For the next few months, we are going to experience a lovely cold weather. Yes, you feel tempted to retreat to your into your home with a cozy blanket and hot drink, but whether you like or dislike winter, you cannot deny the beauty it brings out around the world, during December. And since the cold weather is something everyone is going to experience, why not do it in style and more excitement? The winter holiday experience in some countries are so beautiful, it takes your breath away. These are seasonal holiday destinations. So make sure that you don't miss out on the chance to explore your horizons.
There are many places around the world you can visit for the best winter holidays and guarantees a good time with many activities and for sightseeing. These are the top 5 destinations you can have a wonderful winter experience in.
Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Image Credit: Fred Clery on Unsplash
The Plitvice National Park is Croatia's single most popular attraction, with justification. Let your imagination run wild and conjure up an image of 16 beautiful turquoise lakes, with water cascading down in a series of waterfalls, hemmed in by densely forested hills. And now, imagine it all beautifully frozen and snowcapped. Paints a pretty picture, doesn't it? You could experience this crystallised beauty only once a year and other people seems to have the same idea. Its one of the best European destinations visited by tourists. Nowadays these lakes are bursting at the seems with fish and water snakes, while herons frequent the shores of the quieter, northern part of the system, and deer, bears, wolves and wild boar throng the forests above. The visit to the park is highly organized with well-laid out paths, regular shuttle buses and ferry rides to main points of interest. When travelling through the mountainous parts of Croatia, the deeper you go in, the more you encounter snow, making it your perfect winter wonderland! The main route during winter is to take the path along the canyon and to hike. You can make snow angels and even have snowball fights! You are never too old for them ;) One of the best restaurants in Plitvice is the "Licka Kuca" restaurant. It has many wonderful reviews about its food and services. Although, before you dine, check if it ticks all your boxes. You can never be too careful about meals far away from home.
If you are visiting-
- If the weather conditions are “normal” you have the boats running on the upper lakes and the tour guides are also available.
- The admission fees are reduced.
- Opening hours are shorter
- Bring warm clothes and proper footwear, especially if there is snow.
- Skiing at Plitvice is a possibility in the village 'Mukinje'. There is one slope with a T-lift and a few smaller hills, which are mainly used for kids on slides. Ski equipment and slides can be rented at the skiing centre where you can also find a restaurant called "Skijaliste Bistro Vucnica".
- During winter season most of the hotels run by National park Plitvice are closed, the only one, which is open whole year around, is hotel Jezero. But there are of course other options one of which is cottages. There is one cottage recommended in Smoljanac, which is about 5 km from entrance 1. If you visit without a car, your first priority for accommodation should be Rastovaca. Other options are Grabovac and Rakovica where you have quite a few lovely bungalows.
Banff National Park, Canada
The Banff National Park is most famous Canadian Rockies Park and Canada's leading tourist attraction. The main attraction of Banff National Park is undoubtedly Lake Moraine, located 15 km from Lake Louise. The lake's crystal clear water reflects the snowcapped valley of the Ten Peaks. It also has a 1500 km trail, which you can use to hike and go camping as well. Since the actual town of Banff which, transforms into a Christmas village with colourful lights, decorations and horse-drawn carriages for visitors is close by, you can spend a couple of days browsing the stores along Banff Avenue and throughout downtown Banff to find gifts for your loved ones and also stock up on supplies. It is December after all!
Two popular roads within the park offer magnificent panoramas: from Banff to Lake Louise is a far preferable route to the parallel Trans-Canada Highway, and the much longer Icefields Parkway leads from Lake Louise to Jasper. Both are lined with trails long and short, waterfalls, lakes, canyons, viewpoints, pull-offs and a seemingly unending procession of majestic mountain, river, glacier and forest scenery. The towering mountains, snow-covered trees, frozen lakes and outdoor skating rinks make spending the winter holidays in the rocky mountains quite special. Lake Louise gives such a magical feel during winter, with a blanket of glistening snow and complete solitude. "The Banff Springs" and "The Rimrock" are known for their fabulous buffets and Christmas dinners. Also be sure to check out "The Maple Leaf Grill", "The Juniper Hotel & Bistro" and "Chinook Restaurant" at the Banff Park Lodge if you find yourself in need of a good, filling meal.
To look out for -
- There’s world-class skiing with choices of three mountains. All three resorts, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay are open. Lake Louise is a cross-country skiing paradise. Ski rentals are available through Chateau Mountain Sports within the hotel; lessons or guided skiing tours can be arranged through the concierge.
- If you’re not into skiing, but want to experience some fun and thrill in the snow you can try tubing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort or the Mount Norquay Ski Resort in Banff.
- Snowshoeing is also available at Lake Louise. If you haven't done it before, don't fret. It’s very easy to learn. One of the easiest trails to try is the Lake Louise Lakeshore with virtually no elevation gain. Another popular trail is to the Fairview Lookout.
