Published July 25, 2012
For many, a warm beach is the ideal location for a dream vacation. But others actually like frigid temperatures --places to see unique wildlife and explore vast landscapes.
If you're fearless in the face of frostbite, you might consider traveling to one of the coldest places on Earth. But these destinations are not for the faint of heart.
The massive continent covering the South Pole is difficult and expensive to get to, but if you can brave the notoriously rough sea crossing and the high cost, Antarctica offers tourists unparalleled scenery and incredible wildlife.
Antarctica is an ice desert populated by just a few thousand international researchers and it is only possible to visit between November and March, during the southern hemisphere's summer when the weather is best.
The desolate region is best visited by boat, and a variety of ice-strengthened cruise ships leave from the southern tip of South America or Australia or New Zealand. During expeditions to shore by an inflatable zodiac boat, you'll get an up-close view of Antarctica's massive icebergs and breathtaking landscape. You might be able to see a few whales and visit penguins.
Many tourists who come to Alaska flock to Glacier Bay, Denali National Park and other destinations in the southern half of the state, hoping to see Mt. McKinley and grizzlies. But hardy travelers might head to Alaska's city of Barrow. At 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it has the distinction of being America's northernmost settlement.
On the coast of the Arctic Ocean, visitors can spot snowy owls and polar bears and even pay their respects at the site of the plane crash that killed humorist Will Rogers and aviator Wiley Post. They might enjoy the culture of the Native Inupiat Eskimo, and, if visiting in June, take part in the spring whaling festival, or Nalukataq, which includes traditional dances and the famed blanket toss.
Between November and January the city of about 4,200 experiences near-total darkness and temperatures often drop below -20º F (-28º C), though this is also the best time to see the northern lights. Alaska Airlines serves Barrow's airport with passenger jets via Anchorage and Fairbanks.
If Moscow winters aren't cold enough, you could head to Yakutsk, a Siberian city that claims to be the coldest in the world.
In this remote city of 260,000 located six time zones away from the Russian capital, the average temperature in January is -42º F (-40.9º C), though it could hit a staggeringly low -80º F (-64° C).
Here, visitors can wonder at the fur-clad locals and see the ice-preserved woolly mammoth specimens and other frozen-in-time objects at the city's Mammoth Museum and Underground Laboratory of the Institute of Cryogenics.
But if you head there in July, don't expect to see any snow. Long cold winters in Yakutsk give way to short, warm summers, with temperatures getting up to 70° F (21° C). The city's airport is served by a handful of regional airlines.
International Falls, Minnesota
International Falls has long promoted itself as the "Icebox of the Nation." The city lies on the Rainy River, which forms part of the US-Canada border, and temperatures hover around 0° F (-17° C) in the winter.
If you go in mid-January, you might catch the Icebox Days Festival -- a week of frigid fun that includes frozen-turkey bowling, a 5k/10k "Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run" as well as "smoosh" racing, in which teams of four strap their feet to two skis and race down a snow-covered street.
The town of 6,500 was the basis for Frostbite Falls, Minn., the home of the iconic cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle. International Falls also boasts a 22-foot high thermometer -- and a 26-foot-tall statue of Smokey Bear, erected in 1953.