World Festivals
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National Day of Greenland

Greenland's National Day on 21 June is a national festival in all towns and settlements in Greenland. At each location, celebrations consist of a programme comprising morning songs, speeches, hoisting of the flag, a church service, kaffemik and local entertainment such as music, folk dancing, displays of kayaking skills, etc. Museums and cultural buildings also mark the National Day with special events or exhibitions, while the country's only national TV channel, KNR, broadcasts comprehensive reports from different towns. The National Day was introduced in 1983 as one of the Home Rule's traditions and is thus one of several expressions of national identity, which is also reflected in the flag, clothing, national anthem and language. The longest and therefore lightest day of the year was a natural choice as Greenland's National Day - a day on which the nation can celebrate its national and cultural values together. People are often seen in national costumes and the many events on this festive occasion provide lots of good photo opportunities for visitors.

National Day of Greenland

The Northern Lights in Greenland

Greenland is a very reliable place to see the Northern Lights. Being at such a high latitude, the summer months are not dark enough at night. From the base in Kulusuk for example, the Aurora can been seen from late August until late April. The Northern Lights appear all year round, but must be experienced on a dark clear night sky. Therefore, Northern Lights tours are best in the autumn and winter. The Aurora Borealis forms when charged protons and electrons emitted from the sun as a solar wind are drawn in towards us by Earth’s magnetic field and collide with atoms and molecules in our atmosphere. These collisions result in countless little bursts of light that make up the aurora. Collisions with oxygen produce red and green auroras, while nitrogen produces pink and purple colours. The magnetic field is more concentrated around the Poles, hence this reaction encircles the polar regions of the earth and occurs at an altitude of 40-400 miles (65-650 km) in a zone called the Auroral Oval. Sometimes it is a beautiful and delicate beam of light on the horizon, and sometimes it fills the entire night such that it seems that light is pouring out of the sky. The Northern Lights can be seen in all parts of Greenland, with the best conditions being towards the north, although visitors must be aware of the seasonal variations. Several tour operators in Greenland offer excursions that focus on the Northern Lights by travelling outside the range of artificial light in the towns - for instance by dogsled - in order to experience the spectacular display of light in the night sky.

Northern lights over Kulusuk, Greenland
Photograph: Nick Russill

Nuuk Snow Festival in Greenland

Since 1994, the annual Nuuk Snow Festival in Nuuk, Greenland, has brought teams from around the world to the capital city to create elaborate snow sculptures. This competition is usually held in February or March, depending on when the weather is best for working with snow; climate conditions have sometimes prevented the festival from taking place altogether. Power tools are not permitted in the competition, so sculptors use traditional tools to create their sculptures. These include hand axes; shovels; chisel spades; boards with spikes and handles for creating textures; trim boards with net; wire saws; and trowels. The Nuuk Snow Festival takes places during the Greenland winter when temperatures can plunge into negative digits. The average temperature in Nuuk in February is 14 degrees Fahrenheit, though the temperature can go lower. The frigid temperatures are ideal for sculpting with snow and ice, particularly because of the low humidity levels. Five local architects and artists are appointed as judges by the organizing committee to make the final decision. Sculptures are judged in two categories: figurative and non-figurative.

Greenland Adventure Race

Southern Greenland's breathtaking scenery is the setting for the Greenland Adventure Race, which can best be described as a Greenlandic version of "Iron Man" - with kayaking instead of swimming of course. The competitors are thus sent off on a five day gruelling endeavour where they have to alternate between running, cycling and sailing in kayaks. Competitors will encounter glaciers, rivers, mountains and fjords on the route, all while experiencing cultural attractions such as Norse ruins, the settlements of Qassiarsuk and Igaliku and several sheep-holding stations. For the first stage, which is "only" 20 kilometres (12 miles) long, the competitors run over a glacier before crossing a river of melt water. This stage also includes rappelling. The second stage consists of 50 km (31 miles) of mountain biking, where even the robust bikes are really put through their paces. The third stage is regarded as being the hardest of all stages. The run, which ends in the town of Narsaq, is just over a marathon distance in length - 43 kilometres (27 miles) to be exact- and the route includes several mountain passes at elevations of almost 1000 metres (3300 feet). The fourth stage includes kayaking in the fjords between the towns of Narsaq and Qaqortoq. At certain points the kayak must be carried over land. On the fifth and final stage, running is again on the programme, although this time the run is "only" around 30 kilometres (19 miles).


Greenland Adventure Race

Arctic Circle Race

With its 160 kilometres (100 miles) over three days, the Arctic Circle Race has been called the world's toughest cross-country race. Skiers from all over the world compete against each other in the classic cross-country style race. The Arctic Circle Race is held near Sisimiut on Greenland's west coast in the middle of magnificent Greenlandic scenery, where the competitors are surrounded by endless snow landscapes and by hospitality and helpfulness from the many volunteers and other competitors. The Arctic Circle Race was created in 1998 and today is one of the regular annual events on the international sporting calendar for cross-country skiing enthusiasts and nature-lovers. The success of the race depends every year on the huge local support and involvement of the people of Sisimiut, who, along with the organisers and the good skiers, create the special atmosphere that makes the Arctic Circle Race more than just any other ski race.


Whale Watching

Many different species of whale can be seen along Greenland's coasts. And you are left in no doubt when there is a whale in the vicinity, as when it comes up to the surface to breathe, it blasts its breath through the water and air at a speed of several hundred kilometres per hour; a quite astounding sight! This is called the whale's spout and consists of small droplets of water that crystallise into clear funnel-shaped columns. The whales can sometimes swim very close to land when eating small shoals of fish, plankton, etc. The whales are best seen from a boat, where you can get very close to the enormous marine mammals in their natural element. A number of European tour operators organise whale safaris. In towns such as Nuuk, Qeqertarsuaq and Aasiaat it is possible to get up close to these fascinating animals. However, you do not necessarily need to specifically look for the whales, as a sailing trip along Greenland's coasts is normally a whale safari in itself. Keep your eyes peeled and have your binoculars and whale handbook at the ready. The different species can be determined by the fin, the spout and the tail.
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