Image: Marko Kalric, Pexels
It’s cold and wet, but it’s also one of the best times of year to go on vacation (official start of winter - hooray!)! Whether you love the winter weather or want to go somewhere with a more tropical climate, we’ve got you covered!
- The US
With so many incredible options right here for the winter season, let’s start close to home:
Chicago. The windy city does snow, too, and it’s magical! January and February are the coldest months, and if you’re there in a particularly harsh winter, you may even see Lake Michigan frozen over! For a warm indoor activity, check out the ever-popular iFly Chicago
Yellowstone National Park. The oldest national park in the country is still one of the best to visit - especially in the winter. Not only are there far fewer tourists, but you may well spot bears, wolves and antelope while you’re there, too! Book a Yellowstone Lower Loop tour
Wyoming. Even without the skiing, for which these 3,000 acres are known, Jackson Hole is a true winter wonderland, made up of snow-capped mountains, cozy lodges and thermal pools. Grand Teton National Park also cannot be missed this time of year. Check out Jackson Hole wildlife safaris
New York. We’ve made no secret of our love for NYC in the winter - and for good reason! A thick blanket of white snow, backed by bright blue skies, is the landscape for holiday shopping, boating in Central Park and feeling as if you’re the main character in a Christmas movie. Get your Go City New York City Explorer Pass
Hawaii. Home to nine national parks and some of the most beautiful hikes in the world, Hawaii is a hive of scenic stunnery (yeah, we know, not a word, but it just seems apt here!) - and ever-balmy temperatures! Choose Oahu for the surf, Maui for the beaches, Kauai for the dense jungles or Honolulu for the city lights, but really, any island you choose will deliver. Get your Go City Hawaii
Utah. Skip the crowds and put Bryce Canyon National Park on the map for winter for a magical, snow-fueled experience.
Park City is another highlight, especially for winter sports enthusiasts and movie buffs attending the Sundance Film Festival in January. Visiting with the kids? Book a Park City Scavenger Hunt
Crater Lake, Oregon. Head to the deepest lake in the country for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoe walks.
Lake Tahoe. This picturesque lake - peaking in the winter - draws ski enthusiasts from all over. Spend the days on the slopes or snowy hikes before warming up in the city’s hot springs and getting ready to experience the vibrant nightlife.
Whitefish Montana. A quaint ski town that offers all of the above and a much-loved Winter Festival.
Washington D.C. If only to view the White House looking even more white than usual! Hop on one of the Trolley tours Washington DC
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. Do you mean to say you can see the Northern Lights … from America? Oh, yes! Head specifically to Bear Lake for its massive glaciers, year-round water/ice sports and viewings of the Aurora Borealis between September and April. Book a Kenai Fjords National Park Glacier & Wildlife Cruise
A popular choice for Americans who’d like to leave the country but not have to travel too far is Mexico, thanks to the warm weather, pristine beaches, cultural attractions and party vibe! Head to Tulum to explore the Mayan ruins, Cancun for the luxurious resorts and parties and Mexico City for an incredible urban adventure that offers a bit of everything.
Fancy a beach club vacation? Read more: Mr Sanchos or Paradise Beach in Cozumel
3. Prague, Czech Republic
This fairytale city is a bit of a hidden gem in the winter but capped in snow, the winding, cobbled streets of Prague deliver an authentic kind of magic that’s hard to beat.
Boasting an atmospheric old town with stunning Baroque architecture and a wealth of history, wrap up warm and while away the days checking out the Christmas markets (which run from early December to early January). Then, escape the bitter cold in a café with a hot, alcohol-laced drink (needs must, and all!).
Visit Prague Castle, admire the Prague Astronomical Clock and go boating under the Charles Bridge - you’ll probably never want to leave.
Get access to over 60 attractions with the Prague Card.
Salzburg. The hills are alive … with snowflakes (that stay on your nose and eyelashes), traditional markets and Christmas carols (fun fact - “Silent Night” was first performed here in 1818!). Book a Sound of Music bike tour, enjoy a Salzburg Castle tour and visit the Salzburg Austria salt mines.
Hallstatt. This tiny lakeside village - made up of Alpine architecture - is extra pretty in winter!
5. Sydney, Australia
It is summer in Sydney at this time of year, making it a popular escape for those wanting to escape winter in the the Northern Hemisphere. Water sports are popular, as is Sydney’s famed New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Get your Sydney Attractions Combo Pass
Tromsø. Widely regarded as Norway’s most beautiful city, this is an excellent base for spotting the Northern Lights. The Polar Museum, offering an insight into the history of Arctic expeditions, is a must-visit - as is a drink (or three) in the oldest pub in Tromsø!
Lofoten Islands. Clear blue waters, incredible mountains and fishing villages are the backdrop to this unrivaled spot of beauty.
