The best winter vacations don’t have to be all about sunshine and beaches. There are plenty of ways to have an awesome winter getaway — even when the weather is below freezing! Grab your hat and gloves and enjoy the crisp winter cold in these five cities.
All fjords are wonderful, but in Bergen, the town itself adds to the romantic winter atmosphere. This historic city is lined with colorful wooden houses and undeniable charm. And the local cuisine of fish, fish, and more fish will delight fish lovers.
Upon finding the port, a boat tour of the fjord is a must. The winter is an amazing time to do this as the boat drifts on the magically still and enchanting water. The sound you hear could just be the wind howling, or it could be an old norse god, screaming from across the lake. Take in the glittering mountains and breathe in fresh sea air. On windy days, bring an extra layer. Or two. Or three.
For a more adventurous excursion, Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken stand tall and await travelers. Both offer a convenient funicular to the top so you don’t have to suffer through the cold too much. But if you’ve packed for the weather, experience the mountain firsthand with ski and snowshoe trails. These trails will bring you closer to mother nature and immerse you in the beauty of Norway.
As my Moscow native friend said, an average day in Moscow is “cold, but it’s not freeze-your-ass-off-cold”. Hearty natives bustling about their days will remind you that any cold you are experiencing is just a part of everyday life in this northern capital.
As anyone who visits Moscow in the winter will tell you: ice skating is an essential. Almost every park is converted into an ice rink and decked out with bright lights and decorations. On all but the most bitter cold days, these parks are full of locals who choose to ignore the cold in favor of fun. It’s easy to forget your numb fingers when you’re skating around surrounded by the awe-inspiring architecture of Red Square. But, the spell might be broken when you fall on your butt and somehow manage to lose your gloves, your hat, and your dignity.
Once you’ve taken a few graceful spills on the ice rink, it’s time for sledding. While you can find sweet spots all over the city, head Novodevichy Convent is an all-time fave. This fairytale-like nunnery provides an excellent view for you to look at right before your sled hits the snow.
Of course, the best winter vacations in Moscow also offer a mix of fun indoor and outdoor activities: museums, landmarks, etc. for you to warm up in between excursions. But for a truly unique experience, bundle up and get outside! And if you’re cold, embrace the Russian spirit: drink some vodka and get over it.
If you prefer grand scenery to stately architecture, Juneau, Alaska is the place to go for the best winter vacations.
For dog lovers and adventurers alike, dog sledding is the activity of choice. Not only do you get to play with adorable pups, but you also get to go on a fast-paced adventure through epic scenery. Burst through snow covered forests and take in the silhouette of the nearby mountains as the dogs expertly guide you through their home. And then wish that humans had fur so you could be as warm as your canine sledding buddies.
Experience the epitome of the word ‘jaw-dropping’ with Alaskan glaciers, glacial lakes and caves. The Mendenhall Glacier is the most famous, and it’s absolutely worth the trip. With well-kept trails, you can travel around the glacial lake, soak in the fresh icy air, and make friends with the wildlife along the way. Make sure that you leave the food at home: bears are nice to look at from afar, but not so nice when they want to eat your lunch.
When you think of the best winter vacations around the world, you might not think Duluth. Think again. Situated on the edge of Lake Superior, this Minnesota city is no stranger to cold weather. Wind whips across the lake year-round and hits Duluth and surrounding areas with chilly air. Though the giant lake never really gets ‘warm’, that’s never stopped anyone from swimming in it.
For outdoor activities to shock your system, you can go cold weather surfing in Lake Superior, complete with super thick wet suits and an abundance of frost on your face. If you’re not that good at surfing, or you just don’t want to tempt frostbite, you can choose to take a dip in a frozen lake, with a rope of course. You can do it as an act of rejuvenation, or just to remind your body of what cold really feels like.
For some slightly warmer activities, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and downhill skiing trails are abundant. Become one with nature earn that hot cocoa you’ll treat yourself to after. There’s no way you’ll notice the cold once you’ve been snowshoeing up a mountain for two hours.
Even for friends you’ve dragged along who would much prefer to be on a nice warm beach, Reykjavik will be on of the best winter vacations they’ve ever taken. The Northern lights alone are a bucket list opportunity for anyone, and Iceland gets them on most clear nights. But if you somehow miss them, or the clouds are blocking your view, the February winter lights festival will pull you out of your slump. The entire country only gets a few hours of daylight in the winter, so they make up for it with stunning lighting displays.
To warm up your chilly body, check out the thermal pools just 45 minutes outside of the city. Volcanic activity in the area makes these pools naturally warm year round. Boasting health benefits, volcanic hot springs are relaxing and comfortable. Bathing in these pools with the natural Icelandic landscape around you is absolutely phenomenal — though make sure your towel is handy because the transition between warm water to cold air can be shocking! Reykjavik will teach you that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
Sometimes, the best winter vacations include a little sun. Check out our fave tropical destinations to escape the winter cold.