12 winter wonderland destinations

Embracing the cold can make for a magical holiday. From visiting Santa’s village to exploring a city made of ice, hitting the slopes to getting cosy in a cabin, check out these winter wonderlands that are perfect for visiting in the colder months…

Quebec City, Canada

Château Frontenac, Quebec City. Credit: iStock / AlbertPego
North America’s oldest surviving walled city is best enjoyed in winter, when a layer of snow settles over the ancient turrets of Vieux-Montréal and the pitched roofs of the Château Frontenac. Best of all, Les Glissades de la Terrasse, a dramatic ice slide for toboggans, is installed on the Terrasse Dufferin, the boardwalk that wraps around the Château Frontenac.

Jackson Hole, USA

Snowboarder at Jackson Hole, USA. Credit: iStock / helivideo
Situated in the heart of the Tetons in Wyoming, Mammoth mountain resort Jackson Hole should be on any skiers bucket list. January sees clear and sunny weather with an average snowfall of 1,200 cm (470 inches) – perfect conditions to take on the two distinct mountains, Rendezvous and Apres Vous, which offer plentiful and varied opportunities for all levels.

Boston, USA

Boston, USA. Credit: Dreamstime / Leong Chee Onn
It’s never a bad time to visit Boston but winter brings a certain charm as well as a chill in the air. Explore beautiful Beacon Hill with its elegant houses and picture-perfect streets (Old Acorn Street is the most photographed in Boston). There’s nothing like walking in the glow of vintage Christmas lights along Charles Street during the holidays to give you that festive feeling.

Kiruna, Sweden

Kiruna cathedral. Credit: Dreamstime / Vichaya Kiatyingangsulee
In January the Swedish town of Kiruna hosts a snow festival with exciting activities such as a scooter jump show, kick slide racing and reindeer racing. This is also one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, and nearby Jukkasjarvi is renowned for ICEHOTEL, which is constructed every year from ice blocks and snow. Stay here and you’ll be sleeping on a bed carved from ice!

Copenhagen, Denmark

Tivoli, Copenhagen. Credit: Unsplash / Felix Hoffmann
More than one million lights brighten the winter nights at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. This fairy-tale amusement park is at its best from mid-November to the end of December, when, as well as the usual rides, you'll also be able to enjoy an ice rink, seasonal treats and a special fireworks display on New Year’s Eve. Plus, no one understands the art of cosiness like Denmark, the home of hygge (pronounced “hew-ga”). It’s all about slowing down and appreciating the moment – Copenhagen has plenty of cosy coffee shops where you can practice.

Lillehammer, Norway

Scandinavian cabin. Credit: Dreamstime / Nikolay Tsuguliev
Where Denmark has hygge, Norway has kos. Being koselig means getting comfy, snuggling up and enjoying hearty food alone or with friends. Head to Lillehammer and check into a turf-roof, mountainside cabin for ski-in, ski-out conditions. You’ll spend your days wearing yourself out on the runs before unwinding in the evening in your cosy cabin – equipped with a sauna for ultimate relaxation, of course.

Rovaniemi, Finland

Santa Claus village, Rovaniemi. Credit: iStock / NAPA74
The thought of diving into ice cold water in the middle of winter might not immediately inspire you to book your ticket to Rovaniemi but ice swimming is part of a wider wellbeing ritual that includes warming up in a post-dip sauna. The extremes of cold and hot have been proven to boost your immune system and leave you with glowing skin. Who can argue with that? Plus, Rovaniemi is the “official hometown of Santa Claus” – visit Santa Claus Village for the ultimate Christmas experience!

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Ice-skating in Amsterdam. Credit: Unsplash / Nazım Can Tunç
Ice-skating is the must-do winter activity in Amsterdam. Grab your skates and hit the rink in the city’s most iconic square, Museumplein, from mid-November to the end of January. Or, if you’re lucky, the canals might freeze over and you can join locals out on the ice for free! To warm up in the evening, soak in the outdoor hot tubs on the rooftop of the arty Volkshotel. There’s nothing like a steamy dip with a city view.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Christmas Market. Credit: Dreamstime / Sven Hansche
Prague in the winter time is a magical experience. Crunch through the snow on the Gothic St. Charles bridge and enjoy the Christmas market at the medieval Old Town Square, where the Astronomical Clock still chimes the hour. To warm up, simply head to one of the city’s many beer halls and pubs for a pint of some of the world’s best beer. Na Zdravi (cheers)!

Harbin, China

Harbin Ice Festival. Credit: iStock / christophe_cerisier
Situated in the far north of China close to the vast Siberian plains, Harbin experiences bitterly cold winters that create the perfect conditions for the world’s largest ice festival. Held annually since 1985, "Ice City" is packed with spectacular sculptures and castles carved from ice. Visit at night when they are illuminated by lanterns for an unforgettable experience.

Nami Island, South Korea

Nami Island, South Korea. Credit: Dreamstime / Tawatchai Prakobkit
The small, tree-filled Nami Island is a popular day trip from Seoul – especially with K-drama fans who visit for the filming locations of Winter Sonata. The pristine pathways are perfect for quiet strolls and attractions here include the beautiful Garden of Morning Calm. During the winter the garden is transformed by the Lighting Festival (Dec – Mar) into a gorgeous spectacle that will have you feeling the cosy vibes of winter.

Sapporo, Japan

Odori Park viewed from the observation deck of Sapporo TV Tower, Sapporo. Credit: iStock / apidechphoto
Sapporo hosts Japan’s most famous winter festival, the annual Snow Festival (Yuki Matsuri) which transforms Odori Park in the heart of the city into a fairy-tale land. Everything from global landmarks to sci-fi characters are expertly crafted from ice and snow. This popular event also overlaps with Sapporo White Illumination (mid-Nov–mid-Feb), when strings of white lights adorn Odori Park and Ekimae-dori.

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