The 20 Coldest Cities In The World

When some of us think of vacation, warm beaches and soft tropical breezes come to mind. That's not everyone's cup of tea, though. What if you're someone who hates bugs, can't stand sunscreen, and thinks of sand as nothing but an irritant? What if you love winter sports, puffy coats, and the ability to see your breath in the air as you walk? If you're someone who loves skiing, sledding, and wearing several pairs of wool socks at a time, there are plenty of winter destinations for your time off. 

If you're on the extreme end of the winter lover scale, we've got a list of 20 of the coldest cities in the world. While we're not including places like science stations in Antarctica — which can be complicated to visit — these are some incredibly cold places. We've ranked them by the coldest average temperature in January, but we'll also give you a look at each city's coldest temperature in recorded history. Get those mittens out and let's get chilly!

20. Hell, Norway

Has anyone ever told you that something will only be possible when hell freezes over? You can get proof that it happens if you visit Hell, Norway. The village is home to around 1,500 who have probably heard that joke far too many times. In case you were wondering about the name of this village near Trondheim, it comes from the Old Norse word "hellir," which means "overhang" or "cliff cave." In Norwegian, it means "luck."

It may be a tiny place, but they have an annual "Blues in Hell" festival, as well as photographable Hell signs all around in the hills, on the local train station, on bridges, and of course, on lots of stores. You can also check out the surrounding area's Stone Age rock carvings discovered in 1895. The average temperature in Hell in January was 25 degrees Fahrenheit in 2016. The lowest temperature ever recorded was -14.8 degrees Fahrenheit in 1899, though the readings were done at nearby Trondheim airport. Make sure you get a round-trip ticket because a one-way ticket to Hell is just too on the nose. 

19. Naryn, Kyrgyzstan

Naryn in Kyrgyzstan sits on the river Naryn, which goes right through the town. One of the branches of the Great Silk Road (used for trading from ancient times through the Middle Ages) went through here. The road now connects Kyrgyzstan to China. This used to be one of the harder places to visit, but the country's official tourism site says there are several hotels now. You can also stay in one of the Soviet-era flats or guest houses and check out the museum, which focuses on the local culture and heritage. The Salkyn-Tor Nature Park is 20 miles east and features water from the Kurga Spring and the Kozho-Unkur cave. You can also visit Son-Kol Lake at 3016 meters above sea level.

The average temperature for this city of 52,300 is 19 degrees Fahrenheit in January. The coldest temperature ever in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan is -17.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which was recorded in 2023. 

18. Fraser, Colorado, United States

The town of Fraser, Colorado, is about 75 miles from the big city of Denver and is located between the towns of Winter Park and Tabernash. It hosts all sorts of winter activities, from dog sledding to tubing and snowmobiling to a trip to the Continental Divide. Snowshoeing is also a big deal. Fraser is situated in the Rocky Mountains with an elevation of 8,574 feet. There are about 1,400 residents who were in a battle over whether Fraser or another city on our list, International Falls, Minnesota, could be called "Icebox of the Nation." It was a long battle that went back and forth, but ultimately the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled in favor of International Falls. 

The average winter temperature in Fraser, Colorado is around 19 degrees Fahrenheit, so it's warmer than some of the other places on our list. That said, there is always potential for a really, really cold day. The lowest recorded temperature was -43 degrees Fahrenheit.

17. Anchorage, Alaska, United States

If you're looking for an icy destination with a lot of activities, check out Anchorage, Alaska, which has a population of 283,154 as of 2023. This frozen city offers great views of some glaciers, which you can check out by boat or air. The Anchorage Museum is the largest in the state and gives visitors a look at the stunning art created by the native population. You can also take a boat to watch some Beluga whales. In fact, the wildlife there is plentiful, and Anchorage is an especially great place to spot moose and bears. You can even pan for gold flakes at Crow Creek or Indian Valley. 

Though not as cold as some of the other cities on our list, with an average temperature of 18 degrees Fahrenheit in January, don't leave your mittens at home. The lowest recorded temperature was -38 degrees Fahrenheit in 1947. 

16. Golmud, Qinghai, China

Golmud in Qinghai Province in China is a split city, with two parts that don't touch. One part is in the south-central Qaidam Basin, while the other is in the Tanggula Mountains. The average temperature in January is 17 degrees Fahrenheit, which is cold, but doesn't compare to the coldest cities on this list. And its average is nothing like the city's lowest recorded temperature, which was -63.4 degrees Fahrenheit in 2023.

