Brave the freezing weather head-on at these cool winter destinations
Travel bloggers share their favorite winter destinations all over the world.
When the last red maple leaf has fallen, it's time to embrace the cold winter weather.
Winter is a polarizing season. While half of the world is scurrying to escape the cold, the rest is braving the snow-capped mountains head on. The following travel bloggers belong to the latter, so we asked them to share their favorite winter destinations.
Without further introductions and in no particular order, here are the coolest places to make the most out of your winter holidays.
#1 Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Jigokudani is famous for having a large population of wild Japanese macaques or snow monkeys. During winter, the mountains get covered in thick snow which causes the monkeys to go down and take baths in the steaming hot water that springs out of crevices on the frozen ground.
These snow monkeys are relatively safe and quite accustomed to people gathering around but one must not let your things out in the open as these monkeys are known for snatching away things from the unsuspecting tourists.
Nagano prefecture is easily accessible from Tokyo by train. From Nagano Station, take the Nagano Dentetsu train line to Yudanaka Station. From there, take a bus that heads for either the Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop (via Kanbayashi line) or the Snow Monkey Park bus stop (via Shiga Kogen line). The Monkey Park will take a 30-minute hike from both bus stops.
The best train route takes 99 minutes from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo via Nagano Dentetsu train line to Yudanaka Station.
There are two popular Ski Resorts both two hours by car from the Jigokudani Monkey Park. The Fujimi Panorama Resort is best known for the heart-shaped slope which is popular among couples. Tales have it that a happy marriage awaits couples who would ski down the heart slope. Meanwhile, the Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area offers scenic snow parks and great ski trails for beginner and intermediate level skiers.
Noel Cabacungan, Ten Thousand Strangers
#2 Northern Montana: Glacier National Park and Bigfork Region, USA
If you’re the adventurous type, then winter can be an incredible time to visit Glacier National Park and the surrounding area. Depending on when you arrive, you may be able to go snowshoeing in Glacier National Park with a National Park Ranger. You can also go dog sledding in Bigfork, which was one of the best things I did when I was there. Learning about the Inuit dogs and their thirst to run, as well as their desire to listen to their trainer was truly remarkable. I was also able to ride a sleigh drawn by horses! If you want an adventurous time in the snow, then Northern Montana is for you.
Dr. Cacinda Maloney,Points and Travel
#3 Courchevel, France
My favorite winter destination would be the ski resort of Courchevel in the French Alps. Part of the Three Valleys resort, it is the perfect winter destination – and one where you are guaranteed a white Christmas. The highest village in Courchevel sits at 1850m above sea level, with the highest peak sitting at over 3000m. The combination of high village and high peaks make for some perfect powder dusted runs across its huge 600km skiing area, which is more than enough terrain for even the most advanced level skiers. Add in lots ofvan chaud(hot wine), Cointreau and chocolate covered crepes & the inevitable snowball fight and it makes for the perfect winter destination.
Vicki Garside,Make Time to See the World
#4 Naeba Ski Resort, Japan
Japan is famous for its ski resorts, but did you know there are even a couple within day-trip distance from Tokyo?
So if you ever visit Japan in winter you should definitely take the opportunity to experience some Japanese snow. One of the best places to do that is Naeba Ski Resort. You can go there for a day trip, but I recommend staying one night at the Prince Hotel there. You can ski all day (by the way you can rent everything you need at the location), and all night (they have night skiing events). And if you aren’t tired the next day you can ski some more at the ski resort one mountain over which can be reached by gondola. In my opinion the best winter fun in Japan!
Lena Scheidler,The Social Travel Experiment
#5 The Highlands, Scotland
Many people want to visit Scotland, and the highlands in particular, in the warm summer months. I won’t deny that it’s beautiful when all the mountains turn a lush green colour with splashes of purple from the heather that blooms in the later months of summer. However, I absolutely love visiting the highlands in winter! The snow, the quieter roads, and the stillness and silence on a crisp winters day, or the clouds and fog making for very atmospheric scenery is something else. Not to mention stumbling across a local pub with a roaring fire and plenty of whisky to warm you from the inside out. Just remember to bring your winter layers and a hat and scarf, and you’ll enjoy it even more than during the summer!
