7 Stunning Winter Travel Destinations for People Who Want to Embrace — Not Escape — the Cold

Sandy beaches, fruity drinks adorned with little umbrellas, suntan lotion... no thanks.

When temperatures start dropping and snow starts flying, a surprising percentage of people feel the urge to immediately flee to warmer climes.That’s all well and good, but counterpoint: WHY?! What are we, BIRDS?! No, we are not birds. We are humans, each and every one of us. (No offense to any birds who may be reading this.)

So if we are not birds, then what gives? What is this bizarre aversion to winter so many of us possess? Think of all the wonderful things winter has given us: hot chocolate, sledding, snowball fights, eggnog, drunken holiday parties. Winter deserves it’s day in the sun, even if that sun only lasts for a couple of hours. So with that in mind, we rounded up a few destination ideas that not only embrace the best qualities of this, the coldest season, but that also make us wish it were winter year round.

1.  Icehotel (Jukkasjärvi, Sweden)



Located in a remote part of northern Sweden, the world-famous Icehotel does exactly as advertised: It is a hotel made of ice. Well, ice and snow. The structure is rebuilt every November from ice taken from the nearby Torne River, and come spring, it all melts away. Each year, artists from around the world are invited to Jukkasjärvi to design and create one-of-a-kind sculptures and suites made predominately of frozen water, so every experience is guaranteed to be unique. With rates ranging between $300 and upwards of $1,200 a night, the Icehotel may not be for the feint of wallet, but even non-guests are welcome to explore the structure. A bonus: The hotel provides coats and reindeer pelts for (necessary) warmth. (Also of note: There are some warm-room accommodations available for those not thrilled by the idea of sleeping on a bed of ice.) 

2.  Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo, Japan)


Way up in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, lies a city by the name of Sapporo. (Yes, like the beer.) Each year in early-to-mid February, Sapporo becomes host to the Sapporo Snow Festival, a winter celebration that features hundreds of highly-impressive, artist-made snow and ice sculptures. The event typically draws around 2 million visitors every year, which just goes to prove that not everybody hates the cold.

3.  German Christmas Markets

Pick a city in Germany, and chances are it’s home to a massive Christmas market. Visitors bundle up, head out into the December cold, and partake of festive shopping, scrumptious treats, and, of course, mulled wine (Glühwein). While Christmas markets in cities like Berlin and Munich feature all of the relevant trappings, it is said that the Stuttgart Christmas Market remains the most traditional in all the land.

4.  Leavenworth, WA

Looking for the charm of a traditional German Christmas market without having to travel all the way to Germany? Consider heading to Leavenworth, Washington, about two hours east of Seattle, sometime between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, when the town transforms into a whimsical Bavarian wonderland. The music, food, shopping, and Glühwein are all readily available, and on select weekends in December, the highly impressive Christmas Lighting Festival is more than worth the price of admission (which, by the way, is $0). 

5.  Aspen, CO


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Hot toddies in wooden lodges. Bearskin rugs placed in front of roaring fires. Snow-dusted trees and dramatic mountain facades. Oh, and the actual skiing, if you’re into that whole “physical activity” thing. Aspen considered by many to be the quintessential American ski resort town, nestled as it is into the picturesque Rocky Mountains. Predictably, it attracts big celebrities and other monied patrons, so prices can be high. But that’s kind of just the world of winter sports for you. (Ski and snowboarding equipment doesn’t come cheap.) If Aspen’s not your speed, consider another luxurious U.S. ski resort town option: Big Sky, MT; Jackson Hole, WY; Vail, CO, or Lake Tahoe (CA and NV).

6.  Reykjavik, Iceland

If nature is what you crave in a winter getaway, look no further than Iceland. From the capital, Reykjavik, nearly all of the country’s natural wonders are easily accessible, and there are a lot of natural wonders to behold. (Just be sure to plan your day, since the light only lasts for a handful of hours in the winter months.) From the back of an Icelandic horse, traverse old lava fields and stare up at ancient glaciers.

Gaze into the arresting Gullfoss waterfall. Wait until night falls (it won’t be long), and then look up at the northern lights. When it’s time to warm up, head out to the iconic Blue Lagoon geothermal hot spring. Take it from us: There is nothing more magical than dipping into a mystical blue pool as snow drifts down from the darkening heavens. Sure, you could visit during a warmer season, but there’s something extra special in the air during winter. “Ice” is right in the name, after all.

7.  Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort (Saariselkä, Finland)

For our money (and a lot of it), the most ideal cold-weather getaway might just be the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, which famously features glass “igloo” hotel rooms that allow guests to enjoy the majesty of the Aurora Borealis from their beds. Imagine cuddling up with a loved one under a glass dome and watching nature at its most colorful and awe- inspiring. And if that somehow gets boring, guests can partake in any of the following activities offered by the resort: husky safaris, reindeer safaris, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and snow tank rides, among others.

A warm, sunny beach doesn’t sound so impressive right about now, does it?

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