The world's coldest countries, though geographically diverse, share common characteristics that define their bone-chilling climates. From landlocked nations to remote islands, and Nordic territories to those huddled near the Earth's poles and the Arctic Circle, they all experience frigid temperatures.
Coastal regions in island states and countries with ocean shores tend to be slightly milder, while inland nations arrange themselves in a south-to-north gradient, marking a progression from warmer to colder conditions. In this exploration, we delve into the coldest countries on our planet, as determined by their annual mean temperatures.
Iceland, as its name suggests, is a European nation where cold is a constant companion. Its average temperature hovers around 0 degrees Celsius, plummeting to harsh lows of -40 degrees during the harsh winters. Even in the summer months, Icelanders don't bask in the warmth; instead, they endure a perpetual chill.
Situated in the northern latitudes, this country experiences limited sunlight, with the sun's rays struggling to penetrate its cities and towns. Iceland's relentless cold and stark landscapes contribute to its unique and awe-inspiring natural beauty.
Russia, the huge transcontinental nation stretching from Eastern Europe to the farthest reaches of mainland Asia, has a topography that is largely devoid of water. As a result, it has a largely continental climate. Russia's climate is typified by warm summers that contrast with long, frigid, snow-covered winters. Summer temperatures average around 37°F, whereas a typical January day registers a frigid 18°F, often dropping to -40°F during hard winters.
Northern European Russia and Siberia, which stretches between the Scandinavian Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean, have a subarctic climate, underlining the country's climatic diversity.
Kazakhstan, Russia's neighboring nation and once part of the Soviet Union ranks as the second coldest country globally. A significant portion of its landscape is perpetually blanketed in snow. During the harsh winters, temperatures plummet to -20 degrees Celsius, and even in the summertime, the mercury barely climbs above a chilly 4 degrees Celsius.
Notably, Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, bears the title of being the second coldest capital city on Earth, further attesting to the country's extremely cold and challenging climate.
During the winter, Finland receives a lot of snow and experiences freezing temperatures, for which it is famous. Between November and April, snow often covers the Finnish landscape for more than 100 consecutive days during the winter. Coastal areas, such as Helsinki, can see temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius.
Extremely cold temperatures of -45 degrees Celsius are not uncommon in the northern parts of Finland during the winter. Here, winter lasts for over 200 days, turning the landscape into a constant whiteout.
Greenland, despite its name, remains a land dominated by ice and snow year-round. The thermometer sees little respite, with temperatures rising only in the summer months, peaking at a meager 7 degrees Celsius. Essentially, it experiences a perpetual winter throughout the year.
Remarkably, Greenland holds the distinction of being the largest island on the planet, while hosting some of the coldest temperatures ever documented. Its icy, snow-clad landscape serves as a testament to the harsh and unforgiving Arctic climate that defines this remarkable region.
Canada, which is located right next to the United States of America, is often cited as the coldest country in the world. Located further north than the United States, it is subject to the same arctic winds that whip the surrounding area, bringing heavy snowfall and temperatures that can drop to near -40 degrees Celsius.
The northern and eastern parts of Canada experience the worst of these severe winters, which last for an impressive five months. Fortunately, Canada's infrastructure and technological advancements have greatly enhanced the quality of life for its hardy residents, making it easier for them to adapt to the cold environment.
The majority of Norway, a Nordic nation, extends northward of the Arctic Circle, residing within the subarctic climate belt. Norway's temperatures could have been even harsher, were it not for the ameliorating influence of the North Atlantic and Norwegian ocean currents, which elevate air temperatures along its coasts. Inland Norway, however, experiences more pronounced temperature extremes, marked by a stark contrast between summer and winter.
Some of Norway's strikingly beautiful mountainous terrain falls under the even colder Polar Tundra climate category, with even lower temperatures. The country is inhabited by warm-hearted people who extend a warm welcome, even in places like Karasjok, which, in the late 1900s, set a chilling national record at -60°F.
Antarctica is a desolate expanse of frozen terrain, its surface perpetually concealed beneath unyielding layers of polar ice that refuse to melt. The extreme cold of this region renders it uninhabitable for humans, with only a handful of intrepid individuals daring to reside there.
Apart from these brave souls, Antarctica's stark landscape is primarily populated by snow-loving penguins. The recorded temperatures in Antarctica plunge to jaw-dropping lows, with the most frigid ever observed plummeting to an astonishing -89 degrees Celsius, making it one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on our planet.
Kyrgyzstan, properly known as the Kyrgyz Republic, is a small landlocked country in Central Asia with an unusually diversified climate. Summer temperatures in the southwestern Fergana Valley can reach 104°F, while the higher portions keep a continuous frost, averaging roughly -22°F from December to February.
The country's average temperature is at 34.79°F, with the worst temperature ever recorded dropping to a bone-chilling -64.5°F. Winters in Kyrgyzstan are particularly harsh, with thick amounts of snow blanketing the landscapes of various valleys on mountain sides.
Sweden, a European nation known for its abundant coastal islands, expansive forests, glacier-carved mountains, and numerous inland lakes, experiences a wide range of temperatures. Typically, February stands out as the coldest month, with mercury levels ranging from -22 to -3°C. In the northern reaches of Sweden, winter temperatures can plummet even lower, reaching frigid lows of -30°C.
The harshest day ever recorded in Sweden occurred on December 13, 1941, in Malgovik, Lappland, where the temperature plunged to a staggering −53.0 °C (−63.4 °F), emphasizing the country's capacity for extreme cold.
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I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.