On the west coast (partly below the Arctic Circle), this region is best recognized for its highly varied scenery.

Kangerlussuaq (Sondre Stromfjord)—Founded as a World War II airfield, the U.S. sold Kangerlussuaq to Greenland for one krone (US$0.15) in 1992. Greenland continues to run it as a scaled-back air base, and it's one of the island's busiest passenger air terminals. Several military barracks are now hotels, and it has a golf course, a gymnasium and a swimming pool. Set 110 mi/180 km inland, the area has more clear days than the coastal areas and the temperatures are some of the most extreme in the country: terribly cold in winter and as high as the low 80s F/28 C during summer, which is midnight-sun season. Weather permitting, you can cross-country ski in the colder months and take interesting walks in the summer. In winter, it's a perfect place to watch northern lights, as the weather tends to be clear. 200 mi/320 km north of Nuuk.

Nuuk (Godthab)—Greenland's capital and a major fishing town, Nuuk (pronounced nuke) is located near the site of one of the early Viking settlements in Greenland. Even older are the remains of some aboriginal settlements that have been found in the vicinity, the oldest dating back more than 4,000 years. Today, Nuuk bustles with life and activity: 15% of the country's population lives there, and most have arrived since 1950. The explosive growth has created vast, ugly blocks of apartments along with the typical urban footprint of government buildings, schools and hotels.

You might want to begin your visit by stopping at Santa's Workshop, which houses the tourist office. It also sells local handicrafts and postcards, as well as Greenlandic stamps, which are valued by collectors.

After you've gotten your bearings, plan on paying a visit to Katuaq ("the drum"), the Greenland Cultural Center. This triangular complex houses the Nordic Institute on Greenland, as well as Greenland's only cinema. Visitors can also enjoy art exhibitions, concerts, theater performances and a nice cafe.

The National Museum contains displays on Greenland's culture and history, as well as artifacts such as dogsleds and kayaks. The highlight of the museum is a group of well-preserved mummies that date from 1475. They were accidentally discovered by hunters in western Greenland in 1972.

Among the town's historic sites are Hans Egede's house (the oldest colonial house in Greenland, built in 1728 by the missionary who founded the town) and the New Hernnhut Mission (originally a Christian missionary center, it now houses the university). You might also want to stop by the kayak workshop on the harbor: It sometimes presents special exhibitions of kayaking skills. The fjords near Nuuk are a good place for hiking, fishing (trout, haddock and salmon) and whale-watching. 350 mi/560 km south of Disko Bay.

Paamiut (Frederikshaab)—This important fishing town has many fine colonial buildings, considered the most handsome of their kind in Greenland. Other sites of interest include a small museum and a church from 1909. Though this area is rarely visited by tourists, it provides excellent terrain for hardy trekkers and is the home of the white-tailed eagle. 175 mi/280 km south of Nuuk.

Sisimiut (Holsteinsborg)—This village, located 30 mi/50 km north of the Arctic Circle, is the second largest in Greenland and is home to the second-largest college, Knud Rasmussenip Hojskoliat. Perhaps the most distinctive landmark in Old Town is the whale jawbone marking the entrance to a small square, where you'll find the 1773 Blue Church (also called Bethels Church). Behind the church is the old vicarage, which now serves as a kindergarten. A museum and the Gamle Butik (Old Store, dating from 1852) are in the old part of town as well. The aged buildings at the harbor are also worth a visit. South of Old Town is the red church, Bojsen-Mollers. 200 mi/320 km north of Nuuk.

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