7 Winter Vacations That Are Better Than the Beach

Neuschwanstein Castle

 Photo: Yury Slobodyanyuk

We often refer to winter as a season to be endured, but there's a certain magic to the colder months. Leaves shimmy in the icy breeze, powder-white snow carpets the landscape, and once-familiar towns are transformed into almost unrecognizable winter wonderlands. The chilly conditions might make you and your significant other want to stay indoors and hibernate, but a few stunning destinations prove that winter is the best season to be on a snow-filled vacation.

From husky-led snow safaris and cross-country skiing to wandering the intricate interior of a fairytale-like castle covered in snow, these destinations come alive with a host of activities and events.

Believe us, you've never seen the deserts of Sedona, the lakes of Banff National Park, or picturesque peaks surrounding Lake Bled like this before. Unearth your scarf and gloves because your next winter vacation beckons. Keep scrolling to start planning a trip to one of these dreamy, snow-covered destinations.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle
Photo: Yury Slobodyanyuk

If Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle looks familiar, that's because you've probably seen it before in one of the most classic love stories. The breathtaking structure was the inspiration behind Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty castle. Nearly 6,000 visitors flock to the castle in the summer months, but in winter, it looks even more like a fairytale palace—minus the crowds.

Located in southwest Bavaria, the turrets of the Romanesque Revival castle peek through snow-covered pine forest. Book your stay in a nearby town like Fussen or Hohenschwangau and explore the surrounding area for a postcard-perfect shot of the castle nestled among the rolling Bavarian Alps.

Lapland

Lapland
Irén Udvarházi

It's about to get much easier to travel to Finland's northernmost region, Lapland. Due to increased demand, Finnair has increased capacity to Lapland in the winter months. What's more, it's just a one-hour flight from the country's capital, Helsinki.

During the winter, Lapland is almost completely engulfed in darkness, which might sound like the makings of a fairly uneventful vacation if it weren't for the brilliant light display that casts rainbow hues across the night (and day) sky. January, February, and March are the best months to see the aurora borealis, a natural phenomenon that occurs when electrons collide with the Earth's atmosphere.

Cozy up in one of Lapland's gorgeous boutique hotels (Northern Lights Ranch's glass-ceiling rooms gets our top pick) after a day of dogsledding and reindeer rides at Levi Husky Park.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole

As many as 94% of Yellowstone's three million visitors flood the national park during the summer, making fall and winter the perfect times to experience the breathtaking landscape without a selfie stick obstructing your view.

Add Lamar Valley to your itinerary—the scenery is blanketed in snow, creating the ideal backdrop to spot a wild wolf or wander the silent wood trails in snowshoes. Venture to the National Elk Refuge in nearby Jackson to spot one of the largest elk herds on earth graze against the majestic white peaks of Grand Teton National Park. If you want to indulge a bit, book a suite in the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled
Aleš Krivec

The jewel of the country is Lake Bled, a picturesque town less than an hour's drive from Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana. In July and August, the glistening lake teams with wooden rowboats and local children splashing in the shallows, but come winter, it undergoes a mesmerizing transformation.

A true winter wonderland, Lake Bled becomes breathtakingly silent and still, punctured only by a medieval castle perched on an island at its center. Snow sport fanatics should plan a trip to the Julian Alps, a lesser-known but equally beautiful resort region that rivals its Austrian neighbor.

Banff National Park

Banff National Park
Aidan Campbell

Banff National Park is a truly breathtaking site in Canada that's often featured on lists of the most beautiful natural places in the world. While many cold-climate destinations adopt an attitude that winter should be endured, Banff and Lake Louise come alive when the thermostat dips, with a monthlong Snow Days festival, ice skating, and cross-country skiing events. Be sure to add Moraine Lake to your must-see list—the glass-like water reflects the snowcapped Valley of Ten Peaks, creating a stunning mirror-like effect.

Mont-Tremblant

Mont-Tremblant
Fairmont Tremblant

Quebéc's Mont-Tremblant is more than just a ski resort; the quaint town has mastered the après-ski scene, with lively bars, boutiques, and cafés to keep non-skiers busy all day. Spend time perusing the picturesque, colorful town to sample crêpes and poutine before visiting bustling bar Le P'tit Caribou to toast to the holidays.

If you're planning a trip for the tail-end of winter, time it to coincide with Snow Polo Tremblant, a fabulous international polo tournament held in March.

Sedona

Sedona
Sue Cosens

The standard postcard shot of Sedona, Arizona, usually portrays a scorching dust-red landscape, but for a few rare days in winter, the iconic mountains are dusted in a thin layer of snow. Even if you miss the awe-inspiring sight, there's still much to do in Sedona during winter. The climate is mild, and the skies are usually startling blue with a few scattered clouds, making it the perfect place to wander trails, take a road trip, or marvel at millions of glinting stars in the clear night sky.

Related Stories