Winter is coming and so is the holiday season. Many of you might have started shortlisting destination for your winter escape. Winter, no doubt is an enchanting time where a single speckle of snowflake or a swath of snow is enough to get you excited and admire nature’s pure beauty. Moreover, when you think of winter vacations, it conjures up images of skiing, snowboarding and getting cozy by the warm crackling fire in a cottage. But the experience goes way beyond these imaginations. Here are our top 20 picks of stunning destinations to visit on a winter break.
1- Banff National Park, Canada
Canada’s oldest National Park is also one of the most beautiful places on earth. Its breathtaking natural splendor consists of crystal clear lakes reflecting the snow crested mountains and the verdant wilderness blanketing the valley. While you are here, discover the jaw dropping scenic beauty of Lake Minnewanka, Bow Valley Parkway, Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon. Being part of the Canadian Rockies, there are plenty of things to do, leaving no space for a moment of dullness on your Canadian Holiday. One of the best ways to explore the park is on hiking tours through one of the countless nature trails. Enjoy an extraordinary expedition on glaciers at The Ice fields Parkway and explore an array of outdoor recreations at world-class ski hills. Unwind with a rejuvenating experience of natural thermal springs at Upper Hot Springs, Miette Hot Springs and Radium Hot Springs. Banff National Park is a year around destination, but specifically for winter activities, December to mid-June is the ideal time to visit. With Canada visa online facilities and a suitable Canada holiday itinerary, it is quite easy to travel to Canada for an amazing winter holiday.
2- Plitvice National Park, Croatia
The largest national park in Croatia, Plitvice National Park has a dramatic landscapes compromising of mountainous karsts wrapped in forests, beautiful lakes and waterfalls. During winters, the whole park is covered in snow, the lakes turn into pristine white sheets of ice and waterfalls freeze up to form an eerily beautiful veiled icicle landscape. This frozen wintry landscape of sheer white beauty is a gorgeous spectacle to watch. December to February is the best time to visit if you wish to witness this untouched magical ambience of winter at Plitvice National Park.
3- Hallstatt, Austria
The beautiful bounty of picturesque vistas in Hallstatt- a charming village in Salzkammergut region in Austria is sure to leave you speechless. This quaint township transforms into a photogenic landscape during winters with misty clouds floating over the glossy lake accentuated with majestic snowcapped mountain as a backdrop. A walk around the town’s traditional, colorful houses and winding alleys provides numerous places as perfect photo stops. Listed among the top holiday locations in Austria, the city is a great place to visit in chilly winters for those seeking to take a break from daily routines and relax in pristine surroundings together with good food and great company.
4- Alaska, USA
Alaska feels like a surreal realm where nature’s scenery is dominated by shades of icy blue or pristine white. But that’s not all, winters in Alaska brings in loads of adventure activities and events. You can enjoy skiing, dog sledding, winter biking, snowshoeing, ice skating, ice fishing and much more. Take a scenic cruise through the misty Alaskan fjords and experience the outstanding scenery and wilderness at a calming pace. Alaska is also known as one of the best winter holiday destination in the world for Northern Light viewing. Plan your trip between September and March when the dark skies and ambiance are perfect for amazing views of Aurora Borealis.
5- Prague, Czech Republic
Prague in winter is romantic, rustic and spectacularly beautiful to experience. One of the charming spells of the year to visit Prague is during Christmas, when the city comes alive with Christmas spirit. The Prague Christmas Market adds essence to the ambience of Old Town with flavors, sights and sounds of White Christmas. The town dazzles in gleaming illuminations and aura of festive spirit. Step into Prague Cafés to get yourself something warm to drink while you enjoy the glowing evenings in this antique city. It’s a great way to indulge in the merriment and please yourself with shopping, dining and entertainment.
6- Tromso, Norway
Another beautiful destination to visit for its frosty ambiance is Tromso in Norway. Being located in the Arctic Circle, it is the ideal place to gear up for an Arctic adventure. This holiday destination is a mesmerizing combination of idyllic islands, magnificent mountains and fjords; you can enjoy these stunning landscapes on an excursion to fjords. Witness the exotic Norwegian wilderness with a whale safari cruise or a dog sledding ride. Apart from the amazing collection of activities and events, there is one extraordinary experience you ought not to miss – the spectacular Northern Lights viewing. January until March is the best times to find clear, dark skies that are best suited for this marvelous natural wonder.
7- Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
An Icelandic destination that is outlandishly beautiful, Vatnajökull National Park offers its guests to witness the harmonious fusion of fire and ice. The landscape is an incredible outcome of contrasting elements of nature – volcanoes and glaciers. It is also home to the world’s largest glacier outside the Arctic Circle. Set on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park is Jökulsárlón – an icy blue glacier lagoon which feels like an ethereal world. This glacier slowly transforms into a crystal clear lake with chunks of luminous icebergs floating on it. The starkly contrasting landscape of white glacial landscapes fading into charcoal plains and wisps of hot steam emerging from frozen ice covered landscapes are once in a lifetime sights to experience.
8- Nagano, Japan
Japan is bizarre in lifestyle as well as in landscapes. Yet it is one of the Asian countries brimming with spectacular scenic destinations. One such place is Nagano which is an all-time destination but looks unbelievably stunning during winter. Its mountainous landscape gets draped in powdery white snow giving ample scope for thrilling winter sports and activities. Take a trip to Kiso valley to discover gorgeous nature vistas, village huts and forests covered in pristine snow. The Japanese custom of sentō or common bath houses is a great way to melt away all your stress and rejuvenate. Experience one at Shibu Onsen – a traditional Japanese hot spring resort town which provides wellness of hot springs amid traditional Japanese ambiance. Do take some time out for tea making rituals – there is nothing like a warm cup of tea wrapped in your palms that soothe your soul in chilly winters.
9- Bavaria, Germany
This southeastern state of Germany is another incredible destination where winter brings thrilling experiences and merriment. Steeped in tradition, spending time here in winter lets you get an insight into some extraordinary events and carnivals such as whip cracking events, traditional wooden horn sledges racing and offers a wide variety of winter beers and Bavarian delicacies to relish. Brimming with history and culture, this German region is plentiful in castles and abbeys. One of the majestic sights to visit, not just in winter but at any time of the year is the Neuschwanstein Castle. Boasted to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland, this 19th-century Romanesque castle and its surrounding woodlands covered in powdery snow gets a fairy tale wintry charisma to it which is breathtakingly scenic to experience.
10- Harbin, China
Set in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang in China, Harbin seems like a typical Chinese country town. The wintry chill and the stillness of fewer crowded areas feel sublime. Yet it is the winter time that awakens this little town into a full frenzied land covered in massive illuminated ice sculptures. Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is an annually held festival in China celebrating the arrival of winter. Every year during the months of December to February, Harbin’s icy landscapes are scattered with massive structures carved out of ice and illuminated with kaleidoscopic LED lights. The largest ice and snow festival in the world puts up a fantastic show of extravagant castles, monuments and iconic landmarks, some of which have broken records. Apart from the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Harbin offers plenty of winter activities such as skiing, ice lantern shows and winter swimming in frigid waters!
11- Yosemite National Park, USA
The popular Yosemite National Park in USA is always a preferred destination among travellers, but its scenic beauty intensifies during winters. It is a place where solitude mingles with serene beauty. With a plethora of outdoor winter sports and activities to choose from, there won’t be a moment where you won’t feel excited. Grab your skiing gear and dash out on the dusty snow while taking in the incredible scenic vistas during downhill skiing and snowboarding. You can even go on a cross country skiing expedition or try winter camping right amid the striking winter landscapes, star gazing into the dark starry nights.
12- Gstaad, Switzerland
Switzerland is the most popular destination that comes into the mind as a winter destination. Among its many winter destinations, Gstaad stands as a popular picturesque resort town in Swiss Alps. Shrouded in the snow, the town’s mountain terrains are perfect for numerous winter sports and activities such as tobogganing, skiing, snowboarding, heli skiing to name a few. Quite popular for its epicurean palette, indulge in some soul stirring delicacies at some of the finest restaurants in Gstaad town. The Golden Pass panoramic rail tour that passes through Gstaad is another relaxing way of witnessing the enchanting beauty of Switzerland.
13- Segovia, Spain
Spain is not normally considered as a winter destination but as the snow starts coating the Andalusian villages, the scenario feels magically mesmerizing. The white villages of Segovia will enchant you with its beautiful setting with streets, houses, statues and cathedrals dappled in snow. Setting the ambience for a Spanish winter fairy tale is Alcázar de Segovia – a fortress perched on a rocky cliff above two rivers that seems straight out of a Disney fairytale movie. Segovia is a great place to enjoy winter with the warmth of local culture. Visit the monumental Roman aqueduct and Jewish quarters, tuck into some warm Spanish local dishes and if the weather permits take a hot air balloon ride over the incredible sights of Segovia.
14- Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
A charming city by the River Vlata in Czech Republic is accentuated by historic ambiences. Teeming with castles, cobbled stoned streets, medieval architectures, historic monuments and amazing river views, this little city is a beautiful place to take romantic strolls. The winter adds glistening snow and a cozy aura to the whole city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town lets you experience a delightful winter along with some interesting historic nostalgia. Then again, Christmas is just magical and the perfect time to visit the city.
15- Lake Bled, Slovenia
A popular tourist spot in Slovenia, Lake Bled’s picture postcard like settings have been alluring swarms of tourists year after year. But as winter approaches, the crowd trickles down to fewer numbers and what you get to experience is a tranquil scenic city at a slow paced life. Enjoy the misty views of the lake from Bled Castle perched on the edge of the river. Take a boat ride in the still waters in the chilly weather to enjoy the sheer beauty of nature without another soul to disturb you. You will appreciate the solitude and peace this beautiful place provides you as a welcoming change from other bustling destinations.
16- Queenstown, New Zealand
Boasted as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown is a strikingly beautiful destination with loads of zeal. If you are an adventure junkie and looking forward to a winter holiday exploring the outdoor activities, Queenstown has tons of ways to keep your excitement level high all the time. In the mood of mild adventures? Head for some scenic backcountry trails and canoeing experiences. For extreme adventures, there’s skydiving, skiing, heli-skiing, whitewater rafting and bungy jumping. The adrenaline rush amid astounding sceneries is an outstanding experience not to be missed.
17- Interlaken, Switzerland
Home to two beautiful lakes and renowned Swiss destinations of Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn, Interlaken is one of the most amazing places on earth to enjoy the delights of winter season. Set in the mountainous Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, the region is stretched between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz providing beautiful sceneries of emerald waters with backdrop of majestic snowy mountains. Take a winter cruise on Lake Thun to witness the astounding beauty of still waters, snow crested mountains and the chilly winter breeze. There are plenty of options for skiing activities throughout the region that provides you exhilarating adventure along with impressive panoramas. Without a trip to Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe and Schilthorn, your trip to Interlaken will be disappointingly incomplete.
18- Aachen, Germany
A beautiful heritage town nestled between the borders of Belgium and Netherlands, Aachen is filled with Baroque treasures of historic eras. During winters, the town gets blanketed in snow which makes this place look magical. Known as the spa city of Europe, Aachen is famous for its medicinal thermal springs and offers an array of places where you can get pampered in thermal baths and world class spa wellness. After a beautiful day sightseeing around the town in chilly weather, these thermal spa baths feel rejuvenating and refreshing for body and soul.
19- St. Petersberg, Russia
A city painted in pure white that occasionally gives a sneak peek of colors, St. Petersberg in Russia feels surreal in monochrome winter landscapes apart from the brilliant blue skies. Though winter feels cold and harsh here, the scenic vistas and winter activities make amends for the frigid weather. Try cross country skiing, sledding and ice skating on wintry landscapes. Take a panoramic city tour to witness how every street and building is transformed into white frosty structures and lakes frozen into glistening sheets of ice by nature. This is yet another place where Christmas and New Year brings lots of illuminations and Russian celebrations in the snowy weather.
20- Franz Josef & Fox Glacier
New Zealand is a land of contrasts and has something appealing for every genre of visitors in each season. Those looking for a magical winter escape can find a dreamlike landscape in New Zealand. Franz Josef and Fox Glacier located in the South Island is a hiker’s paradise in New Zealand. What’s so unique about this destination is that the glacier formations are surrounded by rainforest. This mind-boggling fusion is an incredible sight to experience through a helicopter ride. A guided walk on these iridescent icy blue landscapes experiencing the glaciers up front, exploring the massive valleys of ice is an opportunity you should not miss. Being the most convenient glaciers to visit in the world, you can set out on your glacier expedition on guided walks and combination of hiking tours and flight rides.
So after going through all these winter vacation ideas, isn’t it time to book your winter getaway? There are plenty of destinations in India as well to experience the beauty and enthusiasm that winter brings in. But among these places to visit this winter outside India offers different ways to experience unique moments. For instance, one of the things you should not miss in European winter destinations is the wintry Christmas season. If it is not just ice and snow that you are seeking for, Iceland, Norway and Alaska all provide extraordinary experiences with different hues of nature such as the Northern Lights or fusion of thermal springs with glacier lands. Winters may sound dull and boring, but not in these winter holiday destinations. Travelling in winter may seem like a scary thought but once you venture out, it will be the most remarkable journey of your life. It is during winters that one can understand nature’s beauty in its simplicity through a single element – pristine white snow.