Bergen. Book a Bergen cruise to soak up the colorful wooden buildings, breathtaking fjords and a view of the Northern Lights.
Svalbard. This little mining town is not only a prime spot to catch the Northern Lights but home to a unique experience called “Polar Night,” which occurs between mid-November and the end of January. During this time, the sun never rises and the sky is a perpetual bright blue - simply stunning.
7. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Croatia's most visited national park - known and loved for its 15 interconnected lakes and waterfalls - delivers the “wow” factor any time of year. Come winter, however, not only will you have the place to yourself, but you’ll also get to see the waterfalls dramatically frozen.
We love us some Japan and believe any time of year is worth going (seriously, we wrote a whole blog about it here!), but winter brings with it all these opportunities:
Nagano. As a former Olympics host city, Nagano is a great place for a skiing vacation. Along with the wealth of ski resorts, there are also natural hot springs dotted along the city’s for the perfect way to unwind after a day on the slopes. All this, plus breathtaking snow-topped Buddhist temples, make it the ideal wintry choice.
Jigokudani Monkey Park. You think you’ve seen it all until you spend some time with Japanese Macaques monkeys who bathe in Japan’s hot springs to keep warm in winter! It’s probably one of the cutest things you’ll ever see, and you can get in on the action, too!
Hokkaido. For a slice of untouched nature in the form of lakes, volcanoes and national parks, the ice-topped views of this Japanese island are second-to-none.
Gokayama. These UNESCO-protected, mountain-tucked villages spanning 170 acres are like real-life snow globes.
Mount Fuji. Easily one of the country’s most beautiful places - especially capped with snow. Hop on a Mt Fuji bus tour from Tokyo
Reykjavík. Head here for snow-topped mountains, epic displays of the Northern Lights and a toasty-warm dip in the Blue Lagoon - one of the city’s many natural hot springs. Actual bliss. Come in February for the spectacular Winter Lights Festival.
Jökulsárlón. This glacial lake, backdropped by black volcanic sands, is considered a natural wonder of Iceland.
Kirkjufell. This fairytale mountain becomes all the more magical topped with a layer of snow.
10. Hanoi, Vietnam
With comfortable temperatures and very little rain, a winter visit to Vietnam’s capital is always a good idea - especially if the seasonal events, such as the Tet Festival (Lunar New Year’s festival) every January or the Perfume Pagoda Festival every February, appeal.
Schloss Neuschwanstein. Yes - the Schloss that inspired Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland - need we say any more?
Ottawa. The Winterlude festival - famed for its ice sculptures, outdoor concerts and toboggan course - is one of the world’s biggest winter festivals. The city also sees some of its largest monuments and buildings adorned with festive lights, thanks to the Christmas Lights Across Canada scheme. The Rideau Canal Skateway is another epic winter-only experience in which commuters get through the heart of the city on skates.
Banff National Park. Snow-capped peaks, icy lakes and spectacular views of wildlife - it can only be Canada’s most beautiful winter wonderland. Get your Banff gondola ticket here.
Whistler Blackcomb. With more than 8,000 acres of skiable terrain, it’s no wonder Whistler has become one of the best ski resorts in North America. Non-skiers will also find plenty to do here, whether bobsledding, going on a snowshoe tour or simply taking advantage of the unparalleled après-ski scene.
Quebec City. The Old Town's cobbled streets are decked in festive attire, while the toboggan run at Château Frontenac - open from mid-December to March - is the most epic way to see the city in all its winter finery. Other popular things to do at this time of year include ice skating and sipping on mulled wine at the German Christmas Market, while if you time your visit for February, you’ll get to enjoy the Carnaval de Québec and the Mois Multi art festival.
13. Bruges, Belgium
Cobbled streets, quaint architecture, frozen canals and chocolatiers; It can only be beautiful Bruges, and, amazingly, it’s as good as tourist–free in January and February!
14. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio’s Southern Hemisphere summer season may come at an extra cost, but it’s not without its perks; warm weather, breathtaking beaches and incredible rainforest hikes through Tijuca National Park, along with the year-long carnival vibe that Brazil’s capital is famed for. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to catch a soccer match!
15. United Kingdom
Edinburgh, Scotland. Looked over by the beautiful castle, the city's cobbled streets are transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with an enormous Christmas tree, an ice skating rink and a Ferris Wheel - fun for all the family! Enjoy an Edinburgh Cheese Crawl
Cambridge. The college city looks even more mesmerizing covered in snow - as you might imagine!
16. High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
There's no better place for winter sun and festive snow than Morocco! Not only is it tourist-light at this time of year, but you’ll also have a wealth of outdoorsy activities at your disposal - from skiing to climbing!
Rome. There’s nothing quite like hearing the Pope celebrate Christmas Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Day! Aside from this, a bowl of steaming pasta and hot cappuccino should help you beat the cold weather! Head to the Bone Chapel Rome
The Dolomites. Access the powdery slopes of the area via one of the world’s most beautiful alpine drives.
