1. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Need a place to chill out? Head to Ulaanbaatar, a city that holds the dubious distinction of being the coldest capital city in the world. Sitting pretty – and frozen – at about 1,300 metres above sea level, it very seldom sees air temperatures above -16°C. Except for the people, who have been called ‘warm and friendly’, everything else is icy, starting with the wind. Duck into Ulaanbaatar’s various museums to escape the sub zero draft – choose between the Camel Museum, the Museum of Political Persecution and the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts – or check out Mongolia’s largest monastery, the Gandantegchinlen Khiid.
2. Oymyakon, Russia
Another one for the record books, Oymyakon with its other worldly name just drives the point home that Russia is in another world when it comes to lowest temperatures. The year 1933 saw the village survive temperatures of -68°C; which incidentally is the lowest recorded air temperature in the northern hemisphere. Average ‘warmer’ summer months see temperatures of about -10°C while in the winter months the mercury flirts consistently with the -50°C mark. What can you say, when this village is a mere 350 kilometres from the Arctic Circle! People do live here, even if it is less than 500 frozen souls. If you are thinking of checking this Russian ice box out, it is one day’s drive from Yakutsk.
Photo credit: Maarten Takens
3. Verkhoyansk, Russia
Verkhoyansk is in a constant battle with Oymyakon to grab the icy title of the coldest populated place. These Siberian neighbours vie with each other over decimal points on the temperature chart. This place in the back of frozen beyond started off as a fort and was used for housing political exiles.
Photo credit: Maarten Takens
4. Denali, USA
Another ‘coldest’ on the list, Mt McKinley – also known as Denali – is the coldest mountain on earth. At a height of more than 6,190 metres, winter air temperatures on Mt McKinley hover around the -40°C mark. You have to be a mountaineer to want to be a part of this big chill; so may we suggest a visit to the Denali National Park instead?
Photo credit: Vince Smith
5. Eureka, Canada
A weather station, Eureka research base on Ellesmere Island is also known as ‘The Garden of the Arctic’ for the constant sunshine it gets in the summer months. The dreary winter sees temperatures plummet to a bone chilling -40°C and the sunny summers bring the mercury up to a cheerful -20°C. For those of you who might be fantasising about options to escape the blistering North Indian sun, Eureka is best visited in July. Just so you know, there are no permanent inhabitants here – only the staff of the weather station on rotation– so choose wisely!
6. Vostok station, Antarctica
Another research station, but this one is on the opposite pole. This place is famous for being home to the coldest temperature ever recorded on earth – a mind numbing -89.2°C. The station is located at a height of 3,500 metres above sea level and the major ‘attraction’ here is Lake Vostok – one of the largest lakes on the planet – inconveniently located below 4 kilometres of glacial ice. Other Vostok features include very little moisture and almost no oxygen. A cool weather holiday, anyone?
7. Prospect Creek, Alaska, USA
With a -62°C recorded here once, we had a tough time avoiding word play -‘prospects at Prospect Creek aren’t too bright’. Back to frosty talk now – this sub-Arctic Alaskan settlement saw some traffic way back in the 1970s when a pipeline was being constructed here. Now, with the pipeline complete and a snowy winter most of the year; inhabitants usually include bald eagles and bears.
8. Snag, Canada
With an uninspiring name and bitter temperatures to match, little wonder the village called Snag is uninhabited. Holding the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded on the continent of North America, Snag in Yukon managed a -63°C in 1947. At one point in time, there were a handful of people who were willing to try out the man versus nature number in Snag. These guys were mostly natives and fur traders or the keen, devil may care bunch that showed up during the gold rush. As of date, Snag is best excluded from a travel itinerary – even if you are boiling and about to evaporate in New Delhi.
9. Eismitte, Greenland
Some places are very clear about what they are – the name Eismitte means Ice Centre and rightly so. Eismitte is located on the Arctic side of Greenland, and is quite white. The coldest recorded temperature during a mission undertaken by a few brave souls in the 1930s to this unwelcoming place was a -64.9°C. It is safe to say that there are no locals and no attractions here.
10. North Ice, Greenland
North Ice is another inhospitable location on the inland ice of Greenland. Being the fifth coldest place in the world, it is not about to pop up very soon on ‘hot’ or even ‘cool’ holiday destination lists! A British expedition in the 1950s managed to record an unrealistically bitter -66°C here.
Photo credit: Visit Greenland
11. Barrow, Alaska, USA
This Alaskan wonder is in freeze mode with a minimum temperature record of -49°C. It is very close to the North Pole and even closer to the Arctic Circle. The sun disappears in November and refuses to emerge till it is the end of January. Being an economic hub, (yes, really!), the 4500 residents mostly work in the energy industry. You can visit – there are flights and a sea route.
Photo credit: NASA ICE
12. Hell, Norway
Yes, you read it right. Temperatures in Norway’s version of Hell have been known to reach a chilling -25°C during the winter. With a name that is completely contrary to its known characteristics, Hell manages a fair share of tourist traffic – mostly eager beavers keen to get a mug shot in front of the train station sign. But that must be in the cosy summer months, because Hell freezes over every December to March.
Photo credit: Tom