5 of the Coldest Adventure Destinations on Earth
As the temperatures plunge and the snow piles up, we would understand if you’re looking to tropical beaches and sun-kissed cities for escaping winter’s frigid spell.
But if you’re up for a little adventure this winter, you’ll find it in some of the most extreme climates on Earth. Whether it’s taking a sled dog ride in Alaska, warming up in a Mongolian hot spring, or walking into the heart of an Icelandic glacier, there are plenty of memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that don’t involve umbrella drinks or suntan lotion.
1. International Falls, Minnesota (United States)
Decades ago, Collier’s magazine called International Falls the "Icebox of the Nation." Instead of fighting the name, the small city of 6,000 embraced the moniker and has spent the ensuing years defending its snow-covered crown.
Sitting on the northern Minnesota border, International Falls celebrates its frigid reputation every January with the Icebox Days Festival. In recent years, the event has included snow sculpture displays, frozen turkey bowling, moonlight snowshoe hikes, and 5K and 10K races.
Even if you miss the festivities, check out Voyageurs National Park, just a few miles east of town. Over 40 percent of the park is water, turning it into a pristine winter wonderland during the colder months.
Voyageurs hosts snowshoe hikes, snowshoe-lacing workshops, lectures on local wildlife, paddle-carving classes, and more. All that’s in addition to a sledding hill (suited to both kids and the kid in all of us), 110 miles of staked and groomed snowmobiling trails, ice fishing opportunities, and dozens of miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails winding throughout the 218,000-acre national park.
2. Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)
Sitting at the edge of the harsh, unforgiving Mongolian steppes, Ulaanbaatar has the distinction of being the world’s coldest national capital. With temperatures hovering around -44 degrees Fahrenheit throughout most of the winter, you’ll want to bundle up.
Ulaanbaatar is a fine enough destination in its own right, thanks to an eclectic dining scene and fascinating museums, but we’d recommend making the 90-minute drive to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. The park offers miles and miles of snow-capped alpine scenery, along with a variety of cold weather activities to keep you warm and busy. Go for a soak in the Yestii Hot Springs, where temperatures can reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and stay in a traditional, stove-heated Mongolian ger (similar to a yurt) for an unforgettable cultural experience. And if you’re looking to explore the park’s alpine setting up close, layer up and hit one of the park’s year-round hiking trails.
3. Langjökull Glacier (Iceland)
Sure, you’ve imagined visiting a glacier. Maybe you’ve even dreamed of walking on top of an iceberg. But what about going *inside *a glacier?
The 2,500-year-old Langjökull Glacier, located in the Icelandic Highlands, makes that dream a reality.
A handful of companies offer tours and many include stops at lava fields, hot springs, and waterfalls along the way. You’ll take a ride in a specially-designed truck to the top of the glacier (save a few seconds to gawk at the 360-degree views) before heading inside.
Once you get in Europe’s second-largest glacier, you’ll be guided through man-made tunnels naturally bathed in sky-blue and slate-gray ice. The walk itself is a bit less than a mile round-trip, and along the way, you’ll learn about Iceland’s geothermal ecology and fascinating geological history.
4. Denali National Park, Alaska (United States)
Home to the tallest mountain in North America, Denali National Park and Preserve promises some of the coldest temperatures and extreme conditions on Earth. The average high reaches 2 degrees Fahrenheit each January, and the coldest temperature ever recorded at park headquarters was -54 degrees Fahrenheit.
Naturally, the frigid temperatures and 80 inches of annual snowfall tend to scare off all but the heartiest visitors. Make the trek, though, and you’ll find no shortage of wintry wonder to enjoy. Tour the park’s sled dog kennel (the only such kennel in the national park system) or stargaze under some of the clearest night skies in North America. Aim for December, if possible. Every winter solstice, Denali National Park sees only four hours, 21 minutes of daylight. You can also look for the Northern Lights, go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, or try your hand at Alaska’s official state sport: dog mushing.
5. Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina)
Most of us associate South America with tropical jungles and sandy beaches, but Los Glaciares National Park—deep in the Patagonian Andes—challenges those assumptions with the third-largest ice cap on Earth.
There's no shortage of natural wonder to gawk at, admire, and explore. In all, the park covers more than 2,000 square miles of glacial lakes (including the 100-mile-long milky Lake Argentino), innumerable glaciers, and rugged mountains whose pointed peaks resemble a frenetic EKG reading. Stick around long enough, and you'll eventually see an icy waterfall as glaciers melt into surrounding lakes.
Whether you’re exploring winter halfway across the world or in your own backyard, make sure that you are wearing the latest technology in winter gear. Because nothing makes a cold trip worse than being, well, cold. When you’re staying warm and dry, there’s #NoBadWeather that can’t be conquered.
Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.