10 Great (Cold) Destinations to Visit in Winter

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Traveling in the winter – and especially traveling in the cold – isn't always everyone's cup of tea. In fact, many long-term travelers perpetually chase summer around the globe so they never have to turn in their flip-flops for winter boots.

But that's not really my style.

I grew up in northeast Ohio on a Christmas tree farm. Snowy winters were a given – and these days I'm actually kind of sad when we don't get a white Christmas.

Paradise Hill Christmas Tree Farm
Winter at home

So, perhaps not surprisingly, traveling to cold places in the winter doesn't really phase me. In fact, I actually kind of love it!

In the past few years, I've traveled to both Ottawa and Manitoba in the depths of winter, gone to Scotland for New Years, and have been to Iceland not once but twice during the winter months.

If you, too, enjoy bundling up in order to explore somewhere new, here are 10 ideas for where to go in winter:

10 Cold-Weather Destinations to Visit in Winter

For atmosphere:

1. Quebec City

Architecture in Quebec City, Canada

There are lots of great Canadian cities worth visiting in the winter (I quite enjoyed Ottawa in January, believe it or not!), but Quebec City has a certain magic about it. With cobbled streets and festive holiday decorations, photos of Quebec in the winter always make me feel all cozy inside.

Plus, the city has a huge winter festival every year (the Carnaval de Quebec) with sleigh rides and an ice hotel.

>> Read more: Fun Facts: Things You Might Not Know About Quebec City

2. Germany

Christmas market in Rudesheim, Germany

I got to visit Germany around Christmastime for the first time in 2015, and the Christmas markets there are just as incredible as you've heard – maybe even more so. If it's a cheery, gluhwein-filled atmosphere you're looking for, you can't go wrong with Germany.

Even if there's no snow, places like Cologne, Nuremberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, or any of the small cities like Rudesheim or Rothenburg ob der Tauber boast great markets – and great German holiday food.

>> Read more: 23 of the Best Christmas Markets to Visit in Germany

3. Sapporo, Japan

Sopporo is known for its skiing (it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972), but is also known for its very unique snow festival that takes place every February. The festival draws millions of visitors each year to see hundreds of snow and ice sculptures.

For wintery landscapes:

1. Norway

Snowy landscape in Northern Norway

Sure, it can be frigid when you head north of the Arctic Circle, but have you SEEN photos of the Lofoten Islands or Tromsø in winter? 

Norway may not get a lot of sunlight during the winter months (especially the further north you go), but your chances of seeing the Northern Lights are pretty good. And Norwegians harbor a special love for the cold, dark winter months, which I think is kind of cool.

>> Read more: A Perfect 10-Day Itinerary for Norway in Winter or 10 Reasons Why Northern Norway in Winter is Awesome

2. Iceland

Vatnajökull ice cave

Like I mentioned earlier, I've been to Iceland in winter now (once in November and once in March). The country doesn't actually get as cold as most people assume since it's an island in the Gulf Stream, meaning there are plenty of cool things to do year-round.

Whether you want to snowmobile, hike on a glacier, visit ice caves, or chase the Northern Lights, you can do it all in Iceland. You can also ride adorable Icelandic horses and soak in natural hot pools year-round.

>> Read more: A 10-Day Itinerary for Iceland in Winter (Without Renting a Car)

3. US national parks

Visiting parks like Yosemite, Arches, and Yellowstone in winter is high up on my own travel bucket list. Seeing the parks dusted with snow and without tons of tourists is something you can only do in the off-season. Some roads do close due to snow, but I think the views would nevertheless be well worth it.

For winter sports:

1. Canadian Rockies

Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Canadians love winter perhaps more than I do, and there's no lack of things to do in the Canadian Rockies when it's cold and snowy.

You can go snow shoeing, dogsledding, snowmobiling, and skiing at world-renowned ski resorts like Whistler. Something else on my bucket list is to go bobsledding on the Olympic bobsledding track in Calgary.

2. Innsbruck

Do the Alps call to you more than anywhere in North America? If so, the small city of Innsbruck in Austria might be a good fit for you. Not only is the skiing great, but it's also a gorgeous alpine town with snowy mountains as a backdrop.

3. Middle America

Skiing in Pennsylvania

Growing up in Ohio, I didn't have a whole lot of chances to hit the slopes – northeast Ohio is notoriously flat, after all. So, when my dad decided that my sister and I should learn how to ski, we headed next door to Pennsylvania. PA is much hillier than Ohio, and we would go skiing there almost every winter – I learned how to get my snow legs at Seven Springs.

And while Pennsylvania isn't exactly the Rockies or the Alps, the state has some nice family-friendly resorts that are within driving distance from plenty of non-skiing destinations in the Midwest.

As in previous years, Ski PA has some great deals for new and young skiers/snowboarders for the 2015-16 season. Fourth- and fifth-grade students can ski for free, for example, and they have a really cool program for first-time skiers/snowboarders. For $49, you can get a beginner lift ticker, equipment rental, and a beginner group lesson.

This is valid for adults, too, and I'm actually considering going for some snowboarding lessons this year since I've always been too chicken to try it in the past. Anyone want to join?

There are, of course, SO many other great places to travel in the winter.

Where else would YOU recommend for the cold-weather lover?



*Note: This post was written by me, but brought to you by Ski PA.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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  1. I just came back from Canada and I agree, Québec City is the cutest ! Though I was in Ottawa for Christmas and there was no snow and it was like 15°C, not really the magical white Christmas I was looking for.. But Canada wins me over anyway ! 🙂

      I feel ya – we didn’t have a white Christmas here in Ohio, either!

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