The Best Winter Travel Destinations: From European Charm to Exotic Adventures
Are you ready for an unforgettable winter adventure? Look no further! This article is your ultimate guide to the best winter travel destinations around the world. From picturesque European cities like Prague and Copenhagen to exotic locations like the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and the stunning Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, there is something for everyone seeking a winter getaway. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a foodie, a snow lover, or simply looking to indulge in some well-deserved relaxation, we've got you covered. So, buckle up and get ready to explore the most spectacular destinations this winter season has to offer!
Maybe most famous for allegedly inspiring the settings in Disney's Frozen movies, Hallstatt, Austria, is a small Alpine village located between Salzburg and Vienna. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a popular day trip destination known for its scenic lake views and charming Old Town.
Tallinn in Estonia
Tallinn in Estonia becomes even more enchanting in winter when its medieval old town is covered in snow. Don't miss the frosty, fortified Toompea or Raekoja Plats, and make sure to visit the city's beautiful town hall. If you want to fully experience Tallinn's winter charm, consider staying at Rija Old Town Hotel.
Tallinn is one of the most beautiful winter destinations in Estonia © Shutterstock
Best Places to Visit in December in Europe
If you're planning your winter vacation in December, these three destinations in Europe should be at the top of your list.
- Paris, France - Paris is always a favorite among international travelers. In the winter, the air is crisp, and there are plenty of stunning holiday displays, events, and attractions to enjoy, including the world-famous Eiffel Tower.
- Palermo, Sicily - Palermo is a charming town in Italy that embraces the winter season with beautiful holiday displays and a wide variety of delicious food. The city is also known for its popular living nativities, which are especially popular among the Catholic community.
- Denmark - If you're not afraid of the cold, Denmark is one of the best places to visit in December on a budget in Europe. The country offers a variety of holiday marketplaces, light shows, and other festive experiences.
From its Gothic cathedrals to its contemporary art galleries, Dublin is a city steeped in culture. Take a day trip to the blustery Atlantic coast to enjoy the breathtaking view from the Cliffs of Moher, and then return to the city to relax with a pint and a guided tour at the Guinness Storehouse.
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Trakai Castle, Lithuania
Head to Lithuania in winter to see Trakai Castle sitting on its own islet, surrounded by a frozen lake just west of Vilnius. The castle, which dates back to the 1400s, features dramatic turrets and a drawbridge, adding to its enchanting atmosphere. Consider staying at Old Town Trio in Vilnius for a winter break in Lithuania.
The Scottish Highlands
Whether you're interested in a pilgrimage to Loch Ness or you want to hike through Cairngorms National Park, the largest national park in the UK, the Scottish Highlands offer picturesque landscapes in the winter. Take some time to explore the local castles or stay at the Fife Arms, a former Victorian coaching inn located in the town of Braemar, which hosts the Highland Games in September.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Plitvice, the most visited national park in Croatia, is famous for its 16 interconnected lakes, spectacular cascades, and crowds of summer tourists. However, visiting in winter not only allows you to see the frozen waterfalls in a dramatic way but also provides a chance to enjoy the park with fewer people around. If you're interested, you can take a Plitvice Lakes tour from Split.
Frozen Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia © Another Sun Photography/Shutterstock
Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan
The famous snow monkeys at Jigokudani natural hot springs in Japan are actually Japanese Macaques. According to experts, they take a bath in the winter to stay warm and reduce stress levels. To witness this fascinating behavior and relax in the soothing hot springs yourself, consider staying at Hotel Omodaka.
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Banff National Park is absolutely stunning in winter when the waters of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake become crystal clear. Banff is also home to the Valley of the Ten Peaks, offering remarkable views of snow-capped mountains. For a comprehensive Banff experience, consider taking a guided tour of the lakes.
More ideas for your Canadian winter holiday can be found in our guide to the best things to do in Canada.
Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park © Shutterstock
Gobi Desert in Mongolia
If you're in search of winter beauty, head to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia between March 6 and 7. These dates mark the 1000 Camel Festival at Dalanzadgad, which features camel polo matches, races, and camel beauty pageants. For a closer look at this lesser-known area, you can take a semi-Gobi desert camel tour with local guides.
The Gobi Desert in Mongolia during winter © Shutterstock
Consider visiting Bruges in winter for its charming cobbled streets, architecture covered in frost, frozen canals, and a delightful array of chocolatiers, cozy hotels, and quaint restaurants. Take some time to explore a few of the 470 local castles, and enjoy the lack of tourists in January and February. For an extra touch of atmosphere, consider staying at Martin's Brugge in the old town.
Bruges is one of the most beautiful winter destinations in Europe © Shutterstock
High Atlas Mountains in Morocco
For a winter getaway that combines sun and snow, head to Morocco between November and April. This is the perfect time to visit the snowy High Atlas Mountains, as there are fewer tourists during this period. You can enjoy skiing at Oukaimeden, test your climbing skills on Mount Toubkal, and experience the peaceful atmosphere by staying at Aurochar Oukaimeden.
