When most of us think of travel, we think of summer vacations to sun-soaked exotic beaches. But wanderlust doesn’t take the winter off and, fortunately, there’s no shortage of world locales that look their absolute most majestic during these chillier times. Below, we’ve rounded up six spots we’re confident will have you booking your next plane ticket.
1. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is the largest city in Estonia and its capital, nestled along the Baltic Sea. More importantly, it looks positively stunning in the winter thanks to its wintry powder wonderland and the enduring charm of its old-world heritage. Its gothic town hall was built in the 13th century, as was St. Nicholas Church. Known as the country’s cultural hub, there’s no shortage of quaint shops, historic monuments, and thought-provoking art installations. And the Kiek in de Kök, its 15th-century defensive tower, is quite the sight when it’s blanketed in snow.
2. Lake Bled, Slovenia
Located in the Upper Carniolan region of Slovenia, Lake Bled may not have quite as much to take in as Tallinn but what is there is undeniably beautiful. The lake is a shimmering mirror that reflects the majesty of the surrounding Julian Alps, and smack in the middle is Bled Island and the picturesque Church of the Assumption (it’s thought to be good luck for grooms to carry their wives up the 99 steps of the tower to ring its bell). Also, the nearby Vintgar Gorge holds its own wonders: caves, pools, and cascading waterfalls.
3. Harbin, China
January brings the largest ice and snow sculpture festival on Planet Earth to Harbin—and what better place for it? The temperatures here can drop under -20°C in the winter! Still, if you can brave the blistering cold, you’ll witness astoundingly titanic ice sculptures as well as lantern art, dog sledding, and ice skating.
4. Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstatt has been voted as the “prettiest village in the world” and things get taken up a notch in the late months of the year. Just look at the dang pic—this place is mind-numbingly gorgeous, like something out of a fairytale. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s beautifully framed by the towering Salzburg Mountain in the background.
5. Abisko, Sweden
Photo courtesy US Embassy Sweden
Want to see something special? Travel just north of the Arctic Circle along the southwestern shore of Torneträsk Lake to Abisko. This national park offers a bounty of fauna including reindeer. (Santa, is that you?) More importantly, it also houses the Aurora Sky Station on Mount Nuolja, an observation center for the aurora borealis (northern lights). This is the kind of beauty that makes us wanna cry, fam.
6. Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan
We always like throwing you a bit of a curve ball in these lists and what better way to do so than with monkeys?
Yup. Situated in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, the Jigokudani Monkey Park gets cold af about four months out of the year… but the local snow monkeys know how to handle it. They make a pilgrimage to this valley in the winter and are known to take reinvigorating plunges into its hot springs. Do these monkeys count as “beautiful?” Guess that’s up to the eye of the beholder but the whole thing is totally awesome, isn’t it?