At first, we thought there might have been a typo – who would want to travel anywhere the sun isn’t shining? Isn’t that what a vacation is? Soaking up the sun and laying out on a beach somewhere, or traveling to an exotic city in shorts or a sundress and roaming the streets looking for adventure. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that not everyone is a sun bum, or a summer chaser. You’d be cutting off half the world that way. The reality is that the weather isn’t the make or break of a vacation; it’s one small factor. The reason we really travel is to see unique places, visit cultures we know nothing about, see buildings we didn’t think existed, and dine on cuisines that we’ve never heard of. In short: to know the unknown.
So we pulled our sleeves up and dug deep for places around the world. Now these destinations don’t just make our list because you can leave the sunscreen at home. We’ll show you the great outdoors, places where you can play any snow sport imaginable or hikes that trek deep into lush terrains. Festivals and food carts, ballets and bridges. These aren’t just for people who prefer to avoid vitamin D on vacation, but for everyone, because we’re going from Japan to Scotland, all the way to the end of the world, and even some places under it. So sit back, grab a blanket, and turn the lights on, because we’re going to show you 20 Travel Destinations Where You Won’t Be Needing Sunscreen.
20 Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Off the coast of Western Africa lies the small island of Bioko, and on this island is the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo. The island was formed by volcanic activity which offers the chance to see unique wildlife, fauna, and geography while visiting Malabo, including the crater filled Lake Biao.
Malabo is a port city, so there are plenty of beaches to visit while there, but don’t worry, we aren’t trying to trick you into visiting a sunny vacation spot.
Because of its monsoon weather, Malabo experiences an extremely long season of rain and overcast that stretches from spring through fall, coupled by a short dry season. Most days, you’ll find Malabo covered in a foggy haze that’s perfect for those trying to avoid the sun. Once a Spanish colony, the city is steeped in Spanish influence which contrasts beautifully with the more modern buildings. Spanish is the primary language and many of the most striking structures in the capital hearken back to colonial times, the most popular being the Santa Isabel Cathedral located in the Plaza de España near the presidential palace. There is also a huge French influence on the African capital, which means plenty of mouthwatering French restaurants to choose from.
19 Seattle, Washington
Imagine the aroma of hot coffee soothing your cold face while you walk the rainy streets on vacation somewhere where the sun doesn't shine. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to find a coffee capital like Seattle, Washington on this list (it is where Starbucks was founded, after all). But there’s so much more to do in this Pacific Northwest city. Known for seeing an average of 152 sunny days a year, Seattle is the perfect destination for those of you looking to leave the sunscreen at home. While you’re there, visit the beautiful Hoh Rainforest or go killer whale watching at the Puget Sound. There’s also the one of a kind dining experience of eating 605 feet up at the Space Needle with a panoramic view of the city. One of our personal favorites, if you’re into farmer’s markets, is the Pike Place Market downtown which is a 9-acre historic district serving farmers, artists, and local businesses. We also want to mention for the sports fans out there, the opportunity to catch a Seattle Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks boast one of the loudest stadiums not just in football but in all of pro sports and the design of their field stands out from the typical stadium designs seen in football.
18 São Joaquim, Brazil
The cold weather typically lends itself to certain leisure activities. The way an overcast sky covers the world up makes you want to sit inside and turn on every light in the house while curling up in a blanket and just settling into your own space. Relaxing, tranquil, this can sometimes be all we need out of a travel destination, and nowhere else does tranquil quite like São Joaquim. In the southernmost tip of Brazil, lies a quiet, peaceful municipality in the state of Santa Catarina.
One of the colder parts of Brazil which even sees snow in the winter, São Joaquim is home to a number of vineyards that rival those in the south of France or Napa.
Visiting São Joaquim is a rare opportunity to get off the beaten path of wine touring and check out the South American wine process. São Joaquim is also surrounded by a deep, lush mountain range. Serra do Rio do Rastro is a massive range that snakes across the state of Santa Catarina in steep drops and wide valleys. It offers a beautiful view along a thin, winding road. And, if you’ve grown tired of the peace and tranquility, you can visit Snow Valley Adventure Park, an American-inspired resort that includes zip lining, tree climbing, dining, and camping. The 30 acre area also offers ATV riding.
17 Montreal, Canada
For a beautiful winter wonderland that’s reasonably priced, we recommend traveling to Montreal, Canada this winter. The city is beautiful year-round and always a great place to travel, but few cities are more beautiful in the dead of winter than this Quebec metropolis. The city offers scenic ice skating with the beautiful downtown skyline as the backdrop as well as skiing and snowshoeing in Mount Royal Park by the St. Lawrence River. We also recommend timing your trip to Montreal to coincide with their annual Fête des neiges de Montréal, a family-friendly winter event that takes place over the course of 4 weeks. Typically the festival lasts from late January into early February and includes dozens of outdoor activities ranging from ice boat and dog sledding to kick sled races and snow mazes. The event is free admission too. But if major winter festivals aren’t your thing, Montreal is still a beautiful city to visit in the winter. Walking along the silent streets as light snow falls and the gas lamps burn, you can treat yourself to some hot chocolate or some tasty pastries. Montreal is also known for their churches for those of you interested in history and architecture.
16 Reykjavik, Iceland
There’s a famous story about conquering Vikings purposefully mixing up the names of Greenland and Iceland to mislead other explorers. Even in today’s age, it’s hard not to associate Iceland with images of a frigid wasteland, but we think Iceland gets a bad rap. It’s actually quite a lovely place. The Nordic coastal town of Reykjavik is one of the most entertaining travel destinations in the world.
Reykjavik has everything you could want from a winter escape – museums, snow activities, architecture like the Harpa concert hall, local breweries, and even the Northern Lights.
But Reykjavik has a special place in our hearts for their famous Blue Lagoon. This is why people travel to Iceland. Located just 30 miles south of Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon is a sprawling open-air, naturally occurring spa that’s powered by geothermal energy. People from all over the world travel to these rare pools to soak in the mineral water. The locals have even discovered the rejuvenating properties of this hot spring. Applying the silica mud found in the springs to your skin can drastically help to improve common skin conditions such as psoriasis. Definitely a must for those who have a bucket list for world traveling.
15 Chicago, Illinois
We included Chicago on this list not only because it’s a great city, but because we think it can be fun any time of year. So this is for those of you who really just hate the sun, but still want to enjoy everything that a major city has to offer when the clouds are out and most of us are inside watching Netflix. There are plenty of wintertime activities like ice skating in Millennium Park right in front of the world-famous Cloud Gate sculpture (yes, that one that looks like a big, shiny, metal bean). You can also catch Broadway productions at the Ford Oriental and the Cadillac Theater. One thing we love to do when in the city (in the winter, of course) is going to one of Chicago’s museums like the Art Institute or the Museum of Science and industry (there are actually quite a few museums). And if you’re into unique American traditions, we suggest heading out during St. Patrick’s Day when the city upholds its nearly 60 year old tradition of dyeing the iconic Chicago River green. Join the hundreds of thousands of people who crowd the banks to drink Irish beer and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
14 Taipei, Taiwan
At the northern tip of the island sits one of Taiwan’s most populous cities and a buzzing location for tourism. A vibrant city with cultural excellence oozing from every nook and cranny, Taipei brings in people from all over the world to visit both their historic sites and their modern wonders. Temples like the Bao'an and Confucius Temple showcase the old-world style and architecture while newer structures like the Taipei 101, a 101-story building designed to emulate a bamboo stalk, bring a modern flavor to the bustling metropolis. Taiwan is also known for its delicious, exceptional snacks (Dorayaki Ice Cream) served from food carts along shopping districts like that of Dihua Street, a revitalized city center for travelers and locals alike.
Taipei also provides explorers and adventurers the opportunity to seek out mountain ranges and waterfalls formed from the tectonic plate activity in the region, the Golden and Shin Fei waterfalls in particular are worth a trip (make sure to bring a camera).
We also recommend planning your trip here around the Lunar New Year, so you can witness the Taipei Lantern Festival when inhabitants release thousands of lanterns into the night sky. The Festival occurs in a number or areas, but one of the more interesting locations is at the famous Ping Xi Station.
13 Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru is a wonderful example of what happens when a major cultural city, full of historical significance and influence, collides with the modern development of a budding metropolis. Not just the capital of Peru, the Greater Liman Metropolitan Area is a large strip of cities and towns all connected, running along the coast, and overlooking the Pacific Ocean (a scenic view coupled with large buildings that cling to the steep rock face). With such a large population, there’s plenty to do in Lima even when the sun isn’t shining. Guided tours of the 16th and 17th century Spanish architecture are highly recommended. The most important tourist destination in all of Lima is the Historic Centre of Lima. Named a World Heritage Centre by UNESCO,
the Historic Centre of Lima is home to some of the most breathtaking architecture in all of South America.