Oukaimeden ski resort in the High Atlas mountains, Morocco © Novie Charleen Magne/Shutterstock
Visit New Zealand between May and September and explore the city of Queenstown. This vibrant city is a fantastic destination year-round, but it truly shines in winter with its stunning views of The Remarkables mountain range. The nearby Coronet Peak range also offers some of the best skiing in New Zealand. For a ski and city experience, consider staying at the Swiss-Bel Resort in Coronet Peak.
View of The Remarkables in winter, Queenstown, New Zealand © Shutterstock
This picturesque port city is famous for being the home of a well-known mermaid, as well as some of the world's best restaurants and museums, including the favorite spot of stylist Colin King, the Thorvaldsens Museum. Raise a glass to enjoy the chilly weather, and then explore the city's renowned Nordic design scene.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a beautiful city to visit in winter, with its atmospheric old town looking particularly enchanting when covered in snow. Don't forget to stop by and try Klobása, a delicious barbecued sausage, and wash it down with svařené víno, a mulled wine. To fully immerse yourself in the winter charm of Prague, stay at Old Prague Hotel in the historic center.
Christmassy snow-covered Prague in winter © Shutterstock
Globi Desert in Mongolia
For an unforgettable winter experience, head to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia during January. This is when the winter temperatures drop to -20°C, setting the stage for the world's largest Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Harbin. This incredible event attracts participants from around the globe, showcasing vast ice designs that are truly awe-inspiring. Explore the festival with a private tour of Harbin led by local guides.
Sculpture at the Harbin Ice Festival in northeast China © Andy Poole/Shutterstock
Europe (EU) & Middle East
We have spent many years searching for the warmest winter destinations in Europe and the Middle East. Here's what we discovered.
Canary Islands, Spain
Previously, we had little knowledge about the Canary Islands, but upon visiting, we were amazed. We have been to these islands twice, both in winter and summer. Researching extensively, we found that the Canary Islands offer the warmest winter destination within the EU.
What we learned is that the south and east sides of Tenerife, like El Teide National Park and Gran Canaria, receive the most sunshine and are warm throughout the year.
During winter, we recommend exploring the Maspalomas Dunes of Gran Canaria and the southern beaches of Tenerife for a tan and breathtaking volcanic scenery.
The Canary Islands are also an ideal destination for couples, especially if you rent a car and embark on a road trip together. It's a romantic adventure!
Taking photos of stars is one of our favorite things to do. If you're interested in learning how we took the photo above, check out our article on night photography.
Tel Aviv, Israel
You may not have considered Israel as a winter beach destination, but from December to February, you can enjoy sunny days with temperatures reaching the mid-70s in Tel Aviv. It's an unexpected gem!
Israel is a rich cultural destination with a wide range of attractions, all within easy reach. Escape the winter cold by visiting the Dead Sea, where temperatures remain in the 70s and 80s year-round. Here, you can take a dip and float in the saltiest body of water on Earth.
Traveling in Israel can be slightly pricey, similar to Europe. We recommend traveling with a friend or significant other to share expenses. If you're solo and looking for a hostel experience, check out Abraham Hostels.
Note that the rest of Israel can get cool during winter, and Jerusalem may even experience snow. However, Tel Aviv maintains pleasant temperatures in the 70s throughout much of winter, making it an ideal escape for European tourists, Israelis, and travelers from around the world who want to experience the beautiful Mediterranean beach culture.
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South America experiences its summer when the northern hemisphere faces winter. This is especially true for South America south of the Equator. Fortunately, countries like Colombia enjoy warm weather throughout the year (excluding elevated areas with high altitudes!).
Cartagena & Santa Marta, Colombia
If you're planning to travel in January and February, you can usually find affordable flights to Cartagena from various US cities. And even if you only have time off in December, don't worry!
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Cartagena offers an affordable destination with a consistently hot climate. Daytime temperatures never drop below 85°F, while nights stay around 75°F. The humidity makes it feel even warmer.
Cartagena and its nearby tropical island archipelagos boast pristine beaches, abundant sunshine throughout winter (with the dry season starting in February), and make for an ideal winter vacation for couples. Private rooms in hostels range from $40 to USD.
Hotels in the mid-range will cost between $100 and $200 USD, providing excellent value for your money.
For a more affordable option with fewer tourists catering to foreigners, consider visiting Santa Marta. It's a more laid-back and authentic destination known for its historic colonial center.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina experiences summer during the months of December through February. In Buenos Aires, the capital city, temperatures reach the 80s during the day and drop to the high 60s at night.
Buenos Aires is a vibrant city known for its rich cultural heritage and history. We particularly love the outdoor cafe scene, the colorful neighborhood of La Boca, the tango dancing, and the stunning architecture. And of course, the nightlife scene is amazing. Argentina provides the perfect winter vacation destination to escape the cold. Leave your coat at home!
Chile, a narrow country, experiences summer when the US and Canada have their coldest winter weather. In January, Santiago, the capital city, has an average high temperature of 86°F. Valparaiso, with its Mediterranean climate, enjoys warm temperatures in the mid-70s during January and February.