- There’s a hill perfect for tobogganing right next to the Chateau Lake Louise on to the left. Toboggans can be rented from Chateau Mountain Sports within the hotel.
- Ice-skating on Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful outdoor rinks in the world. The skating rink is usually cleared in early December and an ice castle is built. Skates are available through Chateau Mountain Sports in the Fairmont Chateau Hotel.
- There are traditional horse-drawn sleigh rides along the lakeside trail to the back of Lake Louise. You can make reservations at the Brewster desk inside the Fairmont Chateau lobby. It is available from early December to mid-April depending on conditions.
- A leisurely stroll along the snow-covered trail to the back of Lake Louise would be an enchanting experience. It’s a peaceful way to experience the winter surroundings and majestic mountains. Or you can simply read a book in front of a crackling fire at your hotel or soak your stress away in the Banff hot springs.
- If you're looking for accommodations during your winter ski vacations and Christmas holidays, the condo-style properties are very popular. Some popular are the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort, Hidden Ridge Resort, Douglas Fir Resort and Tunnel Mountain Resort. Due to their high demand, these properties may need to be booked several months in advance, especially if you want to reserve specifically for Christmas or New Years. Ultimate Holiday Experiences can be had at the high-end resort properties such as the Banff Springs, Chateau Lake Louise and Rimrock Hotel.
Richmond Park, UK
Image Credit: Nigel Cox / Richmond Park: Beverley Brook
Richmond Park is the biggest park in London is more breathtaking during winter. It's three times the size of New York's Central Park and is teeming with deer’s galloping around; giving it an English countryside feel to it. On the few days the snow falls in London, this is THE place to be. Richmond Park is accessible by public transport and car parking facilities are also available should you rent a car to visit. The park is a top UK site for ancient trees and supports a range of rare species including fungi, birds, beetles, bats, grasses and wildflowers. It is a protected status as a National Nature Reserve. Richmond Park is a site of both national and international importance for wildlife conservation.
The best places to visit for meals and snacks are the "Pembroke Lodge", located at the highest point of Richmond Park and "The Roehampton Cafe", which is located at Roehampton gate car park. If you find yourselves in need of quick refreshments, there are refreshment points located near Broomfield Hill and Pen Pond car parks. They serve a wide a range of hot and cold snacks and beverages. The Friends of Richmond Park provides frequent guided walks, which are free of charge. These do not need to be booked ahead unless mentioned otherwise. Imagine the mystical and otherworldly feel you will experience while walking through snow covered trees and paths and with deer’s running wild. I'm sure just listening about it makes you feel heart content.
The current itinerary for the walks of 2017 is as follows:
- 02nd of Sep - Roehampton Gate Car Park
- 07th of Oct - Sheen Gate Car Park (Deer + Walk the Wall)
- 04th of Nov - Pembroke Lodge Car Park (Fungi)
- 02nd of Dec - Pen Ponds Car Park
- 26th of Dec - Pembroke Lodge Car Park
To look out for -
- The Isabella Plantation is a 40-acre woodland garden set within a Victorian woodland plantation. Located in the gardens are the National Collection of Wilson 50 Kurume Azaleas (introduced to the west from Japan), large collections of Rhododendrons and Camellias, plus many other rare and unusual trees and shrubs. Native plants commonly grow alongside exotics throughout the Plantation.
- Park cycling is available with bikes for hire. Although, riding in the cold weather would prove to be a tad bit difficult, but it is also good to challenge yourself once in awhile. While cycling you can come across many wildlife at close range.
- It also has a number of stables where you can get horses to go horse riding. That would truly be an enchanting experience. Who needs a prince charming when you can ride all by yourself in a beautiful environment?
- There are two playgrounds that are created specifically for children under five and the other for children of all ages. It’s called the Kingston Gate Playground and Petersham Gate Playground, respectively.
- Nothing can cool your jets like the sport of winter rugby. A section of the grassland to the north of the Roehampton Gate is maintained and laid out with 3 adult pitches. This is available only during winter season.
- Power kiting is also available. It is a sport where you are pulled along by a kite while sitting in a kite buggy or standing on a land board. Qualified instructors teach this fast growing sport all year round, in the grassy spaces of Richmond Park.
- Enjoy a Christmas experience to remember in Richmond Park during December, with a classic winter carriage ride, drawn by elegant grey horses. You can enjoy warm refreshments while travelling along with a unique behind-the-scenes visit to the stables.
Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Image Credit: Patrick Ogilvie on Unsplash
The majestic Atlas Mountains of Northern Africa see a total of above 3000m-snow covers from November to April. The 'Mount Toubkal' a.k.a the 'Toubkal Massif' is the most stunning during the winter, when fearless mountaineers don grappling hooks and climb the 4167m summits. This highest Atlas peak is where everyone sets their trekking destination towards. It is also possible to camp out on your trek, as the Atlas Mountains are a series of mountains and plateaus. You can reach trailhead villages in just two hours from Marrakesh, which is the best way to find out the real natural landscapes in Morocco, and the main walking routes are easily followed. Walking just a short distance from the most common starting point – Imlil – you are transported to a very different world. Mountain villages offer a stark contrast to the previous roadside towns with Berber houses stacked one on top of another, appearing to sprout from the rocks, situated on the green scenic deep valleys of the high atlas. The Atlas Mountains makes a wonderful place for trekking holidays where you particularly find a lot of mountains to climb like Mount Toubkal, M’goun Mountains, Jbel Ayachi and Lalla Khedidja.
Accommodations if you're staying -
- Ever since the legendary Kasbah Du Toubkal was introduced, the Atlas Mountains have built a reputation for indulgent and stylish hotels. Whilst it is more expensive, the excellent terraces, lounges and views pull together to create a superb stay.
- Kasbah Bab Ourika stands out for pure indulgence and majestic situation.
- Douar Samra wins the charm award hands down with a wonderfully earthy rambling village property.
- There are hotels are clustered around three broad areas, the Ourika Valley, Ouirgane and Imlil. Ourika Valley is an incredibly picturesque valley but is much more densely populated and heavily frequented by tourist coaches with less good walking options. If you are keen on walking then the Imlil area is recommended by most. The scenery has a dramatic effect, along with cooler temperatures and the village is at the heart of a wonderful network of walking trails.
Harbin is world famous for its largest ice and snow sculpture festival during January. There are participants from every nook and cranny of the world to exhibit their enormous sculptures of snow and ice. Songhua River and nearly all the parks in Harbin are the venues of the festival. This part of China is known for its temperatures dropping below -20 °C, which makes the ideal weather for this festival. As the coldest city in the most northern China, Harbin’s winter is dry, cold and coupled with a longer period of snow covering. You can also spend some nights in beautiful China's Snow Town, skiing in Yabuli, fishing or ice sailing on Songhua River, ice lantern watching, ice and snow sculptures-seeing or experiencing an adventure among the Siberian tigers and more. In its dining field, there is the mixture of Russian style and Chinese style. In Harbin, the "Zhongyang Street" and the "Huanghe Road" are the two centralized dining places.
To look out for -
- Skating is a characteristic sport in Harbin. One important difference of skating from other cities of China is - the playing field is moved to the ice surface.
- Snow falls early in Harbin and around many ski resorts in Harbin. Yabuli Ski Resort (the best and most convenient place to try downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and other winter activities), Yabuli Sunshine Holiday Village Ski Resort, Longzhu Erlongshang Ski Resort, Harbin Institute Of Physical Education Skifield, Jihua Changshou Mountain Ski Resort, Pingshan Shenlu Ski Resort are some of Harbin's most popular ski areas.
- There are many snow bikes and ice-sailings available for rent in the park or on the Songhua River.
- Winter in Harbin provides you with many opportunities to experience and witness new things such as winter swimming by the local elderly. It is a sport that requires precaution, specialized training and adequate warm-up
- Even though many might profoundly deny it and no matter how old you are, building a snowman is what everyone absolutely loves to do. With the extremely low temperature and the blanket of snow, you can enjoy building a snowman with your friends or family. Along with making snow angels and snowball fighting. These are activities that never get old!
- The best place to enjoy hiking is China's Snow Town, where you can hike through the beautiful forests, villages and valleys.
- Fishing is quite famous around Harbin. You can catch Catfish, Pseudorasbora parva, Lumpfish, Dace almost everywhere the Songhua River.
- A must have experience when visiting Harbin, is the Siberian Tiger Park. It is a one-time experience where you can get up close and personal with Tigers! During the visit, you will be caged in a specially protected bus or jeep to linger through the fierce tigers to appreciate the exhilarating and breathtaking panorama.
- Snowmobiling in Harbin is as famous as any other winter sport. There are marked trails for independent trips on snowmobiles around the city. You can contact travel agents or your hotel manager to arrange such trip.
- The people of Harbin don't hibernate over winter. They create reasons to get out and enjoy the outdoors. One way is with Spring Festival and Lantern Festival, which occur across the country. The two festivals are celebrated in the first month of the traditional Chinese calendar (usually in Feb.). During the festivals, you can see the locals perform Yangko dance or dragon dance in the streets or villages.
Just because its winter and you don't like the cold weather, it doesn't mean you have to miss out on such an adventure! Explore all these destinations and create a mystical and enchanting time for yourself. It will be a memory to last a lifetime. Get out in the cold, drink hot cocoa, and enjoy the snow as if it’s the last thing you would do and I can guarantee that you will have a great time! Live your life and feel alive. Experience everything it has to offer. So pack a bag, don your scarves and gloves and prepare for the best experience, 'cause winter is coming ;)