1. The Scottish Highlands
The unusual geology of the Scottish Highlands looks even more majestic when blanketed in snow. Start with Loch Ness and its surrounding ancient pine forests, and explore Aldourie and its castle by the lake. Venture further north to the Knockan Crag Trail, known for its giant rock formation, the Knockan Crag. The hike is an easy one, even in winter, and is a wonderful place to see the Moine Thrust, a linear tectonic feature.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s Old Town, founded in Medieval times, lights up like a page from a children’s storybook in the winter. The cobbled streets framed by Gothic churches and red-roof buildings are hauntingly beautiful in the snow, and in December, nativity scenes are recreated with processions of actors dressed as kings on camels – real ones – riding into the square. Try a hearty Czech stew and have some mulled wine made with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon to top it off.
3. The Finnish Lapland
A visit to the Finnish Lapland in winter is like living out a childhood dream where you can meet Santa and his helpers at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, right on the Arctic Circle, and play in a real-life snow castle in Kemi, by the Arctic waters of Bothnian Bay. And, of course, the dancing green lights of the Aurora Borealis, one of nature’s most amazing marvels, can be seen from the Finnish Lapland from October to April.
4. Cappadocia, Turkey
Beat the crowds by visiting Cappadocia in winter, when the normally clay-pink “fairy chimneys” are tinged ash-white. The hot air balloons fly year-round, so take one up into the sky and zigzag through the conical peaks, some 1,000 metres high, and all of which were formed millions of years ago by volcano eruptions. To see the jagged cliffs from a different vantage point, hike or go by horseback to the caves of Red and Rose Valley.
In the early 1900s, Riksgränsen in the Swedish Lapland was abandoned due to too much snow in the area, but that’s also what makes it prime skiing location nowadays. Situated 250km north of the Arctic Circle, the popular ski resort is known for its wide range of runs that cater to all sorts of skiing abilities. The ski lifts go all the way up past 900m and skiing downhill is heart-pumping, literally zipping down from the top of the world to a never-ending expanse of fluffy snow.
6. Bled, Slovenia
One of the more underrated central European destinations, Slovenia has forests, lakes and the Alps, and in 2018 it was named the world’s first green country for its efforts in sustainability. Nature is abundant here – a wonderful dipping pool in the warmer months, Lake Bled takes on a transcended appearance in winter. The Church of Mary the Queen, on an island of its own in the middle of the lake, is absolutely majestic and the lake is hugged by snow-capped mountains and on top of one of them, Bled Castle. Together, the scene is just like the inside of a snow globe.
7. Lofoten, Norway
The rainbow-coloured houses in the small fishing community on the Lofoten archipelago has, for decades, inspired artists and writers. In the winter months, they peek out from under the snow, adding quirkiness to the nearby alpine peaks and Arctic fjords. There’s much to do here, including taking a sea safari out in the water to watch winter whales, eating cod at the brilliantly-named fishing village of Å and should luck strike, glimpse the Northern Lights.
8. New York City
The best introduction to the Big Apple during wintertime is to start at the Plaza Hotel and walk south to toy store FAO Schwartz and continue on Fifth Avenue, where, in December, shops display mesmerising, multi-storey Christmas decorations in their windows. Ice skate by the tree at Rockefeller Center or the frozen lake at Central Park while admiring the soaring towers. Should you venture out of Manhattan, head to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn where homeowners set up sleighs, snowmen and gingerbread houses to compete for the best Christmas setup each year.
9. Rila, Bulgaria
Those looking for a true winter trek will be rewarded with a sky-high view of snowy ridges and frozen lakes atop of Bulgaria’s highest mountain range. Rila National Park contains about 120 glacial lakes nestled in between its peaks, as well as caves, gorges and rock walls and pristine pine forests inhabited by goats and deer. At almost 3,000m, Mount Musala – meaning “near God” – is the highest peak and abseiling down isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Snow tunnels, frozen waterfalls, beaches with Dr. Seuss-like icicles – the Land of Fire and Ice barely needs an introduction. Part of the Golden Circle route, Gullfoss Waterfall freezes over during winter – take in the sight from one of the viewing points above which open year-round. Sign up for a guided tour of Solheimajokull Glacier, a glacier covered in black volcanic ash, just two hours from Reykjavik. And traverse Diamond Beach in Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, a black-sand beach pockmarked with glistening giant-sized ice formations.