Luke Armstrong | Mar 17, 2022
Article first seen on sevencorners.com and written by travel blogger and world nomad, Luke Armstrong. Read more about Luke's stories at TravelWriteSing.comor right here on the Seven Corners Travel Blog!
"You don't know cold like I do," I said once in a raspy voice to a guy from Iceland. Being born in Montana and raised in North Dakota, I've experienced winters so cold that if you walk outside without a coat in the dead of winter, you'll be dead in winter after a few minutes.
"No, it can't be that cold," the guy from Iceland rebuked me when I told him he could throw a cup of boiling water in the air in our winter and it would come down as ice pellets.
Oh yes it is that cold random Icelandic guy at a bar! So ever since I finished school, I've done what seemed the only sensible thing to do when you are from a climate suitable for Arctic penguins—spent the last decade living across the world in warmer, usually tropical climates.
I don't "hate" winter, I just don't understand it. Why do people live in it full-time when the other option is living with a perpetual sunburn?
Yet like my conviction that honey fried ants are dog gone delicious, not everyone agrees with my thoughts on what's an acceptable temperature for human beings. There are weirdos out there. My dad is one such weirdo. He claims to love the frigid cold and spurns the heat. As soon as it gets above freezing, there he is, walking around town in flip flops and shorts (much to the embarrassment of his teenage children who wish their dad wore pants like all the other kid's fathers in winter).
If you are like my father—a weirdo, a snowman, a temperature mutant, someone who should work for Santa in the North Pole—then this article is for you. Or maybe you just think that you look your sexiest in big winter coat. If that's the case, here are some places you can visit while looking your sexiest.
These destinations can chill you to the bone! So pack that winter coat and be sure to get a travel health insurance policy that covers frostbite!
Obviously, no list of cold destinations would be complete without some spots in Iceland. In the summer, when the southern parts of the island average a balmy 50–55 °F, many locals (the ones who believe without question in the existence of elves) don wool speedos their grandmothers knitted them and go for a swim in a sea the same temperature as the one Jack from Titanic froze in. (That last sentence is just a taste of some of the boundless quirkiness the warm people of cold Iceland will show you).
For trekkers, hikers and climbers, a trip to Myvatn might just lead to quitting your day job and ditching your return flight home. (Cue "Let it Go" from Frozen here). This volcanic carved region of Northern Iceland has short 5k jaunts and 100k treks and everything in between. There are scores of mountains begging to be climbed and volcanic craters, lava fields, hot springs, and volcanoes to trek through—all backed with scenic views that by night host some of the best Northern Lights viewing on the planet.
Myvatn is a harsh region, with bent trees managing to twist out an existence rooted in unlikely crevices of volcanic rock and soil. The trees silently attest to the fact that no matter the extreme temperatures, this place is worth putting down a lifetime of roots. A person could spend a year discovering here and still have more to explore. If a you get too cold, there's world class hot-springs, which will take the edge off your frostbite.
Give it a shot, but you'll never be able to properly pronounce the Vatnajökull glacier (and this is one of the easier Icelandic words!). Just call it what the locals do, Vatna, and focus your energy on securing your crampons and the other important details you'll need to survive this ice climb (Didn't you get the memo? We didn't just come to look at this glacier, we came to climb it!).
Clocking in at 8,100 km², Vatnajökull is the most voluminous ice cap in Europe by a third. Do you know how many ice cubes it would take to equal the amount of ice in Vatnajökull? I don't either, but my baseless estimate is more than exist on earth.
Underneath its thick sheets of ice are concealed volcanoes, volcanic lakes and the glacier, wanting even more gold medals in glacier-dom, feeds Dittifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall.
Though it would have messed with his rhyme scheme, OutKast could have accurately answered his question, "What's colder than being cold?" with "Being in Antarctica!"
With summer temps ranging between 23 to 41 °F, my eccentric father would be in flip-flops and shorts were he to ever to visit then.
Because of the frozen continent's remote unreachability, a trip here has a mystical allure to adventurers. With less than 20,000 tourists visiting Antarctica every year, it's a trip most lifetimes will miss out on. But you don't need to be one of those people!
I've tried Expedia, Skyscanner, and Google flights, and none of my go-to flight finders have flights to Antarctica.
If you dream of the Antarctic cold but spending a few weeks on a boat in rough waters doesn't sound ideal, you can also check out your options of getting there by plane on Cool Antarctica. (To stay warm, you might want to travel to Iceland first and ask someone's grandma to knit you up one of those wool speedos I mentioned earlier).
Before I visited Saint John's Canada, I thought Canada was filled with, you know, Canadians. What I mean, was that all the Canadians I'd previously met had a sorta Canadian-esque about them. Au contraire in Saint John's. Half of the Canadians I met there had Irish-ish accents. And boy did they drink like the Irish too! It's a tough place to stay sober (everyone's just so cold that they have to drink!)
On the eastern shores of the island of Newfoundland, Saint John's is one of the oldest surviving English settlements in North America. With epic historical hikes overlooking the North Atlantic like Beacon Hill, there's natural beauty here.
Saint John's isn't freezing, it's just pleasantly cool. During the warm season the highs average 61 °F. With brightly colored houses winding up and down hill, it's like a mini San Francisco. And the people are quirky, artistic, and know how to have a good time (alcohol and live music is usually involved). And you can officially become an official Newfoundlander by kissing a cod fish in a pub. I did and I got a certificate that declared me an official Newfoundlander (but when my ear became clogged and I went to the doctors, that did not qualify me for Canadian healthcare, so I was glad for my Seven Corners Travel Health Insurance).
If kissing codfish and drinking past the point of remembering that you made out with a fish isn't the "cool" Canadian experience you seek—maybe the Yukon has what you are looking for.
On the other end of the Canadian cultural spectrum is The Yukon, also known as Canada's Alaska. It borders Alaska and has many of the same outdoor offerings. In south-central Yukon, hike Mile Canyon Basalts, a gorgeous package of volcanic rocks cut by the Yukon river and carved from ice-age Glaciers. There's a bus tour in the Yukon Wildlife Preserve to view mountain goats, brown bears, moose, and other animals the summer never sees. Just be sure to visit before the temperature drops. From the preserve's website, "The Yukon Wildlife Preserve reserves the right to close to the public when temperatures drop below -40 degrees Celsius." That sounds reasonable.
If you're like me, you'll get cold and then you'll head to Whitehorse to visit the Takhini Hot Springs. There your beard will become full of little icicles while your body and spirit warms amid the scenic background of a mountain grown evergreen forest. You'll float on your back and realize that despite the fact that the cold makes you cold, it also makes for serene moments like this, which makes it all worthwhile.