The 10 coldest places on earth

Joanna Whitehead

As parts of American suffered a polar vortex, with Lake Michigan freezing over, we look at some of the coldest places on earth.


Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar at sunset on a cold day (iStock)

Mongolia’s capital city is widely agreed to be the coldest in the world. Located on a high plateau 1,300 metres above sea level, Ulaanbaatar is home to almost half of Mongolia’s population of three million. Throughout January, temperatures rarely get above -16C. Fortunately, visitors can warm up inside the city’s temples and museums, such as the International Intellectual Museum, an institution dedicated to puzzles, logic, riddles and games.

Vostok weather station, Antarctica

The Vostok weather station: one of the coldest (and driest) places on earth (Wikimedia)

This Russian research station on Antarctica holds the title of having the lowest measured temperature of -89.2C, which it hit on 21 July 1983. Things don’t improve much during the summer season, either, when the average temperature -32C. This extreme location is also one of the driest places on earth, with an average annual rain of less than one inch, all of which falls as snow.

Mount Denali, Alaska

Mountaineers climbing Mount Denali (Getty)

At 6,190 metres above sea level, Mount Denali is North America’s tallest mountain. Previously known as Mount McKinley, the mountain constitutes part of the Alaska Range and is at the heart of Denali National Park in Alaska. Denali’s peak is permanently covered with snow and glaciers and holds the record for the coldest North American wind-chill temperature of -83C in 2003. The mountain sits approximately 130 miles north of Anchorage, the Alaskan capital.


Verkhoyansk, Russia

While winter in Verkhoyansk can be gruelling, summers are surprisingly warm (Wikimedia)

Holder of the world record for the greatest temperature range, this Russian town to the north of the country has extremely cold winters and warm summers. In January, the average daily temperature is -48C and the mercury remains below zero between October until April. However in summer, temperatures regularly hovers at more than 30C.

International Falls, Minnesota, US

Winter on the Frozen Lakes, Minnesota (iStock)

The city of International Falls in Minnesota is so proud of its cold weather status that in 2002, it took the town of Fraser, Colorado, to court in an effort to claim cold supremacy and be crowned “Icebox of the Nation”. International Falls won the title and celebrates by hosting an annual Icebox festival, which includes frozen turkey bowling, snow-sculpting and fireworks. This chilly destination sitting on the Rainy River across from Ontario, Canada, also has the lowest average temperature in the country of between 0-2C.

Fraser, Colorado, US

A winter sunset over the Rocky Mountain range (iStock)

Situated in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Fraser is 2,613 metres above sea level and home to just 1,275 people. Despite coming second place in the "Icebox of the Nation" battle with International Falls, Fraser still experiences some of the coldest winters in the United States, with the average temperature reaching just 3C. Its Winter Park Resort receives almost 10 metres of snow each year, making it a popular skiing destination.

Snag, Yukon Territory, Canada

Yukon Territory in Canada (iStock)

Holding the title for the coldest temperature ever recorded in North America, the village of Snag recorded a temperature of -63.9C in 1947. At this point, the village was primarily used as an emergency landing strip and weather station, prompting meteorologists working on site to carve a new notch in the case of the thermometer and submit the instrument for further analysis to ensure it was operating as it should. The Yukon Territory has the smallest population of any province in Canada, with just 35,874 people living in the region.

Yakutsk, Siberia, Russia

The cold and fog in Yakutsk, Siberia (iStock)

The Russian port town of Yakutsk sits on the Lena River – a body of water that freezes to become solid enough to act as an additional road during the parky winter months. Here, temperatures in the -40C region are described as “cold, but not very cold”; and where one particular November, when the temperatures failed to drop below -25C, was described as “exceptionally warm”. Thisremote settlement is located six time zones away from Moscow and a few hundred miles away from Oimyakon – “The Pole of Cold” – where the lowest ever temperature in an inhabited place was recorded at -71.2C.

East Antarctic Plateau

The coldest place on earth (Wikimedia)

The title for the coldest place on earth goes to the East Antarctic Plateau, a vast and barren stretch of ice the size of Australia. Researchers have recorded temperatures of -100C here. Areas of this gruelling cold were identified in 100 sites across the East Antarctic Plateau at an elevation of 3,800 metres.

Rogers Pass, Montana, US

Rogers Pass in Montana on a clear day (Wikimedia)

At 5,610 metres above sea level, Rogers Pass recorded a temperature of -56C in January 1954, one of the lowest in the US. Despite this, the summer months are actually fairly warm, which pushes the average mean temperature for the year up to 6C. Don’t be deceived, however – the temperature is unlikely to get above freezing between October and April.