When planning a trip, the tropical, sunny, and warm destinations tend to win over the colder ones and for good reason. Coming from Canada where we deal with snow for most of the year, leaving on vacation to somewhere snowy doesn’t sound too appealing. Winter is also usually associated with bleak, gray skies and runny noses but there are, however, plenty of perks of a winter destination that tend to get overlooked. Not only is it cheaper and less crowded, there is also a certain calm nature of being surrounded by pure, white snow. Here are 20 underrated winter destinations that should be considered the next time you’re planning out some new adventures.
Tallinn | Estonia
During Estonia’s long winter months, the medieval town of Tallinn transforms into a magical winter wonderland. Marvel at frozen water falls, coastline, and views of the ocean. Even though there isn’t much daylight in the winter months and it is quite cold with average temperatures being around -30 Celsius, just walking around this old town offers breathtaking views. The snow-capped forests in Estonia’s national parks are also quite the sight to see. Most of the attractions to see in Tallinn are also mostly all within the town’s walls so there is no need to venture out far to find something enjoyable to do.
Banff | Alberta
Located within the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, this popular tourist town offers plenty of winter activities and stunning snowy views. The star attraction of Banff is no doubt Moraine Lake, with water so crystal clear that it reflects the snow capped mountains surrounding it. Popular activities in Banff include dog sledding, snowmobile tours, and ice walks. One of the most visited ice walks in the area is at Johnston Canyon Walk. Here visitors can walk on steel cat walks to stunning frozen water falls.
Aspen | Colorado
Aspen, located in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, is a ski resort town. Though it is most well-known for skiing, Aspen offers much more than that. Other winter activities that you can partake in include snowshoeing and snowmobiling through the mountains. If you need to escape the cold weather for a little while, Aspen is also known for it’s cuisine and upscale shopping. With more than 100 bars and restaurants in the area, there is no shortage of options. If skiing is your thing though, Aspen is home to four distinct ski mountains and they are all considered top-notch ski destinations.
Budapest | Hungary
Budapest, Hungary has endless possibilities when it comes to winter activities and snowy views and is quite the winter wonderland when the season comes around. One of the main things this Hungarian town is known for is it’s baths and it isn’t nicknamed the ‘city of baths’ for nothing. Budapest is a land filled with thermal springs where visitors can go to take a dip in the waters that claim to host healing qualities. Aside from the baths, Budapest also offers many other winter activities to enjoy. Visitors can ice skate in the center of the city or stroll through one of the many Christmas markets. Be sure to make time to enjoy some ever famous Hungarian wine as well.
Lapland | Finland
Lapland is a sparsely populated area that borders Sweden, Norway, Russia, and the Baltic sea. This place is probably as close as it gets to a true winter wonderland, with a 100% chance of snow between the months of November and March. Lapland offers spectacular views of the vast wilderness and of the stunning nature. Winter activities that can be enjoyed here include dog sledding, ice fishing, and the Northern Lights safaris. Finland is one of the few places in the world where the Aurora Borealis can be viewed, with it appearing on average 200 nights per year. The locals are also very friendly and helpful in Lapland which creates a warm (despite the freezing temperatures) and welcoming environment.
Vienna | Austria
Temperatures in Vienna tend to be a bit milder than most of these other destinations (for a Canadian anyways) with the coldest month being January with average temperatures around -1 C. This makes it more enjoyable to just wander through the streets and explore. The streets are equipped with plenty of bars and cafes to experience, one of the oldest being the 130 year old Cafe Central that offers visitors an extensive choice of dishes and snacks. Vienna’s many winter time activities include curling, ice skating, and horse-drawn carriage rides around this stunning city.
Ottawa | Ontario
The country’s capital lies along the Ontario side of the Ottawa river and experiences cold, winter months for about half of the year. Though it can get quite chilly, Ottawa in the winter truly is a sight to see. It is also home to the largest outdoor skating rink. The Rideau Canal is a 7.8 km long waterway that freezes completely over in the winter time. If you visit within the first three weeks of February, you can experience the Winterlude Festival that occurs along the banks of the Rideau Canal. This festival has many activities to enjoy such as marveling at ice sculptures, unique culinary events, and hockey tournaments.
Prague | Czech Republic
Even though Prague looks stunning no matter the season, it is much quieter and less crowded during the winter months. Visiting between the months of January and March will allow you to basically have the city all to yourselves to enjoys Prague’s most famous attractions. These attractions include Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square which all look even more magical under a blanket of fresh snow. Regardless of the temperature, Prague still comes alive with things to do, even in the winter. Visitors can be blown away by the dazzling Christmas markets and the romantic atmosphere of Prague’s snow filled-streets.
Bled | Slovenia
Truly one of the most picturesque tows in Europe, Bled, Slovenia in the winter really is a winter fairy tale. It is one of the most visited sites in Slovenia but visiting in the winter months allows for more quietness and it is also less crowded. A classic medieval castle overlooks the waters of Lake Bled while there is a church that sits on an island in the middle of the lake. All this while also being surrounded by snow capped mountains and trees, this location creates quite the postcard worthy pictures. Visitors can also take a boat across the calm waters to the island to explore the church and it’s surrounding grounds.
Reykjavik | Iceland
A post dedicated to winter destinations wouldn’t be complete without including Iceland. There is no wondering why tourism has started to pick up either, seeing as Iceland is even more stunning in the winter. The town of Reykjavik is no exception to this. With it’s sweeping views of the ocean and the snow covered roofs of the town’s colorful homes, it is without a doubt one of the prettiest towns on the island. When in Iceland, visit the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s famous geothermal spa located half an hour from Reykjavik or road trip for three hours out to Vik, Iceland to get a glimpse of the black sand beaches. Even though the days are short and dark during the winter months, there is still much to see and do. Popular activities in Reykjavik include volcano tours, snowshoeing, and indulging in Iceland’s most popular dishes.
