Have you ever wondered what is the coldest country in the world? or which country has the longest winter?. The past few years have seen winter temperatures in many places plummet to levels never seen before. In some of the coldest countries in the world, offices and schools have been shut and holidays declared on account of the cold, making it fairly difficult for people to cope with the changing weather patterns. For people in some places of the world however, living in temperatures that go way below zero is just a way of life. When hot water thrown into the air freezes before it hits the ground it is no big surprise because that’s just the way it has always been in these places. Some of the top 12 coldest countries in the world which are listed below have places within them that are so cold, that stepping out in the winter can be quite dangerous.
Known as the last region on Earth to be discovered, Antarctica is not a single country but a de facto condominium. This means that it is a political territory in which several nations have an equal stake governed by the diktats of the Antarctic Treaty System. The region is hardly fit for human habitation as it is the coldest, driest and windiest continent in the world. However, even though living conditions are extremely harsh in Antarctica, there are about 1,000 to 5,000 people residing there throughout the year at research stations. With temperatures falling to as low as -80°C (-112°F), this frozen desert makes it practically impossible for humans to live a sustainable life there.
United States of America
The United States of America is the third-largest country in terms of land area. Since the country is so spread out with so much variety in its geography, the country experiences almost all climate types. Predictably, the regions to the north experience a much colder climate, especially Alaska which has a subarctic or polar climate. The area near Fairbanks has the lowest temperature with the mercury recording temperatures as low as -51°C (-60°F). However, severe cold is not just confined to Alaska but other states also frequently experience heavy snowfall and extreme cold such as the town of Stanley in Idaho or Crested Butte in Colorado where temperatures are sometimes below zero. If you ever visit Alaska, you have to do the Mendenhall Lake Canoe Tour and see the majestic Mendenhall Glacier.
Russia, one of the world’s coldest countries, has a lot of large open spaces resulting in the country becoming very windy which obviously lowers the temperatures of most places. Places to the north of Russia have a subarctic climate with extremely cold winters, especially in the Republic of Sakha. One of the coldest inhabited places in the world, Oymyakon, located in this region, has an average minimum temperature of -50°C (-58°F) during the months of December to February. Oymyakon has never recorded an above-freezing temperature in the months from late October to mid-March. During the winter it is so cold in parts of Russia that water has to be supplied from outside the region as all the local water bodies are completely frozen.
Like Iceland, Norway also has a more temperate climate due to the North Atlantic Current. The Arctic polar climate is modified by one branch of this current which goes along the west coast of Spitsbergen. In mainland Norway, the coldest winters are experienced in Finnmarksvidda but inland areas are much colder. The coldest recorded temperature in Norway was at Karasjok situated in the far northeastern part. In January 1999, the official temperature was recorded as -51.2°C (-60.2°F) but unofficially the temperature was even lower.
Sandwiched between Russian and China, the country is known for its vast grasslands and horse culture. Although Mongolia is referred to as the “Land of Eternal Blue Sky,” temperatures in winter can fall to as low as -30° C (-22°F) due to the shallow air that comes in from Siberia. In winter, the country sometimes experiences a very harsh climatic condition known as ‘zud,’ a condition unique to Mongolia. When this happens a large proportion of the country’s livestock dies from freezing or starvation, adversely affecting the economy of the largely pastoral community. If you visit Mongolia during the summer you could take a short drive to Elsen Tasarkhai, a semi-desert region with endless sand dunes. There is even a Horse Ride Day Trip from Ulaanbaatar.
