There’s just nothing more nostalgic than the cozy cuddles and holiday festivities brought on by that wonderful season known as winter. Autumn brought us spectacular leafy hues, mountains coated in glorious fall colors, and an onslaught of kiss-worthy romantic autumn spots. Winter travel brings us to magnificent snow-coated wonderlands, white-capped peaks, lit-up holiday markets—and for those looking to escape the cold, sunny desert or Euro escapes! Just make sure you’re dressed for the occasion with our Essential Winter Travel Packing List (For Subfreezing Temperatures)!
With the success of our Top Autumn Travel Destinations, According to Travel Bloggers post, we decided to ask a few more of our travel blogger friends for their top recommendations for the best winter travel destinations across the globe. We think the answers they gave are pretty darn magnificent.
Whether you’re looking to embrace the cold winter magic brought on by this stunning season or seeking a sunnier flavor, here’s our list of travel bloggers’ picks for top winter travel destinations.
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”
― Lewis Carroll
Winter travel destination recommended by Gabriela of Gabriela Here and There
Finland has so much to offer in the winter: breathtaking scenery, wild nature, the Northern Lights and an endless selection of winter activities. Helsinki, the capital city, is a great place to start your trip in Finland. There you can enjoy beautiful architecture and design, fantastic restaurants, as well as interesting museums and culture. After Helsinki, you should head to Lapland, and that’s where the real adventure begins. You can try activities like snowmobiling, skiing, dog sledding or snowshoeing. Lapland is also the home of Santa Claus and thousands of reindeer. You can’t leave Finland without trying the traditional Finnish sauna. If you are brave enough, you can combine your sauna experience with ice swimming where you plunge into a hole cut into the ice! Lapland also offers unusual places to stay like ice hotels and igloos. A glass igloo is an excellent choice to stay in if you want to view the Northern Lights right from your bed.
Winter travel destination recommended by Kreete of Adventurous Trails
Photograph by Hendrik Osula, Ekspress Meedia
Christmas celebrations in Estonia start with the 1st Advent when the Advent candles are lit. During this time, the Christmas market in Tallinn’s Town Hall square picks up pace with mulled wine and shopping for handcrafted goods. Good kids start getting daily visitors from “elves” leaving treats in their slippers placed on the windowsill. Advent calendars filled with chocolate are eaten in anticipation of Christmas Eve and sometimes end up empty after only a week into December. Like in other Nordic states, celebrations mostly fall on Christmas Eve. It’s always been customary to eat large meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas night and to have plenty of food in the house meant for the coming year. Traditional Christmas food includes pork, sauerkraut, black pudding (blood sausage), potato salad and different vegetables and salads put into jars to be preserved over winter. The kids receive gifts from Santa or a bag of gifts might be dropped behind the door. To redeem their presents, everybody has to recite a poem, sing or dance. Each year on Dec 24th, the President of Estonia declares Christmas peace which is a 350-year-old tradition started in the 17th century.
Winter travel destination recommended by Lydia of Lydiascapes
Banff, located amidst the iconic rocky mountains of Canada about approximately 18.5 hours from Vancouver via rail, is a truly beautiful and quaint area that has won my heart. With a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountain peaks, wooden cabins lining the town and fairy lights all year round, this place gives the best Christmas vibes in British Columbia even if it is not in winter. When you are there, don’t forget to pay a visit to the stunning Lake Louise which has ice carvings on the lake in winter, visit the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and go trekking and spot some wildlife in the Banff National Park. Missing that place already.
Winter travel destination recommended by Tilly of Travel Junkie Girl
As winter approaches, Austria’s Salzburgerland transforms into a snowy wonderland at valley level as well as amongst the mountains of the Hohe Tauern National Park. It becomes a premier winter sports destination, but, as a non-skier, this area is still a favourite of mine to visit in winter. You don’t need a set of skis to get up to 3000m and enjoy the epic views, and the cable car system that takes you to the top of the Kitzsteinhorn Mountain provides the best views in all of Austria and is my all-time favourite attraction.
