There are two kinds of people out there – those that love winter and those that don’t. Depending on where you live in the world, winter might look different to you than it does to someone else. But one thing is sure. If you love snow and you’re looking for some winter destinations, there are many great places to explore.
Winter tends to be the coldest season of the year, so understandably not everyone is a fan. As a Canadian born in winter, I subscribe to the notion that there is no bad weather, just wrong clothes. Winter can be a fantastic time to travel and explore destinations covered by a blanket of snow. It gives many places that magical feel you only get in winter.
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winter destinations for snow lovers
Looking for some winter vacation ideas? I’ve got you covered. Check out these winter vacation destinations and add them to your list.
The Great White North doesn’t come by its name by accident. When it comes to winter destinations, Canada has something for everyone. Whether your idea of a perfect vacation is sliding down an icy mountain, skiing across a frozen lake, or simply drinking hot chocolate by the fire, you’ll find it all in the wintery wonderland that is Canada.
Enjoy the natural wonders of the Northern Lights in the Yukon, hit the slopes for some skiing and snowboarding in Whistler or Mont Tremblant, soak in the hot springs in Banff and explore winter hiking in every part of the country. When you get tired of winter sports, there are many picturesque cities to enchant you. Skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, stroll the charming streets of Quebec City, or visit Niagara Falls for a unique view of the falls in winter.
When it comes to dreamy winter destinations, the USA has it all. You can hit the slopes in Colorado, marvel at the beauty of nature in Yosemite National Park, relax in Lake Tahoe, snowmobile in Montana or chase the Northern Lights in Alaska. There are many great ideas for snow vacations here to keep you busy all winter.
If outdoor activities are not your thing, there are many other great winter activities to enjoy. Explore museums in Washington DC, take a stroll through Central Park and grab a hot chocolate at a coffee shop in New York City, or spend a day at the historic Biltmore Estate modelled after a French Renaissance château. Whatever winter attractions you’re after, you’ll find them in the USA.
Japan is a great winter destination for snow lovers. A series of mountain ranges (the Hida Mountains, the Kiso Mountains and the Akaishi Mountains) known as the Japanese Alps offer numerous opportunities for winter sports. With over 500 ski resorts, Olympic-quality runs and supporting infrastructure, Japan is an excellent alternative for a winter vacation.
Winter in Japan is also a great time for winter festivals, illuminations, and light shows in major cities across the country and for relaxing in hot springs, known as onsen. You can even visit the famous snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Yaen-Koen (Snow Monkey Park) as they soak in their own onsen. Enjoy the country’s beauty as it’s covered by a blanket of snow that adds to the experience.
Iceland is one of the most unique destinations, and during winter, it transforms into a magical winter wonderland. As with most winter destinations, you can hit the slopes for skiing and snowboarding, go snowmobiling, or do glacier hiking. Winter is also a great time to explore the island’s natural wonders.
Iceland is an excellent place for outdoor lovers. Snow and ice add a special touch to the landscapes that transform under a blanket of snow. The Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the Þingvellir National Park, Kerid volcanic crater, Mývatn Lake and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon are just some of the places to explore. Here you can experience the Northern Lights, thermal baths, winter hikes and picturesque walks. When you’re ready to get inside, there are many fantastic cafes and restaurants to keep you warm.
Scandinavian gems: Norway, Finland, Sweden
It wouldn’t be a list of winter destinations without at least one Scandinavian gem. Norway, Finland and Sweden offer beautiful snow-covered landscapes, picturesque villages, and numerous winter activities. Whether you want to see the Northern Lights, check out Santa’s Village or stay at an igloo hotel while exploring the Arctic Circle, this winter vacation is for you.
You can enjoy many outdoor sports or spend some time focusing on your well-being. Scandinavian countries are also great wellness destinations where you can relax by the fire in a cozy cabin, soak in a hot tub or a sauna and enjoy the beauty around you. With winter festivals aplenty, there is plenty of food and drink to keep you warm and fed.
Explore the Lofoten Islands (Norway) and the charming fishing villages covered under a blanket of snow, chase the Aurora Borealis in Abisko (Sweden) or stay at the heated glass-domed hotel room in Lapland (Finland) and wait for the sky to light up as you stay warm under a blanket.
If skiing in the Alps is on your bucket list, then you have plenty of choices to fulfill that dream. Europe’s highest and most extensive mountain range stretches across eight countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Switzerland. All these countries offer superb winter experiences and scenery to match. The only catch is that it will cost you more.
The beauty of a winter vacation in the Alps is that you have many options to choose from. No matter which country you go with, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the mountains, lakes and small villages tucked into valleys and littered across hills. Here you’ll find centuries-old traditions, a wide range of culinary offerings and abundant relaxation options. All you have to do is decide where to go.