Fairbanks | Alaska
Fairbanks is a city in Alaska and is the largest one in the Interior Region of Alaska. It is home to mountain ranges, pristine rivers, and a certain solitude that can’t be found anywhere else. Even though Fairbanks is quite a remote destination, it still has lots of activities to offer. Visitors can enjoy activities such as dog sledding and hikes through the snow covered forests. Another great place in Fairbanks is the Chena Hot Springs. Experience the Northern Lights while soaking in the warm waters of the hot springs.
Sedona | Arizona
When you think of Arizona, the last thing that comes to mind is snow. Arizona does actually experience winter with snow from time to time, and visiting Sedona in the winter has many benefits. For one, the rates are much lower allowing you to visit without breaking the bank. Secondly, the crowds aren’t very big which allows you to visit Sedona more freely. This is also a great place for those who can’t really deal with extreme cold, as the temperatures in the winter tend to be about 7 degrees Celsius on average. Sedona also doesn’t get a lot of snow but when it does the red rocks of Sedona dusted with snow look even more stunning. Though there isn’t much in terms of winter activities here, there is still lots to see and experience. Some ideas of things to do include hiking through the Red Rocks and getting some great Instagram shots or visiting the multiple winter events Sedona has to offer.
New York City | United States
New York City is a beautiful place and a great city to visit for those who love the more urban lifestyle. Visiting in the winter, however, adds much more magic to the already magical city. Though the winter months tend to be quite dreary and the temperatures can get quite low, there is always a bunch of activities to enjoy in the city. For something a bit more outdoorsy, ice skating is a popular winter activity in this city. New York has three distinct skating rinks, two being the rink in Central Park and the other being the rink at Rockerfeller Center. Strolling through the rows of skyscrapers in the snow is also another great option and snow covered Central Park is also beautiful in the winter. If the cold gets to be too much for you, pop into one of New York’s many art museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a bit of culture and warmth.
Mont Tremblant | Quebec
Mont-Tremblant is a popular ski resort town located in Quebec. Though it is most popular for it’s ski hills, this quaint little town also has bars, boutiques, and cafes to entertain non-skiers all day. This colorful town offers many winter activities to enjoy such as ice fishing, cross country skiing, and ice climbing. Aside from the winter sports, Mont-Tremblant is also a great place to try some authentic Quebec dishes like poutine and beaver tails.
Bavaria | Germany
Bavaria, Germany’s main attraction is the Neuschwanstein castle and the main reason lots of tourists flock to Bavaria each year. The castle sees about 6000 tourists each summer which is why visiting in the winter is much more ideal. In the colder months there are less crowds and the castle looks much more magical. The breathtaking structure that is the Neuschwanstein castle was the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Located in the southwest of Bavaria, seeing this castle peek through the snow covered pine trees really makes you feel like you’re in a fairy tale.
Bern | Switzerland
Bern is one of the most populous cities in Switzerland and is home to a very rich cultural life. The mountains surrounding the city add up to a stunning panorama that looks even better when covered in powdery snow. A big thing in Bern is the multiple Christmas markets that line the streets. These markets offer things such as Swiss chocolates, candles, and mulled wine. Other popular attractions include ice skating in Parliament Square and skiing in the mountains. The city also has a much more romantic feel in the winter since the streets are all lit up and sparkling with Christmas lights.
Yosemite National Park | California
When winter rolls around for Yosemite, with it brings a breathtaking beauty and a bunch of outdoor winter activities. Some of these activities include snowboarding, snowshoeing, snow tubing, and cross-country skiing. Though some roads and hiking trails may be closed due to the snow, the crowds in the winter are significantly smaller and lodging is much easier to come by. The area is also a photograph-friendly place, because of the snowy vistas and the low winter light, which is perfect because there is so much beauty to capture in Yosemite National Park.
Yukon | Canada
Canada’s Yukon territory is home to mountain peaks blanketed in snow, glaciers, and ice covered lakes. The surrounding areas are still, vast lands that transform the Yukon into a true winter wonderland. This territory attracts visitors from all over the world to see it’s beauty and to partake in the many winter activities the Yukon has to offer. One of the most breathtaking activities visitors can do is glacier flight seeing. This experience sees people being soared over clouds and swirling around mountains in tiny planes. Though it may sound scary, this is one of the best ways to get the best glimpse at the stunning territory of the Yukon.
Copenhagen | Denmark
In Copenhagen the winters are known to be cold and dark. In the middle of winter there is only about eight hours of daylight per day and the average temperature tends to be around 0 to -10 degrees Celsius. Despite all of this, Copenhagen offers plenty of winter activities. Some of these activities include ice skating, winter bathing, and visiting festive markets. Another popular attraction is the Tivoli amusement park. During this time of year the park is decorated with fairy lights and Christmas decorations and offers special events relating to the season.
Jigokudani Monkey Park | Japan
The Jigokudani Monkey Park in Japan, gets heavy snowfall every year for about four months. Even though it can get quite cold there in the winter, there is plenty of hot springs to warm up in. There are also steam vents to check out which shoot hot steam out into the air. One of the main attractions of this area is the snow monkeys that can be found in the park, hence it’s name. These monkeys enjoy showing up to take a dip in the hot springs during the day. With the white, snowy background, these monkeys are great to photograph.