The top resorts of Zell am See and Kaprun are the beating heart of the region with Kaprun hosting the ‘Night of the Balloons’ event every year in February. Illuminated hot air balloons take over the lower slopes of the town with music, free-ski, snowboard and motorbike stunt displays, accompanied by warming food and plenty of gluwein.
Travel to the frozen falls of Krimml or the city of Salzburg, both of which transform into scenes out of the Disney spectacular Frozen and well worth a visit. Just remember to wrap up warm!
Winter travel destination recommended by Maria of Tigrest
Finnish Lapland is really cool place to visit in winter. It’s capital – Rovaniemi – is a small town, offering enough lodging opportunities, as well as many outdoor activities. If you are looking for true winter, this is the place! There is almost 100% chance of snow between November and March. Santa Claus Village is only a few kilometers away. You can talk to the old man himself, stroll through the gift shops or send your friends a postcard. Local tourism companies offer dog sledding, snowmobile safaris, ice fishing and Northern Lights safaris. A good day in the wild is best finished in a hot sauna – almost every hotel here has one. Local food is very delicious and diverse. You can even buy reindeer meat. Finnish people are very open and friendly. The best part about Finnish Lapland is its stunning nature – the woods, lakes, and endless openness.
Winter travel destination recommended by Julia of Yours, Juliet
Germany is famous for its Christmas markets. They can be found in every city and town with very few exceptions. Many big cities like Berlin, Munich, and Cologne have the biggest and most diverse Christmas markets offering all kinds of food, drinks, and handcrafted gifts. Some of these markets last all the way through December, many of them even turning into New Year’s markets after Christmas.
However, some of the smaller towns, like Rothenburg ob der Tauber or Quedlinburg, are just as worthy to visit as the big ones. Quedlinburg for example, a UNESCO world heritage site, completely turns into a Christmas town, with market stands in every other backyard and on the town squares. If you got your fill of mulled wine (Glühwein) at all the Christmas markets, the state Saxony has a variety of Christmas Stollen, a traditional Christmas cake, and unique handcrafted wooden Christmas decorations in store for you.
In Dresden, you can admire the architecture, go to the famous Semper opera, and sample all the Christmas Stollen you’d like. Further, the Ore mountains, the origin of the most beautiful wooden Christmas decorations, always have enough snow for (cross-country) skiing.
For those who want winter in the Northern hemisphere’s summer or a summery winter in the Northern hemisphere!
Winter travel destination recommended by Jeanette of Traveling Honeybird
So many people forget that Australia does get to experience a white winter and that us Aussies have quite a love for snow sports. In recent years we’ve trialled all the Victorian snowfields and fell in love with Falls Creek. Why Falls Creek? Falls Creek offers a little something for every adventurer. There’s great coffee, hot donuts and a spa on the mountain for those who need some down time or aren’t snow bunnies.
For the budding snow bunny, like myself, Falls Creek offers a wonderful learning experience. The runs have been planned out to accommodate all levels of skiers and snow boarders. Each run interconnects with another and if you are lucky enough to stay on the mountain itself the majority of accommodation options are ski in/out.
Falls Creek is approximately a 4 1/2 hour drive from Melbourne, making it the furthest away ski field. Meaning that only those who truly love the snow sport experience make the effort to get out there. Falls Creek is our Australian winter must see destination.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Winter travel destination recommended by Jennifer of Munchkin Treks
Dubai may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about winter destinations, but winter is the best time to go to avoid the desert heat. I spent four years in Dubai as an American expat. I recommend that you:
- Visit Global Village, a seasonal venue open during the winter. My family watched culturally diverse performances and bought goods from all over the world.
- Take an excursion to Old Town Dubai to ride an abra (traditional boat) across the Dubai Creek. We shopped at the Gold Souk to negotiate prices for unique jewelry.
- Walk around the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world, to see elaborate Christmas trees and decorations. We went outside the mall to watch a choreographed water show at the Dubai Fountain, the largest fountain in the world.
- Ring in the New Year at Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, which set the world record for the largest fireworks display in 2014.
