Kulusuk village, east Greenland. Credit: Jonas Tufvesson / Shutterstock.com

The Coldest Countries In The World

  • Canada is known as the coldest country in the world due to its northern arctic and sub-arctic regions.
  • While known as a warm country, Chile hits lows of -15 C in its southern region.
  • Countries with higher altitudes tend to experience colder winter temperatures.

There is a wide range of climates on Earth, ranging from the hottest and most arid desert regions to wet tropics and frozen tundra. From the most northern point of the globe to some more suprisingly southern locales, there is a wide range when it comes to the coldest countries in the world; even within the borders of one nation, such as Canada, temperatures and weather patterns can vary greatly from one region to the next.

Why Are Some Countries Naturally Colder?

The main reasons for cooler temperatures in a given country are its latitude, or the measurement of distance from the equator, as well as the orbit of the Earth around the sun and the tilt of its axis, and varying altitudes.

Temperature drop with distance from the Equator. Image credit: Udaix/Shutterstock.com


Areas further from the equator receive less sunlight and heat due primarily to axis tilt, which affects the angles at which the sun hits different parts of the planet and alters the amount of light and the temperature in more northerly or southerly countries. Immediately at the equator, the sun strikes at a direct right angle with intense heat, whereas at its poles the Earth's sun exposure comes at acute angles, spreading heat over a larger surface area and allowing much of the sun's warmth to be lost in the atmosphere as it travels longer distances before striking the surface.

Seasonal variations are also caused by a country's latitudinal position. At the equator, the sun is always faced directly and so the climate remains steady throughout the year. However, moving toward the poles the high and low temperatures vary between summer and winter months as the Earth moves closer to and further from the sun in its orbit.

There are times during the summer when the poles are facing the sun, and in fact closer to it than the equator. However, because these poles are further away for the remainder of the year and force the sun's rays to travel through thicker atmosphere than at the equator, permanent ice is formed and while some of that ice melts during the summer, what remains solid essentially reflects sinlight and prevents the rays from warming the immediate atmosphere.


Altitude also plays a major role in the climate of cooler regions, and even some considered to be warmer countries, as air temperature can decrease by about 1 degree Celsius for every 100-meter rise in altitude. Therefore, more mountainous regions are prone to cooler temperatures because the Earth's surface absorbs heat energy from the sun, and as the warmth moves into the atmosphere it diffuses and grows colder as it climbs higher.

As you increase in elevation, there is less air above you thus the pressure decreases. As the pressure decreases, air molecules spread out further (i.e. air expands) and the temperature decreases.Sep 17, 2019

10 Coldest Countries In The World Based On Average Yearly Temperature (degrees Celsius)

  1. Canada (-5.35)
  2. Russia (-5.10)
  3. Mongolia (-0.70)
  4. Norway (1.50)
  5. Kyrgyzstan (1.55)
  6. Finland (1.70)
  7. Iceland (1.75)
  8. Tajikistan (2.00)
  9. Sweden (2.10)
  10. Denmark (2.70)

Northernmost Countries Of The World Are The Coldest

If we look at the list of the 10 coldest countries above, we find that 7 of these countries are the northernmost countries of the world. They are:


There are two basic climates in Canada's northern regions - arctic and sub-arctic. In more northerly regions, in the winter, temperatures are well below freezing and the angle of incidence means the sun shines for fewer hours per day, resulting in less warmth from its rays during daylight hours. The result is record-breaking low maxium temperatures, particularly in areas like Nunavut, where in January the mean daytime temperature is around 19-20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the opposite effect takes place in the summer as the poles shift toward the sun, and the same locations in Nunavut can see maximum high temperatures of 43 degrees Fahrenheit. But while summers in Canada are sunny and can get hot, they are short-lived.