Sonja Thomson,Migrating Miss
#6 Tyrol, Austria
I am definitely a warm weather person and when it gets cold in Europe I move to Asia, but there is one exception and that is Tyrol, Austrian’s most authentic province up in the Alps. In Tyrol the mountains are always calling as everywhere you look you can see the snow capped mountains and there are endless skiing opportunities.
The first time I traveled to this region I drove around for 4 months in a car going from one ski resort to another and fell in love with the locals, the mountains, the skiing, the stunning nature, and of course the famous Tyrolean après-ski scene. The food is good, the ski conditions are excellent and like nowhere in the world, the Tyrolean Alps are dotted with huts on the mountain.
At mountain huts, you can stop for a drink and an authentic local experience. These family-run huts are the best place to get in touch with their lifestyle and experience their hospitality, all of this while doing the thing you love most on the mountain: skiing. Going from one hut to another feels like a ski safari and these people are so friendly and welcoming that they make it a destination to return over and over.
Innsbruck is the capital of this lovely region a such a great city during the day and night, especially in winter with the Christmas market that lasts from the end of November till mid-February.
Important side note: price levels are very moderate in Tyrol!
Tom Grond,Dutch Travel Blogger
#7 Prague, Czech Republic
Czech Republic’s capital makes for a perfect and affordable winter getaway for those looking for holiday festivities as well as an abundance of other things to do, all without freezing temperatures.
Prague is full of culture and gorgeous architecture. Whether it is strolling across the Charles Bridge over and over again, wandering through Prague Castle, or finding street art, you’ll find your heart being stolen by Prague’s beauty every single minute.
The city is especially alive if you visit during the last weeks of the year. The Christmas markets are set up and there’s an all-around atmosphere of optimism and homeyness. There’s a slight chill that makes your cheeks rosy, but rarely any crazy blizzards. Instead, it’s the perfect weather for eating too many trdelníks and drinking too much-mulled wine, and for trying absinthe!
Rowena Li,A Nomad on the Loose
#8 Jasper, Canada
Jasper, Canada is our absolute favorite winter destination simply because it’s breathtakingly beautiful. With snowy mountains, frozen waterfalls and rivers, it looks like something out of Narnia. For some strange reason (okay it’s the beautiful blue glacial lakes) this section of Alberta is considered a summer destination. But being renowned as a summer destination gives it a big advantage during winter: it has far fewer tourists than a place of such incredible, wintery beauty would usually have. Marmot Basin is the absolute best place to ski: with slopes suitable for all levels of experience and views to die for. Last, but not least, Jasper is rife with beautiful winter wildlife including wolves and coyotes.
Laura, Travelling Weasels
#9 Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
If you’re looking for a place that offers incredible winter attraction, but without the crowds, look no further than Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in Canada While heading to northern Canada might seem like a frigid way to spend your winter vacation, here is why we think it’s so awesome!
Yellowknife is one of the best places in the entire world to witness the Northern Lights. Those who visit for three days have a 95% chance to see them! You can experience the regions famous ice highways for yourself with a drive across Great Slave Lake to the town of Dettah. Plus, there are other great outdoor activities such as dog-sledding, kite-skiing, and even winter hiking. If the weather is too cold for you, you can always explore the amazing museums, art experiences or amazing restaurants.
Kevin Wagar, Wandering Wagars
#10 Kedarkantha, Uttrakhand, India
Kedarkantha is a mountain peak of Himalayas in Uttrakhand, India with an elevation of 12,500ft. It’s a popular winter trek destination for beginners. It greets the trekkers with absolutely breathtaking views all along the way till the peak. I had never seen so much snow before. On reaching Juda ka Talab, a milestone during the trek, I was already feeling accomplished. Then, a snowflake landed on my face and in no time, snowflakes started kissing me all over. I stretched my arms to embrace it all. I would have started jumping but it’s not so easy to jump in 3 feet snow. I still daydream of the lovely pine trees wrapped in fluffy snow.
Saakshi Maheshwari, My Travel Recitals
#11 Ushuaia, Argentina
My favorite destination in winter is Ushuaia. The Argentinian Patagonia always makes me come back, its landscapes seem painted and during the winter it is when you most enjoy seeing them.
Although many may believe that in a city so far south there is not much more to do than skiing or snowboarding, Ushuaia even at that time of the year offers activities such as bicycles on ice and snow that is one of the funniest things I did traveling . The landscapes of this city at the end of the world also invite to trekking with incredible views and for lovers of birdwatching with more luck, seeing examples of the Andean condor.
