Winter Travel

Winter Travel: 2015

While summer might be the best time to hit the beach, winter travel have something else special about it: There’s magic in the snow. There’s nothing more romantic than huddling together in a cabin in front of the fireplace, and few things are more exciting than skiing down a steep slope.

During winter time, most of the warm-weather touristy crowds vanish from popular destinations and are replaced by lovely Christmas villages and later by hip, bubbly New Year’s celebrations.

National parks and vast wilderness areas also change and these are painted white by the thick blankets of snow, making them more beautiful than ever. Such places usually also offer plenty of winter activities, like skiing, sledding and hiking, which are fun for families, couples as well as young travelers.

Winter can be a tricky time to travel, especially since the holidays bring with them insane fares. Sneak away between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or consider flying on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, as well as the late afternoon and evening on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, those dates are usually much cheaper than any other dates during winter time.

Take a look at our list of the hottest locations for a snowy winter vacation:

Finland:

During winter, there is almost always snow in northern and eastern Finland. Even if there’s little snow in Helsinki, there’s often up to a meter of snow on the skiing slopes of Lapland.

A major attraction in Lapland is the Riisitunturi National Park that is famous for its snowy forests, where trees are covered with frozen snow deposits that give them a stark, otherworldly look. The park has a series of trails that are perfect for hikers.

Riisitunturi National Park, Finland.
The Riisitunturi National Park in Finland looks breathtaking at sunset.

The ‘official’ Santa Claus Village, also located in the arctic circle in Lapland, offers visitors the opportunity to see Santa and his reindeer in their natural environment! It is also one of the best places to buy handicrafts made by the Sámi people, who are local to Lapland.

Further up north, located above the Arctic Circle in Saariselka, is the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. It is home to unique thermal glass igloos that offer some of the best views of the Northern Lights as they illuminate the sky, ice, and snow. Each igloo is built to fit two people and the hotel also provides guests with the traditional hot sauna that is part of the essence of beautiful, cold Finland.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Gaze at the stars at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort.

Sweden:

Did you know that there are about 200 ski resorts in Sweden?
The most popular downhill skiing slopes can be found around Åre, which is about a one hour flight from Stockholm. Åre provides myriad courses, from family-orientated “bunny slopes” to off piste skiing.

Skiing in Sweden is very photogenic

During winter you can also enjoy several safaris that take you through Swedish Lapland’s wilderness, where you can find moose, musk oxen, wolverines, wolves, brown bears and my personal favourites: the beautiful Eurasians lynxes.

But it can make you very tired, that's why this Swedish Lynx stopped to rest.
But it can make you exhausted, which is why this Swedish Lynx stopped to rest on the snow.

For couples, we suggest that you head up to the Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel. Opened in 1990, the Icehotel is rebuilt every year based on designs from various artists, using ice blocks. Here you can drink chilled vodka from frozen ice glasses served in the Absolut Ice Bar, enjoy the elaborate sculptures carved from the ice, or even get married in the Ice Chapel! The hotel also offers winter activities you can enjoy in the surrounding area.

Germany:

Christmas markets decorate the town Squares of most big cities in Germany, and can be found even in smaller, more rural towns.  These markets differ from one another and each has its own unique atmosphere. Most German Christmas markets include decorated stalls heaped with traditional Christmas decorations, toys and gifts, grilled sausages, Christmas biscuits gingerbread as well as the best mulled wine you can possibly find.

Bonn, the former capital of Germany, is well worth a visit during that time, as  from December 1 Bonn really shines both metaphorically and quite literally, as the old town hall is transformed into an enormous Advent calendar which lights up one window each day. 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a very well preserved medieval walled town full of half-timbered houses and cobble streets, is transformed into a winter’s fairytale every Christmass. This market can look back on over 500 years of living heritage that has hardly changed a lot since its historic origins. No fairytale is complete without a castle, and this town is home to a 12th century beautiful castle, that just looks wonderful in the snow.

Rothenburg, Germany
Rothenburg in Germany is a fairytale dream town.

These sound great, right? But don’t forget that these places, especially the Finnish and Swedish wilderness in Lapland tend to get extremely cold.  You have to make sure that you dress appropriately for that weather, and since no winter travel guide could ever be complete without some tips how to keep warm, I’ll share some of these here.

Follow these 12 easy tips and you’re sure to keep warm even in cold, cold Lapland:

  1. Underwear: Long, thermal underwear will keep you warm where it really matters!
  1. Socks: Cotton socks worn under woolen socks, will keep your feet warm and fluffy!
  1. Trousers: Wear loose-fitting, fleece or cotton trousers.
  1. Shirt: A loose-fitting, high collar, cotton shirt or similar would be best.
  1. Sweater: Wear wool, fleece or a similar sweater. 
  2. Coat: Yes, you’ll begin looking like an onion by now, still, this layer will really protect you from the elements. Get a coat made out of a fabric that is windproof.
  1. Hat: The secret for staying warm would be a good hat, which has to cover your ears and the back of your neck, in some nature reserves, you’ll also be given a helmet.
  1. Shoes: Your feet are on the front line of most weather you will encounter. Make sure that your shoes are weatherproof!
  1. Gloves: A good pair of gloves should be weatherproof, allow your hands to breath, dry quickly and have a good grip, just in case.
  2. Scarf: A good scarf will help keep you warm, especially if your doesn’t cover your neck properly.
  3. Sungless:  While they won’t keep you warm, a good pair of polarized sunglasses will protect your eyes. These are needed as even weak winter sunlight can be very rough on your eyes when it’s reflected by the snow.

12. Sunscrean Lotion: Don’t laugh, a windburn or a sunburn from a reflection of sunlight off of snow or ice, is every bit a rival of a summer sunburn.

Watch the video below to make sure you learned how to dress in order to face the elements in the snowy wilderness of Lapland.

We hope we gave you some ideas as to where you should travel to this winter and how you should protect yourself from the elements there.
Feel free to leave a comment asking for more information or suggesting other locations we forgot in any of those countries, or in other countries that did not appear on this list.

Stay warm!
The Stuccu Team

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