Frigid Five: 5 places that do winter properly

The British winter is not internationally renowned for it’s ferocity, beauty or quite frankly anything other than being a bit wet and cold. Sure the north of Scotland gets some pretty epic snow fall, and there are a couple of fields in the south west that when covered in frost and deer make the front pages of certain less news-centric papers, but in general the season is rather mediocre. (Think we’ve qualified that enough…pretty worried about reprisals from the British Winter Society.)

We’ve searched the globe (figuratively, there’s no budget for a winter recce to look at snow) and found 5 places that do winter properly. A Frigid Five if you will. Or if you wont.

Bridge to nowhere

Frigid Five: 5 places that do winter properly

Oymyakon, Russia

Claim to Fame? Officially the coldest continuously inhabited place on earth with an average winter temperature of -50oC
Activities: Well in the winter there are only 3 hours of sunlight a day so most activities involve sitting in the dark remembering the heady days of the 22o summer. Some local travel companies offer “Pole of Cold” expeditions which will find you staying with local families and using the outdoor WCs.
How to get there: Really? Hardcore. You’ll need to fly to Yakutsk and then drive 18 hours along the The Road of Bones which as you may imagine requires a lot of preparation and balls of, if not steel, then certainly ice.

International Falls, USA

Claim to Fame? It’s not actually the coldest city in the USA (Alaska is WAY north after all) but it is known as the “Icebox of the Nation” with a ridiculous record low of -48oC.

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing abound in the winter. If you rock up in the summer though you’ll catch the Minnesota Bass Tournament. Which is a thing.
How to get there: If you’re on a winter holiday you can drop into International Falls from the Great White North (Canada obvs) otherwise it’s 5 hour drive from Minneapolis.

Harbin, China

Claim to Fame? Holding a pretty epic Ice Festival
Activities: Moving on to somewhere you might actually want to go (sorry you above) the Ice Festival in Harbin is insanely cool and last year included a 240-metre-long ice slide and ice sculptures of many a famous landmark including a MASSIVE Hallgrimskirkja (the church in Reykjavik, Iceland – another top winter destination incidentally). There was also free ginger tea because cold.


Image courtesy of Rincewind42 on Flickr

How to get there: By China standards Harbin isn’t that far from Beijing. About 14 hours drive or night train. We did say by China standards. You could fly but where’s the fun in that?


Claim to Fame? Just because you’re in the Land Down Under doesn’t mean you can’t get your winter on. Charlotte pass regularly records the lowest temperatures in Australia, including the lowest ever at -23oC in June 2014.
Activities: Well we’d be lying if we said there was much more than skiing in the winter…but since it’s the oldest and highest ski resort in Oz it’s probably OK.
How to get there: 5 1/2 hours from Sydney or 3 1/2 hours from Canberra if you’re there. We’re not sure why you would be of course.

Charlotte pass

Yep - this is Australia! Image courtesy of flyingpurplemonkeys on Flickr

Tromsø, Norway

Claim to Fame? It’s awesome.

norway lights

Activities: Where do we start?! Northern Lights, dog sledding, reindeer sledding, alpine, cross-country and off-piste skiing, ice fishing…we could go on. You can also take a 40 minute flight to Alta and stay in the world renowned Igloo hotel.
How to get there: Easiest one yet, just jump on a plane from anywhere in Europe.

Honorary mention – Koh Phi Phi, THAILAND

Because to hell with winter.

Koh Phi Phi