So I’m sitting at my desk at my home in Cape Town, South Africa where temperatures are rising to the low 30’s and summer is not even close to finished.
“To help me cool down I have compiled a list of some of the most beautiful winter getaways in the world.”
So button up, grab your earmuffs and head on over to the Northern Hemisphere and the snowy wonderlands that await you there.
Thermal Baths in Budapest, Hungary
Dubbed the Paris of Eastern Europe, a week’s trip to this beautiful city dating back to the 9th century can show you exactly why. It is one of the few cities in the world that is built around hot springs – almost every time a building was under construction a thermal spring was discovered underneath. The hot baths were enjoyed for centuries by Romans and the Turkish, now locals and tourists still flock to the baths in the thousands every day.
One of the most famous and architecturally most beautiful hot baths are the Szechenyi baths. It was first opened in 1913 and was built in Neo-Baroque style. It is a small wonder that millions are continuing to stream through their doors, 105 years later. The best time to visit the spas in Budapest is in winter when your central heating at home will just not cut it and you wish to rest your tired body. I recommend visiting the baths at the end of your stay in this amazing city as there are many extraordinary sights and you will be very tired at the end. But you had the most spectacular winter vacation in beautiful Budapest.
Click here for an awesome guide to the baths of Budapest.
Pyeongchang Ice Fishing Festival in Jinbu, South Korea
Every winter time between December and February you can attend South Korea’s famous trout fishing festival in the town of Jinbu in the Pyeongchang district. This is the same county where the 2018 Olympic games are being held right now. Visitors can partake in a vast number of some extremely hilarious and fun activities including trout ice fishing, traditional Korean ice sledding, ice skating, riding ATV’s in the snow and even barehanded fishing! It is one of the world’s best winter events and reels in hundreds of thousands of festival-goers a year.
It is very well run and has plenty of snow, ice and tons of laughs to make it the perfect winter holiday for the whole family. What makes this chilly festival so appealing is the fact that not only is it extremely entertaining and culturally eye-opening is that the High1 ski resort is only a one-hour bus ride from Jinbu. Make sure to wear appropriate winter boots and bundle up as you may stand or sit on the frozen river for a while fishing for your lunch!
Click here for more information on the festival and Korea.
Plitvice National Park near Zagreb, Croatia
Avid hikers and nature lovers all over the world hear the name of this UNESCO World Heritage site and just get chills, but good ones! Situated in central Croatia, South of the capital Zagreb and bordering with Bosnia & Herzegovina, it is one the most gasp-worthy and tranquil national parks in the world. It is recorded that over 1 million people visit the park annually and is open all year round. The main attractions of the park are the vast amounts of waterfalls, streams and gentle lakes which colours range from beautiful sky-blues, lush greens or light greys. These assembled lakes snake up from a South to North direction and go with the flow, literally!
What makes Plitvice so special though is that it’s ever-changing, due to the steadily growing and re-forming travertine (a type of limestone) barriers that separate the 16 lakes. These “borders” or “steps” between each lake consist of moss, algae and a whole bunch of different bacteria. The constant cascade of water from the lakes do a lot to grow these barriers by 1 cm per year, so the waterfalls change their appearance all the time. The park is gorgeous in any season so you can visit in the less-touristy season and still witness the beauty. You need to keep your whole day open to see everything so pack a picnic lunch and your flask, dress warmly and it’s recommended to take trail K (Čorkova Bay, 21 km) to fully enjoy the whole park and avoid the crowds.
Hiking and ice caving in Alaska
The chilliest state in the USA is also one of the most beautiful, plus chock-a-block full of history and one place definitely worth visiting is Skagway in the Southeast. It is a very popular cruise port with the season starting at the beginning of May to the end of September. The population of the town (just over 1,000) doubles in the summer season to help accommodate the influx of visitors – almost 1 million passengers annually! There are great things to do here every season and for the whole family too, which is a bargain. The hiking trails are a must do item, whale watching is possible in Mid-May to September and so is viewing the Northern Lights that occur every winter and in the fall on cooler nights. Maybe the best time to visit is the end of September as the passengers are gone by then, there are some great deals in the stores, the weather is superb and the fall colours are impossible to resist for nature lovers and photographers.
The Alaskan capital city of Juneau also has a lot to offer, with whale watching, many hiking trails, delicious food and fun bars, the beautiful Tracy Arm fjord and glacier caving. You can go ice caving at the stunning Mendenhall glacier, 19 km away from the city, where Juneau gets its most tourist traffic from. The reason for this can be plainly seen as the glacier is easily accessible and the area boasts several of the best hiking trails in Southeast Alaska. The East Glacier trail is perhaps the most raved-about, with magnificent views of the mountain glacier, glacial lake and Nugget Falls. You better hurry though, as the glacier is slowly retreating due to climate change.
Soaking up the sun and swimming with
sea turtles in The Caribbean Islands
Not all the countries of the Northern Hemisphere have to be freezing cold in the winter. People will be surprised to learn that the best time to visit the Caribbean islands is actually in their “colder” months – which is December to April. If you want to avoid the thousands of tourists that stream in during this time then come during their “shoulder season” which is in May, October and November. And of course, you get some awesome discounts on accommodation and activities as the demand decreases out of season. Remember to book way ahead if you’re going in the high season and if you want to visit in the low season then try to avoid visiting the islands that attract hurricanes. Hurricane season starts from June to November, with September and October being particularly bad. But not all the islands are affected by them, with the Southeastern islands having the fewest number as they are closer to the equator. These islands are the Dutch Caribbean islands of Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba and Barbados in the east.
The Caribbean Sea is dotted with various groups of islands belonging to different countries throughout the world. The U.S. / British Virgin Islands boast some of the most beautiful regions with tons of things to do for couples and families or just a single traveller out looking for stunning views and a good time. One island, in particular, is St. Thomas in the USVI, with its gorgeous beaches, green hills, rich history and natural wonders make it a must visit for travellers who want to escape the cold and snow. Water activities include scuba, snorkel and yachting trips out to Buck Island where you can swim with sea turtles and other graceful marine life. There are some awesome restaurants, cafes and bars all along the natural harbour in the town of Charlotte Amalie, once an anchorage and sanctuary for pirates founded in 1666 as Taphus (translated as “beer house”). Thank goodness that nowadays it is more tranquil and way less frequented by Jack Sparrow and company!