In 1983, Antarctica’s Soviet Vostok base experienced the coldest temperature ever observed on the earth in the middle of July. The snow-blown desert hit an unbelievable -128.6 °F (-89.2 °C), 30-degrees colder than the next coldest recorded temperature.
Earth is a planet of extremes. Countries like Mali experience sweltering average temperatures as high as 83.89 °F (28.83 °C), while less than 3,500 kilometers away, the Swiss fight their way through the 6.1 °F winter chill.
Let’s explore the top 20 coldest countries in the world, in all of their teeth-chattering, frost-bitten beauty. We’ll look at the average yearly temperature for each nation, as well as exciting instances of freezing temperature (lowest ever recorded).
Map and list of the top 20 countries by lowest temperature ever recorded:
To start things off, we have the island with the lowest temperature in the world. Despite its misleading name, Greenland’s bitter cold temperatures evoke anything but visions of sunny pastures and verdant valleys. Eighty percent of the world’s largest island is blanketed in a 4-kilometer thick ice sheet.
So, it comes as no great surprise that the average yearly temperature is an icy 1.076 °F (-17.18 °C), making it the coldest place on Earth.
While Greenland is a fully autonomous region and the world’s largest island, it remains a part of Denmark. Hence, we can’t call Greenland the coldest country in the world.
So next up, we have the coldest country in the world:
The coldest country in the world is Canada (in terms of average temperature). The lowest temperature ever recorded was -81.4 °F (-63 °C) in the Yukon Territory in 1947. Fortunately, the average sits at 20.55 °F (-6.36 °C), which seems positively toasty compared to that record low of -17.18 °C.
In addition to claiming the #3 spot for the lowest yearly average temperature of 22.71 °F (-5.16 °C), Russia also holds the title for the top three lowest temperatures ever recorded outside Antarctica.
In 1892, the temperature in Verkhoyansk plummeted to -90 °F (-67.8 °C) on February 5 and February 7. Then, on February 6, 1933, Russia went for the triple-play when the temperatures hit -90 °F once again, this time in Oymyakon.
Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is called the Coldest National Capital, thanks to bone-chilling winters that can hit -40 °F/°C.
Because Mongolian summers soar to a sweltering 93 °F (33.9 °C), the yearly temperatures only average to a comparatively comfortable, but ultimately misleading, 33.2 °F (0.67 °C).
Joining the other chilly nations along the Arctic Circle, Norway ranks fifth with an average yearly temperature of 35.20 °F (1.78 °C). Unlike Mongolia’s steamy summer months, Norway’s summers average a sweater-worthy 65 °F (18.3 °C).
Head south from Russia through Kazakhstan, and you’ll run into a tiny Middle Eastern periphery nation called Kyrgyzstan, with an average of 35.96 °F (2.22 °C). In the valleys of the Tian Shan mountains, record readings have been as low as -64.5 °F (-53.6 °C).
Unlike Greenland, it makes sense that a country with “ice” in its name would contend with a frosty climate. The North Atlantic island averages out to 36.15 °F (2.31 °C), with a record low of −39.7 °C (−39.5 °F) in Northern Iceland.
Finland is the second-coldest Scandinavian country, at 36.54 °F (2.52 °C). Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland, holds the record for lowest recorded temperature every month except December, when Eastern Finland reached -52.6 °F (-47.0 °C) in 1919.
Rounding out the Scandinavian triplets, Sweden averages a mere seventeen-hundredths of a degree warmer than Finland, with a yearly average of 36.71 °F (2.62 °C). Sweden’s Lapland dominates the cold here, too. On February 2, 1966, the lowest recorded temperature peaked at -62.7 °F(-52.6 °C).
Directly under Kyrgyzstan is Tajikistan, where the yearly average is a crisp 38.75 °F (3.75 °C). Most of Tajikistan, which is 93% mountainous, is considered a subtropical climate, but the variance in elevation creates sharp temperature differences.
Switzerland is tightly nestled between France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, and Italy. Without the temperature-regulating benefits of large bodies of water, the temperatures dip below its neighbors, reaching 42.94 °F (6.08 °C).
12. North Korea
North Korea places as the 12th coldest country globally, where the yearly average reaches 43.14 °F (6.19 °C). The country has an interesting climate, especially for a relatively small nation. On the western border, where North Korea meets Russia, the average is 44.5 °F, but on the east coast, it’s nearly 10-degrees higher.
Estonia’s yearly average of 43.36 °F (6.31 °C) seems positively mild compared to the coldest countries in the world, at least until December rolls around. During the winter months, the warm, humid air from the Atlantic is no match for the bitterly cold polar cells that blow in from Russia.
14. Faroe Islands
Between Iceland and Norway is an archipelago collectively called the Faroe Islands. It’s a Danish territory in a temperature “sweet spot,” between the warm Gulf Stream and the cool polar air masses moving south from the Arctic.
The yearly average of 43.74 °F (6.52 °C) represents the balance of mild winters, when temperatures typically reach 37-39 °F, with cool summers that rarely exceed 51 °F.
Along with Uzbekistan, Liechtenstein is one of only two doubly landlocked countries globally. This means that it is a landlocked nation wholly surrounded by other landlocked nations. Europe’s fourth-smallest nation averages temperatures of 44.08 °F (6.71 °C).
Latvia is a Baltic state with an extensive coastline in the Baltic Sea. The body of water regulates the West Coast’s climate, resulting in warmer summers and milder winters, while the interior has reached -46 °F(-43.2 °C). Everything balances out to an average temperature of 44.35 °F (6.86 °C).
The world’s largest landlocked country is surrounded by countries that top the ranks of coldest countries, including Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia, yet it has a perfectly temperate 44.44 °F (6.91 °C) yearly average temperature.
Due to its substantial size, China’s climate shifts from one side of the Asian nation to the other, resulting in an average of 44.78 °F (7.10 °C). In the north, frigid winters plummeted to a bitter -72 °F(-58 °C) in 2009, while the southern climate maintains a steady average of 59 °F(15 °C) year-round.
Located in the Caucasus Mountains that span the border between Europe and Asia, Armenia is a mountainous country that experiences summer temperatures soaring to 97 °F (36), then snowy winters ranging from 14-23 °F(-10 °C).
These intense differences in seasons result in a modest annual mean of 44.87 °F (7.15 °C).
Rounding out the top 20 coldest countries in the world is Austria, which has a yearly average temperature of 45.05 °F (7.25 °C).
Austria shares borders with two other countries on this list– Lichtenstein, and Switzerland. The nation is 74% mountainous, with three chains of the Alps crossing through.
While Greenland’s yearly average temperature makes it the coldest country, the record for “World Lowest Temperature Country” goes to Russia.
It was here that the temperature plunged to a glacial -90 °F, a mere 38-degrees warmer than the coldest temperature ever recorded.
Brr… Do you feel a slight chill?