Eliana Barrionuevo, Dar Vuelta al Mundo
#12 Maramures, Romania
Romania is a land of legends, fairy tales and traditions and a country that most tourists never get to see. The old ways hold strong, particularly in Romania’s far north.
Around Christmas time in Maramures County, don’t be surprised if a man in an ancient heirloom bear skin jumps out at you or maniacal sounds of giant clanking cowbells and whip cracks disturb the winter snow’s silence. You could turn a corner and come across a troupe of performers bizarrely dressed as demons, priests, and policemen with a young boy playing the role of Mary, making her way to Bethlehem in full Maramures costume. There’s a hybrid culture here of devout Orthodox Christianity and pre-Christian ways.
If you can brave night-time temperatures dipping to -25C it’s well worth heading to Maramures for our winter festival of tradition held each year just after Christmas. You will see all this and more along with stunning snow-blanketed mountains, unspoiled villages, horses, sleighs, hearty food and good strong alcohol.
Alyson Long, World Travel Family
#13 Moscow, Russia
Moscow in the winter may sound like a bad idea but it’s a magical place to see in the cold. Throughout the winter you can still luck out with clear, sunny days and the main attractions look even more impressive with a light dusting of snow. Red Square is still busy with locals and tourists and there are all kinds of winter activities such as ice skating and winter markets.
Winter in Moscow is also the perfect opportunity to try some delicious Russian foods. Warm stews and sour cream-topped everything will warm your insides. And if that’s not enough you can get yourself an ushanka, fur hat with ear flaps, to keep out the cold and make you feel like a real Russian.
Rohan Cahill-Fleury, Travels of a Bookpacker
#14 Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park, Canada
From the edge of the road snow capped peaks and mighty glaciers rise sharply over rivers and lakes so turquoise you could be forgiven for thinking you were living a dream. In reality you’ve stumbled into Canada’s Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park! Some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the world is located here in this, Canada’s first, National Park.
While many would consider mountains in Canada solely a summer destination I’d have to disagree. Banff and the surrounding area is a paradise for anyone who enjoys winter recreation too. From snowshoeing to skiing, Banff has something for everyone! Dress for the occasion and enjoy this winter wonderland to the fullest. When you’re done playing the town has great eateries, bakeries, bars and boutique hotels & spas to help you relax! A dip in Banff’s famous natural hot springs to unwind shouldn’t be missed after a tough day out in the mountains.
Patrick Horsfield, Adventographer
#15 Thingvellir National Park, Iceland
A timid arch of color shoots across the shroud of darkness, slowly overtaking the night sky. For those patient enough to experience the magic of the dancing aurora borealis, if luck (and weather) are on your side, you might get to see a vibrant stroke of green, purple or pink overhead. Very rarely is it the sky as neon you’ve seen in photos, but nonetheless, the Northern Lights should be on everyone’s bucket list. If you can handle the cold and short days, Iceland is one of the best places on the planet to catch the natural phenomenon. You can camp under the stars at Thingvellir National Park or book an otherworldly bubble lodge in Blaskogabyggd for a truly unique winter escape.
Lauren Monitz, The Down Lo
#16 Oslo, Norway
Oslo is a magical, modern location for a city break at any time of year, but in Winter it really comes into its own. Oslo is perfect in the snow, with the low sunlight glistening on both boats moored in its harbor and the mixed architecture that surrounds. As a Nordic city, Oslo is fully set up for snowy weather, so you’ll be able to take full advantage of all the main tourist attractions - fjord boat tours, a walk around the largest sculpture park in the world and cozy drinks watching the world go by. In fact all of these things are even more fun in a snowy city, so the only thing you’ll need to remember is to wrap up warm!
Sam Sparrow, As The Sparrow Flies
#17 Lake Tahoe, California, USA
This beautiful place was where I experienced my first snowy winter and it holds a very special place in my heart.
I was simply captivated by the angelic blurs falling from the sky. At one spot we were just standing in the midst of a huge sea of snow and it was a mesmerizing experience. It was so pure that I could not tear myself away from that place for quite sometime.
The Heavenly Gondola ride was awesome as we could enjoy gorgeous views of the whole lake and the snowy valley with tall pines from the cable car. Emerald Bay and Eagle Falls were some of the best spots that we stopped at.
