Thinking about planning a winter vacation? Whether you’re looking for a snowy wonderland with opportunities for winter sports, or fun in the sun, there are plenty of great destinations you probably haven’t considered. These are some of the world’s most underrated, for a trip you won’t soon forget.
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Crete, Greece (Hotel Prices & Photos)
There is so much to do in Crete, and it can all be enjoyed in pleasant temperatures year-round. You’ll find scenic mountains for hiking, Minoan ruins for exploring, charming villages, caves, and countless alluring beaches for soaking up the winter sun. There are over 500 beaches on this large Greek Island, many that are wonderfully remote, and in this season you may be able to enjoy some all to yourself. While the water might be a bit too chilly for some to swim, they’re ideal for a stroll or quiet contemplation.
Slovakia (Hotel Prices & Photos)
If you’re looking for an affordable European ski destination, consider Slovakia. This country is very budget-friendly destination and boasts spectacular scenery while also offering world-class skiing and boarding. In fact, more and more have been discovering the delights of a winter getaway in this Central European nation, but it’s still a lot less crowded than what you’ll find in more famous spots like the French and Swiss Alps. Plus, it tends to be more welcoming than some of those more pretentious Alpine slopes too. Jasna is its top ski resort, with its long descents flanked by snow-covered spruce trees among the ruggedly picturesque Tatras Mountains.
Iceland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
While some mistakenly believe Iceland would be miserable in the wintertime, it’s surprisingly mild, comparable to America’s northeast region while offering all sorts of activities and attractions to enjoy. The country is one of the best destinations for witnessing the the colorful northern lights, and winter offers the best chances to see them. You may even be able to witness nature’s light show from one of Iceland’s many geothermal pools, or join a tour that will take you out on a 4×4 in search of the very best sighting. Just a few of the other highlights this time of year include exploring glaciers and ice caves, and experiencing Reykjavik’s hopping nightlife with 18 hours of darkness for having fun after the sun goes down.
Quebec City, Canada (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The biggest and arguably the best winter carnival in all of Canada is hosted in Quebec City, Quebec, making it ideal to plan a winter trip around. It offers a magnificent Ice Palace, slide runs, a zip line, dogsled and sleigh rides, ice skating and colorful night parades. You’ll find plenty of other things to do in the city as well, including strolling the narrow, winding streets of Old Quebec. Lined with impressive historic buildings, they’re especially beautiful under a dusting of snow. Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica, the Citadel. Place Royale, the Plains of Abraham and the Parliament Building while enjoying the artisan shops and cafes in between.
Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand (Hotel Prices & Photos)
As New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere, a visit here allows travelers to advantage of the summer season in the winter. The Marlborough Sounds may not be a familiar name, located on the north end of the South Island, but here you’ll discover an idyllic mix of green hills and serene bays. There are over 50 reserves here, with a wide range of recreational activities to enjoy, including swimming, boating, fishing, diving and kayaking, as well as hiking and mountain biking. Rent a kayak to paddle around the picturesque waterways where curious dolphins and seals are likely to approach, or head out on a hike through the lush forests along the Queen Charlotte Track.
Panama (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Never thought about traveling to Panama? Well, you definitely should. Not only is it a perfect destination to enjoy warm winter weather, but cheap accommodation and few crowds. Unlike busy Caribbean islands and places like Cancun, Panama beaches are unlikely to be overrun with tourists. Bocas del Toro is located along the northwestern Caribbean coast, an archipelago of nine tropical islands offering amazing diving and snorkeling. If you want to enjoy nightlife, check out Casco Viejo, where music can be heard pouring out of countless spots throughout its streets. During the day, sip coffee and enjoy people watching at Plaza Bolivar, browse the markets and take in glorious sunsets from just above Plaza Francia.
Finland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
There’s so much to love about winter in Finland. It may be the definition of a magical winter wonderland, complete with reindeer sleigh rides. In fact, there are more reindeer here than humans. You can may even be able to watch the aurora borealis while gliding through the snow. Sleeping in an igloo is possible at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort where you can see the sky above you – and possibly the colorful light show as well. Other activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and igloo building.
Cannon Beach, Oregon (Hotel Prices & Photos)
There are endless options for winter trips in the U.S. outside of famous places like Aspen or Jackson Hole. Cannon Beach, located on Oregon’s northern coast enjoys fairly mild temperatures and only a rare dusting of snowfall, but it can bring some incredible winter storms that allow visitors to enjoy the roaring sounds of the waves as they crash against the rocky shore. Watch for gray whales that pass just offshore from mid-December to mid-January, or enjoy the weather from a luxurious oceanfront room. During calmer weather, take a stroll across the sand – at low tide it’s often dotted with sand dollars and other treasures. Those storms sometimes bring natural and man-made surprises too, like occasional vintage blown-glass fishing net floats.
Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota (Hotel Prices & Photos)
There are few tourists that head to the Black Hills of South Dakota in the winter, making it an ideal spot for a secluded escape among fabulous winter scenery. Stay in a cozy cabin and enjoy relaxing in front of a roaring fire or head outside into the snow to take part in activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Just minutes away, downhill skiing is available at Mystic Miner and Terry Peak ski resorts, while the famous town of Deadwood is less than a half hour’s drive away offering multiple historic sites, museums and casino gambling as well as a variety of entertainment.