Not surprisingly, with its northern reaches measuring arctic and sub-arctic temperatures, especially in winter, Canada maintains its status as the coldest nation in the world with an avergae daily temperature of 5.35 degrees Celsius. Canada's north does not only produce cold temperatures, but it is an arid region with very little precipitation, measuring only about 10 to 20 cm per year as compared to more southern regions of the country, such as Calgary, Alta. where about 128 cm of snow and 40 cm of rain fall each year, or Vancouver, B.C where about 128 cm of rain and 32 cm of snow are measured annually according to Climate-data.org. The polar desert covers one-seventh of Canada's land mass and limits the diversity of plants and animals that thrive in northern regions.

It's not only Canada's north that experiences brutal cold. In Regina, Sask., records for the lowest temperature and highest temperature ever recorded in Canada are both held. The coldest was measured at -50 degrees Celsius on Jan. 1, 1885 and the hottest was 43.3 degrees Celsius on July 5, 1937.


Similar to Canada, Russian climates vary widely from its northern regions to its south. Its winters tend to be extremely cold, with averages of around -30 degrees Celsius with heavy snowfall at times and a tendency toward strong easterly winds, while summers range from warm to hot depending on location with an average of nine hours per day of sunshine. The most varied climates exist in northern and central European Russia, west of the Ural Mountains, while its most mild regions are along the Baltic coast.

In the northern and central areas, winters are very cold with the first snowfall usually occuring in early October. Siberia is the most renowned for its extreme climates and cold winters, with short but warm summer seasons. The weather in Siberian locales can become dangerous, as the temperatures dip below -35 degrees Celsius and bear strong winds and storms. Siberia is home to the coldest place in Russia, Oimjakon, where winter low temperatures can reach below -50 degrees Celsius in January. With temperatures so low, the Arctic sea around Russia's north is icebound from November until April.

The southern European Russia region endures a shorter winter than northern areas and places like the Russian Steppes in the southeast are home to hot and dry summer, though winter temperatures can drop to extremes. Around the Black Sea there is a more Mediterranean climate with milder winter months and more frequent year-round rainfall.

Arctic islands, such as Novaya Zemlya, which separate the Barents Sea from the Kara Sea, record temperatures of about 1 degree Celsius in July. With a sub-arctic climate, winter temperatures in the north range from east to west from about -5 degrees Celsius to -20 degrees Celsius.

The Scandinavian Countries

Scandinavian countries have a diverse range of climates, which change from east to west and north to south, and vary greatly by month. Denmark, for example, has more of a marine west coast climate, as does the southern region of Sweden and some of Norway's west coast. However, an alpine tundra climate exists in the mountains of Norway and Sweden and further north where Greenland and Iceland experience colder winters.

Winters tend to last from December to March, and can reach temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius in Sweden, with few days exceeding 0 degrees Celsius. Norwegian coastal winters hover around -20 degrees Celsius at their lowest and may reach about 4 degrees Celsius on average, but temperatures can hit lows of -40 degrees Celsius in the country's northern interior.


At a high latitude, Iceland is cold and overcast most of the year with strong prevailing winds, often cold because they flow from the North Pole. However, the mild Gulf Stream and Atlantic Ocean temper the effect of cold winds but also create a generally unstable climate on land. Temperatures are colder on the northern coast than the south, where the Gulf Stream flows, and there are glaciers in the interior regions of Iceland but few trees.

Due to cold temperatures in the country, its snow line is low at 700 meters, or 2,300 feet, above sea level because melting occurs only and lower altitudes. Despite its perpetual cooler weather, Icelandic winters do not reach exceedingly cold temperatures, with colder lows recorded at -15 degrees Celsius. The altitude of Iceland's interior has also resulted in snowfall during summer months.

Countries With High Terrain

The remaining three coldest countries of the world featuring on the list of the 10 coldest countries are Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan ranking 3rd, 5th, and 8th on the list. 


