Seasonal Spots: Essential Winter Destinations

It’s official: winter is here. Despite being one of the less popular seasons in which to travel, winter brings with it a plethora of vacation possibilities it’s simply a question of adapting your perspective. It’s not all frozen lakes and bleak tundras, either; late, lingering sunshine transforms many holiday destinations into off-season marvels, just waiting to be rediscovered. Quieter than other times of year, winter makes for the perfect occasion to discover international metropolises and charming villages. But where to make your first stop? We’ve got a few ideas to share.

Not afraid of the cold? Make Sweden your winter travel destination of choice. Boasting some of the most spectacular natural wonders anywhere in the world, Sweden is a country that really comes to life during the colder months, and it’s worth seeing the place up close. If you’re feeling brave, try heading to Abisko, the most northerly spot you can reach in Europe by train. While December and January might be the darkest months, that darkness, coupled with Abisko’s northern latitude, makes it one of the best places to catch the ever elusive aurora borealis. Head to one of the spectacular national parks and take in the view; there’s nothing quite like it anywhere in the world.

Northern lights over Abisko.

Late winter sun more your thing? Athens makes for the perfect travel spot. Quieter in winter, the capital city really comes into its own in the off season, showing off its resplendent history without a bevy of tourists milling about. The temperature is pleasantly moderate and the ancient ruins are remarkably still. With locals going about their everyday lives, you’re also guaranteed an authentic experience in Greece’s capital city, so go all out. Hit the local market, check out that bar at the end of the street, and go for a stroll in the late afternoon sun; there’s nothing like a city in the off season. 

The Acropolis, Athens.

The Parthenon, Athens.

For those who are truly serious about seeking sunshine, heading to the Southern hemisphere might be more ideal, providing guaranteed sun and soaring temperatures. Boasting warm weather and silky, soft beaches during the winter months, Costa Rica is always a good idea at this time of the year. Head to San José, the capital of the island, if you’re on the hunt for something a little more active and vibrant. A cosmopolitan city if there ever was one, San José offers up plenty of cafés and terraces, perfect for whiling away those lazy afternoons. More of a beach person? Try visiting the Irazù volcano. An excellent hiking spot, the volcano offers a breathtaking vista of both the Pacific ocean and Caribbean sea.

The crater of the Irazù volcano.

The San José skyline.

Eerily quiet in the off season, Venice is almost hauntingly beautiful when it is emptied of its tourists. Misty and moody, the floating city takes on a new kind of character when the seasons change. If, however, you’re in the market for something a little more bustling, you can try heading to the city in February for the world-famous Carnevale. Locals and tourists alike go all out for the event, donning intricately decorated costumes and masks. While you can simply drink in the atmosphere, you might also want to attend a costumed dance. Get yourself dressed up to the nines and enjoy an unforgettable evening.

The waterways of Venice.

Masked revellers at Carnevale.

The stuff of fantasies, the Thai islands are also best visited during the winter months. With soaring temperatures and gentle waters, the islands each offer up something unique, so it’s worth doing your homework beforehand. While Koh Samui is home to a whole range of luxury spas, Koh Lipe offers up great beaches just waiting to be discovered. Koh Lanta Yai is perhaps the most chilled out spot all, housing miles of untouched beaches and unspoiled views. 

Koh Lanta Yai.

The beaches of Ko Lanta.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.