Most people travel for warmth. They spend their hard-earned dollars on priced-up summer flights, fighting the crowds in popular destinations, simply to soak up a few extra rays of sunshine. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the only way to travel.
Traveling in the winter has charms of its own – abundant charms, in fact. Not only is it less busy and less expensive (excluding the week around Christmas!) but the views and experiences in winter are often breathtaking.
From the Christmas markets of Europe, the dramatic ski slopes of North America, the winter festivals of Asia and the natural scenery of South America, there’s a lot to love about winter travel. The following list compiles five of the finest winter destinations, mixing culture, activities and natural beauty. Break out your warmest winter coat, pack some merino wool underwear and get ready to let it snow!
Whistler, the primary site of events at the Vancouver Olympics a decade ago, is an idyllic mix of natural beauty and extreme activities. Yes, there’s a world-class ski hill or two at its centre, but what sets Whistler apart from other North American ski spots is its sweeping scenery. The Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains are dotted with spruces and juniper trees, and wildlife spotting is common.
Vienna is a Christmas kind of city. They take the holiday very seriously, with large Christmas markets throughout December. The markets are full of revellers drinking mulled wine, eating roasted nuts and shopping for handcrafted goods. The atmosphere is joyful and lively, with live music and theme park attractions. Add to that the normal beauty of the Austrian capital, whose Baroque architecture and promenades are stunning any time of year.
You might think of Italy as a summer destination, and for good reason – the Italian coastline becomes a sun-kissed treasure in the summer months. But Venice, Italy’s famous northern canal city, is better in the winter. First of all, you don’t get the hot, stinky smell of the canals. Secondly, you get to experience the city during Carnival, its annual festival of ornate masks and delicious food.
In winter, this northern Chinese city plays host to the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, a massive gathering of ice sculptures, food vendors and parties that is as fun as it is whimsical. If you needed an excuse to visit China, but were reticent visiting in muggy, smoggy heat of summer, Harbin in the winter is your perfect trip. Tie it into a trip to Beijing, and witness the Great Wall of China blanketed in snow.
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
How often do you get to see a glacier up close? Unless you live in the remotest parts of the arctic, the chances are unlikely. You’re in for a treat then at Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, where, not only are the glaciers not melting, they’re actually growing. One of earth’s truly fantastic natural sights, the glaciers in this southern Argentinian park shouldn’t be missed.