Believe it or not, some places revered for their spectacular spring flowers, hot summer scenes, and vibrant fall leaves become even more beautiful as winter rolls in.
While fleeing the cold can be tempting, these winter wonderlands might change your mind. So bundle up and get that passport ready!
It’s time to embrace the magic of snowy seasons around the world.
Queenstown, New Zealand
The truth is, Queenstown is a beautiful place to visit any time of year. But those who know it best will tell you, it reaches its picturesque pique during the winter months (May to September).
If you need more reason to visit in winter, Queenstown is home to some of the best skiing and snowboarding New Zealand has to offer.
Looking to mingle? The Queenstown Winter Festival takes place between June and July. This annual event celebrates “all there is to love about the snowy season.” Many locals say it’s the most lively three days you’ll ever sign up for.
Plitvice National Park, Croatia
The only thing dreamier than stumbling upon sixteen turquoise lakes cascading into each other is seeing those same historic waterfalls fully frozen.
Known primarily for this jaw-dropping sight, Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of Croatia’s biggest selling points. In winter, it’s almost deserted, which only adds to the silently majestic power of these frozen falls and the icy lakes below.
Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan
Have you ever wanted to watch monkeys warming up in hot springs? For about four months out of the year in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, there’s one area you can do just that.
Jigokudani Monkey Park is believed to be the only place on earth you can witness this one-of-a-kind sight.
During winter, this snowy locale offers the perfect hot springs for snow monkeys. They’re famous for coming to the valley, taking a dip, and chilling throughout the day. When you’re done staring at these elusive locals, you can make your way to the rocky hillside and witness steam vents shooting hot steam high into the sky.
The medieval old town of Tallinn is famously enchanting all year long, but during Estonia’s notably long winter, it takes whimsical wonder to the next level.
Make your way up to Toompea Castle. The ancient site sits atop a limestone hill and overlooks the snow-white trees below. As you continue to walk around Estonia’s Capital, you’ll inevitably end up in Raekoja Plats. This eight-century-old town square is home to many merchants, bars, festivals, and concerts.
Banff National Park, Canada
Of all the must-see attractions of Banff National Park, Moraine Lake is definitely the main sight to visit, especially during the colder months.
In Canada’s first national park, this glacial lake’s piercing blue waters are pristine and untouched, vividly reflecting the snowcapped Valley of the Ten Peaks. Over three million visitors come here every year to hike, bike, ski, camp, and take in some of Canada’s most breathtaking winter terrain.
Richmond Park, UK
If you’re going to London’s biggest park, do yourself a favor and book your flight for the winter.
At 2500 acres, Richmond Park is three times the size of NYC’s Central Park, and there are far more naturally occurring wonders to take in. On this internationally important wildlife reserve, watch wild deer gallop by in the snow and feel yourself suddenly transported to the English countryside of a bygone era.
When the snow falls for those few days in London, locals know the largest royal park is where you want to be.
Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
In the Los Glaciares National Park, you’ll find one of only three Patagonian glaciers that continues to grow.
Located near the Chilean border, it’s three miles wide and reaches about 558 feet beneath the water. Tourists can also explore a nearby glacier cave or take a boat tour to get an up-close glimpse of the colossal blue ice. And as you might imagine, there’s no better time to see it than winter.
Frequently voted one of the prettiest villages in the world, Hallstatt is Austria’s crowned jewel of tiny lakeside towns.
This historically protected place is postcard-worthy any time you go. But when the nearby Salzburg Mountain becomes blanketed in snow, it almost doesn’t look real.
Here are 5 things to do for a magical time in Hallstatt.
Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany
If you’re a Disney fan, this 19th-century castle might look familiar. It’s possible you saw it once upon a dream.
Schloss Neuschwanstein actually inspired the castle in Sleeping Beauty. Located high up on a hill in southwest Bavaria, this romanticized structure is said to be most magical during winter, when the forest is dusted in snow and a soft fog fills the air.
Whitefish, Montana, USA
Whitefish is a quaint ski town ideal for those who want to get away from it all. For those looking for something a bit more lively, there are plenty of shops and a popular ski resort on Big Mountain worth checking out too.
But for those just looking to take in the beauty of winter, the scenic views of the mountains reflected in the state lake are hard to beat.
One of the biggest draws is the Whitefish Winter Carnival, where all are invited to “celebrate winter, Whitefish style.” This Whitefish-style celebration includes the lesser-known and wild winter sport of skijoring.
Atlas Mountains, Morocco
When you think of Africa, I’m sure winter is not the first thing that springs to mind. But that’s what makes this tourist hotspot so special.