- Eat brunch at a luxury hotel, such as Atlantis The Palm, Burj Al Arab or Madinat Jumeriah. We went to a Christmas buffet at the Radisson Blu Hotel where my daughter got her picture taken with Santa.
If you’re headed to the United Arab Emirates, you can’t miss a visit to Abu Dhabi. Here are some awesome things to see in Abu Dhabi!
Winter travel destination recommended by James of Portugalist
The further south you go, the truer this becomes. While Porto and the North of Portugal get a lot of rain during this time, you can spend a week in the Algarve or Lisbon and never see a drop. And if you visit over Christmas, it’s often warm enough to eat Christmas dinner outside.
Visiting around Christmas gives you the chance to try some of Portugal’s winter delicacies like Bolo Rei, Bolo Rainha, roast chestnuts, octopus, and Bacalhau da Consoada: the special Christmassy way of cooking salt cod (there are more than 365 others).
Winter travel destination recommended by Neha of Revolving Compass
Nainital is a beautiful city with a beautiful lake in the foothills of Himalayas. It’s at its best and most charming during the winter season. You can enjoy a boat ride here, a horse ride, cycling, and overall having a laid back holiday with the locals. It is well connected via rail and road routes from Delhi. The nearest airport is Dehradun.
Dalhousie is another beautiful hill station in north India. It is located in the upper Himalayas, in the state of Himachal Pradesh. A one-hour drive from Dalhousie lies Khajjiar, which is often fondly called the Switzerland of India due to its similar landscape and weather. In winter, the place achieves another level of charm once fresh snowfall is received. The whole place gets covered in snow. It is well connected through road from both Delhi and Chandigarh.
While north India boasts beautiful and cold hill stations, south India has a huge coastline of beautiful beaches, Mahabalipuram being one of them. These have pleasant summer weather. So, if you are looking to escape the winter for a while, look no further. Mahabalipuram has it all – a beautiful beach, several ancient temples right on the shore, luxurious resorts, quaint cafes and what not. It is at just one-hour drive from Chennai.
Kodaikanal is a quaint hill station in south India. Although not at the same altitude as the hill stations of north, it has the advantage of stable and pleasant weather all through the year which ranges between 7 – 18 degree Celsius. It has a beautiful lake to boat in or cycle around, a huge botanical garden to enjoy the flora and fauna of the winters, a walkway along the cliff of hill and many waterfalls nearby. Essentially in the lap of mother nature, it is one of the best and least populated hill stations of south India.
While everyone knows about Goa which is essentially the hub of beach lovers in India, fewer people know about Gokarna which is just a couple of hours drive away from Goa. The place is an old pilgrimage. But, it has got fabulous beaches, almost secluded, beautiful and serene.
And there it is—a tale of winter wonderlands told through some of the top winter travel destinations across the world. Finland is certainly a favorite winter travel destination, with stellar winter wonderland landscapes, and Dubai is a lovely alternative for those looking for a warmer climate. And for those in the Southern hemisphere—Australia has spectacular snowscapes to dream about as well! Though we LOVE the selections submitted by our travel blogger friends, we’d love to hear your choices for the top winter travel destinations—perhaps you’re getting cozy in Chicago, celebrating Christmas in London, or visiting the world’s largest ice festival in Harbin? Other honorable mentions are visiting the snow-capped Russian-influenced St. Sophia Cathedral or other awesome things to do in China’s coldest major city. Now of course we love all the seasons. In addition to the magnificent autumn we’ve waxed poetic for weeks about, we’re also supremely obsessed with the blooming of Korean cherry blossom trees in the spring and perfect hidden beach summer days. But as LA natives, there’s something so magical about that cozy winter season, such as our brush with a Jeju Island winter that experienced more snow than any of the previous 30 years. From the snow-dusting of trees to the pure coating of freshly-fallen snow and the festive markets, and even the mellowing of hot-weather destinations—winter has a taste of magic for everyone!
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What are some of your favorite winter travel destinations?
Let us know in a comment below!