Living in Florida we do not get many if any, opportunities for snow. Jacksonville, I think had snow flurries last year but it melted before hitting the ground. There is no doubt that winter is a game-changer for many of the world’s destinations. When the snow starts falling, you get an entirely different impression of places that you have visited a dozen times before during the summer. Rather than spending the winter stuck indoors, this guide is here to inspire you to brave the cold weather and be rewarded by some spectacular scenery. So, pull on your thermals, zip up your jacket, and let’s get started.
Colorado is internationally renowned for its stunning mountain towns and world-class ski resorts. Probably the most famous of these is Aspen – a winter retreat that is a magnet for Hollywood stars. Another lesser-known but no less beautiful town is Ouray in the heart of the San Juan mountains, which has previously been called the Switzerland of America. For winter sports lovers, the small town of Vail is also home to a huge ski resort of the same name. You can also check out Vail snowmobile rentals. There is no doubt that Colorado has a huge amount to offer lovers of winter.
Banff National Park, Canada
In the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains is the tourist town of Banff, which is the main settlement in the national park of the same name. A premier skiing and snowboarding destination during the winter months, there are plenty of opportunities for people who love the thrill of the mountains. Two of the other star attractions include Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which freeze over during the winter months so you can walk out right into the center and marvel at the mountains all around you.
The tiny lakeside village of Hallstatt is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the star attractions in the whole of the country. When the Salzburg mountain that looms over the village is covered in snow, it is something special to behold. Take a trip to the bigger city of Salzburg and you will have plenty of attractions to enjoy – very much different to the summertime scenery that you will have watched in The Sound of Music!
The Belgian town of Bruges is already like something out of a fairy tale, but it gets an extra glean of magic during the winter months. The frozen canals complement the cobbled alleyways and quaint architecture perfectly. This is a highly popular destination when the Christmas market comes to town, but come along during January and February and you are much more likely to have the town all to yourself. Visit one of the various medieval castles to complete the scene.
Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany
We mentioned fairy tales in the last section, but the castle in the classic Disney tale Sleeping Beauty was literally modeled on Schloss Neuschwanstein. One of the most popular attractions in Germany, you can only see the interior of the castle on a guided tour, but the outside is what you really want to see. Head over to the nearby bridge for the most famous view of the castle, which looks at its best when the surrounding forest is nicely dusted in snow.
Atlas Mountains, Morocco
You might not naturally think of Africa as a continent to visit if you are looking for a winter wonderland, but a trip over to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco will change your mind completely. Visitor numbers tend to be significantly higher during the summer, but November to April is a beautiful time when you can see Mount Toubkal covered in snow. Brave souls will scale the peaks which rise over 3000m, but simply being in the area is enough for many people.
Perhaps one of the most iconic winter destinations in the world, Lapland is consumed by darkness during the early months of the years, but in the build-up to Christmas, eager families flock to the area in the hope of catching a glimpse of Santa Claus himself. But if you are wanting to witness the marvelous spectacle of the Northern Lights, the first three months of the year are the best time to visit. This is a sight that is on most people’s bucket list and for good reason too.
Prague, Czech Republic
One of the cities that almost miraculously escaped being totally flattened during the Second World War is Prague. In the build-up to Christmas, it is home to one of the finest markets on the whole of the continent. As well as picking up a host of gifts and decorations, you should make sure to stop off to enjoy a barbecued sausage and glass of mulled wine. When the snow starts falling, the Old Market Square really comes to life. Added to all of this, it is still one of the cheapest capital cities in Europe which is always a bonus!
A huge portion of China goes into a deep freeze during the winter months, but the city of Harbin makes the most of this in January with its annual snow and ice festival. Participants arrive from all over the world to exhibit their mesmerizing ice designs. Don’t forget to wrap up warm – temperatures have been known to plunge to -20 degrees Celsius so no matter how spectacular the sculptures, you may struggle to stay out in this for an extended period of time.
Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan
If you are looking for a winter destination that is off the beaten track and doesn’t attract a host of tourists during the colder months, the Pamir Mountains is the place to go. Deserted except for the explorers who thrive on solitude, it will prove to you that there are still corners of the world that you can visit to escape from the rest of the world.
There is bound to be something for you in this variety of winter destinations, so take a journey over to any one of them and you certainly won’t be disappointed.