Think winter travel is all snow, ice, and freezing temps? Think again! A winter trip can offer everything from sparkly Christmas market magic (we’re looking at you, Germany), to crowd-free visits to iconic landmarks in Italy, France, and beyond. So, forget everything you think about winter travel. Here are eight of the best places to visit in the winter, straight from our community of travelers and expert staffers.
“One of the things I loved about winter travel is that I didn’t break the bank, financially or with vacation time,” said staffer Jim. “I loved traveling around Christmas and New Year’s because you can get a lot of low-cost options, particularly right after the new year. For vacation time, traveling over two different calendar years can help save some vacation days for summer months, and the cluster of paid holidays a lot of people get between December and January help, too!”
If an ethereal escape into nature is up your alley, Iceland is one of the best places to go in the winter. Occasional snowfalls make the landscape even more otherworldly, waterfalls freeze into icicles, and the night sky often lights up with one of nature’s most staggering phenomena: the northern lights. Staffer Whitney said it best after her winter trip to Iceland: “Some people say they hate the winter—I say that is when the magic happens.”
There are so many reasons to visit Scandinavia in the winter—the landscapes are truly out of this world, and seeing them dusted with snow makes this one of the top places to visit in the winter. One of our favorite reasons to visit the Nordic countries during the cooler months is to cozy up with the concept of hygge. Hygge is all about the contentment and sense of togetherness that comes from being with friends and family in a warm space. The indulgent treats, drinks, and crackling fires that come along with it are just the cherry on top.
Looking for extra festive trips to take in the winter? Put Germany on your winter travel bucket list! With its half-timbered houses and twinkling Christmas markets around every corner, there is always something charming to see during the off-season. (And, while there are so many things to do at Europe’s Christmas markets, we suggest saving room for a mug of warm Glühwein in Germany. It’s as traditional as it gets!)
Taking a vacation in winter has a lot of perks, especially when you’re visiting a place with as much art, culture, and food as France. Even though a little winter weather won’t interrupt your adventure (just imagine the Eiffel Tower twinkling in the snow!), there are plenty of ways to duck out of the chill.
Italy may call to mind sun-splashed days on the coast with a Spritz in hand—but don’t count the country’s cooler months out. Italy is one of the best places to visit in the winter because all those historic landmarks will still be there, but all the lines and crowds of eager visitors won’t be. You’ll feel like you have all the icons to yourself.
If you’re looking for winter getaway ideas, heading toward the Mediterranean is always a good idea. Here, Spain keeps on kicking with the warmer weather—the country has one of the mildest climates in Europe!—and it’s a top spot to visit if you want to enjoy the winter season without super cold temps.
Picture a historic castle. Now, picture that castle dusted with snow. Now, picture having that snow-covered castle all to yourself! That’s just what you’ll find during the off-season in the Baltics, where the region’s fairy-tale charm shines even brighter during the winter months. The off-season temperatures in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia may warrant a warm coat, sure. But, of all the best places to go in the winter, this region is still right there at the top.
Are you hoping to escape the colder winter weather here at home for a sunny destination in, say, the Pacific? If warm weather is more your style and you’re looking for winter getaway ideas, Australia is waiting in the Southern Hemisphere. The seasons are the opposite from those here in the Northern Hemisphere, which means going during our winter will ensure all the beach days you’re dreaming of. Just prepare for some toasty days in places like Uluru (pack your hat and sunscreen!), and then cool down while snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef.