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Our Guide to Fire and Ice Travel

Written by
Rachel O'Leary, Jennifer Richt & Alex Carey

With an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to planning a vacation, travellers are becoming increasingly keen to pack as much as they can into their short vacation time.

This has given rise to the emerging ‘fire and ice’ travel trend, which sees travellers choose destinations based on experiencing different climates.

While it’s a great way to get more out of your vacation, it can be hard to tell which destinations offer the extremes of both climates.

To help you plan your next fire and ice vacation, our expert travel designers have picked out their favourite places for fire and ice travel.

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New Zealand

With mountains, beaches and glaciers, New Zealand is home to every type of landscape imaginable, and unspoiled vistas can be found in every part of the country. Whether it’s a fiery climate or a glacier trek you’re travelling for, New Zealand is the ultimate fire and ice destination. The larger south island is home to striking lakes and epic alpine ranges, while the north houses miles of sandy beaches and is the perfect spot for surfing.

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Exploring Queenstown, Taupo and Waiheke Island makes for the perfect fire and ice itinerary. In Queenstown and Wanaka, you can explore the nearby towering alpine ranges or seek out one of the endless thrills on offer. With options ranging from skiing to canyon swinging, there are plenty of ways to explore the incredible environment here. One of the best ways to experience the landscape, though, is on a scenic alpine helicopter flight over the mountains. A bird’s eye view of Skippers Canyon and the Queenstown basin, as well as the chance to land in the snow on one of the regions stunning peaks, are sure to create memories that last a lifetime.

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For a taste of New Zealand’s fire, either keep exploring the north island or head south to Waiheke Island. In the north island’s Taupo, steaming mud pools and erupting geysers make for a geothermal wonderland. If you’re adventurous and want to get to the heart of New Zealand’s fire, opt for a helicopter ride over an active volcano. If fire to you is synonymous with a beach getaway, head to Waiheke Island. Here, beautiful vineyards, olive groves and beaches all lie just a 35-minute ferry ride away from downtown Auckland. Enjoy the summer weather here by relaxing on the sandy beaches of Oneroa, Palm Beach and Onetangi.  

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Japan

Japan is a land of extremes, and the climate is no exception. In Japan’s northern peninsula, the island of Hokkaido’s high snow-covered mountains are perfect for winter sports, making it a popular ski destination. After you’ve spent time on the peaks, head four hours south to Okinawa. Local Okinawans still regard themselves as culturally distinct from the mainland Japanese, having developed their own languages, cuisine, arts and customs. 

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Okinawa’s position halfway between the Chinese coast and mainland Japan means it has a dreamy subtropical climate. This southernmost prefecture offers sunny weather and some of the best beaches in Japan. The seas surrounding the island are considered some of the world’s most beautiful, with coral reefs and an abundance of marine wildlife also making it an excellent diving and snorkelling destination.

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Chile

From the Atacama Desert to the peaks of Torres del Paine, Chile is an extreme fire and ice destination. For enjoyable temperatures in both the Atacama Desert and Patagonia, visit between March and May. The blazing Atacama Desert is home to salt flats, lakes, volcanoes, and sand dunes. Venture out and explore the incredible wilderness on foot, 4WD vehicle, horseback and mountain bike or soar over it in a hot air balloon. Thanks to this arid landscape’s utter lack of weather, high altitude and low-to-zero light pollution, this awe-inspiring desert is also the perfect place to stargaze in some of the world’s most advanced observatories.

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If you want to experience the icier side of Chile, Patagonia doesn’t disappoint. Torres del Paine is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with 3000 metre peaks joined by turquoise glacial lagoons, icebergs and snow-capped mountains. Kayaking, horse riding, biking and trekking are all excellent ways of exploring this epic landscape. Another beautiful region characterised by snow-capped volcanoes, ancient forests and clear-blue waters is the Chilean Lake District. There’s all manner of excellent outdoor activities on offer here;hiking in the national parks and relaxing in the thermal hot springs some of the most notable.

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Long shot of Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland

Iceland

The original fire and ice destination, Iceland has experiences to suit both fans of the cold and those who’d rather stay warm. Rightly dubbed the ‘Land of Fire and Ice,’ Iceland is set on top of a volcanic melting pot, evident in the country’s fountains of scalding water and explosions of molten lava. For an insight into Iceland’s volcanic activity, enjoy a helicopter ride over deep lava-spurting fissures for a bird’s eye view of Iceland’s tempestuous terrain. The popular Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s most geothermically active areas, and the geysers Geysir and Strokkur are both must sees. Strokkur is an active geyser that sends a column of boiling water into the air every 15 minutes or so, so travellers can witness the Earth’s sheer force first-hand.

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To truly immerse yourself in Iceland’s volcanic atmosphere, head to the Blue Lagoon – Iceland’s most famous geothermal spa. Beneath the naturally-heated, pale blue, steaming water is a layer of white silica mud that you can use to give yourself a mineral-rich face mask. This cleansing lagoon water averages temperatures of 37-39°C (98–102 °F). Filled with a variety of minerals like silica, this geothermal pool is reputed to help a variety of people with skin ailments.

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A true winter playground, 11% of Iceland is covered by glaciers. With glistening white ice disappearing into plains of volcanic black rock, these glaciers form some of Iceland’s most stunning landscapes. The most famous glacial lagoon in Iceland is Jökulsárlón. In the heart of southern Iceland, Jökulsárlón lies at the end of the great Vatnajokull glacier. Due to a glacial retreat, huge pieces of ice break loose from the main glacier and end up floating in the glacial lagoon. The result is some of Iceland’s most stunning scenery, with huge icebergs dotted throughout the vast deep blue lagoon.

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South of France

The South of France may not immediately spring to mind when you think of fire and ice travel, but its differing climates make it one of the world’s most versatile destinations. During the winter months, you can even go swimming and skiing on the same day. Along the French Riviera, miles of sandy coastline lie just a couple of hour’s drive away from wonderfully undiscovered ski resorts. 

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Nice is a great city to use as a base for a fire and ice trip, as the city’s microclimate means you’ll never be far away from warm weather. This cosmopolitan city is also only just over an hour’s drive away from the alpine ski resorts of Alpes-Maritime, so snow-capped peaks really can go hand in hand with the dreamy Mediterranean coastline.

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Feeling inspired? Our expert travel designers are always on hand to help you plan your next fire and ice vacation.

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