice settlers to the island

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Parliament of Greenland or Inatsisartut)

Dependency status

part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1979

Capital

name: Nuuk (Godthaab)

geographic coordinates: 64 11 N, 51 45 W

time difference: UTC-2 (3 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

time zone note: Greenland has four time zones

etymology: "nuuk" is the Inuit word for "cape" and refers to the city's position at the end of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord

Administrative divisions

5 municipalities (kommuner, singular kommune); Avannaata, Kujalleq, Qeqertalik, Qeqqata, Sermersooq

note: Northeast Greenland National Park (Kalaallit Nunaanni Nuna Eqqissisimatitaq) and the Thule Air Base in Pituffik (in northwest Greenland) are two unincorporated areas; the national park's 972,000 sq km - about 46% of the island - makes it the largest national park in the world and also the most northerly

Independence

none (extensive self-rule as part of the Kingdom of Denmark; foreign affairs is the responsibility of Denmark, but Greenland actively participates in international agreements relating to Greenland)

National holiday

National Day, June 21; note - marks the summer solstice and the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere

Constitution

history: previous 1953 (Greenland established as a constituency in the Danish constitution), 1979 (Greenland Home Rule Act); latest 21 June 2009 (Greenland Self-Government Act)

Legal system

the laws of Denmark apply where applicable and Greenlandic law applies to other areas

Citizenship

see Denmark

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: King FREDERIK X of Denmark (since 14 January 2024), represented by High Commissioner Mikaela ENGELL (since April 2011) (2024)

head of government: Premier Mute B. EGEDE (since 23 April 2021)

cabinet: Self-rule Government (Naalakkersuisut) elected by the Parliament (Inatsisartut)

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; high commissioner appointed by the monarch; premier indirectly elected by Parliament for a 4-year term

election results:
2021:
Mute B. EGEDE elected premier; Parliament vote - Mute B. EGEDE (Inuit Ataqatigiit) unanimous

2014: Kim KIELSEN elected premier; Parliament vote - Kim KIELSEN (S) 27.2%, Sara OLSVIG (IA) 25.5%, Randi Vestergaard EVALDSEN (D) 19.5%, other 27.8%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament or Inatsisartut (31 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by party-list proportional representation vote - by the d'Hondt method - to serve 4-year terms)
Greenland elects 2 members to the Danish Parliament to serve 4-year terms

elections: Greenland Parliament - last held on 6 April 2021 (next to be held in 2025)
Greenland members to Danish Parliament - last held on 5 June 2019 (next to be held by 4 June 2023)

election results: Greenland Parliament - percent of vote by party - IA 38.7%, S 32.2%, N 12.9%, D 9.7%, A 6.5%; seats by party - IA 12, S 10, N 4, D 3, A 2; composition - men 21, women 10, percent of women 32.2%

Greenland members in Danish Parliament - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - IA 1, S 1; composition - 2 women

Judicial branch

highest court(s): High Court of Greenland (consists of the presiding professional judge and 2 lay assessors); note - appeals beyond the High Court of Greenland can be heard by the Supreme Court (in Copenhagen)

judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the monarch upon the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Council, a 6-member independent body of judges and lawyers; judges appointed for life with retirement at age 70

subordinate courts: Court of Greenland; 18 district or magistrates' courts

Political parties and leaders

Democrats Party (Demokraatit) or D [Jens Frederik NIELSEN]
Fellowship Party (Atassut) or A [Aqqalu JERIMIASSEN]
Forward Party (Siumut) or S [Erik JENSEN]
Inuit Community (Inuit Ataqatigiit) or IA [Mute Bourup EGEDE]
Signpost Party (Naleraq) or N [Pele BROBERG] (formerly Partii Naleraq)

International organization participation

Arctic Council, ICC, NC, NIB, UPU

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Kenneth HOEGH, Head of Representation; note - Greenland also has offices in the Danish consulates in Chicago and New York

chancery: Greenland Representation
3200 Whitehaven Street, NW
Washington, DC  20008

telephone: [1] (202) 234-4300

FAX: +1 (202) 328-1470

email address and website:
washington@nanoq.gl

All Greenlandic Representations | Grønlands Repræsentation (grl-rep.dk)
https://naalakkersuisut.gl/en/Naalakkersuisut/Groenlands-repraesentation-Washington

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Consul Monica BLAND (since July 2023)

embassy: Aalisartut Aqqutaa 47
Nuuk 3900
Greenland

telephone: (+299) 384100

email address and website:
https://dk.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulate/nuuk/

Flag description

two equal horizontal bands of white (top) and red with a large disk slightly to the hoist side of center - the top half of the disk is red, the bottom half is white; the design represents the sun reflecting off a field of ice; the colors are the same as those of the Danish flag and symbolize Greenland's links to the Kingdom of Denmark

National symbol(s)

polar bear; national colors: red, white

National anthem

name: "Nunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit" (Our Country, Who's Become So Old also translated as You Our Ancient Land)

lyrics/music: Henrik LUND/Jonathan PETERSEN

note: adopted 1916; the government also recognizes "Nuna asiilasooq" as a secondary anthem

