Breaking news: there is more to winter holidays than skiing. Not everyone needs to strap on a pair of skis and race down a mountain to enjoy snow – there are plenty of other ways to do so. The sounds of boots snapping into bindings and the swoosh of skiers gliding past you doesn’t need to be the only thing you hear this winter - and we've got the proof for you below.
A frosted, winter wonderland of snow-capped peaks, cerulean blue lakes and a Venetian-style coastline, Slovenia is the perfect place for a winter escape. Surrounded by the picturesque Julian Alps, Lake Bled looks as if it’s straight out of a ‘Frozen’ fairytale, and the surrounding landscape is just as enchanting.
Here, you’ll get to explore an untouched wilderness with a snowshoe hike, visit an igloo village in beautiful Triglav National Park, see the dazzling frozen Pericnik waterfall, wander through the spectacular Christmas markets in Ljubljana and dine at one of the world’s most exclusive restaurant, Hiša Franko.
In winter, Norway transforms into a glittering land of snow-laden forests and dramatic glaciers. With deep night skies illuminated by the magical Northern Lights, Scandinavia is a magical place during the cooler months.
Here, you can explore the otherworld glaciers in the Svalbard islands, board a cruiser and go polar bear spotting along the west coast of Spitsbergen, or visit a reindeer farm in the island of Kvaloy to learn about these amazing animals before heading out on a beautiful sledding excursion out on to the snow.
3) Siberia, Russia
The extreme but beautiful Siberian winter is a unique season to experience, blanketing much of the country’s natural landscapes in snow and ice, while presenting a fairytale atmosphere across one of Russia’s most beautiful cities.
Although Siberia is an extraordinary destination regardless of the season, it is truly exceptional in the winter. You can enjoy dog sled rides where the famous Siberian huskies originate from, mount a snowmobile for an exhilarating ride across the stunning Lake Baikal, or visit various churches and museums around the area.
Most people shy away from the land of fire and ice during the winter months of Iceland, but January is actually a really ideal time to visit for more than one reason. From the outskirts of Reykjavik to the isolated snowfields of the north, Iceland has become known as the capital of the Aurora Borealis, and winter is the best time to see the lights.
Aside from the famed Northern Lights, Iceland is home to glaciers that cover roughly 10 percent of the island, and while you can visit them year round, the water running through these caves only freezes during the deep winter, creating a truly breathtaking natural phenomena: The Crystal Caves. Two of the most famous glaciers for ice cave experience are Vatnajökull and Langjokull.
Whilst you can’t find snow everywhere in Japan at this time of year, there is one special location in the Yamanouchi district – one of the most northern regions of Japan – that is covered in snow for over a third of the year. Jigokundani (literally translated into ‘Hell’s Valley’) is an eerie yet beautiful area, with steep cliffs staggered in the background and hot water steaming from the earth, and this freezing, dramatic setting is a paradise for Japanese macaque – otherwise known as snow monkeys.
A couple of hundred of these extraordinary creatures live here, and Jigokudani is the ultimate and privileged location to watch snow monkeys interact, bond and just chill out. Just a short journey from this wintry wonderland are other major attractions such as Shibu Onsen, a charming old hot spring town, and Yudanaka Onsen, a more developed hot spring town.