The Baltics: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
The Baltic countries make for picturesque winter destinations that offer visitors the best of winter at more affordable prices. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania offer attractions for outdoor lovers and culture enthusiasts. Your winter vacation to the Baltics can easily combine winter sports, relaxing saunas, cultural attractions and culinary delights.
While each Baltic country is unique, they all share their love for nature and the outdoors. Snow-covered old towns of Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn offer great photo opportunities while the forests beckon cross-country skiers and hikers. The Baltic Sea coast, frozen lakes and waterfalls, like the 8-meter-tall Jägala waterfall in Estonia, are great for outdoor exploration. You won’t go wrong with winter vacations in the Baltics.
While Italy is one of the most popular destinations in the world, most people think of it as a summer or fall destination. It’s also an excellent spot for winter vacations. Here, the Dolomites call to those that crave winter sports and stunning scenery. Located in the northeast part of the country, ski resorts with powdery slopes and charming villages offer postcard-perfect vacation spots for winter lovers.
The small town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, home to the 1956 Olympics, is a great starting point to winter in Italy. The Dolomites are a great choice whether you want to hit the slopes of the best ski resorts in Italy or prefer to try your hand at winter hiking, ice-skating or snowshoeing. Who knows, maybe you’ll even bump into a James Bond-type at the près ski party.
If winter sports are not your thing, but you still want to experience the magic of winter, then Cappadocia in Turkey is an excellent choice for a winter vacation. This historical region in central Anatolia transforms into a surreal landscape as snow blankest the honeycomb hills and fairy chimneys. The snow adds another layer of mystery to this area, giving it an out-of-this-world feel.
Go for a hot air balloon ride for a bird’s eye view of the area or watch the balloons rise from the snow-covered ground against the pink skies from a vantage point. Cappadocia offers several great hiking trails like the Rose Valley or the Pigeon Valley Trail if you’re looking for more activity. Fewer crowds will also make this a great reason to visit in winter.
The Tatra Mountains are part of the Carpathian mountain chain and form a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. This area is designated as a national parkland on both sides of the border, and the Tatras are popular winter destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. This means an abundance of outdoor activities, from snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding and hiking. A true winter wonderland that’s not going to break the bank.
If you choose to visit Tatras in Poland, head to the mountain resort town of Zakopane. Nicknamed the winter capital of Poland, this small, vibrant town is an excellent spot for exploring the trails, mountains and lakes. Make sure to visit Morskie Oko, a beautiful mountain lake with stunning views and relax in the natural thermal pools at Terma Bukovina, Terms Chocholowskie or Goracy Potok.
Slovakia’s towns of Ždiar, Poprad and Štrbské Pleso are great starting points for your winter vacation to the Tatra Mountains. Visit the thermal baths at AquaCity Poprad, Aquapark Tatralandia or Bešenová AquaPark for some wellness therapy and relaxation. But if the outdoors are calling you, there are numerous trails, mountains, lakes and viewpoints to explore.
If you haven’t considered Bulgaria for your winter vacation, you absolutely should. Bulgaria is an excellent choice for snow lovers with numerous ski resorts that offer sloped for beginners and pros, thermal hot springs, and loads of charm. Add in historical towns, monasteries and museums, and you have yourself a perfect winter vacation.
Combine your love of the outdoors with relaxation as you enjoy the moment. The Rila and Vitosha mountains offer stunning views of mountains and lakes and plentiful options for outdoor activities. If you’re looking for something more, there is the famous Kukeri festival of monsters, and the Trifon Zarezan, dedicated to wine and wine-makers, celebrated on February 14.
Which winter vacation is right for you?
The type of winter vacation that’s best for you will depend mostly on your budget, time and interests. If you’re a skier or a snowboarder, you’ll have to decide whether you want to travel with your equipment or rent it. There could be cost advantages to both options, depending on your circumstances.
Your starting point might also dictate your choices. Going for a weekend ski trip to Switzerland might be more doable for some, while it might be significantly cost-prohibitive to others. The same applied to activities. Winter offers numerous outdoor activities that don’t involve skiing or snowboarding. You can still enjoy the season and everything that comes with it without hitting the slopes.
Winter is also a more affordable season for travel, and you’ll find lower prices and fewer crowds. That’s a great reason to get out there and make the best of it. Who doesn’t enjoy a deal?
Travel Planning Resources
Planning your next trip? Check out the resources I use and start planning your perfect getaway today!
- Flights: Find the best flight deals on Kiwi.com (my new go-to for flights) or WayAway (and earn cashback!).
- Book your accommodations: Find the best prices on hotels with Booking.com
- What to do: Find the perfect tour with Viator
- Need a car? Book your ride with Rentalcars.com or BikesBooking for bikes, motorcycles and scooters all over the world.
Don’t forget to check out my travel resource guide for all my fave resources to help you plan your trip.