Mongolian winters are not riddled with heavy snowfalls, but since the temperature in the high-altitude asian country never climbs above 0 degrees for months on end, snow tends to remain on the ground from early winter until the following summer. Being located inland, nestled between Russia to the north and China to the south, Mongolia experiences extreme climates with very cold winters reaching temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius and short, warm summers. Despite its renowned cold winters, Mongolia is also known as the "Country of the Blue Sky" because it experiences an average of 257 sunny days per year with clear skies. It is the excessive sunshine that makes snow and rainfall rare in the country.


Like Mongolia to its east, Kyrgyzstan is and inland country and therefore experiences extreme cold, with average daily temperatures in many areas never exceeding 11 degrees Celsius, and is generally known as cold and wet. However, temperatures vary widely throughout the country with some areas recording highs of 35 degrees Celsius in the summer but mountainous regions tend to grow noticeably colder in winter months.


A southern neighbour to Kyrgyzstan, the country of Tajikistan notes hot, dry summers often followed by winter temperatures in the range of -1 degree Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius. It is known as a cooler climate largely due to its cloudiness; the city of Dushanbe experiences heavy cloud from mid-October until mid-May. While temperatures rarely drop enough to bring heavy snowfall, the country's rainy season runs from the end of October until the end of May, with at least 13 millimeters of rain falling every 31 days. However, summer months tend to be dry in Tajikistan.


New Zealand

Weather in New Zealand is known for its fluctuation and unpredictability, with some locals joking all four seasons can be experienced in the course of one day. In its far north, New Zealand sees subtropical weather in the summer and its vast coastal regions experience mild weather year-round, but inland the alpine areas of New Zealand can drop as far as -10 degrees Celsius in the winter. In general, the average temperature in the country drops further to its south, and while January and February are the warmest months of the year, July tends to be coldest. The average rainfall of New Zealand is high in its spring and summer months ranging between 600 and 1,600 millimeters, and snowfall is not uncommon in mountain regions like the northern Central Plateau and the Southern Alps. Some northern coastal areas can see frost overnight, but very rarely have snow.


The Chilean climate varies from region to region due to its geographical range as one of the longest north-south countries in the world spanning a total of 38 degrees of latitude. In north-central Chile, a mild Mediterranean climate is common whereas in the far north the country is dry and arid, and East Island is humid and subtropical. However, to the south in Patagonia, the weather tends to be cold most of the time, aside from summer months from November to March, with irregular snowfall and lows hitting -15 degrees Celsius.

Rank Country Average yearly temperature (degrees Celsius)
1 Canada -5.35
2 Russia -5.10
3 Mongolia -0.70
4 Norway 1.50
5 Kyrgyzstan 1.55
6 Finland 1.70
7 Iceland 1.75
8 Tajikistan 2.00
9 Sweden 2.10
10 Denmark 2.70
11 Estonia 5.10
12 Switzerland 5.50
13 Latvia 5.60
14 Liechtenstein 5.65
15 North Korea 5.70
16 Georgia 5.80
17 Belarus 6.15
18 Lithuania 6.20
19 Austria 6.35
20 Kazakhstan 6.40
21 Slovakia 6.80
22 China 6.95
23 Armenia 7.15
24 Bhutan 7.40
25 Czech Republic 7.55
26 Andorra 7.60
27 Poland 7.85
28 Nepal 8.10
29 Ukraine 8.30
30 Chile 8.45
31 United Kingdom 8.45
32 Germany 8.50
33 United States 8.55
34 Luxembourg 8.65
35 Romania 8.80
36 Slovenia 8.90
37 Netherlands 9.25
38 Ireland 9.30
39 Moldova 9.45
40 Belgium 9.55
41 Hungary 9.75
42 North Macedonia 9.80
43 Bosnia and Herzegovina 9.85
44 Turkey 9.90
45 Montenegro 10.55
46 Bulgaria 10.55
47 New Zealand 10.55
48 Serbia 10.55
49 France 10.70
50 Croatia 10.90

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