As of 2021, the population was around 300,000 people. It's one of the main hubs featuring travel to Tibet, Xinjiang, and Gansu and is the site of the start of the Qinghai-Tibet railroad. If you choose to check out the train trip, you'll need a Tibet Travel Permit before you go. On the trip, you'll enjoy views of the Gobi desert and some incredible scenery. There is also Qarhan Salt Lake to check out, as well as Kunlun Mountains.

15. Erzurum, Türkiye

Another super chilly place to visit is Erzurum, Türkiye (formerly styled Turkey in English). The icy spot sits not that far from the Black Sea and Georgia and is 6,200 feet above sea level. The city has a stunning citadel that you can visit, which was built by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century. You can even climb up the tower for some beautiful views. Check out the Three Tombs of Yakutiye built in the 14th century for the three sons of the local governor. And don't leave until you've tried the local delicacy, cag kebab, made of lamb meat and served with a flour tortilla and a spicy tomato salsa. You can also visit the local bazaar for coffee, food, and gifts. The famous ski resort in the area is the Palandoken and it's one of the best in the country.

The population of Erzurum, Türkiye is 358,344 as of 2023. The average temperature is 14 degrees Fahrenheit in January, but the lowest temperature ever recorded was -32.8 degrees Fahrenheit in 2009.

14. Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States

Grand Forks, North Dakota, is another chilly place that's well worth a visit. This city, with a population of 58,460 in 2023, has an average January temperature of 8 degrees Fahrenheit. That's cold, yes, but pales in comparison to the lowest temperature ever recorded there, which was -43 degrees Fahrenheit in 1912. 

In Grand Forks, you can fish, bike, hike, camp, canoe, ski, snowboard, ride horses, and do pretty much any winter activity you can think of. In addition, there are 59 state historic forts, like Fort Ransom and Fort Totten, as well as sites that take a look at the military history and tour the places travelers stayed after coming West during America's expansion. You can also check out the history of local First Nations people, patronize Native-owned businesses, and visit the North Dakota Museum of Art, which features local, national, and global art.

13. International Falls, Minnesota, United States

International Falls, Minnesota, has been officially nicknamed "The Icebox of the Nation" by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is the coldest location that directly borders Canada, which means that winter sports are a big deal here. The official website for the town promotes opportunities for boating and fishing, and there are also plenty of hiking trails to choose from. 

The town has 5,596 residents as of 2023, and they enjoy a popular winter festival called Icebox Days, which is promoted as "a wacky winter festival" that involves games and races, as well as midnight skiing. They also have frozen turkey bowling — which we hope doesn't also serve as dinner afterward — and the Freeze Your Gizzard race in January, which has 5K and 10K options. You'll need a hearty constitution for that one because the city's average temperature in January is 6 degrees Fahrenheit. The lowest temperature ever recorded was -55 degrees Fahrenheit in 1909.

12. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, is a stunning city in the center of Saskatchewan and Ontario. It's the capital of Manitoba. The average temperature in January is a brisk 5 degrees Fahrenheit, with the lowest recorded temperature sitting at -54 degrees Fahrenheit. The population as of 2023 is 841,000. 

There is a ton to do in this wintery place. You can hit the Festival du Voyageur in February, which takes its name from the French fur traders who settled and made a living here. There are activities in French and English, with music, food, and incredible ice and snow sculptures. You can also check out Fort Whyte Alive, which is a natural area with five lakes and serves as a home to animals like bison, prairie dogs, and burrowing owls. You can even cross-country ski on the trails. And if it's extra cold, try a trip on the Prairie Dog Central, a steam-powered train that takes you from Winnipeg to Grosse Isle. 

11. Astana, Kazakhstan

Astana (also known in the past as Akmolinsk, Tselinograd, Akmola, and most commonly, Nur-sultan) is the capital of Kazakhstan. The city is famous for its beautiful mosques and modern wonders. It gets warm in the summer, so the extreme temperatures of the winter stand in stark contrast, with the rivers frozen from November to April. As of 2023, the population of Astana was 1,291,000.

Astana sits on the Ishim River and is the second largest city in Kazakhstan. You can check out the stunning Bayterek Tower, or visit the Palace of Peace, which is a pyramid-shaped palace that houses a university, an opera house, a spiritual center, and more. The State Theater of Opera and Ballet is a lovely piece of architecture. The average temperature for Astana in January is 4 degrees Fahrenheit, while the lowest recorded temperature is quite a bit lower than that, coming in at -60.9 degrees Fahrenheit in 1893.

10. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Yellowknife is located in the Northwest Territories in Canada. This city is 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle and the only actual city in this territory. It was a huge town during the gold rush and features a ton of winter and summer activities. Though Yellowknife is the coldest city in Canada throughout the year, there is still so much to do here, with the big Snowking Festival and dogsled races taking place both in March. There is also a lot of First Nations history to travelerblog. 

Yellowknife is famous for its incredible Northern Lights display and even has guided viewings. If you're into outdoor sports, you can hike to the lovely waterfall in Hidden Lake Territorial Park called the Cameron Falls, which freezes over in the winter. You can even visit a few old mining huts left over from the gold rush in Old Town Yellowknife. There are still several gold and diamond mines in the city to this day.

As of 2023, the population of Yellowknife is 19,569. The average temperature for January is 4 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lowest temperature ever recorded in Yellowknife was -60 degrees Fahrenheit in 1947.

9. Fairbanks, Alaska, United States

Fairbanks, Alaska, is located in a valley in the interior section of the state, which keeps it extra cold. But this is no small quiet town, despite the extreme weather. This city's population was 32,702, as of 2021, and it's home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which is a big tourist attraction for those who love winter sports. You can even see the gorgeous Aurora Borealis from Fairbanks, and in the summer, the sky stays light for almost 24 hours a day. The city is home to tons of museums, entertainment venues, commemorations of Alaska's Native history, and trails fit for everything from hiking to skiing. Plus, if you want to visit the North Pole from Fairbanks, the trip isn't too far. 

The city's average temperature in January is -6 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lowest recorded temperature was -66 degrees Fahrenheit in 1934, which really makes you consider checking out the city's indoor tourist attractions.

8. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is the country's capital and also the largest city in the region. The location sits 4,430 feet above sea level in the Mongolian steppes on the Tuul River, and it's the world's coldest national capital. You can take trips to see some stunning Buddhist temples and check out the impressive statue of Genghis Khan, which has its own complex complete with shops and a museum. In the summer, you can also take a Gobi desert tour on camels or horses. 

Don't miss the beautiful Zaisan Hill landmark, which features a monument in honor of WWII soldiers and views of the surrounding landscape. You can also visit the Museum of National History, which features artifacts from the steppe nomads, the military, and traditional Mongolian jewelry.

At 1,673,000 as of 2023, the population is quite high for such a cold place. The average temperature in January is -9 degrees Fahrenheit, but the lowest recorded temperature was -47 degrees Fahrenheit in 1957.

7. Utqiaġvik, Alaska, United States

If you're not familiar with the name Utqiaġvik, Alaska, you might know it by the name Barrow. The citizens of this frigid city voted to change it to the name derived from the indigenous Inuit group known as the Iñupiat. The population of Utqiaġvik was 4,393 as of 2014, and it sits above the Arctic Circle. It's also the northernmost city in the United States. It's a windy place, and for 65 days in the summer, the sun never drops below the horizon. The city boasts a stunning view of the Northern Lights and lots of Iñupiat culture to travelerblog. 

Utqiaġvik, Alaska, has been inhabited for around 1,500 years, and you can still see bits of the culture of the Birnirk peoples who lived in the area in 16 dwelling mounds back then. You can't leave without taking a selfie at the famous whalebone arch, which is known as the "Gateway to the Arctic." It has a major connection to the whaling industry and you can find it on the beach near The Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station. The average temperature for Utqiaġvik in January is -12 degrees Fahrenheit. The lowest temperature ever recorded in the location was -56 degrees Fahrenheit in 1923.

6. Dudinka, Russia

Dudinka, Russia, is the capital of Tayyria and is right on the water. The place is very remote and became an official settlement in 1667. The city's major industry is shipping the nickel mined nearby. When the river freezes over in the winter, there's an annual ice breakup that requires flooding the port deliberately. 

The city's population as of 2023 is 22,207. Dudinka is technically a "closed city," which can make it difficult to travel there. If you do want to visit, it can be done through a travel site. That said, it's easier to visit in the summer when the days last almost 24 hours. If you do find a way to get there in the winter, pack smart. The average temperature in January is -12 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lowest recorded temperature there was -60 degrees Fahrenheit in 1947. Don't miss the Taymyr History Museum, which features exhibits on life in Dudinka and the culture of the native peoples of the area.