The northern part of Chile has a "mild desert climate," resulting in beach destinations like Viña del Mar having high temperatures around 80 degrees during the warmest months.
West coast of Ecuador
Ecuador, a country that may seem small on a map, lies on the Equator. As such, it offers warm destinations throughout the winter season.
However, not every city in Ecuador is sweltering hot. In fact, Ecuador is famous for its diverse range of climates and regions, packing all four seasons into a relatively small area.
To experience the warmest destinations in Ecuador, focus your travels along the Pacific coast rather than venturing inland to areas with higher elevations. For example, the capital city Quito sits several thousand meters above sea level and maintains a temperate Andean climate with average temperatures ranging between 66-68°F year-round.
For the hottest places in Ecuador, consider visiting Guayaquil, Playa Puerto Lopez, Mompiche, and Montañita—a beach village popular among travelers.
Central America is renowned for its tropical climate, proximity to the US and Canada, and as an excellent choice for winter travel. Over the years, I have focused on exploring Central America during my winter getaways. I have visited Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
To get a glimpse of these amazing winter destinations, continue reading.
The Yucatan Peninsula & Tulum, Mexico
One of my favorite winter weekend getaways from NYC is the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This is a great destination to save money while traveling. You can fly into Cancun from major US cities and then easily reach less touristy cities like Valladolid or Merida by bus. Even if you plan to visit other parts of the Yucatan, such as Merida, Isla Holbox, or Playa del Carmen, you can take a nonstop flight from any international airport and then catch an ADO bus to your final destination.
We particularly enjoyed exploring the cenotes outside Tulum by bicycle. The clear and warm water made it feel like a relaxing bath. Additionally, we took day trips to Uxmal, the Mayan ruins site outside Merida, and appreciated the cultural experience.
While traveling in Mexico, don't forget to indulge in some mouthwatering tacos. The winter months of December to February offer pleasant temperatures, with average highs in the mid-80s and nights rarely dropping below the mid-60s.
I visited Costa Rica in the middle of December and was blessed with bathing suit weather throughout my trip (at least along the coast). If you prefer cooler temperatures to combat the winter blues, head to inland areas like Arenal and Monteverde, which offer fantastic opportunities for ecotourism.
However, if you want to soak up the sun and enjoy hiking in your bathing suit, consider visiting year-round hot areas such as Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, and Parque Nacional Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast. Just be prepared for the humidity – Costa Rica is not ideal for taming frizzy hair!
Belize is a fantastic winter vacation destination, offering pleasant temperatures throughout the season. Surprisingly, it won't make you sweat excessively or crave air conditioning. Thanks to weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico, the temperatures in Belize's Caribbean and Central American location remain in the 70s for much of winter (December to February) and experience drier weather.
If you visit during these months, you can explore beautiful destinations in Belize like Caye Caulker, San Ignacio, Tobacco Caye, and the Great Blue Hole, which enjoy some of their driest weather. Belize is an adventurous travel destination that you should definitely experience for yourself.
When I visited Guatemala in January, I experienced welcoming t-shirt weather. The enchanting Mayan ruins of Tikal and the breathtaking natural landscape at Semuc Champey were wonderful to explore in the dry season. With sunny days and temperatures in the 80s, you can freely enjoy the warm weather in Guatemala. If you find yourself in warmer locations like Antigua, you can relax and soak up some Vitamin D in one of the city's rooftop cafes. Don't forget to try out the local cuisines, especially the flavorsome tacos. Guatemala in winter is a treat for the senses.
If you're seeking a tropical destination for winter travel, consider El Salvador. Located on the west side of Central America, El Salvador offers pleasant temperatures that are warmer than your home city during this time of year. With its beautiful beaches for surfing and the Ruta de las Flores hiking trail, El Salvador provides a diverse range of activities and warm weather. The winter months of November to March offer daily temperatures in the 80s and cool nights in the mid-60s. Traveling to El Salvador during winter means experiencing the country at its driest period since the rainy season occurs from May to August.
Nicaragua is definitely an exciting destination to visit. Based on my experience, I highly recommend visiting this Central American nation between November and March. The best time to enjoy Nicaragua is during the winter months, particularly from December to April. During this period, you can take advantage of the dry season and avoid the wetter months from May to November. Nicaragua offers relief from extreme high temperatures that can occur in April. If you plan your visit in December, January, or February, you can escape the coldest temperatures at home. Don't miss the charming destinations of San Juan del Sur, Granada, and Leon, known for their stunning Pacific sunsets and vibrant colonial cities.
Southeast Asia is a vast region with numerous incredible destinations. While many parts of Southeast Asia are hot during the northern hemisphere winter, some areas offer relief from the heat. If you're interested in exploring the hottest places in Southeast Asia during winter, keep reading.
Thailand is an obvious choice for escaping the winter blues, but it's essential to note that only the southern half of Thailand experiences intense heat during the winter months from December to March. I have personal experience with this as I've sweated profusely on the islands like Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao, while also experiencing extremely cold temperatures, as low as 44°F, during treks in the hills outside Chiang Mai in January.
