Winter is a cold time of the year guys. Unless you live in Australia, where it’s the hottest time of the year since they’re in the southern hemisphere. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is: when the snow starts to fall and the chilly wind begins to blow, you just want to stay at home and wrap yourself in blankets, right? No! You want to get out there and make the most of the winter wonderland destinations both near and far. But with so many to choose from, where should you go? Thankfully, we’ve got you covered. We scoured around searching for the best places in the world that make for idyllic winter vacations. Check out these 9 stunning locations to spend your winter vacation.
Lviv in western Ukraine has everything you could possibly need: cobblestone streets, cozy coffee houses, an elegant opera house, amazing (and cheap!) food, an eclectic mix of architecture influenced by the Hapsburg Empire, the Polish Kingdom, and…Nikita Krushchev, of course. In winter, the city center gets transformed into a true Christmas paradise, with wooden booths offering roasted meats, cookies, hot mulled wine, and medovukha, a honey-infused vodka drink that you will want to consume in moderation, unless you’re cool with passing out in the snow.
Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
If you only visit one national park in Canada in your entire life, you might as well make the trip to Banff National Park. In the winter time, the snow covers the Canadian Rockies and provides unforgettable views. You can go hiking, ice fishing, and take part in all of your favorite winter sports. Perchance you’ll encounter a penguin or twelve? No. But the buffalo and other enchanted wildlife roam the area.
From March through December, Harbin is just a regular Chinese city. But in January and February, it gets transformed into a magical world of ice. Visitors can explore castles made of ice and even go down an ice slide. But beyond their world-famous ice sculptures, you can enjoy dog-sledding, ice skating, and marvel at the lantern art.
The Dolomites, Italy
Want to vacation like a regular swell, but can’t afford the glitzy and glamorous Alp ski resorts in Switzerland and France? The Dolomites, encompassing the three Italian towns of Cortina, San Cassiano, and Bolzano, provide a perfect alternative. Of course, if you happen to win the lottery, you could check out the San Lorenzo Mountain Lodge. This former hunting lodge was built in the 1500s and still contains certain elements – such as a masonry oven – that reflect this. You also gain access to a private chef, a heated outdoor pool, and a full 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus if you decide to come back when the weather gets warmer.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Surrounded by the forests and mountains, Lake Bled, located in northwestern Slovenia, is an amazing place to visit at anytime of the year, but it’s especially true in winter when the area is blanketed in snow. When the lake freezes, you catch an amazing reflection of the Julian Alps off in the distance. As for things to do, Bled Island contains a 17th century church known as the Assumption of Mary as well as the medieval Bled Castle, which serves as a museum. You can also wander nearby to Vintgar gorge, where you’ll find caves, frozen waterfalls and pools.
If you’ve ever seen pictures of Iceland on social media accounts, chances are you’ve seen this popular mountain. But it’s infinitely more impressive when experienced in real life. This is another destination that looks impressive all year round, but it becomes a scene from a fairytale when visited during the winter. The nearby village of Grundarfjörður (population 872) offers places to stay and eat as well.
If there was any area of the world that was destined to become a winter wonderland, it’s definitely Lapland. After all, where else can you visit Santa Claus, aside from literally every shopping mall in America? Okay, but does your local mall allow you to take a reindeer sleigh ride? If you said, “yes” you’re not being truthful. Of course, the main reason to visit in winter is so that you can sleep under the Northern Lights in a Finnish bubble sled, which is actually a thing.
Matanuska Glacier, Alaska
If you’ve ever dreamed of actually touching a glacier, you can put Matanuska Glacier on your bucket list. Located a couple of hours away from Anchorage and accessible by highway, there are lots of areas where you can pull off to take some pictures and post on the Instergrams or Twidders or whatever. If you’re willing to pay, you can also access areas and get up close to the glacier.
Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Japan
You’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking to yourself, “Oh, another national park recommendation. Whoopie.” Well, sir or ma’am, you’re wrong this time. See, Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, which sees snow for 4 months of the year, is home to Jigokudani Monkey Park, famous for its hot springs. Oh, and monkeys. Seems that once upon a time, a monkey took a dip in one of those hot springs and find it quite satisfactory. So now all of the monkeys come down to the valley and warm themselves up. Pretty nifty, no?