Stroll through the Plaza de Armas at the heart of the Centre where you can explore a number of famous buildings such as the Peruvian President’s official home, The Palacio de Gobierno, or the Archbishop's Palace. The amount of buildings to go gaga over here could warrant its own list here. As for food, it’s your obligation when traveling to Lima to try some of Peru’s famous ceviche, a mix of fish, chili peppers, and onions marinated in lime.
12 Portland, Oregon
Portland has been gaining a lot of traction in recent years and turning a lot of heads as it grows into one of the more intriguing travel destinations in America. What was once a knock on traveling to the Pacific Northwest has now made quaint cities like Portland into budding hotspots for those looking to visit under-the-radar cities. Rain and small towns are in. Known for their craft beers, scenic hikes, and delicious food trucks, Portland, Oregon has earned a reputation as being the perfect place to let your weird out. The city’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Portland Weird.” Originally intended to promote the growth of small and local business for economic diversity, the slogan has evolved into a motto so common you’re certain to find it on bumper stickers, and encourages free expression and art. The sprawling nature surrounding the downtown area and the overcast skies lend to a certain attitude that attracts those looking for something different in their vacations. In other words, if you love nature, coffee, reading, and hate crowds and all that comes with tourist cities, then you’re going to love Portland. If the hit television show Portlandia is any indication of what a typical trip to the City of Roses looks like, then you’re in for a unique treat.
11 Yukon Territory, Canada
This one is for the true adventurer, the one who loves being out in the wilderness and trudging out head-on into conditions that most of us are actively trying to avoid on vacation. If staying active and braving whatever nature has to offer is a vacation to you, then the Canadian territory of Yukon is the place for you. Name a sport that can be done in the snow, and Yukon has it. Dog mushing, skiing, hiking, sledding, skating, snow-biking, and snowmobiling, you imagine it and it’s been done here. You can even take airplane tours over the white mountaintops of Kluane National Park and Reserve and snap some pictures worth hanging on your wall back home. But
even if you aren’t all that into wilderness or physical activity in frigid climates, Yukon can be a quiet, peaceful, relaxing place to visit.
This is one of the more isolated places on our list, one that plays to the overwhelming strength of the great outdoors. And along the Yukon River, you’ll find Whitehorse, the capital and only city in Yukon. There you can enjoy craft beers at the local brewery and soak in the Takhini Hot Springs. Make sure to go in winter and catch the enchanting northern lights.
10 Slovenian Caves, Slovenia
Occasionally we try to have a little extra fun with our travel lists, think outside the box and push the limits of what our topics can be. For the most part, this list has compromised of snowy, cloudy, rainy, foggy, 'typically in the winter' types of destinations, places where you won’t be needing sunscreen. Well, this destination makes our list for just that reason, but not because of the weather. The country of Slovenia is well known for its elaborate cave systems. The Škocjan Caves to the south are home to the largest underground canyons in the world, so big you could fit entire skyscrapers down there and still have room. Down there, you’ll find a world that feels oddly alien while being captivated by the sheer magnitude of the space underground. There are also the eerie karst caves of Postojna with strange and awe-inspiring rock formations, but our favorite has to be the abandoned mine shafts of Mount Peca. Down in these former zinc and lead mines you can go bike riding or even kayak in underground rivers that have flooded the shafts. Suffice it to say, if you visit Slovenia for the caves, you won’t be needing sunscreen.
9 Copenhagen, Denmark
The former fishing village of Copenhagen is now a bustling city on the waterfront of the Sound which forms the border between Denmark and Sweden. The Danish capital has steadily been growing in population and as a popular tourist destination, especially for younger people looking for the world's oldest amusement park (Bakken Amusement Park since 1583), happening nightclubs, and trendy shops. The Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park, opens on Christmas, draped in sparkling lights and has scenic gardens and a lake, as well as rollercoaster and amusement arcades for any age to enjoy. In old town, Strøget offers shoppers the chance to cruise the crowded streets of both high-end and boutique shops. The historic waterfront area of New Harbor is where you’ll find a quaint canal where old wooden ships are moored. There’s also a dazzling array of brightly painted 17th century houses with first floors serving as bars, restaurants, and cafes. But what really makes Copenhagen stand out on our list is the food. Copenhagen claims an impressive 15 Michelin stars dispersed amongst its varying restaurants, the most famous being Noma, which has consistently been among one of the top restaurants to dine in the entire world. Probably why the Danish are considered among the happiest people in the world.