Considering this, my recommendation for visiting Thailand in winter is to fly into Bangkok and spend some time in the beaches closer to the Bangkok region, such as Pattaya. If you have enough time in your itinerary, you can then head down to the islands via train or flight and explore Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and Koh Phi Phi. Additionally, take a trip to Phuket to see what it has to offer in terms of breathtaking beaches.
Cambodia’s South Coast
During my visit to Cambodia in January and February, I experienced the country's "coldest" winter weather. Much of Cambodia enjoys tropical temperatures in the 80s and 90s during winter, making it a beautiful destination. While exploring the temples of Angkor Wat, my friends and I often needed midday siesta breaks to cool down and rehydrate with cold drinks.
For warm weather and sun, head to Cambodia's south coast and explore the famous coastline that has seen significant development in the last decade. Sihanoukville and the surrounding beaches offer great beach experiences. If you're not into beaches, cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, along with the boat ride between them, provide tropical warmth to keep your spirits high. The nights are rarely cool enough to require more than a t-shirt, and the winter dry season ensures minimal rainfall.
Keep in mind that traveling to Cambodia requires a visa for foreigners. If you're unsure about visa requirements, check out our guide to figuring out if you need a visa to travel.
It's no secret that I adore traveling to the Philippines to escape the cold. I have visited the Philippines twice over Christmas, and I can confirm that it is a HOT destination. January is the coolest month, but that doesn't mean much in a country where average highs reach 90°F for most of the year. Even in January and February, destinations like Boracay maintain tropical climates with temperatures settling around 86°F.
The dry season in the Philippines lasts from December to April or May, making January, February, and March ideal for a visit. By traveling during these months, you can avoid typhoons and experience fewer rains compared to other times of the year.
Indonesia’s Many Islands
Indonesia, as an island nation, enjoys a tropical climate all year round (excluding elevated inland areas with high altitudes). Bali is a popular destination for winter travel, but there are other fantastic places in Indonesia worth exploring to escape the winter. Jakarta, Surabaya, Lombok, Medan, the Gili Islands, West Java, and South Sumatra all offer incredible experiences.
Be aware that the hottest month in Indonesia is October. However, visiting in the months following October still means warm days in the 80s.
South Asia boasts many hot destinations during winter, making it an excellent region to explore from December to March.
Sri Lanka’s Southeast and West Coasts
Please note that as of 2022, Sri Lanka is facing an economic disaster with severe fuel and food shortages across the country. Non-essential travel to Sri Lanka should be avoided until further notice. We've included the following information for your reference.
Sri Lanka, a tropical island located south of India, is a fantastic destination for a one-week or two-week winter getaway. Thanks to its proximity to the Equator and its location in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka enjoys tropical temperatures throughout the winter. Although there are some elevated areas in the center that can get chilly due to altitude at any time of year, sticking to the coasts will ensure warm and hot weather.
Colombo, Galle Fort, and the east coast beaches are great places to visit. Just remember that Sri Lanka requires a travel visa for foreigners.
Southern & Southwestern India
The west and southern coast of India experiences the hottest temperatures during winter. Places like Mumbai, Maharashtra, and Kochi, Kerala, along with southeastern provinces like Tamil Nadu, offer warm climates. For instance, Chennai on India's east coast has winter temperatures ranging from the high 80s to real feels in the 90s during the daytime, even in February. Goa, a renowned beach destination on the mid-west coast, enjoys temperatures in the mid-80s and boasts an ocean temperature of around 82°F. It's like bathing in warm water.
India is also one of the most affordable travel destinations, and you'll see that your money goes a long way during your visit.
East Asia offers some warm travel destinations during the winter season. Let's explore the warmest places you can visit in East Asia.
Hong Kong & Macau
Although far from North America and Europe, Hong Kong is worth considering for a winter getaway.
You don't need a visa if you're a citizen of North America or Europe, making it easy to visit Hong Kong at any time. The city experiences scorching summers with temperatures reaching the 90s and high humidity. The winter months provide a pleasant escape from the heat.
During winter (December to February), Hong Kong is dry and experiences comfortable temperatures in the 70s during the day and the mid-to-high 60s at night. It's the ideal time to explore the various hikes and urban jungles of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Don't forget to discover the hidden photo spots in Hong Kong!
If you're interested in visiting Macau, it has a similar warm climate pattern to Hong Kong and is just an hour away by ferry. Macau offers a unique blend of East and West due to its Portuguese colonial roots, evident in its cuisine and architecture.
The Caribbean Islands
The Caribbean islands are an excellent choice for American and Canadian travelers seeking some winter sun.
Why not plan a warm getaway to the Caribbean islands in December, January, or February? Explore these winter escape ideas below.
Cabarete & the North Coast of the Dominican Republic
When you think of the Dominican Republic, you may picture Punta Cana's white beaches and turquoise seas. However, there's more to explore in Cabarete and the Dominican Republic's North Coast.
The best part about this destination is that you don't need to stay in a 4- or 5-star resort. Budget accommodations such as Ali's Surf Camp and Airbnbs bring you closer to nature and other travelers.
