The 6 Coldest Cities in the World

When you’re shivering in your bones and dreaming of palm trees, sun, and sand this winter, consider the inhabitants that live in the coldest cities on the planet, where average high temperatures can dip 40 degrees Fahrenheit BELOW zero on any given winter day. For this roundup, we’re loosely defining a city as a permanently inhabited place with more than 1,000 residents. This unfortunately knocks out the 500-person village of Oymyakon, Russia, which has an average high of -44.5 degrees. It also rules out the Russian research station in Vostok, Antarctica, which recorded the planet’s lowest temperature ever—a casual -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit—on July 21, 1983. But we are left with six amazing contenders, whose residents share an incredible endurance.

6. Harbin, China

Courtesy of Flickr/Rincewind42

Courtesy of Flickr/Rincewind42

Average January High: 12 degrees Fahrenheit

Average January Low: -12 degrees Fahrenheit

Population: 10.6 million

Though temperatures typically remains a few ticks above zero degrees in winter daylight, it’s still a pretty frigid destination. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that more than 10 million people cope with the weather on a daily basis, making it by far the largest city on our list. Harbin is known for its annual Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which showcases a life-size wonderland carved from the ice.

5. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Average January High: 3 degrees Fahrenheit

Average January Low: -26 degrees Fahrenheit

Population: 1.3 million

The capital of Mongolia is the country’s largest city and home to nearly half of its entire population. While on the surface Ulaanbaatar looks like any other metropolis, it deals with extreme temperatures that fluctuate from an average low of -26 degrees in January to an average high of 78 degrees in July.

4. Yellowknife, Canada

Average January High: -6 degrees Fahrenheit

Average January Low: -19 degrees Fahrenheit

Population: 19,000

In Canada’s Northwest Territories, there’s only one city, and that’s Yellowknife. The city was founded in the 1930s when gold was discovered in the area. Though the gold rush subsided, diamonds were found in 1991, and the city has experienced a second boom. In the winter, it's a great spot to see the Northern Lights.

3. Barrow, Alaska

Courtesy of Flickr/Joseph

Courtesy of Flickr/Joseph

Average January High: -7 degrees Fahrenheit

Average January Low: -19 degrees Fahrenheit

Population: 4,400

The 11th northernmost city in the world, Barrow sits 320 miles above the Arctic Circle. It’s so far north that it is not connected to the rest of Alaska by roads—visitors and residents need to fly into and out of the area. Unsurprisingly, temperatures get pretty frigid in the winter, which creates a permafrost layer that can be 1,300 feet thick. As such, roads are not paved in Barrow, and houses are often built on stilts.

2. Yakutsk, Russia

Average January High: -30 degrees Fahrenheit

Average January Low: -42 degrees Fahrenheit

Population: 280,000

As the temperatures drop, populations typically drop too, but that’s not the case in Yakutsk. Though several hundred miles farther south than Barrow, Yakutsk sees significantly colder temperatures. The incentive for residents to live here? Gold and diamonds, just like in Yellowknife.

1. Verkhoyansk, Russia

Average January High: -44 degrees Fahrenheit

Average January Low: -55 degrees Fahrenheit

Population: 1,300

While it might not count as a true city—its population is rather small—Verkhoyansk is too cold not to mention. Its claim to fame? The greatest temperature range on Earth, as declared by Guinness World Records. In the summer, temperatures can reach the mid-70s, and the hottest temperature on record is 99.1 degrees.

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