Priya, Glorious Sunrise
#18 Dresden, Germany
Dresden in Germany is a magical city to visit in the wintertime. The Baroque buildings of the old town give a fairy tale charm when paired with glittering festive lights and a dusting of snow.
In Dresden you will find the Striezelmarkt, the oldest Christmas market in Germany, built each year like a small village with a cinema, Christmas bakery and plenty of food and drink stands. Each rooftop in the market is carefully decorated with carved animated figures playing out Christmas scenes.
Ice skating rinks pop up around the city, skaters fueled by hot gluhwein and stollen, a fruit loaf covered with a layer butter and sugar, a favourite of locals in the winter.
Kaylie Lewell, Happiness Travels Here
#19 Reykjavik, Iceland
Now winter should be cold. I think ice, snow, lots of layers and warm drinks; Iceland during Winter provides just that. December to March barely reaches above freezing and the snow falls thick and fast. Although the capital, Reykjavik, is warm and inviting, to truly appreciate the country you have to head out into the countryside to experience some of the best extremes mother nature can offer!
From snowmobiling across glaciers, watching geysers shooting hot water 100 meters in the air every 5-8 minutes to getting your bikini on and running through the snow in -1 degrees to enjoy the hot springs. Yet the most tantalizing act mother nature provides in Iceland is the Northern Lights. Seeing the Northern Lights once was incredible, but I was privileged enough to see them right in the center of Reykjavik on New Year’s Eve; somewhere the elusive lights don’t appear too often. Dancing about above your head, the incredible colors give you a neck ache that you don’t even mind.
Iceland is truly magical in the Winter, it’s like nothing else I have ever experienced! I would recommend to anyone that they pack their snow boots, layers and swim stuff and head on over to Iceland to experience it for themselves.
Verity, Veritu Travel + Life Blog
#20 Rovaniemi, Finland
This otherwise ordinary town really did its best to become one of Finland’s top destinations. Located on the Arctic circle, Rovaniemi makes for an excellent base to spot the auroras, feed reindeer, go dog sledding and learn about the native Sami people. To learn about the Arctic region, there’s the Arktikum Science Museum with an excellent exhibition about global climate change and other themes. Depending on your 'Scrooginess', visit the year-round Christmas theme park “Home of Santa Claus” - or skip it if you can’t stand the holiday. Whatever you choose to do, Rovaniemi is a sure bet to provide you with the winter magic out of a happy childhood memory.
Iris, Mind of a Hitchhiker
#21 Mullerthal, Luxembourg
There is a little country in the heart of Europe that many travelers miss when they visit Europe: Luxembourg. It doesn’t only hold several superlatives like being the only Grand-Duchy and one of the richest countries in the world, but it is also an excellent travel destination. Especially in winter.
During winter, temperatures might get cold in Luxembourg, but therefore you’ll be spoiled for choice with Christmas markets and snow-capped fairy tale castles.
The Winterlights Festival in Luxembourg City lasts 3 weeks and here you can treat yourself with traditional Luxembourgish delicacies such as Gromperekichelcher (spiced fried potato pastry), Eggnog (dairy alcoholic drink) or Glühwein. To burn all these calories, nothing better than to go for extensive hikes in the snowy landscapes of the Mullerthal region where you’ll be surrounded by medieval castles and enchanting rock creations.
Paulina, Paulina on the Road
#22 Tatra Mountains, Poland
Tatra mountains is a mountain range on the border of Poland and Slovakia. There is over 300 kilometers of trails on Polish side. In winter you can either hike or ski there. No matter which option you choose the views will surely take your breath away.
Mountains in winter are magical. The sharp, frosty air bites your cheeks and turns your breath into steam. The views are so different from summer ones and you can enjoy them even more.
If you decide to hike in the Tatras during winter you need to choose your route carefully as some long and steep trails may be dangerous and closed during that time. However there is a wide choice of easier trails which will take you to outstanding places. A good example is Dolina Pięciu Stawów (Five Ponds Valley) or Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy (Black Pond Gąsienicowy). These ponds hidden between the steep, rocky mountains covered by snow are the most beautiful winter views I have ever seen.
Dorota Miśkiewicz, Born Globals
#23 Zermatt, Switzerland
Nestled deep in the Swiss Alps, Zermatt is a quaint village at the foot of the Matterhorn. Accessible only by train, the snow covered valley is filled with a mix of mountain resorts and A-frame cottages. The village streets are lined with glowing restaurants serving fondue, raclette, and sausages. Sipping hot Swiss chocolate by a roaring fire is a popular way to warm up after a full day out in the snow.