Get around using the local guaguas, which provide an authentic Dominican transit experience at affordable prices. Don't miss the coffee scene in Cabarete or the unusual activities in Sosua and Puerto Plata.
Temperatures in Cabarete range from 65F at night to 85F during the day, providing a pleasant climate.
Jamaica, located in the Caribbean, is a great choice for avoiding hurricane season and enjoying warm temperatures in the 80s during January and February.
In addition to popular destinations like Montego Bay and Negril, explore Ocho Rios, Kingston, Blue Lagoon, and Pelican Bar. It's easy to fly to Jamaica from the US or Canada.
Lyon, located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France, is famous for its Festival of Lights. This winter event celebrates Mother Mary, with houses across the city placing candles on their windows, creating a beautiful glow throughout the city. Don't miss the light shows at Basilica of Fourvière and Place des Terreaux.
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Cayambe, a snow-capped volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes, offers a magical winter destination for adventure seekers. Enjoy a hike along a lake or up a mountain and be treated to breathtaking views of the snow-covered mountains.
Harbin City, China
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Known as the "Ice City," Harbin in China offers a unique winter experience. With a long and cold winter season, you can enjoy activities like skiing at the Yabuli Ski Resort or attending the month-long Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival.
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In Bergen, Norway, you can enjoy activities such as shopping for Norwegian sweaters at the Oleana textile factory, taking a ride on the Fløibanen funicular railway for stunning views of the city, and skiing down one of the seven famous mountains. Don't forget to explore the charming fishing town and capture some Instagram-worthy photos.
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Head to Saariselka, Finland, for a unique winter experience. Stay in one of the glass igloos at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort and witness the stunning Northern Lights. If you prefer a more traditional ambiance, log cabins are also available. Enjoy outdoor activities and create unforgettable memories.
Winter Vacations for Nature and Wellness Devotees: Belize, Panama and Costa Rica
Photo by Ian Agrimis, courtesy Islas Secas
The Central American nations of Belize, Panama, and Costa Rica are perfect for nature and wellness devotees seeking a winter vacation. These countries offer lush jungles, white-sand beaches, and clear seas teeming with biodiversity. The local cultures embrace a spiritual connection with Mother Earth, reflected in outdoor activities and a holistic approach to well-being. Boutique eco-lodges like Blancaneaux Lodge, Turtle Inn, Islas Secas, Hacienda AltaGracia, and Nayara Springs provide intimate settings and wellness programs.
Related: Indagare Spotlight: Chablé Yucatán
Winter Vacations for Foodies and Trendsetters: Urban Mexico and Colombia
Photo courtesy Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Mexico City and Bogotá offer exciting winter vacations for foodies and trendsetters. These vibrant cities boast three of the world's 50 best restaurants and a wealth of museums, art galleries, and design studios. Special-access tours can be arranged for attractions like Botero Museum and Anthropology Museum. Smaller towns like San Miguel de Allende and Cartagena offer a quieter escape with exceptional cuisine, crafts, architecture, and boutique hotels.
Related: The Top Hotels with Cooking Schools
Winter Vacations for Sun and Scene Seekers: Coastal Mexico and The Caribbean
Photo courtesy of One&Only Palmilla
Mexico‘s beach regions are home to luxurious and spacious resorts where you can enjoy a relaxing vacation with a touch of glamour. One of the top choices is the One&Only Palmilla resort in Los Cabos. According to Indagare's Simone Girner, who reported on the property's renovation in 2015, One&Only Palmilla offers a perfect balance between laid-back and chic. The resort features a traditional Mexican hacienda as its centerpiece, complete with a chapel and bell tower dating back to 1956. Families with children will enjoy the kids' club and family pool, while couples can indulge in privacy and pampering. There are plenty of activities to choose from, including golf, surfing, and sea excursions. The resort also boasts excellent restaurants such as Seared, a collaboration with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Suviche for Japanese fusion, and Agua for a memorable dinner at sunset. Other top choices along Mexico's coastlines include Belmond Maroma, Rosewood Mayakoba, Chablé Maroma, Hotel Esencia on the Riviera Maya, and Cuixmala in Jalisco.
The Caribbean has always been a popular destination for couples, families, and friends seeking warm-weather getaways. Each island in the Caribbean offers a unique atmosphere and attractions. For those looking for a jet-set scene, St. Barth's is a must-visit destination, with top hotels including Le Toiny, Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, Eden Rock, Le Sereno, and Le Barthélemy Hotel & Spa. If you prefer a more romantic and secluded atmosphere, Turks & Caicos is the perfect choice. Retreat to Amanyara or COMO Parrot Cay for a luxurious and private experience. Families can enjoy their vacation at Grace Bay Club, which offers separate accommodations and pools for couples and families. Another family-friendly option in the Caribbean is Anguilla, where Cap Juluca, A Belmond Hotel, offers direct beach access and panoramic views. Antigua is home to Jumby Bay and Curtain Bluff, two all-inclusive resorts with excellent amenities and personalized services.