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 3 (2 cultural, 1 natural); note - excerpted from the Denmark entry

selected World Heritage Site locales: Ilulissat Icefjord (n); Kujataa, Norse and Inuit Farming (c); Aasivissuit–Nipisat, Inuit Hunting Ground (c)

Economy

Economic overview

large self-governing Danish territorial economy; preferential EU market access; high-income economy; dependent on Danish financial support, even for whaling and sealing industries; growing tourism; hydropower-fueled but environmentally fragile economy

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$2.413 billion (2015 est.)
$2.24 billion (2014 est.)
$2.203 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

comparison ranking: 194

Real GDP growth rate

0.36% (2020 est.)
2.27% (2019 est.)
0.62% (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 190

Real GDP per capita

$41,800 (2015 est.)
$38,800 (2014 est.)
$38,500 (2013 est.)

comparison ranking: 45

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.221 billion (2015 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

0.3% (January 2017 est.)
1.2% (January 2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 17

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 15.9% (2015 est.)

industry: 10.1% (2015 est.)

services: 73.9% (2015)

comparison rankings: services 51; industry 205; agriculture 61

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 68.1% (2015 est.)

government consumption: 28% (2015 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 14.3% (2015 est.)

investment in inventories: -13.9% (2015 est.)

exports of goods and services: 18.2% (2015 est.)

imports of goods and services: -28.6% (2015 est.)

Agricultural products

sheep, cattle, reindeer, fish, shellfish

Industries

fish processing (mainly shrimp and Greenland halibut), anorthosite and ruby mining, handicrafts, hides and skins, small shipyards

Industrial production growth rate

8.56% (2019 est.) NA

comparison ranking: 43

Labor force

26,840 (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 207

Unemployment rate

9.1% (2015 est.)
10.3% (2014 est.)

comparison ranking: 149

Budget

revenues: $1.719 billion (2016 est.)

expenditures: $1.594 billion (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

5.6% (of GDP) (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 5

Public debt

13% of GDP (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 196

Taxes and other revenues

77.4% (of GDP) (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 2

Fiscal year

calendar year

Exports

$407.1 million (2015 est.)
$599.7 million (2014 est.)

comparison ranking: 193

Exports - partners

Denmark 55%, China 22%, Japan 6% (2019)

Exports - commodities

shrimp, halibut, fish fillets, crabs, cod, mackerel (2021)

Imports

$783.5 million (2015 est.)
$866.1 million (2014 est.)

comparison ranking: 194

Imports - partners

Denmark 51%, Spain 23%, Sweden 12%, Iceland 7% (2019)

Imports - commodities

fishing ships, refined petroleum, construction vehicles, crustaceans, delivery trucks (2019)

Debt - external

$36.4 million (2010)
$58 million (2009)

comparison ranking: 197

Exchange rates

Danish kroner (DKK) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
6.287 (2021 est.)
6.542 (2020 est.)
6.669 (2019 est.)
6.315 (2018 est.)
6.603 (2017 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2021)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 187,000 kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 481.7 million kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 17 million kWh (2019 est.)

comparison rankings: imports 188; exports 182; installed generating capacity 173; transmission/distribution losses 27; consumption 172

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 15.8% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 84.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Coal

production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 183 million metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 4,000 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 169

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 187

Refined petroleum products - imports

3,973 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 177

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

605,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 605,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 187

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 6,352 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 11 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 199

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 66,605 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 118 (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 201

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: adequate domestic and international service provided by satellite, cables, and microwave radio relay; the fundamental telecommunications infrastructure consists of a digital radio link from Nanortalik in south Greenland to Uummannaq in north Greenland; satellites cover north and east Greenland for domestic and foreign telecommunications; a marine cable connects south and west Greenland to the rest of the world, extending from Nuuk and Qaqortoq to Canada and Iceland; a contract has been awarded to build a 5G network in Greenland, initially covering three towns, with 10 towns, including Greenland's capital Nuuk to follow (2022)

domestic: nearly 11 per 100 for fixed-line subscriptions and 118 per 100 for mobile-cellular (2021)

international: country code - 299; landing points for Greenland Connect, Greenland Connect North, Nunavut Undersea Fiber System submarine cables to Greenland, Iceland, and Canada; satellite earth stations - 15 (12 Intelsat, 1 Eutelsat, 2 Americom GE-2 (all Atlantic Ocean)) (2019)

Broadcast media

the Greenland Broadcasting Company provides public radio and TV services throughout the island with a broadcast station and a series of repeaters; a few private local TV and radio stations; Danish public radio rebroadcasts are available (2019)

Internet users

total: 38,920 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 69.5% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 204

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 15,649 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 28 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 173

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020) (registered in Denmark)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 8 (registered in Denmark)

Airports

25 (2024)

comparison ranking: 129

Heliports

55 (2024)

Roadways

note: although there are short roads in towns, there are no roads between towns; inter-urban transport is either by sea or by air

Merchant marine

total: 10 (2023)

by type: other 10

comparison ranking: total 160

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Sisimiut

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces 

Military - note

the Danish military’s Joint Arctic Command in Nuuk is responsible for coordinating Denmark's defense of Greenland

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

in 2022, Canada and Denmark signed an agreement resolving a managed dispute over uninhabited Tartupaluk/Hans Island in the Kennedy Channel between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland