The World's Coldest Vacations
These destinations will give you the chills—in more ways than one.
As the colder weather quickly approaches, many of us plan winter vacations to tropical destinations as a short, sunny reprieve during those few brutal months. But, why not embrace the cold? Some of the world's coolest spots happen to be below freezing and have chilling one-of-a-kind experiences you can't get sitting under a palm tree. From plunging into the icy depths of Iceland’s tectonic plates to partaking in a dog-sled safari, these are some of the best winter travel ideas you should try.
Visit the Langjokull ice tunnel
Seeing a glacier from a boat or plane is spectacular, but actually being inside of one is otherworldly. Tours offered by places like Extreme Iceland take an eight-wheel-drive monster truck up to the ice cap of Europe's second largest glacier where the man-made ice tunnel begins. Inside you'll chase blue ice and see the heart of a quickly fading natural formation.
Retreat to the Japanese slopes
Forget the Rockies or the Alps, Japan is home to some of the most spectacular skiing during the peak season of January to April. Mount Naeba is the place to hit the slopes, known for its powder and world’s longest gondola, which spans the 35-piste terrain. And after a long day in the mountains, you can head to the natural hot springs to soothe sore muscles.
Take a dog-sled safari
While safaris in the African bush take place in 4-wheeled vehicles, in Scandinavia, canines power your ride. Husky Tours offers a variety of treks through the snow-covered forest of Swedish Lapland, from a day trip to a week-long one where you can cover up 75 miles in just a couple of days. You'll be provided warm clothes and overnight accommodations in the wilderness alongside the hardworking pups.
Stay in an igloo
Get an authentic igloo experience without having to rough it by staying at the Hotel Kakslauttanen and Igloo Village above the Arctic Circle in Saariselka, Finland. Each luxury thermal glass cabin comes complete with cozy accommodations where you can watch the Northern Lights dance above you while laying in bed. But, if you're still feeling the chill, the world's largest smoke sauna is also one site to warm you up.
Bike the Patagonian Peaks
Trek via bicycle to Perito Moreno with bespoke travel company Black Tomato to absorb the azure ice formations and wait for the epic crack of icebergs breaking off and crashing into the icy depths below. You can extend your Argentinean glacier cycling quest by taking on the peaks of the Fitz Roy Valley or ice climbing in the Viedma Glacier.
Discover the Antarctica tundra
Making the trek to the southern most part of our earth is tricky, but for those who do, amazing wildlife and scenery await. As it’s nearly impossible to fly there, you have to take a boat like Crystal Cruises, where you’ll set sail off the coast of Argentina and head through enchanting (and sometimes rough) spots like Drake Passage and Paradise Bay. Once you set foot in the snowy paradise, there are excursion options like cross-country skiing or riding in a 4x4 to discover penguin colonies.
Party on a frozen lake in Mongolia
The Tsaatan people make the most of extreme conditions by hosting an annual winter festival in late February on the frozen-over Lake Hovsgol. You can watch horse sledge races, tug-of-war competitions, and anklebone-shooting contests all while enduring up to -20 degree weather. It's difficult to get to, but several touring companies offer transportation options to navigate the often-tricky route.
Stay in a historic winter wonderland
Bled, Slovenia could be ripped out of the pages of a storybook with its picturesque lake, island-situated church and medieval castle all surrounded by soaring mountain peaks, and the winter snow makes it that much more enchanting. A stay here can be as active or relaxing as you want—Bled is known for both its luxury health spas and cross-country skiing opportunities.
Hike to an ice cave
You don't have to travel far from the United States to experience unique winter adventures. The Apostle Island ice cave is located along the shores of Lake Superior bordering Wisconsin, and, depending on ice conditions, can be visited by walking about a mile across the frozen Great Lake. The walk alone is exhilarating, but once inside the cave you'll see a “fairyland of needle-like icicles," according to the National Park Service.