Budget-conscious holiday-goers should seriously look into this incredible island off of Venezuela - boasting white sand beaches and turquoise beaches at a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere. Hikes around Christoffel National Park and watersports will keep you busy by day, while endless nighttime entertainment awaits when the sun goes down!
19. Uludaǧ, Turkey
A favorite for skiing, other winter sports and sensational views of the mountain atop the Olympos Teleferik cable car.
20. Lapland, Finland
As well as meeting Santa and experiencing a reindeer sleigh ride, Lapland is another Aurora Borealis hotspot. Come between January and March for the best viewings.
21. Abisko, Sweden
Home to lots of reindeer, dog sledding, ice fishing and skiing, this is another excellent spot for the Aurora Borealis.
22. Madrid, Spain
Spain celebrates Christmas on a HUGE level - we actually wrote a whole blog about Spain Christmas facts here! And its capital city takes the celebrations very seriously, as you’ll be able to tell just by looking at the all-out decorations throughout. Get a ticket to Bullfighting Madrid 2022
23. Harbin, China
First things first, it gets brutal here during winter - like -20°C - so this one’s probably not for you if you’re looking to get away from the cold. Having said that, with such harsh temperatures comes the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival (the largest in the world!), which is pretty cool (pardon the pun!). Spanning some eight million square feet with frozen LED-covered skyscrapers and palaces, this is like nothing you have ever seen.
Lake Bled. Snow-covered mountains make this already postcard-worthy destination even more desirable. Spend time skiing, visiting one of the many churches, admiring the pools and waterfalls and exploring the caves.
Ljubljana. Slovenia’s capital city is like something straight out of a fairytale book, no matter when you visit.
Buenos Aires. This cosmopolitan hub has a bit of everything, and if you choose to do Christmas in Buenos Aires, you won’t regret it!
Perito Moreno Glacier. A popular tourist spot in the Los Glaciares National Park - you’ll soon see why!
We love Belize any time of year, but if you’re after a Caribbean getaway when the temperatures drop in your neck of the wood, this could be just what the doctor ordered. Spend your days sunbathing on the soft sand, playing golf, or trekking into the lush forests for adventure.
Ambergris Caye - Belize’s largest island - is the crown jewel, thanks to the white-sand beaches, endless watersports and incredible diving opportunities in the Belize Barrier Reef. Swoon.
27. Hong Kong
Okay, we’ve spoken a lot about snow, Christmas markets and some winter sun, but the other thing synonymous with this time of year and the holidays is obviously … shopping! And where better to get your fix than in this urban hub? Of course, there’s much more to Hong Kong than its incredible shopping opportunities, but it’s a pretty good place to start!
28. Cape Town, South Africa
While you can indulge in a wonderful “winter” wildlife safari, the summer season in South Africa lends itself to indulging in the stunning city of Cape Town. This, plus the panoramic beaches, incredible Winelands, which are in growing season at this time and vibrant nightlife scene, make South Africa the perfect destination.
Think glaciers, fjords, colorful villages backdropped by icebergs and some cheeky appearances by the Northern Lights, and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable winter destination.
Chaing Mai. This city, bordered by misty mountains and golden temples, comes even more alive every February during the Flower Festival, where every street is covered in plants and flowers.
Phuket. Prices may be higher at this time of year, but unless you fancy journeying here during the region’s monsoon season, you’ll probably be quite happy to pay for it!
31. Costa Rica
December’s dry season here makes the endless choice of activities (think hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and ziplining through the rainforest) all the more accessible. And, come January, you’ll get to join the country reveling in its two-week-long Palmares Fiestas - its largest and most celebrated festival.
Powdery slopes, frozen lakes and some of the most luxurious resorts you’ll ever see, choose from the following options:
Zermatt. This enchanting Alpine village offers incredible ski - and après-ski - opportunities.
Lucerne. Snow-covered streets, festive lights, ski resorts, winter activities, Christmas markets and spas (ah!) are the order of the day here.
33. Copenhagen, Denmark
Your winter vacation in the birthplace of “hygge” (Danish for “coziness”) will be pretty much what it says on the can!
Dubai is a brilliant option because not only will it take you away from the snow-covered elements (if that’s what you’re after) and into warm desert sunshine, but - because there is so much to do there - you can choose to retain a little bit of traditional winter by hitting the slopes inside the incredibly huge mall - win-win! Of course, there are endless other activities to choose from, too, such as climbing the world’s tallest building and riding the world’s fastest rollercoaster.
35. Paris, France
Does Paris under snow and glistening Christmas lights get any more magical? This - coupled with the far shorter tourist lines than usual - make this a winning choice.
Well … there you have it. We’ve literally covered most of the world, so all that’s left for you to decide is … where you’re going to go!