The world’s largest landlocked country is transcontinental, Kazakhstan, is located in Asia and Europe. The country experiences an extreme continental climate with very cold winters and warm summers. The capital Astana is the second coldest national capital in the world with winter temperatures dropping between -30°C to -35°C (-22 to -31° F). The city’s river is generally frozen between the second weeks of November till April. If you want to experience this beautiful country gully, take the Kazakhstan 7 Day Tour which starts in Almaty and goes through Tamgaly Tas, Aksu Zhabagly Nature Reserve, Shymkent, Turkestan, Sauran, Shymkent, Astana and many more beautiful places
Unlike Greenland, the name Iceland is apt for this Nordic island country which has a large snow and ice cover. Rather surprisingly though, Iceland does not experience as harsh winter as some other countries lying on the same latitude. This is mainly because the country lies in the path of the North Atlantic Current which makes part of the region more temperate. In winter the temperature in the Highlands of Iceland average about -10°C (14°F) but the temperatures in the northern part can fall to as low as -30° C (-22°F). Iceland is one of the best places to experience the northern lights in the winter.
The name of the world’s largest island is quite paradoxical because three-quarters of Greenland is permanently enveloped in an ice sheet, making it more white than green. The average daily temperature of the capital Nuuk is not as cold as the rest of the country and differs over the seasons, ranging from -8° C (18° F) in February to 7° C (45° F) in July. This is probably why it is one of the most inhabited places in the region wit one of the longest winters in the world. During winter, however, the temperature in some places in Greenland falls to -50° C (-58°F). The lowest temperature ever recorded at the center of the island is -65° C (-85° F). When visiting Greenland, spend at least two days in Nuuk. The secluded city of Nuuk offers an interesting selection of museums, buildings, and attractions that you must visit. You’ll get the best recommendations from the guides of The Best of Nuuk Walking Tour, which we did!.
Finland, one of the world’s northernmost countries is the most sparsely populated country in the European Union, probably due to the harsh weather conditions that are prevalent, especially in winter. Due to its location, Finland falls in the boreal zone, a region that is characterized by freezing winters and warm summers. Most of Finland experiences 100 days of winter, but further north in Lapland, winters stretch on for 200 days, with permanent snow cover from mid-October till early May. On very cold days the temperatures in Lapland can fall to as low as -45°C (-49° F), making Finland one of the world’s coldest countries. The northernmost part of Finland does not see the sunrise for 51 days during winter and the sun does not set for 73 days at a stretch in summer.
Estonia is a small country located in Northern Europe. Although the country experiences a much warmer climate than some of the countries on this list, the erratic rainfall can cause the temperatures to plummet irrespective of the time of year. The sub-zero temperatures of the country in winter are due to the monsoon winds which make the region extremely cold resulting in the country being perennially frigid. The average temperature in February which is the coldest month of the year is -5.7°C (21.7°F). The lowest temperature recorded is -43.5°C (-46.3°F). During the winter it is recommended to take the Day Trip to the Russian Border and see the beautiful north-eastern parts of Estonia.
China, the most populated country in the world and the second-largest country by land area lie in East Asia. Due to its vast area and varying topography, China experiences varying degrees of climate, ranging from an extremely hot climate in the deserts to the freezing chill of the Himalayas. Harbin, the coldest city in China is appropriately nicknamed the “Ice City” as winter temperatures in the region can plummet to as low as -38°C (-36°F). The common man faces a lot of problems during the cold winter as the infrastructure and heating in rural China is not very good.
Canada occupies much of the continent of North America and as such, a large part of the Canadian Arctic is covered by permafrost and ice. The average temperatures vary across the different regions of Canada but the interior and Prairie provinces experience extremely harsh winters with temperatures plunging to below -40° C (-40° F). Temperatures in Yukon have dropped to as low as -60° C (-76° F) three times in the past. Regions that are away from the coast can experience snowfall for almost six months a year and further north, snow can persist throughout the year.
Just So You Know:
- Sunburn is a health issue in Antarctica as almost all the ultraviolet light from the sun is reflected by the vast snow surface.
- Ulaanbaatar the capital city of Mongolia is the coldest capital city in the world.
- In some places in Russia, the cold is so extreme that it takes at least 3 days to dig a grave for a funeral. The hard soil has to be first thawed with hot coals to make digging easier.
- Commuters in Ottawa, Canada sometimes use ice skates to go about their daily routine because of the heavy snow.