Even though autumn is an absolute gorgeous month filled with lattes and jack-o-lanterns, it is followed by a season which causes a lot of mixed opinions: winter. Love it or hate it, there is a certain type of beauty found within the colder months. We tend to spend a lot of time complaining about the harsh temperatures and the snow, forgetting that winter also brings on a whole new level of outdoor activities and sightseeing.
Have you ever stepped outside after a recent snowfall and really embraced the moment? The soft crunch your boots make as you walk down your driveway. The slight sparkle that comes after the last snowflake lands on the ground. Even beyond your front yard, there are hills and mountains covered in snow, glistening in the sunlight. Yes, winters can be extremely harsh due to the cold temperatures and tough commutes, but in the right environment, winter can be absolutely beautiful.
Need some proof? Here are 20 distinct places around the world that will make you appreciate the colder months and will convince you to book your next winter vacation.
20 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
Winter can be an excellent time to visit this national park, and many other national parks, as there are fewer crowds and the whole area turns into a winter wonderland. Visitors are able to take their time enjoying the many trails, spot more animals (elks and bison are a lot easier to see against a white backdrop), and even go on a winter photo safari.
Yellowstone National Park also offers many different packages on their website for visitors. It doesn’t matter if you’re a winter-loving traveler or just want to go ice skating surrounded by geysers and hot springs, there is something for everyone.
19 Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstatt is a small village located just on Lake Hallstatt's western shore in Austria’s Salzkammergut region. Here, travelers are able to experience not only the significant beauty of the village but also get a taste of the village’s history. If you plan a trip here, you will have the chance to go on a boat tour around the lake, participate in traditional evening events filled with folk dances and alpine music, and take beautiful photos just like the one above.
One of the best parts of Hallstatt is the fact that it’s nestled between both the Dachstein mountains and the Hallstätter Lake, making this a beautiful sight to photograph during the winter time.
18 Swiss Alps, Switzerland
If we don’t include at least one photo of Switzerland to this list, then we really should not be writing this article. The Swiss Alps perfectly capture everyone’s idea of a perfect snowy winter with their beautiful snow-capped mountains and rocky terrain.
Cross the Alps by taking one of the many railroads such as the Bernina Express or the Rhaetian Railway and you’ll be sure to take some amazing photographs. Finish your day by relaxing in one of the phenomenal outdoor spas and enjoying some Swiss specialties at one of the many restaurants and cafes.
17 Iceland Northern Lights
We cannot create this list without mentioning an item that should honestly be on anybody’s bucket list. Seeing the Northern Lights is a once in a lifetime experience. The best time to see them is of course during the winter due to the long nights caused by the solstice.
TravelandLeisure.com suggests driving away from light pollution to get the best viewing. In terms of timing, try to be there between 8.00 pm and 2:00 am. Some places even offer Northern Lights tours so make sure to do your research to guarantee you will have an amazing experience.
16 Tallin, Estonia
If this photo doesn’t immediately remind you of the cheerful holiday season, then I don’t know what will. Even though this photo almost looks like one of those Christmas village displays, we can assure you this is a real place located in Tallinn, Estonia. Tallinn is located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland and is home to many different activities such as skiing, ice skating, and even husky sled rides (yes, you read that right).
The specific picture above is actually showcasing Tallinn’s famous Christmas market where shoppers can stroll through the small huts, eat traditional Estonian food, and enjoy weekend performances leading up to Christmas.
15 Kyoto, Japan
Even though Japan is well known for their jaw-dropping cherry blossoms during the spring, there is still something to be said about the way the country looks during the winter. Just from looking at the above photo, it’s hard to not feel at peace gazing at the snow covered trees and lights.
By visiting Kyoto during the winter, you’ll get a chance to view the snow-covered temples and shrines to create some absolutely whimsical photographs. You can also relax in a hot spring (also known as an onsen), enjoy local delicacies, and visit the Kinkakuji Temple. Who says snow has to prevent you from seeing the gorgeous sights of Japan?
14 Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
I can promise you right now that you aren’t looking at a painting. Hard to believe, right? Being known as one of the most famous castles in Europe, the Neuschwanstein Castle is located in southwest Bavaria, Germany and according to Wikipedia has been visited by over 61 million people.
This castle looks absolutely stunning in literally every season, but there is something breathtaking about seeing it surrounded by snow covered mountains and trees.
Fun fact: this particular castle was Walt Disney’s inspiration for the Cinderella Castle we all love today.
If you ever get a chance to visit Germany in the winter, make sure to book a tour of Neuschwanstein Castle. You’ll feel like you’re in a fairytale.
13 Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
If you really want to feel one with nature, Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada is the perfect destination for you. By exploring this popular destination, you will be surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, crystalline lakes, and numerous wildlife creatures.
Just be warned, this is Canada weather we’re talking about. If you plan on visiting during the winter months make sure to bring plenty of clothing and protective gear as temperatures can easily dip far below freezing. If you’re able to push past the extreme temperatures, you will thoroughly enjoy the amazing views that Banff National Park has to offer.
12 The London Eye, London, England
So maybe you’re afraid of heights and cannot picture yourself getting on Europe’s tallest ferris wheel, we totally get it. There is something to say though about the way this famous attraction looks during the winter time. Other parts of London can appear dark and gloomy during the snowy season, but approach the South Bank of the River Thames and you’ll be transported to a winter wonderland.
If you’re visiting London between November and January you may also get a chance to go ice skating or even enjoy some winter-themed drinks as you enjoy the breathtaking views the Eye has to offer.
11 Lake Bled, Slovenia
Lonelyplanet.com describes Lake Bled as “picture perfection” and we could not agree more. This tourist attraction might be more popular in the summer, but it is home to some fun activities such as ice skating and snowshoeing in Triglav National Park.
What we love most about the above photo of Lake Bled is the way the purples and blues blend magnificently together, creating almost a fantastical look to the image. Seeing the small island’s reflection in the still water makes me want to book a trip to Slovenia ASAP.
10 Pahalgam, India
Doesn’t this photo make you want to curl up inside with hot chocolate and gaze out at the mountains? Pahalgam is located on the banks of the Lidder River and has an average elevation of 2, 740 meters according to Wikipedia. This small tourist town is beautiful no matter the season, but something about how the snow appears under the street lights made the town look absolutely stunning.
Travelers are able to stay at one of the many hotels and inns, view the snow peaked mountains, and ride horses through Aru Village, another tourist spot located near Pahalgam.
9 Quebec, Canada
When it comes down to embracing Winter, Quebec knows exactly what it’s doing. As long as you don’t mind the frigid cold temperatures and the abundance of snow, there is loads to do in this particular province of Canada.
If you grew up throwing snowballs at your siblings and racing down the hills behind your school, then Quebec is for you. Besides enjoying the amazing views of Canada, travelers can also enjoy ice hotels, skiing, snow tubing, and dog sledding (my personal favorite). The best part? The list doesn’t even end there.
8 Inn at Manchester, Vermont, USA
I’ve talked a lot about the outdoor activities associated with many of these places, but what about the moments where you just want to sit by the fire and read a good book? Visiting one of Vermont’s famous inns might be the perfect winter vacation spot for you.
Besides the usual skiing and snowboarding one can do in this east coast state, many inns and resorts offer things such as spa packages and even romantic getaway deals. If you’re looking for a place where you can run around in the snow during the day and cozy up with some tea in the evening, this is the place for you.
7 Central Park, New York City, USA
There is something truly magical about the moment immediately following a snow storm. Sure it can be challenging to navigate the city streets the following day, but if you’re in the right area at the right time, it can be peaceful.
This is exactly what makes Central Park in New York City a great place to explore in the winter. Not only do you beat the summer crowds, but you also get to see the city coated in a thick blanket of white, fluffy snow.
After your walk, head over to Rockefeller Center for some ice skating and enjoy a nice warm meal at Rock Center Cafe.
6 Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado, USA
If this photo doesn’t make you want to go out to buy skis and book a plane ticket to Colorado, then I’m not sure what will. Breckenridge Ski Resort offers world-class skiing and makes sure every visitor is treated like a local. Even if you’re a first-time skier or still a beginner, they offer a wide range of lessons that will get you racing down the mountains in no time.
Sking not your thing but still want to enjoy the fresh mountain air? Breckenridge is also known for their beautiful spa, a historical shopping area, and tons of dining options. No matter what your overall opinion is on winter, you cannot deny that this ski resort is a fun way to spend a vacation.
5 Castleconnell, County Limerick, Ireland
This beautiful scenic village is located near Limerick, Ireland and is home to the River Shannon. According to Limerick.ie, during the winter time swans migrate from Iceland to breed on this particular river.
Ireland is generally known for its beautiful mountains and hills, so finding a quaint town such as Castleconnell is proof that the country is picture perfect year round. Due to its proximity to some major cities, Castleconnell is also home to a few different lodging options and restaurants.
4 Paris, France
Sometimes particular photos look even more gorgeous in black and white, especially when the Eiffel Tower is standing in the background. In general, Paris does have a reputation of being gloomy in the winter time, but there are some beautiful sights and festivals to check out if you find yourself here during the colder months.
Fewer tourists, bright holiday lights, and warm seasonal cuisine are just some of the perks of visiting this city during the off-season. Visit one of the Christmas markets or enjoy some delicious French red and you’ll be sure to have a fantastic winter vacation in Paris.
3 Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, South Korea
Similar to Kyoto, Japan, many regions of South Korea are absolutely stunning during the winter as snow blankets the many temples and palaces. If you ever get a chance to visit South Korea during the winter, expect a cold but sunny climate.
There are many great things to do during the colder months in Korea such as ice skating (a favorite past time), enjoying some wonderful Korean street food to help warm you up, and even ice fishing. Make sure to have your camera with you at all times to capture some of the magical moments that you may only see during a Korean winter.
2 Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada
As you can tell by the other entries on this list, Canada is a wonderful place to experience winter. As long as you have no problem enduring the cold temperatures and come prepared, there is so much to do whether you visit Quebec, Alberta, or even British Columbia.
According to The Whistler website, this resort is known to be a skiers dream destination and is home to 8,100 acres of snow-covered slopes and world-class terrain parks. The above photo is a shot of Whistler Village, the central neighborhood located right at the base of the Blackcomb Mountains.
1 Shalda Creek, Michigan, USA
Michigan is well-known for its beautiful winter scenery, so it was tough picking just one photo. This particular image was shot by Ron Strong in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and perfectly captures the essence of an early morning winter day out in the woods.
Even if you don’t find yourself navigating through Michigan’s dunes (they are more well-known in the summer months), there is something to be said about the peace and serenity that these type of photographs provoke.