8 San Francisco, California
Mark Twain once said that the coldest winter he ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco, and he wasn’t exaggerating. While California is known for its unrelenting sunshine and beautiful beaches, many travelers don’t realize that San Francisco actually sees more fog in the summer due to hot inland air pulling cooler Pacific air eastward.
The resulting effect is a thick, quiet blanket of soft fog pulling over the cityscape of San Francisco and burying the famous Golden Gate Bridge until all you can see of it are the very tips poking out like buoys.
From across the peninsula, at vista points, it’s quite a thing to behold and creates an iconic picture of the city by the bay for you to snap. Just rent a bike or walk the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. While in San Francisco, just like any major hub, stop by the shops and grab something to eat. California at large is known for food, as people from around the world move here to open up restaurants of varying cuisines. The Fisherman’s Wharf fits perfectly into the foggy backdrop and you can stop by a number of food stalls selling steamy clam chowder served in sourdough bread bowls, a famous San Francisco delicacy.
7 Mawsynram, India
Along the eastern side of the Khasi Hills in Northeast India, you’ll find deep hills carpeted in lush green fauna, a wetness that never seems to subside. The clouds above are endless and float slowly over the deep terrain, bumbling and growling. The rain here never stops, and for those who love the rain, Mawsynram is a place that was made just for them. Known at the wettest place on earth,
Mawsynram sees 467 inches of rain per years and has made our list because the rain is how this place has earned its fame.
The tourist industry is on the rise in Mawsynram because of this very fact. People are fascinated with the annual rain accumulation during monsoon season and flock to discover how the area is affected. Locals must build special roofs and wear protective gear to evade the unrelenting rainfall, but there is a great, primal beauty about Mawsynram that makes it an appealing place to visit. One of the most breathtaking effects of the ceaseless rain are the century-old ‘living bridges’ that have grown over the years in the deep valleys. Locals have been shaping tree roots into bridges over generations to bring a vision of Mawsynram that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
6 St. Petersburg, Russia
Situated at the edge of the Gulf of Finland, is one of the world’s cultural capitals, a beautiful city steeped in history and stunning architecture. St. Petersburg is another winter wonderland on our list. The cold Russian winters come alive in St. Petersburg when the gas lamps come on and the city glows like its own galaxy of shops and cafes that give the city a unique atmosphere. Because of its cultural influence, we highly recommend taking the time to visit one of the Russian ballets, a staple of Russian culture and art. Some of the best dance companies hail from St. Petersburg and the city itself is considered to be a mecca of ballet. There are a number of beautiful theaters in Russia to see a show, but one especially dazzling building is the Mariinsky Theatre, an elegant building considered one of the greatest theaters in the city. To get a real feel for the beauty of St. Petersburg, take a walk down Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main street, and walk towards the Neva River until you reach the Palace Square, an iconic Russian landmark. You feel as if you’ve entered a gigantic snow globe from a gift shop as you soak in this breathtaking city.
5 Ushuaia, Argentina
Imagining a trip to South America probably inspires images of the tropics, warm Brazilian beaches, the lush Amazon, but did you know that South America is where you can find the southernmost city in the world?
Nestled at the base of the Martial Mountains, overlooking the frigid depths of the Beagle channel, you’ll find the port city of Ushuaia, or what many refer to as “The End of the World.”
With a name like that, the inner adventurer in you must be salivating at the idea of stamping that onto your passport. The port of Ushuaia has been used as a final port for those sailing to Antarctica, and many ships offer travelers trips along Beanie Channel, one of those favored ones being the trip to the Martillo Islands to visit the local penguin colonies. Nature is the way to go with this vacation. Ushuaia offers a variety of scenic spots to stop by including the Tierra del Fuego, known for its local wildlife, lakes, waterfalls, and snow-capped mountains. There are also breathtaking views of glaciers here which provide a unique element to traveling to the end of the world. And for a rare treat and introduction to the history of the southernmost city, take a ride on the “train to the end of the world.”