5. Snag, Yukon, Canada

Snag, Canada, resides in the Yukon territory, which is about two times the size of the entire United Kingdom. However, the population of the entire Yukon is 43,100 as of 2023. While there are a lot of activities as far as winter sports, you'll likely find them within towns. In fact, 98% of the Yukon is "unorganized," which Fun World Facts explains is land that has "no official municipal or local government." As for Snag itself, it's a little village that came about during the Klondike Gold Rush and boasts only "8-10 native families," according to Economic Times.

The average temperature during January in Snag, Canada is -14 degrees Fahrenheit, so you'll want to pack a lot of warm clothing if you visit. The lowest temperature ever recorded there was a wild -81 degrees Fahrenheit in 1947. Weather observer Gordon Toole was there at the time, and it's reported that his breath actually "fell to the ground in a white powder," according to Canada's History.

4. Harbin, China

Next up on our list is Harbin, China, which is known for its International Ice and Snow Festival in January. Ice buildings in "Ice and Snow World" are created and lit up in beautiful colors at night, with some up to 50 meters high. In Sun Island Park, you can see snow sculptures longer than two football fields. If you visit, you'll get to see some beautiful buildings in the Byzantine, Russian, and Baroque architectural styles, including the St. Sophia Cathedral. There are ski resorts to visit as well, and Harbin had a population of 5,242,987 as of the end of 2021.

Travel China Guide suggests bringing moisturizer because this place is very dry in addition to being cold. The average January temperature is pretty frigid here at -18 degrees Fahrenheit. But that's nothing compared to the lowest temperature ever recorded there, which was -63.4 degrees Fahrenheit in 2023. The snowpack can also last up to seven months here, from October to April. 

3. Coral Harbour, Nunavut, Canada

Coral Harbour is a small Inuit community on Southampton Island in Nunavut, Canada, and has been in use since 500 B.C.E. The name in the Inuit language Inuktitut is "Salliq" (or the plural form, "Salliit") which means "large flat island in front of the mainland," according to Travel Nunavut. The Sallirmiut people lived here from 500 B.C.E. until the winter of 1902 when they were wiped out by typhus, which came along with a Scottish whaling vessel. It was then repopulated by the Aivilingmiut. This was a major place for whaling, and the Hudson Bay Company set up a trading post in 1924. Despite extreme temperatures, there's a lot to do outdoors, with hiking in the summer, and ice fishing in the winter. There is dog sledding and snowmobiling as well.

That said, if you choose to visit this small town of around 800 people, be prepared. The average temperature in January is -22 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest temperature ever recorded was -63 degrees Fahrenheit in 1975.  

2. Yakutsk, Russia

The next stop on our tour of the coldest cities in the world is Yakutsk, Russia. The average temperature there in January is a very cold -37 degrees Fahrenheit, and according to Travel + Leisure, this place hit -83.9 degrees Fahrenheit in 2023. This city also isn't that far from another city on our list, Oymyakon. What's crazy about this city is that vendors who sell frozen fish at the market don't need to do anything other than just lay them down outside, since they're instantly frozen. If you visit this place, you'll see a lot of accommodations for the cold, like carpet on stairs to prevent slipping and gas pipes above ground and covered in insulating material because of the permafrost (water and earth frozen together that can be as strong as concrete). You'll also see houses built on stilts so that the warmth of the place doesn't melt the permafrost and damage the foundation.

There are about one million people who live in Yakutsk, so if you're someone who adores the cold weather, you wouldn't be alone. But beyond the winter months, the average temperature for July is 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so the city does warm up at certain points during the year. 

1. Oymyakon, Sakha Republic, Russia

This village of a little over 800 people in Eastern Siberia is very close to the Arctic Circle and, according to Condé Nast Traveler, is the coldest permanently inhabited place in the entire world. The name comes from the Russian phrase for "water that doesn't freeze," which is in reference to a hot spring, though it's cold enough there that you'd expect that to freeze here as well. 

In fact, the average temperature in January is a frigid -51 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Oymyakon was an incredible -90 degrees Fahrenheit, and everything freezes there, including your saliva. The nights can be up to 21 hours long during the winter, but there is a "Cold Pole Festival" which celebrates the city with dog sledding, reindeer races, and ice fishing. Anoter fun fact is the fact that many cars are kept running all the time so the engines don't freeze. This is our coldest city in terms of average January temperatures, and wow, is it seriously cold!