Cold weather destinations to visit in winter – AFAR Media | Dauktion

Winter holidays are seen as a chance to go somewhere warm, especially by sun-seekers in the northern hemisphere who fly south as temperatures drop. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with spending Christmas on Australia’s Gold Coast or celebrating New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro. It’s great that Snowbirds said options. But many spring and summer destinations show a different side in the off-season, when the hordes of tourists disperse and the heat gives way to a chilly chill.

Whether you want to experience a music festival in the snow or the tranquility of a national park, settle in with the residents and enjoy the season. Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two about coping with – er, I mean partying – the cold and boarding your next vacation flight parka in hand.

1. Japan

Skiers are well aware of the beauty of Japan in winter as the Hokkaido region becomes a beacon for people eager to hit the slopes in Niseko or Furano. While it might be tempting to join in the fun, take advantage of the off-season to visit Osaka, Kyoto, and other popular cities, as the rest of the country is relieved of the tourist rush until spring. Popular shrines are quieting down this season – alongside the huge surge in visitor numbers comes the Japanese New Year, which falls on January 1-3. But there are plenty of other cold traditions that take place without the crowds, including some that involve food, like eating KFC at Christmas and warming up with a freshly made yaki imo. Japan’s onsen are also getting a lot more relaxed until the crowds return in April.

Speaking of cherry blossom season, now that international visitors are flocking to the annual event, why not come a little earlier when the plums are in bloom from mid-February to March? While the trees don’t bear fruit until summer, experiencing their soft and sweet scent is one of the many perks of visiting Japan in winter.

Expect music, lights and lots of fun in Montreal.

Photo by Richard Cavalleri/Shutterstock

2. Montreal, Canada

Canadian winters are no joke. Temperatures in Montreal average below freezing from December through February, but this city knows a thing or two about partying in the dark nights. Unpack your warmest — or craziest — clothes and head to Montreal’s Jacques-Cartier Pier for Igloofest, an electronic music festival where attendees warm up with the power of dance. Next year’s celebrations will take place from January 19th to February 11th, 2023 and will feature artists Eli & Fur, Yotto and more.

Creative expression doesn’t stop there. Throughout the season, Luminothérapie, Quebec’s largest competition for temporary public art installations, will take over the Quartier des Spectacles with installations and video projections. Its latest iteration featured lighted seesaws and iceberg-shaped sidewalks that change color so you don’t have to worry about the city succumbing to darkness in winter. A highlight of the city’s winter activities is a nuit blanche (French for all night) on February 25, which encourages Montrealers to embark on urban adventures by keeping entertainment complexes and art galleries (like the Musée d’Art Contemporain) open from dusk until dawn be opened at dawn.

Need a place to stay in Montreal? Continue reading: The 10 best hotels in Montreal


Tivoli Gardens is a popular winter attraction in Copenhagen.

Photo by Mikhail Markovskiy/Shutterstock

3. Denmark

In fighting the winter darkness, the Danes have long used a weapon that has inspired a number of books on mindful living over the past decade. The Scandinavian concept of hygge– roughly translated cosiness – is how the people of Denmark (and the neighboring Nordic countries) create their own sense of warmth, no matter how cold it gets. Visiting in winter offers bright examples of hygge, from the obsession with candles to gatherings between friends and family.

The country also seems to have mastered that spirit of happiness and merriment, with Denmark being one of the happiest in the world. In December, this attitude fills the Christmas markets in cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus. The amusement park Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen becomes a remarkable wonderland with 1,000 Christmas trees and 60 festive stalls.


Don’t follow the herd mentality when planning your Yellowstone trip.

Photo by BlazingBighornStudios/Shutterstock

4. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park draws almost five million visitors each year, so beating the crowds takes some creativity. But instead of simply forgoing popular hiking trails when visiting the 150-year-old park, how about traveling during a less-visited time of year? When winter arrives, the blanket of pristine snow that blankets the area adds an element of seclusion. While Campground Mammoth is Yellowstone’s only front country campground that’s open year-round, warming up at properties like 320 Ranch (near Cinnamon Mountain) or Montage Big Sky (near Lone Mountain) goes with these wonderful off-season prices.

As navigation through the park is restricted in winter, consider a guided tour. It’s the perfect opportunity to try your hand at snowshoeing or cross-country skiing without the crowds. Game viewing in winter is different too – while squirrels and grizzly bears hibernate, other animals like bald eagles, wolves and bison can still be spotted. Against the white background, recognition becomes much easier.


Snow makes Gullfoss Falls more beautiful.

Photo by Sara Winter/Shutterstock

5. Iceland

Iceland doesn’t exactly sound like a place with a forgiving winter – but temperatures here can be milder than you think. Most averages on the island stay in the 14 to 32°F range, which isn’t much different from winter temperatures in the US Midwest. Be sure to bring your heavy coat, but you can still count on hitting sights with ease along well-cleared routes like the Golden Circle. If anything, the 190-mile loop becomes even more dramatic in winter. A partially frozen Gullfoss waterfall in particular can create an opaque glassy contrast to the rushing waters below.

Unpredictable snow conditions can temporarily close lesser traveled roads, such as Iceland’s Highway 1. Embrace this lesson in travel flexibility: it will help you catch the Northern Lights, which are never a guarantee, though they’re easier to see in winter.

Do you need a place to stay in Iceland? Continue reading: Choose your own adventure at one of these 7 hotels in Iceland


Light snowfall occasionally hits Istanbul during its mild winter.

Photo by Stoktur/Shutterstock

6. Istanbul, Turkiye

Istanbul’s 15 million residents give the city a vibrant energy, even in the off-season, which is much appreciated when the skies can change in the blink of an eye. Winter in the city bordering the Bosphorus strait brings random rainy spells rather than significant snow. Preparation becomes key — grab a light coat and umbrella, and you can still enjoy a scenic stroll along the Bosphorus and Galata Tower.

There are many other places to spend the day – be it the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque or the Hamam Kılıç Ali Paşa – that make staying at the house just as culturally enriching. But when the sudden rush of cold air does If you happen to be caught off guard, it doesn’t take long to find a café to rush to for Turkish tea. It’s the perfect opportunity to practice keyifthe Turkish art of idle pleasure.

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