My favorite activity is to take a gondola up the mountainside and head out on a snow-covered trail deep into the Alps. Surrounded by silent, majestic peaks, the trails wind past frozen lakes and narrow ravines. The shocking silhouette of the Matterhorn is almost always visible on the horizon. Zermatt’s popularity as a ski resort plus the easy accessibility of winter trails makes it the perfect place to visit in the winter and my favorite holiday destination.
Mary Talbott, The Lifelong Adventures
#24 Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Salt Lake City, the heart, hub, and capital of Utah. This often-overlooked metropolis, nestled against a majestic mountain backdrop and surrounded by unique architecture, is a paradise for any alfresco loving traveler any time of year. But, when "The Best Snow on Earth" falls here, it transforms into a wintery wonderland. Winter in Salt Lake City, especially the months leading up to New Years, are a magical time and should make every traveler's list of must see US cities.
From skiing and snowboarding to 35 acres of divine Christmas lights, mysterious ice castles to urban ice skating and candy window displays, this city has a variety of activities to make you feel warm and cozy amid the freezing temperatures.
Mykee Saunders, Traveling with Monkeys
#25 Kashmir, India
Kashmir – A true Heaven on Earth
Kashmir, beautifully nestled in high Himalayan region, has always been an awe inspiring winter destination with its snow capped peaks, snow laden landscapes, frozen lakes and silk like snow for best in class skiing experiences. For its unparalleled beauty, it has been mentioned in umpteen literature, classic and modern both, as The Heaven On Earth. Kashmir is one such place which enthralls you in every season with its charm and beauty, however, my favorite season is winter.
Must visit places in winter are Sirnagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Zanskar. Srinagar is famous for legendary Dal Lake which gets frozen in Winter creating a huge winter playground. Gulamarg is famous for its skiing slop and has best skiing resort of asia. Gondola or cable car in Gulmarg is is world’s second highest operating cable car for it takes you to a Mount Afarwat at a height of 13000 feet from mean sea level. Pahalgam is known for its magical snow laden landscapes along Lidder River. Zanskar Region is a frozen valley which is famous for its Frozen Zanskar trek or Chader trek and is synonym to extreme adventure.
And let me add, it is a very safe place for tourists. Even in worst of turnoil, tourists and travelers have always been received with open arms by people of Kashmir. So go there in winter for it is the only heaven on earth.
Himanshu, Everything Candid
#26 Shimla & Manali, India
Shimla & Manali are renowned hill stations in the Himalayas. They lie in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India and are well connected to Delhi and Chandigarh, both of which have international airports.
In winter, as the temperature drops, Shimla and Manali receive several rounds of snow fall starting late December. The snowfalls continue till mid February and sometimes also occur in March. With the snowfall, the hill stations get covered in blankets of white, creating a mesmerizing view for nature lovers. Several snow sports, activities like skiing are organized during this time. While horse rides take one to the higher altitudes where one can have the best views of the Himalayan ranges.The mall road, the famous squares in both Shimla and Manali become hub for snow skating.
Overall, they make for wonderful winter destinations if one is looking for a scnowscape and also to enjoy fresh snowfall in India. Apart from this, there are several picnic spots, ancient temples, beautiful natural parks and other places around to enjoy the natural beauty. If one just wants to have a relaxing vacation and enjoy the winter, then there are several beautiful cafes. We recommend head to one and sit along the window, with a warm cup of coffee in your hand - and look at the snowfall outside and the world go by around it. It will make for a wonderful vacation memory.
Neha & Abhishek, A Revolving Compass
#27 Budapest, Hungary
Our favorite winter destination is Budapest. On our first visit to Budapest, we were lucky to time it during the Christmas Markets. We found December was a great time to visit Budapest. It's also a great place to pick up some unique Christmas gifts for friends and family back at home. The weather is chilly but great for walking around checking out all the things to do in Budapest. If you do get chilly get a hot up of mulled wine to warm you up. It's really comfortable out and there aren't nearly as many tourists as there is during the summer months. The Budapest baths feel so refreshing with the cold air and then jumping into the hot water.
Hannah & Adam Lukaszewicz, Getting Stamped