When most of us think of a vacation, we imagine sunny beaches and summer getaways. But, there are so many great winter wonders out there that we couldn’t help but share some with you. These are some of the best winter holiday destinations around the world. So this year, instead of getting caught up in the tourist traps in the summer months, check out one of these magical stops around the globe.
Lake Tahoe, California
Known for its beautiful scenery during the summer, what you might not know about Lake Tahoe is that it is also an enchanting winter stay. With phenomenal skiing, Tahoe offers a plethora of winter activities from snowshoeing, skating, sledding, and even great shopping. The resorts in the area also house some wonderful annual events, including the Magical Memories holiday celebration at the Squaw Creek Resort. Families can participate in the Grand Tree Lighting Ceremony, have Breakfast with Santa, and walk along the Gingerbread Village. Tahoe is truly a charming winter getaway.
Known as the “playground for the rich and famous,” Switzerland is a big stop for the holiday season. With its picture-perfect cities like Bern and St. Moritz, and access to the, Alps, Switzerland offers one of the best places to spend your holidays abroad. From the Matterhorn to the “Top of Europe” — Jungfraujoch —to the Bernina Express, Switzerland is the perfect fairytale vacation for families and individuals alike. Currier and Ives truly had nothing on the Swiss.
With geothermal pools and spas, northern lights sightings, whale watching, and the majestic national parks, Iceland is a lesser-known winter secret for explorers all over. Ice climbing and glacier hiking are very popular during the snowy months. The stunning Northwest corner of Iceland, known as the Westfjords, is a wonderfully untainted wilderness and a great area for exploration.
With near-perfect conditions for skiing, Norway is a great stop for a winter vacation. But adventure isn’t all that Norway has to offer. In fact, with its Christmas Market in Oslo, the Gingerbread Town in Bergen, the Northern Lights Festival in Tromsø, and the Polar Jazz music festival in Svalbard, Norway is one of the top destinations for fun and enchanting winter activities. Don’t forget to slip into a sleigh for a little reindeer sledding with someone you love!
Yeah, everyone knows about Canada for winter activities, but probably its best place to vacation overall is Banff National Park. With its delightful Winter Festival, this stunning region in Canada is one of the best places for families and individuals to visit. With après specials and full event schedules, there are countless opportunities for adventurers of all kinds. The beautiful Ice Magic Festival exhibits some of the most astounding ice carving around. In February, ski and snowboard pros compete in The Big Bear competition that is sure to make you say, “wow!” Banff isn’t just for adventurers either, with great dining, museums, galleries, and historic sites, there are also ample choices for culture gurus, too.
On a list of best winter destinations, we definitely can’t leave out Aspen, Colorado. Famous for its top-notch skiing, Aspen is every family’s winter dream. Along with its famous skiing, Aspen offers dog sledding, snowmobiling, fly fishing, hot air ballooning, ice skating, and so much more. With the Aspen Ideas Festival, Food & Wine Classic, Winter Words, and many more museums, Aspen isn’t just for ski junkies. Come for a truly great winter getaway this year to really experience all that Aspen has to offer.
With 200 different resorts, Sweden is another Scandinavian must for winter fun. Travelers can go on a reindeer safari and sleep in entire hotels and igloos made from ice. Like Norway or Alaska, Sweden is one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis because of the “blue hole” in the Abisko National Park. Along with reindeer or moose safaris, travelers can drive their own dog sleds, snowshoe through the Kungsleden, and dive into the culture rich Sapmi of the Sami people. Enjoy unique cuisines, snowmobile, and watch for the king of the forest (elk) all during your next winter vacation to Sweden.
When it comes to winter vacations, most people steer clear of Russia, but this year, you really shouldn’t! In January, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas with merry events for everyone — Moscow is a great “after-the-holidays” trip. Participate in the On Ice group tours in St. Petersburg, visit the mystical Winter Palace, and then be sure to catch The Nutcracker in the place that made it the fairytale joy it is today — Mariinsky Theatre.
Most wouldn’t expect Japan to be on the list for best winter vacations, but it truly is a great snowy destination. There are endless winter activities, like the Kitami Yakiniku Festival with the Winter BBQ, visiting the Tadami River in Fukushima with its most striking landscapes, the Sapporo Snow Festival, and, of course, skiing. New Year’s is one of the best times of year for anyone traveling to Japan to experience some great ancient traditions and also some beautiful modern illumination around the Tokyo Michi Terrace and the Marunouchi Illumination. Be sure to jump onto a Japan tour this winter.
Last, but certainly not least, is Amsterdam — where the legend of Sinterklaas brought us Santa Claus. For those who want to spend more time than just a weekend celebrating Christmas, Amsterdam offers double the magic. On December 5th, Saint Nicholas’ Eve, the Dutch begin the celebrations with gift giving. On December 25th, the Dutch spend a second day of fun with food and family. Top the fun off with ice skating, shopping, and the best twinkling lights around.