4 Chongqing, China
Just because you want to go looking for clouds, rain, and snow instead of chasing the sun, doesn’t mean you can’t go to booming cities for culture and tourism. In fact, Chongqing, China, although a city typically shaded in overcast, is actually one of the fastest growing cities for tourism in the world. In the southwestern area of China, along the Yangtze River is the port of Chongqing, a municipality steeped in the intersecting beauty of old world China and its modern cityscapes.
In Chongqing, you’ll find some of the most breathtaking scenes China has to offer. From the deep, green valleys of Wulong Mountain Forrest Park to the ancient town of Ciqikou, a relic from the Ming Dynasty. In the downtown area of Jiefangbei, you’ll find plenty of vibrant energy as the skyline comes ablaze with an array of neon lights. There, you can enjoy the best food and shops Chongqing has to offer. Along the Yangtze River lies the Hongya Cave which is a remarkable strip of buildings lit up at night and full of shops, meant to evoke the style of architecture once seen along the river in earlier times. One of the most famous reasons to stop by Chongqing is the food, and one dish in particular. The Chongqing hotpot is a unique chili pepper tripe broth, but more than a dish, it’s a lifestyle of culinary excellence that makes Chongqing stand out from many other destinations in China.
3 Edinburgh, Scotland
Scotland has always evoked rolling green hills, deep crystal blue lochs, and of course, an overcast so thick you’ll think you’ve been draped by a wool blanket. Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh provides some of the most elegant renderings of the classical Georgian architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries. The most notable of these structures is the historic Edinburgh Castle which overlooks the Old Town in imposing fashion. It’s not enough to visit the Castle for the Instgram-worthy opportunity because there’s an entire process for visiting the Old Town area. From the Castle, you walk the Royal Mile, a roughly one-mile-long stretch of town full of winding roads and hidden passageways that leads to the Holyrood Palace, where the queen typically stays at the beginning of each summer. The Royal Mile is where you’ll find some of the most popular places to visit in the city, from restaurants and cafes to small shops and historical sites. There is an air of royalty about Edinburg, and a feeling that you’ve been transported to another century, but to go back even further, head out to Holyrood Park and climb of the peak of Arthur’s Seat. Popular for easy hiking, the peak is east of the Edinburg Castle and provides visitors with a panoramic view of the city in its entirety as well as beyond.
2 Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Because this list caters to a distinctive taste in traveling, there were bound to be some entries on this list that left some of you scratching your heads, or maybe wondering if we’ve made these places up. We’ll be honest and admit that Tórshavn was not on our radar at all until we began compiling this list.
Tórshavn is the largest city in the Faroe Islands, a small autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark and located between Iceland and Norway.
This fairly remote area averages about an impressive 2.4 hours of sunshine a day, so you definitely won’t need to be packing your sunscreen on this one. What we love about Tórshavn is how secluded it is while still providing travelers with plenty of reasons to visit. The fishing town’s culture has begun branching out in recent years as restaurants and hotels pop up along the island to cater to incoming tourists. Tórshavn offers unique seafood dishes as well as familiar favorites. One of their most unique attractions is the Nordic House, a cultural center built and designed to promote both Nordic and Faroese culture. The architecture is beautiful, built into the ground with a roof made with turf that evokes a fantastical element to the building. This is a unique city on our list and one that will leave your friends and family envious of your ability to think outside the traveler’s box.
1 Sapporo, Japan
After hosting the Winter Olympics in 1972, Sapporo gained notoriety as a go-to destination for winter travelers. Located in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido,
Sapporo offers tourists a number of exciting, winter-oriented attractions, but is also a great destination for those looking to soak up the serenity of Japanese culture.
If you go to Sapporo in February, you’ll catch the seven-day Sapporo Snow Festival, one of the most famous winter festivals in the world. The event takes place near the center of the city, both in Odori Park and Susukino, as well as Satoland. Odori park is a must-see in its own right, a stunning park evocative of Central or Golden Gate park. The Snow Festival is most famous for its breathtaking ice sculptures which draw crowds from all over the world. For those more culturally orientated in their travels, the Hokkaidō Shrine is one of Japan’s most visited religious sites of the 8th century Shinto religion. This site is an ideal example of Japanese-style architecture and the massive area contains an exotic temple and a Japanese garden where you can see the cherry blossoms bloom in spring (yeah, we know, you’d have to brave that sun). Also be sure to stop by the Sapporo Beer Museum for a chance to learn about the history of Japanese brewing.