When you travel in the winter, prices are cheaper, places are emptier and the pace is slower, three things that greatly enhance your ability to really absorb the local culture. And for tourists who list natural beauty as one of their priorities for traveling, we’d say winter has just as much to offer as greener months. Snow, ice and bare rock have just as much power to it as sweeping forests and grassland. These are our recommendations for winter vacations you should take right now.
Visiting Salzburg is like taking a complete cross-section of Austrian history. The city was started as a handful of scattered Celtic camps but turned into a single settlement by the Romans after they conquered the area in 15 B.C. Conflict between the Church and Austrian Emperor dots its history as well, and the founding of the Stiegl brewery in 1492 marks the start of a half millennium of beer tourism. Virtually every important event to touch Austria can be explored in the city and since Austrians pride themselves on how they handle the winter months, you might as well take them up on it.
Aurora Borealis in Norway
Norway is the kind of country that seems custom-built for a winter vacation. The country’s dramatic landscaped is enhanced tenfold by a fresh blanket of snow, the food is hearty enough to fill and warm you through a cold day and locals are extraordinarily proud of their regular access to the Aurora Borealis. They’re so proud and eager to share the Northern Lights that an article entitled “Locals best tips to see the northern lights” is legitimately helpful, instead of the normal pandering you’d find on a country’s official tourism website. If you have Norwegians on your Northern Lights viewing vacation, there’s no way you couldn’t succeed.
And before we forget, download the Aurora Borealis forecast app.
Seville is a great place to visit if you’re looking for somewhere to get out of the cold but don’t want to completely make the switch to summer. Temperatures hover around the mid-60s and your chances of having your parade literally rained on are very low. And since Seville is in the southern half of Spain, the parts that experienced the strongest Muslim influences, the uniqueness of the architecture is a huge draw. While you’re there, take a Game of Thrones tour, watch some flamenco and eat as much food as you can.
More than one culture has used a massive festival to stave off winter’s dreariness, and one of the most exciting festivals has to be Vinterjazz in Copenhagen. It spans almost the full month of February and attracts internationally renowned talent, with more jazz and types of jazz and jazz performers than have been in one place since the Harlem Renaissance. That’s all on top of everything that makes Copenhagen a worthwhile place to visit, like the Carlsberg Brewery, boat tours through the canal and a vibrant urban culture.
The main draw of a Mongolian winter vacation is to experience the unparalleled beauty of the steppe, all of it bathed in sunlight. Use Ulaanbaatar as your base of operations, then head out of the city to the Genghis Khan statue, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and Gandan Khiid, all of which you’ll have almost to yourself. You’ll have to bundle up beyond anything you’ve likely experienced since Ulaanbaatar is the world’s second coldest capital, but the Mongolians have been living with the temperatures for centuries. They’ll make sure you survive and are comfortable while you do it. Maybe even fashionable, thanks to Ulaanbaatar’s penchant for attractive cashmere and yak’s wool clothing.