The Coldest Places on Every Continent

Think winter sucks this year around your particular patch of ice? Stop sniffling, it could be worse. Every continent has places where cold takes on a whole new meaning. Here are some of the places where winter is more than just a few dark days. Pry the ice out of those tear ducts and have a look.

North America

If you’re not in Stanley, Idaho, right now you have no reason to complain. If you are, and you’re reading this, by all means, both of you, continue complaining.

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Stanley, named for the god of tongues sticking to metal, reports the coldest temperature in the lower 48 states some 300+ days each year. Near Sun Valley, but without a ritzy ski resort, Stanley is an outdoor recreation winter wonderland with 100 residents and a mayor still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Mayor Hannah Stauts, 23, entered the record books as the youngest female mayor in the US and bears more than a passing resemblance to both Hannah Montana and Darryl Hannah.

>> Discover the best ski resorts in North America

South America

The coldest place in South America? You’d think it would be Chile. But it seems that some parts of the world are not obsessed with recording their weather. Comprehensive data and information exists for almost every corner of the world, but Chile seems to me to be a little bit lax in their record-keeping. It’s nothing that I can prove, it’s just that I don’t quite trust that the record low of -27.4 F in Sarmiento, Argentina back in 1907 is actually the coldest it has ever been in South America.

You might as well argue that Patagonia is the coldest place in South America because it spawned a clothing company renowned for warm clothes. No one can prove you wrong.

One thing we do know though, Mt Cayambe, near Quito, Ecuador is the most interesting cold place in South America, it has a daytime average of 2 degrees celsius and an overnight average of -10 C and lies almost directly on the equator.

>> Find five unexpected treasures of South America

Africa

If you are like most people, you may have been under the impression that Sutherland was the coldest place in South Africa. You would be mistaken, that distinction goes instead to Buffelsfontein.

In what may be the most meaningless dispute in meteorology, numerous sources still list Sutherland as the coldest place despite the fact that it has a mean annual winter temperature of -3.8 degrees C while Sutherland’s mean winter month temperature is the relatively tropical -1.2 C.

In other surprising news, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Africa is not at the latitudinal extreme of South Africa, but, counter intuitively, in the northern climes of Morocco, at the mountain town of Ifrane where the mercury reached -11 F.

>> Check out nine amazing adventures to add to a trip to South Africa

Russia

Russia gets its own section here, because it happens to contain the coldest place in both Europe and Asia. So let us revel in the mind boggling cold that mothered the invention of Vodka, stopped Hitler’s forces and makes Mongolia look reasonable.

Verkhoyansk, Russia is considered the coldest place in Asia, with a measured record temperature of -90 degrees F and an average (average!)  of -50 F and an all-time high of -17 in the month of January. This qualifies it for a subarctic climate and gave the region the WWE-worthy name Stalin’s Death Ring and the Pole of Cold. 1,400 people call it home.

The coldest place in Europe is Ust-Shchugor, Russia, which lets Finland and Sweden have all of the moderate weather before taking the brunt of the arctic systems. Still, it does not compare with Verkhoyansk, Ust-Shchugor’s best effort in the record contest is an almost habitable -72.6 F. But friends don’t let friends live in Ust-Shchugor.

>> Discover 8 reasons to visit Post-Communist Eastern Europe now

Antarctica

Determining the coldest point in Antarctica is a bit like looking for the wettest part of Atlantis. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve found it. But since they’ve been keeping records, Vostok, a scientific station in the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility (seriously) has seen the coldest temperature anywhere anyone has brought a thermometer. It’s nearly twice as cold as Russia, it’s so cold that if you through a pot of boiling water in the air, it comes down as ice. It’s -128 F.

The research station’s location, near the South Geomagnetic Pole puts it in a prime spot to observe the Earth’s magnetic sphere and a colossally bad spot to do anything else. Researchers at Vostok experience a near-complete lack of moisture in the air, lack of oxygen due to elevation, lack of carbon dioxide, which monkeys with your breathing mechanism, and three months each winter without sun.

>> Read about how to choose the right Antarctic cruise

Australia

If you really want to escape the cold, though Australia is the place to start. Even at its worst, at Charlotte Pass on May 29, 1994, temperatures only dropped to -9.4 F. Cold enough to curl your toes and tickle your nose, but it hardly seems worthy of the record books. The Snowbird Lodge is among the many fine ski resorts in the area.

New Zealand is even balmier, with a record low of -6.9 F on July 3 1995 in the town of Ophir. This may not, in fact, be quite as cold as where you live, so as of now, you have permission to resume complaining.

>> Check out the most beautiful places for a working holiday in Australia

Read more fun geography facts:

Photos by: Rick Hobson, slack12, KhanFam kygp, Rita Willaert, Steve_lacey941

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Leave a Comment

Older comments on The Coldest Places on Every Continent

Suchi Garg
16 January 2009

Cool Article.

Sean Keener
09 January 2009

Isn’t Canada part of the lower 48? ;)

Julie Palmateer
09 January 2009

How did North America shrink down to only 48 states of the US? What happened to Alaska and Canada? You do know they are a very large part of the continent, right? Either you need to work on your geography or just give it up and write an article about young, blond mayors.

AceTracer
28 February 2010

The coldest place in North America is Yukon, Canada. In February 3, 1947, the temperature dropped to -81F.