With colder weather approaching, most people are probably thinking it’s time for a trip to a beach or warm weather. I know people who follow the sun don’t want to think about going to a colder climate, but sometimes you get the best experience when you travel colder rather than warmer. Here are a few places to travel in winter.
The magic of German Christmas markets is known around the world. In many parts of the world, Christmas has become commercial and superficial, but if you want to get back to traditional and romantic Christmas, visit Germany in December. Christmas markets are held in every city, town, and village throughout the country, and you can buy all kinds of Christmas merchandise and gifts. Many markets are centered around a public ice skating rink, which is just about as romantic as you can get. Additionally, you’ll find mulled wine, hot cider, grilled sausages, hot chestnuts, gingerbread biscuits, and other sweets. At the end of the day, Germany looks good in a light blanket of snow!
Let’s face it – you’re not going to Iceland for warm weather. If you’re going to make the trip to Iceland, do it right and go when it’s coldest and the nights are longest. Iceland is home to some of the world’s most incredible, wondrous sights like the Northern Lights, naturally heated pools, geysers, waterfalls, ice caves, and volcanoes. Most of those things can be done any time of year, but if you want to see the Aurora Borealis or ice caves, winter is the time to go.
December 21 is the winter solstice with about 20 hours of darkness; when the night is longest, you’ll have the most time available to see the Northern Lights (obviously because it can best be seen at night). Also, Iceland has one of the biggest, longest fireworks displays in the world on New Years Eve, which is something to consider when planning a winter trip.
Amsterdam is an expensive place, which is unusual for Europe. It’s a tourist hotspot with beautiful scenery because of it’s many canals. Summer is the most popular time to visit Amsterdam, so go in winter to avoid crowds, save time in lines at top attractions, and get great deals on centrally-located hotels. Surprisingly, even though Amsterdam is so far north, average winter temperatures are above freezing – but bring a warm coat just in case.
Similar to Amsterdam, most people visit Spain in the summer. Southern Spain temperatures are relatively mild year round, so winter is a great time to visit places like Sevilla, Malaga, Cadiz, and Granada. Car rental prices are as low as 38 euros for a whole month, and hotels are about the same per night.
Sevilla has a Christmas ice skating rink and market starting in November. In Cadiz, restaurants are empty, attraction tours have no lines, and options are plenty. Beaches in Malaga have a warm Mediterranean breeze year round. An hour north, Granada is only 30 minutes from the highest mountains in Spain, so skiers and snowboarders can take a day trip to the ski resort via the highest road in Europe. You can hit all 4 cities in a week’s trip to Spain in winter for a great price.
If London is going to be gray, foggy, and cold no matter what season you go in, why not experience it in winter? Save a summer trip for somewhere with guaranteed good weather and see London lit up with beautiful Christmas lights. Harry Potter fans know that it’s best to visit Platform 9 3/4 when it’s cold anyway for a true Hogwarts experience. Plus, pack light – if you bundle up in a long, warm coat, you never have to worry about what outfit you wear underneath because no one will ever see it!
Like Germany, Belgium has wonderful Christmas markets during winter. Brussels town square plays Christmas carols to a light show on the Town Hall. Restaurants have outside seating (yes, even in winter) to have dinner while watching the show. There are also pop-up shops around town with Christmas goods and foods for sale. Since winter is the off season, you can get excellent deals on hotels. The fun city of Leuven and the beautiful city of Bruges are close enough to Brussels by train for day trips.
7. Riviera Maya, Mexico
Of course I have to throw one beach in my list, because sending a post card of a warm, sunny beach home to friends covered in feet of snow just puts a smile on any face. The Riviera Maya has warm temperatures year round. The big, white sandy beaches have the bluest water I’ve seen in all my travels; the ocean on the Gulf coast of Mexico looks like a pool. The Riviera Maya includes all beach villages from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. It’s the best place to sit on the beach with a frozen drink and let your troubles melt away.
Some may say I’m crazy for going north in winter, but German Christmas markets, Belgian Christmas light shows, English Christmas lights, the Northern Lights, and cheap prices all around make these places to travel in winter a great time to visit. Of course, I’m never one to turn down a beach in winter either!
Do you have other winter destination recommendations? I’d love to hear them! My bucket list is always open to suggestions. Leave me some options in the comments below!
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