The Most Beautiful Winter Escapes in the World

Great Winter Escapes


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Great Winter Escapes


As the cold weather sets in, we often find ourselves dreaming of festive winter wonderlands and sunny tropical getaways in equal measure. Whether you're ready to embrace the bitter cold or prepping to flee the frigid temps, we've rounded up 30 of the most beautiful places to escape this winter — including options that are warm and sunny as well as those that are enchantingly snow-bound.

Whitefish, Montana


Escape to Whitefish, Montana, just a stone's throw away from Glacier National Park's pristine lakes and glacier-carved valleys. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, the quaint ski town is bustling with winter activity — from skiing and shopping to enjoying the scenic, snow-covered mountain views. There's even a weird and popular annual winter carnival with a focus on skijoring (ski racers are pulled by horses) in February.

Monteverde, Costa Rica


January and February are dry season in Costa Rica, which means warm temperatures and little rain to disrupt visiting nature explorers, sun seekers, and adrenaline junkies. The country boasts soft beaches with turquoise waters, lush jungles, cloud-covered rainforests, and a focus on holistic wellness to keep stress at bay — making it easier to kick off New Year's resolutions on a positive note.

Lake Tahoe, California


While Lake Tahoe is arguably gorgeous year-round, the vibrant landscape surrounding the giant alpine lake really shines in the winter. Visitors have their pick of more than a dozen ski resorts, but there's more to the winter experience thanks to bird-watching nature hikes, soaks in hot springs, and a lively nightlife scene. At lake level, snowfall averages 125 inches per year, so building a snowman while taking in the surrounding vistas is also a solid option.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Brazil's summer (December to March) is the best time to visit Rio de Janeiro for the perfect blend of rainforest, city, beach, and parties. Spend your days dancing the cold away in 80-degree weather under illuminated palm trees with music and fireworks at Reveillón on Copacabana Beach — one of the biggest and best New Year's Eve parties in the world — or at one of the world's largest festivals, Carnival, at the end of February.

Reykjavik, Iceland


As the closest major tourist spot to the North Pole, Reykjavik, Iceland, puts on a beautiful Christmas display in December. There's an Oslo Christmas tree, 13 official Santas ready for their photo ops, a public skating rink in Ingolfstorg Square, and the Christmas Village at Hafnarfjordur with horse-drawn carriage rides and quaint village houses selling Icelandic goods. After all that shopping, head out into the bitter cold to immerse yourself in the piping hot water of Iceland's famous geothermal baths.

Maafushi, Maldives


There's never a bad time to go to the Maldives, a notoriously relaxing and romantic destination, but the dry season from December to April makes for enviable conditions on the fantasy islands. Maafushi offers a blissed-out paradise of white sandy beaches, and even lures locals with shopping opportunities.

Svalbard, Norway


Up your odds of witnessing the Northern Lights by visiting the northernmost inhabited place in the world. The mining town of Svalbard, Norway — a mere 650 miles away from the North Pole — is a prime destination for catching the mesmerizing natural lights display (as well as untouched glaciers and polar bears) during the winter season. Because of its location within the Arctic Circle, it's the only inhabited spot to experience the lights during the day due to its complete darkness during the winter months until mid-February.

Cape Town, South Africa


During the Southern Hemisphere's summer (December to March), thaw out in Cape Town, where you'll find awe-inspiring natural scenery and diverse cultural gems. Chill out at the beach (and get to know the African penguins at Boulders Beach), discover world-class wines and food, shop the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, and explore the country's most celebrated stretch of coastline along the Garden Route or the less-explored Overberg Coast. Plus, it's growing season in South Africa's winelands, making it a great time to plan a short road trip out to Constantia Valley or Stellenbosch.

Lake Bled, Slovenia


In the winter, the picturesque Lake Bled — located in the alpine Upper Carniolan region of Slovenia — turns a frosty blue and its surface reflects the surrounding snow-capped mountains. The lake encompasses Bled Island, which houses the Church of the Assumption, where many weddings are hosted each year (it's good luck for the groom to carry his bride up the 99 tower steps to ring the bell at the top). Visitors can walk around the entire lake in about an hour (but expect it to take longer with all the photo stops), and also ski or visit the nearby Vintgar gorge.

Coron, Palawan, Philippines


The Philippines, comprised of more than 7,000 islands in Southeast Asia, attracts travelers from all over the world to its resorts and beaches. Coron in the province of Palawan is one of the best spots in the region to visit. The cluster of islands is home to a number of awe-inspiring white sand beaches, pristine lakes and lagoons surrounded by granite rock formations, volcanic limestone cliffs, and a handful of WWII shipwrecks just off shore.

Nagano, Japan


Travel to the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs and where you can also stay at a local hot spring resort. Nagano, Japan is a mix of wintry delights: incredible snowy landscapes, an annual snow festival, acclaimed skiing, and Jigokudani Monkey Park, where there's heavy snowfall for about four months each year and wild snow monkeys kick back in the steaming hot springs. From the nearby hot spring Korakuka, you can enjoy an outdoor bath and spot the endangered species of monkeys bathing in Jigokudani Fountain's geyser.

Marrakech, Morocco


Visiting Morocco in the off-season might seem counterintuitive, but the weather is still fairly mild compared to much of the Northern Hemisphere, even if there's a bit more rain in the winter. With less tourist traffic, it's a great time of year to visit busier areas like Marrakech. Be sure to visit Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden and artist's landscape affectionately known as "the Yves Saint Laurent garden," and the Jemaa el-Fnaa marketplace in the Old Medina.

Stowe, Vermont


With an annual snowfall of more than 300 inches, Stowe as a winter wonderland is pretty much a sure bet. The Vermont town's postcard-perfect mountain backdrop, covered bridges, ski and après-ski culture, and activities like winter ziplining, cross-country skiing, trailblazing on snow-friendly fat bikes and dog sledding across wintry landscapes make it an ideal destination for cold weather adventures.

Providenciales, Turks and Caicos


Providenciales (or Provo), the most populated of the Turks and Caicos islands, is one of the world's top beach destinations. Winter might be the priciest time to visit, but the unbeatable weather and scenery make the higher rates worthwhile. Expect a balance of natural attractions and modern amenities — like near-empty white beaches and luxurious, secluded resorts. Check out unique offerings like the island's snorkel sites, the turquoise lagoon of Chalk Sound National Park, a conch farm, and stones engraved by shipwrecked sailors.

Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina


Experience the Andes Mountains of Patagonia, Argentina in snow-covered glory during the mild summer season. Located in the Los Glaciares National Park near the Chilean border, the breathtaking Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most popular tourist spots for a good reason. Known for dramatic icefalls from its front wall into Lake Argentino, it's one of only three Patagonian glaciers that's still growing. Explore a glacier cave at the northern end of the giant ice block, and take a boat tour for an up-close look at the glacier's deep blue ice.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Glitzy, architecturally ambitious Dubai's year-round sunshine and warm winters make it a haven from snow-prone locales. Spend your vacation exploring authentic gold and spice souks, shopping meccas like the Mall of the Emirates, creative hubs (Dubai Design District and Al Quoz), and trendy bars and eateries. Sunbathe on spotless beaches like Jumeirah Beach or sandboard and ride camels into the sunset at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. For a taste of winter, hit up the slopes at the indoor Ski Dubai.

Harbin, China


A journey to China wouldn't be complete without a winter's stay in Harbin, a city that celebrates the season with the largest ice and snow sculpture festival in the world. From January to February, visitors can wander through (or climb) the spectacular ice designs like massive castles and slides. Competitions, lantern art, ice skating, sledding, winter swimming, fireworks, and other activities are also a big draw for this part of northeastern China, where temperatures drop below -20°C in the winter.

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico


When it's cold and windy outside, look no further than the dazzling, palm tree-lined beaches of Playa Del Carmen for a vacation destination. Since it's located midway between Tulum and Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula, travelers who tire of the local beaches, shops, restaurants, and nightspots can also experience tours of ancient Mayan ruins and jungle trails nearby.

St. Moritz, Switzerland


Switzerland's luxury alpine resort town of St. Moritz is one of Europe's most glamorous ski getaways. The ski town has played host to the Winter Olympics twice, and features a world-championship bobsled run made of natural ice and outdoor Olympic ice rink. Best of all, the sun shines on average 322 days a year, which makes unwinding at world-class restaurants and shops — when you're not on the well-groomed slopes and cross-country trails — a real pleasure.

Miami, Florida


There are many reasons to visit sunny Miami, Florida in the winter. Among them: a booming hotel and design scene, internationally renowned cuisine, idyllic beaches for lounging, and the famous and colorful Art Deco District. In December, the city hosts its annual four-day art show, Art Basel Miami Beach, which attracts both fashionistas and the arterati. In February, Miami will also host the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Prague, Czech Republic


A visit to Prague, Czech Republic in December translates to European-style Christmas markets in the Old Town and Wenceslas squares filled with traditional Czech goods for holiday shopping, mulled wine, sugary pastries, savory klobása (barbecued sausage), caroling, ice skating, and sparkling lights displays for a fully festive experience — all set against the city's spellbinding and historic Gothic architecture.

Quebec City, Canada


The brutal Canadian winters shouldn't prevent you from visiting Quebec City, a metropolis that's straight out of a postcard. The holidays are the best time to visit this mostly French-speaking city. When it's blanketed in snow, the historic cobblestone streets in Old Quebec — densely packed with storefronts decked out in Christmas decor and populated with carolers — are perfect for wintry strolls. Be sure to stay the night at the Hôtel de Glace, a hotel made entirely out of snow and glass, to round out your winter expedition.

Central Region, Singapore


Due to its close proximity to the equator, Singapore experiences a warm, balmy climate with highs in the 80s year-round. It might be rainier in November and December, but winter is a terrific time to visit for holiday festivals like the Chinese New Year in February. Don't miss Gardens by the Bay, a walkway weaving through floral displays and solar-powered 'supertrees,' or giant vertical gardens breathing life into the urban oasis.

Vienna, Austria


In the wintertime, Vienna is an Austrian gem. The city sparkles with holiday spirit every Christmas when a number of traditional markets pop up every year, including the world-famous Vienna Christmas Market in front of City Hall. Even visitors from neighboring countries are drawn to the city's historic plazas — filled with twinkling lights, vendors selling toys and Austrian delicacies, and skating rinks — as well as the opera and holiday balls.

Kauai, Hawaii
Pierre Leclerc/shutterstock


Hawaii is hot all year round, but winter is the best and most popular season to visit the islands for warm ocean breezes. Head to the rural island of Kauai to escape the seasonal tourist surge. The "Garden Island" — with its dense rainforests, cascading waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, and hard-to-reach beaches — only has two highways, and visitors are encouraged to travel on foot. While the Na Pali Coast's scenic 11-mile Kalalau Trail, stretching from Ke'e Beach to Kalalau Beach, is still closed following flood damage earlier this year, you can still see the stunning coast by boat, helicopter or nearby hikes. Outdoor adventurers can also explore other stunning spots like Waimea Canyon — known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" — Wailua Falls, and Na 'Aina Kai botanical garden.

Abisko, Sweden


Abisko in the Swedish Lapland is widely regarded as another one of the best places for viewing the Northern Lights. With big skies, shimmering lakes, miles of protected wilderness with plenty of Nordic wildlife (lots of reindeer), and frequent aurora borealis appearances, it's prime hiking, dog sledding, and telemark skiing country. Abisko is at the northern end of Kungsleden (the King's Trail), an epic walking trail snaking through wild terrain to another tiny Swedish village, Hemavan.

Dublin, Ireland
Marc Dufresne/istockphoto


Dublin is cold in the winter, but the Irish city is also packed with culture and lots of cozy pubs, and it's been dubbed one of the friendliest cities in Europe (twice). Experience some of that Irish charm in the country's festive capital — from marveling at the beauty of St Patrick's Cathedral to a quick stroll over Ha'penny Bridge to reading a book at Trinity College Library to drinking a pint of the good stuff, Guinness, at The Temple Bar.

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands


Soak up vitamin D on a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. By traveling in the winter, you'll avoid the threat of hurricane season and still enjoy comfortable sunbathing and swimming temperatures. To save money, consider a budget-friendly Caribbean cruise. Consider visiting St. Thomas in December, when the island hosts its annual St. Thomas Lighted Boat Parade, in which contestants (boats) are judged on lights, originality, and holiday cheer.

Copenhagen, Denmark


Copenhagen knows how to bust out the festive spirit, and for those looking to see the Danish capital on a budget, winter is also a great time for scoring deals. The city's Tivoli Gardens adorns its antique amusement park rides with lights, and it's surrounded by an alpine village-style Christmas market through the end of December. The "foodie capital" of Scandinavia also features seasonal grub in pockets of the city like the Torvehallerne food market.

Midway, Utah


Located less than 30 miles from Salt Lake City on the opposite side of the Wasatch Mountains, Utah's town of Midway is a beautiful place to be in the winter. When the temperature drops and thick snow blankets the grounds, there's much to do — like cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. You can even float in the crystal-clear, 95-degree mineral waters of the geothermal spring Homestead Crater — the only warm scuba diving destination in the U.S. Visitors should also explore the town's intricate ice castles constructed annually by teams of artists.