Grab your parka and mittens, because this travel list is for those who are looking for unique, beautiful and exotic winter destinations that are as captivating as they are cold. Forget about jet setting south for the winter and head to one of these fantastic sub-zero locales.
Iceland: Travel to Iceland in the winter is less costly than usual, which means your money will go further in this winter-y Nordic wonderland. Enjoy the capital city of Reykjavik where you can find lots of winter touring activities – snowmobile tours, northern lights tours, glacier trips – or enjoy a winter festival like Iceland Airwaves (music) or Food and Fun (culinary). Take a trip to the Hot Pots to soak in the heat of the natural geysers or the massive and breathtaking Blue Lagoon (a 10 000 square foot outdoor geothermal bath).
Finland: It will be very cold in Finland during the winter, but this is a truly unique destination. Check out Lapland, the northernmost province, home to the Sami people of Finland. Attractions include the world’s largest snow castle in Kemi. Inside you will find a play place for children and an ice restaurant capable of hosting weddings. Skiing and snowboarding is available, but if you can, take a snowmobile trip through Lapland’s scenic landscape to see reindeer. In Rovaniemi you can check out museums to learn more about Sami culture and see the popular Santa Claus village.
China: Harbin in northeastern China is home to a month-long festival in January called the Harbin Ice Festival. See incredible ice sculptures and snow buildings big enough to walk through (even have a drink at the ice bar!), designed by artists from all over the world and lit with coloured lights. There is fishing on the frozen Songhua River where you can also see special swimming and diving performances. Enjoy dog sledding, ice sliding and ice sailing.
Sweden: Nordic countries seem to have a talent for winter tourism, with their scenic beauty and ski resorts. Sweden is no exception, especially since the opening of the IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi. Absolutely everything is made of ice, from the walls to the floors, to the furniture and beds. Guests sleep in sleeping bags and brave the sub-zero temperatures during arctic dark months (December- April). Despite the darkness, get out of your ice fortress and enjoy dog sledding, fishing and hunting expeditions, ice sculpting and views of the northern lights.