From November to April, the Atlas Mountains see total snow cover the higher up you go.
Locals and tourists tend to agree, Mount Toubkal reaches its most captivating pinnacle during the winter. But to see this winter wonder in its true glory, you’ll have to climb to the 4167-meter summit first.
Lake Baikal, Russia
Obviously, Russia in the winter is not known for being pleasant. But unique wonders like this one can make braving the frigid atmosphere totally worth it.
Lake Baikal, known by natives as the “Sacred Sea,” transforms into a massive and mystical tourist attraction in winter.
As the world’s deepest and oldest freshwater lake, it’s frequented year-round. But this time of year, the sapphire blue water becomes a 12,200-square-mile ice rink. There’s dog-sledding to watch and snowmobiling tours available. You can even go ice diving and rafting in certain areas.
Fun fact: Those beautiful bubbles below are actually methane gas produced by algae.
In the summertime, Lapland is the land of 24-hour sun. But winter changes everything. From January through March, much of Finland is engulfed in darkness. Visiting at this time might sound unappealing, but thanks to the Northern Lights, it’s the place to be.
During Lapland winters, Aurora borealis swirls around the night sky. If you’re looking for a little more action, there’s also dog sledding, ice fishing, and telemark skiing — all beloved by tourists and locals alike.
Prague, Czech Republic
Europe is revered for its tourist-friendly Christmas scene, and that’s perhaps most true in Prague. Many say it’s the most beautiful and festive winter cityscape you’ll ever encounter.
Winter lasts from December through February, with January being the coldest. Not only is traveling to this fairy tale town in the chillier months arguably more beautiful, it’s definitely cheaper. Surrounded by snow-topped roofs, explore the old cobblestone streets without the crowds, find great deals on all Christmas shopping on every corner, and stop in for a Kielbasa somewhere along the way.
Yellowstone National Park, USA
No matter when you go to Yellowstone, there’s no shortage of spectacular sights to see. But in winter, some special things take place as the snow starts to fall.
As the majestic mountains become covered in a thick layer of snow, the famous Yellowstone bison migrate to the valleys below. Wildlife lovers will really get their money’s worth. Along with bison, bears, elk, wolves, and the pronghorn antelope all start to make eye-level appearances.
Also, the Rainbow Hot Springs never look cooler than when they’re fully surrounded by bright white snow.
If you’re planning a trip to Harbin, plan to go in January. You’ll catch the largest ice and snow sculpture festival in the world.
People travel from all over the planet to create and ogle these enormous and imaginative ice designs. But brace yourself for the cold. This area of northeastern China can go from cool to ice-cold in an instant, with temperatures suddenly dropping below -20°C in the winter.
Even if you’re not going to China anytime soon, do yourself a favor and look into these out-of-this-world ice sculptures.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
When you see Lake Bled in winter, you’ll barely believe your eyes. In the alpine Upper Carniolan region of Slovenia, this magnificent lake in the Julian Alps adjoins the tiny tear-shaped island of Bled. And it’s just like something out of a fairytale.
You can lap the entire lake in about an hour, but the photo ops will probably make you stop pretty often. Check out Bled Island’s incredibly ornate Church of the Assumption, which magically appears to float in the middle of it all. Then trot over to Bled Castle, the oldest castle in all of Slovenia.
Just remember to bring your snowshoes!
The Gullfoss waterfall is in the canyon of the Hvítá river and its fed by Langjökull, the second largest glacier in all of Iceland. It’s striking in summer, but nothing is more impressive than its transformation during wintertime.
Surrounded by rocks gathering pure white snow and sparkling ice, the partially frozen water turns unimaginably vibrant shades of blue and turquoise.
Frankly, there’s not much more to do than marvel at these frozen waterfalls, but all who visit say their undisturbed natural beauty makes the trip well worth it.
Midway, Utah, USA
There’s not usually a lot going on in Midway. But that all changes in the winter.
Located just west of Heber City, this little town really comes into its own in the colder months. There’s an endless array of gorgeous snow-covered sights, skiing, horse-drawn sleds, and thanks to a geothermal caldera, you can go scuba diving in 90-degree water all winter long.
But there’s one tourist attraction that’s a cut above the rest.
Beneath a blanket of stars, these award-winning ice castles are built annually by teams of artists who hand-place each icicle. The massive LED-lit sculptures include frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, icy slides, fountains, and more.
Those who come to see these winter wonders can explore each intricate structure, made with 20 million pounds of ice, and then stick around for the must-see, icicle-surrounded fire show.