Winter Vacations for Multigenerational Families: American West
Photo courtesy of Caldera House, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
For a trip closer to home that offers a wide range of outdoor and wellness activities, as well as luxury accommodations and dining options, the ski towns of the American West are an ideal choice. Aspen, Vail, and Deer Valley are perfect for those seeking a glamorous experience, while Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Beaver Creek, and Sun Valley offer a more laid-back and charming atmosphere, along with excellent slopes. Indagare-recommended properties such as The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana, Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado, and The Lodge at Blue Sky in Utah cater to non-skiers with activities such as horseback riding, ice-skating, private movie theaters, and spa treatments.
Winter Vacations for Wine Lovers: Croatia and Portugal
Courtesy of Meneghetti Wine Hotel & Winery, Istria
For wine lovers looking for new experiences, the northwestern region of Istria, Croatia should be on their list. Istria not only produces a wide variety of wines, but also offers a vibrant food scene, particularly renowned for its truffles. From Slow Food establishments like Toklarija to Michelin-starred restaurant Monte, the region's culinary offerings are impressive. Beyond its hills and towns, Istria's coastal areas, such as Rovinj, are also worth exploring.
Lisbon, Portugal offers everything a traveler could want, from great food and art to rich history and sensational wine. The city's mild winter weather makes it perfect for outdoor exploration. In addition to day trips to Sintra, Cascais, and Porto, a visit to the Douro Valley and a stay at the Six Senses resort is highly recommended.
Winter Vacations for a Mix of City and Country: London and Hampshire
Photo courtesy of Heckfield Place, England
If you prefer cozy vacations, London and its surrounding areas, including the Cotswolds, are the perfect choice. Stay at idyllic country estates such as Heckfield Place, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, or Cliveden House, or opt for a private rental. Spend your days exploring the city's various neighborhoods, enjoying afternoon teas at luxurious venues like Claridge's and Sketch, shopping at Harrods, and visiting the National Gallery.
Related: The Best Afternoon Teas in London
Winter Vacations for Outdoor Adventurers: Rwanda and Namibia
Photo courtesy of Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
For those looking to immerse themselves in nature and get away from it all, Rwanda and Namibia offer stunning landscapes and wildlife experiences. Luxury safari lodges such as Bisate Lodge, Magashi Camp, and One&Only Gorilla's Nest in Rwanda, as well as Little Kulala, Hoanib Skeleton Camp, and Serra Cafema in Namibia, provide opportunities to encounter gorillas, lions, elephants, and rhinos, while also offering cultural interactions and unforgettable dining experiences under the stars.
To quote Indagare Founder Melissa Biggs Bradley on the impact of traveling to both of these places—of Rwanda, she has said: “Go see for yourself how a country can rebuild after a massacre; you cannot help but feel hope for humanity;” of Namibia, she has written: “The silence isn’t just something you hear; you feel it. The open skies and unbroken horizons seem to reach into forever in a way that shifts perspective.”
Winter Vacations for Top Shoppers and Ultimate Indulgers: Morocco and Japan
Photo courtesy of Dar Ahlam, Morocco
Marrakech, Morocco is a paradise for shoppers, offering a wide range of unique and exquisite items. From lanterns and rugs to argan oil and leather goods, Marrakech has it all. Stay at luxurious hotels like La Mamounia, Le Royal Mansour, Kasbah Tamadot, or Dar Ahlam for the ultimate indulgent experience.
Japan, with its vibrant subcultures and trendy fashion, is a shopper's delight. Tokyo, the capital city, is a treasure trove of antique tea sets, J-pop fashions, and designer clothing and accessories. Don't miss the opportunity to explore Kyoto as well, with its new luxury properties such as Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto and The Shinmonzen. Japan has reopened to tourists and is eager to welcome visitors.
Winter Vacations for Skiing in Europe: The Alps
Photo of Chalet Hibou, courtesy of Eleven Experience
This winter, skiers and snow enthusiasts should consider heading to the Alps in France, Switzerland, or Italy. Whether you choose to rent a private villa or stay at one of our recommended hotels, you'll have an incredible experience. Two exceptional properties to consider are Chalet Pelerin and Chalet Hibou, both located near the farming village of Le Miroir on the French and Italian border. These properties, managed by Eleven Experience, offer access to seven world-class ski resorts, including Val d'Isère, Sainte Foy, Tignes, Les Arcs, and La Rosière, all less than an hour away by car or helicopter (don't miss the heli-skiing program offered by Eleven Experience). Both Chalet Hibou and Chalet Pelerin can accommodate families or groups of friends and include luxurious amenities such as media rooms, indoor freshwater pools, outdoor hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms.
Related: Listen to Passport to Everywhere: Melissa Biggs Bradley’s new Radio Show & Podcast on SiriusXM
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This luxurious alpine resort town offers more than just skiing. With a rich history as the birthplace of Alpine tourism, St. Moritz exudes old-world charm. The town constantly evolves, offering a perfect setting for a dream-like vacation. From playing polo on frozen lakes to skiing until the late hours of the night, and indulging in unparalleled après-ski amenities, St. Moritz has it all.
