For most travelers, a sunny and sandy destination is the ideal place for a vacation. While beach destinations and city destinations have the highest profile amongst travelers, they are not the only option for travelers seeking a little bit of excitement. In fact, some of the most interesting travel destinations are actually nothing like the tropical paradises that many people flock to every year. For those who don’t mind a little bit of cold, certain snowy places can actually be much more attractive than warmer, sunnier travel options.
Don’t mind packing your parka when you go out on vacation? Here are some amazingly interesting and beautiful cold weather destinations that belong on every scenery-seeker’s and adventure-lover’s itinerary.
Parts of Iceland are not as frigid as the country’s name might suggest. Thanks to a temperate climate, the winters are actually comparable to those in New England and Eastern Canada (that meas that they are cold, but not arctic). However, winter gear is necessary, especially if you want to explore the wild, glacier-filled interiors of this unique land. Hot springs, beautifully rugged coastline, active volcanos, and friendly, welcoming local people have long made Iceland a popular spot for in-the-know adventure travelers. Whale watching and other nature-themed activities are also on Iceland’s menu, as are low-key activities like strolling around the charming capital city of Reykjavik.
Alaska is a vast land that is unlike any other state in the US. Much of the mountainous, forested interior of this northern-most state is completely uninhabited and lacks even basic transportation infrastructure. Local people usually commute by bush-plane. This makes Alaska a natural wonderland, filled with unbothered wildlife and amazingly wild landscapes. Yes, much of the state lies above the Arctic Circle, so temperatures can be absolutely freezing in the winter, and downright cold the rest of the year as well. But anyone who can overcome the temperatures (easy to do if you are properly outfitted and part of a well-run tour) will get to enjoy a very unique land that is filled with natural attractions.
This understated nation in the eastern part of Scandinavia is undeniably cold. Its long, dark winters are a bit foreboding, but a surprisingly welcoming culture and amazing natural landscapes make Finland a great cold weather destination. Helsinki is a charming city that has a good nightlife scene and some interesting restaurants, shops, and museums as well. This is a great place to see the famous Northern Lights as well as indulge in just about any type of winter sports activity from snowmobiling to dog-sledding to cross-country skiing.
Russian Far East
Despite the break-up of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago, Russia remains a huge nation. Though most people associate the country with its heavily populated western regions, Russia actually stretches all the way across northern Asia. The sparsely inhabited and amazingly scenic Russian Far East is home to volcanos, hot springs, giant bears and endless pine forests. The Kamchatka Peninsula is a large region that has only 400,000 inhabitants, almost all of whom are located in a few large towns. This means that most of the area is wilderness. And what a wilderness it is! Volcanos, hot springs, glaciers and grizzly bears make this one of the wildest places in the world to explore.
Antarctica sits at the bottom of the world. Much of the continent is off limits to tourists – it is simply too hard to reach unless you are part of a well-funded expedition. Only scientists and explorers spend more than a couple hours in the continent’s interior. However, more than a dozen companies offer cruises that visit the islands and iceberg-filled seas that characterize the seventh continent. Most of these cruises pass ice shelves and islands and then land on the shores of the continent itself for a brief trek. These cruises generally only take place during the summertime. Even then, full wintertime gear is a necessity, especially for travelers who expect to set foot on the continent itself.