Winter is coming, at least here in the northern hemisphere. The days are getting shorter, there’s an icy chill in the air, and Christmas is just around the corner.
So wrap up warm, grab a cup of your favourite hot beverage and check out this list of the 10 coldest places in Tomb Raider history! Here they are in no particular order:
1) The Peruvian Andes – Tomb Raider 1 & Anniversary
One of my earliest memories of Tomb Raider is of our beloved protagonist and her Peruvian guide making their way across a snowy plateau high up in the Andes. Although the poor guide met a rather grisly end just moments later, Lara wasted no time mourning for her fallen companion. She soon made her way into the icy cavern before her, on a quest to find Vilcabamba and the tomb of the Atlantean king Qualopec.
A legend was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
2) Tibet – Tomb Raider 2
Lara returned to snowy climes in the sequel, Tomb Raider 2, where she journeyed to the frosty foothills of Tibet, dodging giant snowballs, battling yeti and mowing down Bartolli’s goons with their own snowmobiles on her way to retrieve the Talion from the catacombs beneath Barkhang Monastery.
And if you’d like to learn a little more about Tibetan Buddhism and archaeology, check out my two-part series “The Buddhist Symbols of Barkhang Monastery”.
3) Jan Mayen – Underworld
Lara’s always had a thing for far-flung places and the island of Jan Mayen is no exception. This remote, volcanic island in the Arctic Sea is largely off-limits to foreign travellers but the ever-rebellious Ms Croft travelled to Jan Mayen in Tomb Raider: Underworld in search of Valhalla, the Norse Hall of the Slain, and Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolnir.
If you want to know more about the island’s history and geography, check out my article “Lara’s Travels: Jan Mayen Island”.
4) Russia – Chronicles, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Rise
Over the years, Lara has visited Russia not once, not twice, but thrice. In Tomb Raider Chronicles, she broke into the Zapadnaya Litsa naval base to recover the mystical Spear of Destiny from the wreckage of a German U-boat.
Then in the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, she and her adversary Manfred Powell travelled to Siberia to locate the second half of the Triangle of Light. The icebergs, huskies, and bleak icy landscape certainly set the mood but these scenes were actually filmed in Austurland, Iceland.
Update: Lara returned to Siberian years later in the 2015 game Rise of the Tomb Raider. Her search for the lost city of Kitezh took her to the icy mountains of Siberia, which was the setting for the vast majority of the game. Thankfully, the occasional campfire, building on fire, and sojourn in the geothermal valley helped stave off the effects of hypothermia.
5) Kazakhstan – Legend and The Cradle of Life
Although Kazakhstan has become too closely associated with comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s alter ego Borat, Tomb Raider fans will probably know that Ms Croft has visited this Central Asian country on more than one occasion.
In Cradle of Life, she visited a Kazakh prison to negotiate the release of mercenary and former lover, Terry Sheridan. In Legend, she braved sub-zero temperatures to explore a secret Soviet laboratory and recover one of the fragments of the Excalibur.
6) Aleutian Islands – Golden Mask
Shortly after her escapades in Tibet and China, Lara left Asia behind and headed to the Aleutian Islands, a chain of volcanic islands in the Bering Sea, to find out what had happened to the golden Mask of Tornarsuk. Under the dancing Northern Lights, Lara successfully infiltrates an ex-Soviet base, explores a network of icy caverns, and comes across a river of molten gold.
All in a day’s work for Ms Croft.
7) Arctic Sea – Underworld
If you’ve played Tomb Raider: Underworld, you’ll have noticed that Lara spends about half of the game in the tropical rain forests of southern Mexico and coastal Thailand and the other half in some of the coldest places known to man. As if Jan Mayen wasn’t cold enough, Lara ends up travelling even further north after a brief interlude in the Andaman Sea. Our heroine breaks through the thick sea ice of the Arctic Sea in order to dive down to the sunken ruins of Helheim.
Poor Lara must have been dying for a cup of hot cocoa and a warm shower by the time she got out of there.
8) Yamatai Radio Tower – TR 2013
You may think it odd to come across snow on Yamatai but if there’s one thing we learnt from Tomb Raider 2013, it’s that Yamatai is a meteorologist’s nightmare. Raining one minute and snowing the next. It’s little wonder that we find ourselves shivering as Lara climbs up the old radio tower. However, the breath-taking view from the top of the tower made it all worthwhile.
9) Nepal – Legend
Nepal is possibly one of the most important locations on this list as Lara’s time in this Himalayan nation helped shape the person we came to love and admire. In Core Design’s backstory, the 21-year-old Lara was the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Himalayas and was forced to “depend on her wits to stay alive in hostile conditions a world away from her sheltered upbringing”.
In Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara’s backstory was rewritten but Nepal still played a major role in the young girl’s personal development. Years after losing her mother in Nepal, Lara was forced to revisit a painful episode in her life when she returned to the temple where she last saw her mother before she disappeared under mysterious circumstances. There’s no doubt that her experiences in Nepal had an enormous impact on the person she became.
It’s a shame that they did not incorporate the Himalaya plane crash into the story of Tomb Raider 2013. That said, the Himalayas and Nepal still played a role in the Survivor trilogy: it was here that Lara’s mother Amelia met her maker.
10) Antarctica – Tomb Raider 3
Last but not least, there’s Antarctica, possibly the coldest of all the coldest places in Tomb Raider ‘s 25-year history. So cold that Lara would die of hypothermia in-game if she spent too much time in its icy waters. Even when she found shelter indoors, poor Lara had to fend off giant wasps, RX-Tech personnel, and terrifying mutants in order to stay alive.
Despite its stunning scenery and untamed frozen wilderness, the real Antarctica has little to offer in the way of archaeological sites aside from the occasional shipwreck. You certainly won’t find any ancient Polynesian colonies there. But on the plus side, you probably won’t find any mutant man-spiders there either.
Author’s note: This article has been updated to include Lara’s adventure in Rise of the Tomb Raider, which was released nearly two years after this article was first published.