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Lake Bled, Slovenia
Visit the romantic Lake Bled in the Upper Carniolan region of Northwest Slovenia during winter. Surrounded by snow-covered mountains, the lake offers a picturesque circular walk that provides stunning views of Bled Island and its charming church tower. For those looking to explore further, consider staying at Čarman House, a cozy and inviting accommodation option.
Photo: Church of the Assumption, Lake Bled, Slovenia © Shutterstock
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
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Steamboat Springs is known for its unique Champagne Powder® snow, which is light and fluffy. Unlike the wetter snow found on the west coast, Steamboat offers exceptional skiing conditions. The ski village in Steamboat is not about glitz and glamour; instead, it attracts Olympians and offers an authentic ski experience. If you need a break from skiing, spend a morning fly-fishing in the Yampa River.
Lake Tahoe, California
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Arriving in sunny San Francisco and then driving into a blizzard at Lake Tahoe creates a unique and magical experience. Just under four hours from San Francisco, Lake Tahoe offers a laid-back atmosphere with its stunning alpine lake as the centerpiece. Enjoy the low-key vibe, go skiing, and take in the beautiful scenery of this California gem.
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Big Bear Lake, California
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The small city of Big Bear Lake has become a popular winter destination, thanks to its ski resorts Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. The commercial area of the ski town, Big Bear Lake Village, is lined with local shops, boutiques, and restaurants, providing a cozy and inviting atmosphere to enjoy the snowy season and escape the cold.
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Photo courtesy of Holland Peak Ranch
Condon, Montana, is a hidden gem that offers a unique winter vacation experience. With three luxury residences and over 1,000 acres of scenic prairies, Holland Peak Ranch is an exceptional retreat. The quiet and unincorporated community of Condon provides the perfect setting to escape the busy city life and enjoy a cool and cozy respite.
Yellowstone National Park, USA
Witness the incredible winter wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. The high ground covered in snow forces bison to migrate to lower grazing areas, providing an opportunity to see these majestic creatures up close. If you're lucky, you might also spot bears, wolves, elk, and even pronghorn antelope. For the best wildlife watching, join a winter tour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton with local guides.
Photo: Winter wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, USA © Shutterstock
New York City, USA
New York City offers a memorable winter experience characterized by freezing temperatures, sunny blue skies, and enchanting winter snowfall. Explore the city's Christmas shopping scene, go ice skating in Central Park with the Manhattan skyline as your backdrop, and indulge in the vibrant atmosphere. Stay at Sonder I Chambers for a premier location in the heart of the city.
For a chance to see the Northern Lights, head to Lapland, Finland during winter. The long, dark winters create the perfect conditions for witnessing this natural phenomenon. Visit Rovaniemi and join a Northern Lights hunting tour with local guides for the best chances of seeing the lights. Lapland's eerie beauty and unique atmosphere make it a must-visit destination.
Photo: Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland during winter © Shutterstock
Photo by Manjurul Haque / EyeEm//Getty Images
Experience the postcard-perfect town of Banff nestled between Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade in Banff National Park. The highlight of the area is Lake Louise, known for its stunning turquoise-hued water. Beyond the breathtaking scenery, Banff offers skiing, relaxing hot springs, and the freshest mountain air you can find.
Photo by Alex Hibbert
If you're seeking remote arctic villages and off-the-beaten-path experiences, Greenland is the perfect destination. From dogsledding to hiking and witnessing the magical northern lights, Greenland offers an adventure for the most daring travelers.
Seoul, South Korea
Photo by jaehaklee
Seoul is a fantastic winter destination in South Korea. Indulge in spicy budae jjigae, a traditional Korean dish, and explore local palace museums to immerse yourself in the rich Joseon-era history. Seoul offers a cozy and welcoming atmosphere for couples looking for a romantic winter getaway.
Best Winter Vacations for Couples
When it comes to finding the perfect winter getaway for couples, you have two main options: tropical and warm or snowy and cozy. Which option appeals to you?
- Jackson Hole, Wyoming - Jackson Hole is a great choice for couples seeking a romantic vacation. Relax by the fire at one of the many resorts in the area, enjoy stunning mountain views, indulge in gourmet dining, and pamper yourselves with luxurious spa treatments.
- The Bahamas - If you prefer a tropical vibe, the Bahamas is an ideal destination. Spend your days lounging on beautiful beaches, sipping refreshing drinks, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, and enjoying the relaxed island atmosphere.
- Tucson, Arizona - Experience the desert atmosphere and sunny winter weather in Tucson, Arizona. Go hiking, explore street fairs and festivals, and discover unique shopping opportunities. Don't miss the exciting La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, the area's major rodeo held in February.
- San Diego, California - San Diego offers a perfect blend of upscale dining, shopping, and beautiful beaches. Enjoy romantic meals at top-rated restaurants, explore the vibrant shopping scene, and relax on the stunning California coast.
