Branding: Would you rather travel to Iceland or Greenland?

Some friends recently tripped to Iceland.

They loved it, but remarked “it was pretty cold”.

I asserted that you waive you right to carp about chilliness when you choose to go to a place called “Iceland”.

After chuckling, I said it was a branding issue … and, my friends said “that’s right … and there’s a story about the naming of Iceland and Greenland.”



Digging a bit, here’s the story that I’ve been able to piece together …


According to a web site called

Unlike Iceland, which can actually be very green, Greenland’s surface is covered with ice for 80% of the year.

True, the ice takes a blue/greenish color during the winter.

But still, to call an icecap ‘Greenland’ is a bit misleading.

So, why isn’t Iceland called Greenland and Greenland called Iceland?

The story goes that  Nordic settlers actually mixed up the names of Iceland and Greenland on purpose.


To fool their rivals in case they were planning to take over one of these lands.

They would surely pick Greenland over Iceland to try and settle onto.

A variant on that saga says that Erik the Red landed in greenish Iceland before discovering Greenland … and decided to give the icy landmass an attractive name —  Greenland — to motivate people to start living there.

Who’d want to settle in Iceland, right?


Another story attributes “Greenland” to the skincolor of the inhabitants.

“These eskimos were living close to the seawater for such a long time that they showed a greenish tinge on their bodies.”



The United Academics point out that:

Scientific research here is historical research.

This is a bit problematic.

There is almost no chance of ever being sure of how the name for Greenland was made up, since this probably happened somewhere in the tenth century.

The good news is that the chilly name “Iceland” doesn’t seem to deter a brisk tourist trade.

My friends tell me that the country is overflowing – mostly with European visitors.

To all of the Icelandic tourists, I remind: “Then don’t complain about it being cold.”


Thanks to A&D for feeding the lead



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One Response to “Branding: Would you rather travel to Iceland or Greenland?”

  1. claudiabessette Says:

    Funny :)

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