Winter Vacations for Epic Family Adventure: Peru and Egypt
Photo of Machu Picchu, courtesy of Richard James Taylor, Belmond
Embark on a thrilling family adventure in Peru and Egypt, perfect for foodies, outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and culture lovers. Peru offers a wealth of experiences, from visiting the iconic ruins of Machu Picchu to exploring lesser-known Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley. Immerse yourselves in the vibrant cities of Cusco and Lima, and discover the natural wonders of the Amazon and Colca Canyon. For a seamless vacation, consider following the Belmond circuit, staying at their luxurious retreats such as Sanctuary Lodge, Rio Sagrado, Hotel Monasterio, and Palacio Nazarenas. Alternatively, embark on a dreamy rail journey aboard the Belmond Andean Explorer.
On the other side of the world, Egypt awaits with its rich history and archaeological wonders. Explore the magnificent temples built by the pharaohs, including the Pyramids at Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Discover the Grand Egyptian Museum, indulge in a luxury Nile cruise, and witness the treasures of this incredible country. Egypt offers a unique and awe-inspiring experience, as tombs continue to be discovered and unveiled. There has never been a better time to explore Egypt's wonders.
Related: Discover the Treasures of Egypt
Affordable Winter Vacations
Are you considering your budget when planning a vacation? Don't worry, you can still have an amazing winter getaway without breaking the bank. Here are four budget-friendly destinations that offer a great experience:
- Padre Island, Texas – If you want the warmth and sunshine of a tropical getaway without the high costs, Padre Island is the perfect choice. Along the Gulf of Mexico, you can find affordable accommodations that allow you to enjoy extra activities like parasailing, wakeboarding, and even horseback riding on the beach.
- Las Vegas, Nevada – For those who love a bustling nightlife, Las Vegas is an excellent option. With numerous affordable hotels, delicious restaurants, exciting shows, and the chance to test your luck at the casinos, you're guaranteed to have a great winter vacation.
- Panama – If you're looking for an international destination, consider Panama. It offers an affordable winter vacation with lower accommodation costs compared to other coastal countries. Plus, you can enjoy surfing, snorkeling, and many other activities.
- Billings, Montana – If you prefer a more low-key winter vacation, Billings, Montana is the perfect choice. The city offers excellent vacation rentals and the clean air, along with access to nature, makes it a memorable destination.
Best Winter Vacations with Snow
If you're a snow enthusiast, these are the cities you should visit for the best winter vacations:
- Telluride, Colorado – Telluride is known as one of the top destinations for winter sports. With several resorts and plenty of accommodations to choose from, you can have a thrilling time in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.
- Anchorage, Alaska – For those who truly love snow, Anchorage should be on your must-visit list. The famous Iditarod Sled Dog Race takes place here in late winter/early-March each year.
- Sun Valley, Idaho – Sun Valley is home to the first recreational ski resort in the country. If you're looking for a memorable winter vacation, this snowy city is a must-see.
Winter Vacations for Epic Family Adventure: Peru and Egypt
Machu Picchu. Photo by Richard James Taylor, courtesy Belmond
For a family adventure that will thrill everyone, Peru and Egypt are the perfect destinations:
- In Peru, you can visit the fascinating ruins of Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can hike the Inca Trail or take a scenic train journey to get there. Additionally, there are other lesser-known Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley, as well as vibrant cities like Cusco and Lima. Nature lovers will also enjoy the Amazon and Colca Canyon.
- Egypt is home to one-third of the world's antiquities, including the iconic Pyramids at Giza. You can explore these ancient treasures and visit the upcoming Grand Egyptian Museum. Luxury Nile cruises are also available for a unique experience.
Africa may be a long journey from North America and Europe, but it's definitely worth it. The continent enjoys warm weather throughout the year, making it an excellent choice for winter travel from November to March.
Zambia & Victoria Falls
Zambia, located in southern Africa, offers a subtropical climate that allows you to experience an 87-degree Fahrenheit day at Victoria Falls, one of the world's greatest natural wonders. You can pair a trip to Zambia with visits to neighboring countries like Namibia, Botswana, or South Africa to make the most of your winter vacation in Africa.
South Africa is a beautiful destination for a winter trip. As it's located in the Southern Hemisphere, it experiences summer during December, January, and February. You can enjoy safaris, visit the beaches in Cape Town, explore wineries in Stellenbosch, and spend time in Pretoria, all while enjoying temperatures around 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
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As winter approaches, the world transforms into a magical wonderland, offering a plethora of options for travel enthusiasts. From exploring the charming streets of Hallstatt, Austria, to immersing yourself in the rich history of Tallinn in Estonia, Europe is teeming with captivating destinations to visit in December. If you're in the mood for a winter wonderland, then the Scottish Highlands and Bergen, Norway, will leave you breathless with their untamed beauty. For those seeking unique experiences, why not witness monkeys bathing in hot springs at the Jigokudani Monkey Park in Japan, or embark on an unforgettable adventure through the vast Gobi Desert in Mongolia? Whether you're a nature lover, a foodie, or a fan of outdoor activities, there's something for everyone during the winter season. So pack your bags, embrace the chilly weather, and set off on a journey of a lifetime to one of these best winter travel destinations.
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