Whenever the cold weather swings around, our travel daydreams tend to fluctuate between two very different types of vacations: winter wonderlands and tropical beaches. Some days, we envision a ski vacation or trip to a snow-covered European village, and other days we start planning our next beach trip while scorning the sub-zero temperatures. Repeat that cycle about 50 times, and that pretty much sums up what our lives look like from December through March every year. If you experience these dueling pangs of wanderlust, then you’re in luck—we’ve rounded up 30 of the best winter vacations, divided equally between cold- and warm-weather destinations, for you to dream about visiting next winter. Because who says you have to choose just one?
This article was last published in December 2019. It has been updated with new information.
- Old Faithful geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring, but truly, every single acre of the park is worth seeing in person. Visit during the winter to avoid the crowds and see the landscapes fill with steam from the thermal features.
- Necker Island is arguably the most famous, freshly reconstructed with an emphasis on sustainability.
- Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until summer of 2021—but winter is prime time to beat the crowds and head to the island nation for a ski adventure in Nagano instead. Hakuba, just outside of the city in the northern alps, is one of the country’s best all-round ski destinations. Then ease any aches and pains after a day on the slopes with a visit to one of the region’s onsens—start at Shirahone Onsen, with its milky white water loaded with magnesium and calcium—and refuel with bowls of the buckwheat soba noodles famous in this part of Japan.
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- St. Maarten has come to be known as the place to really get away from it all. Shoal Bay, the island’s most famous beach, offers soft sand, clear waters, non-touristy bars and restaurants, and private resorts (like the beautiful Altamer Resort, perfect for multiple families; or Zemi Beach House for the ultimate work-from-home hideaway) that help you get on island time without having to worry about crowds.
- Greenland is icy, mysterious, and one of the most naturally beautiful places on the planet. The world’s biggest non-continental island is so much more than glaciers (although the glaciers are spectacular)—think magnificent fjords, colorful villages, and fields of sheep.
- Chiang Mai is a city surrounded by misty mountains, golden temples, and verdant rice terraces—all with a climate that rarely dips below 60 degrees. During the city’s Flower Festival, held every February in Suan Buak Hat public garden, every street in the old city are covered in flowers and plants for three days.
- cozy cousin to the Alps’ glitzy ski towns. The area’s powdery slopes can be accessed via the 86-mile Great Dolomites Road, one of the world’s most beautiful alpine drives—and a perfect day trip from Venice.
- Atacama Desert to stargaze with astronomers, or pass through Chile’s vineyards to get to the colorful, coastal town of Valparaíso. The city is arguably one of the most scenic hubs in the country, with lollipop-colored homes staggered along the 22 hills that rise from the Pacific Coast.
- best ski resorts in the North America) has become a go-to resort for high-quality ski and snowboard hills. With 8,171 acres of skiable terrain, there’s easily enough ground to keep you on new trails through the six-month regular season. Runs offer a wide range of difficulty levels, making this the perfect place for beginners, adrenaline junkies, and everyone in between.
- nation is bursting at the seams with charm. St. Kitts, the larger of the two, is best first explored on an open-air train along the south coast. Nevis is almost perfectly round with gentle slopes rising to the peak of its dormant volcano.
- Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region, and probably one of the most idyllic winter scenes you’ll ever come across. There aren’t many places where you can visit Santa Claus, take a reindeer sleigh ride, or sleep under the Northern Lights in a bubble sled—but Lapland lets you do all three.
- islands of Hawaii. Home to eight national parks, more than 400 beaches, and countless scenic hikes, the state is a gold mine of staggering natural beauty.
- Bergen has all the makings of an idyllic Nordic village: colorful wooden buildings, scenic harbor, and sweeping views of the surrounding fjords. The town looks beautiful in the summer, sure, but it’s during the winter months that you get to view the Northern Lights during their peak season. If you’re going to be freezing up in Scandinavia, you might as well get to cross an astronomical item off your bucket list.
- Lisbon has long been one of the most underrated cities in Europe, but it looks like the secret is out. Take in the coastal views, historic architecture, and pastéis de nata and you’ll see what we mean.
- New York City Christmas. Already experienced those cherished traditions like the Rockefeller Tree, the Rockettes, ice skating in Central Park, or The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center? Follow our guide to make a few of your own.
- Miami in early December for Art Basel Miami Beach, a glittering, four-day confab (scheduled for December 2 to 5 in 2021) that lures both fashionistas and the arterati—but there are plenty of reasons to visit beyond that. Namely? A booming hotel and design scene, and the arrival of a slew of big-deal international restaurants like Italy’s Le Sirenuse and Uruguay’s Quinto La Huella.
- four huge ski areas—some at an altitude of over 10,000 feet, so snow here lingers for a very long season. This enchanting Alpine village lies at the foot of the Matterhorn, Switzerland’s most famous mountain, and has plenty of modern touches, like its state-of-the-art lift system and swanky après-ski diversions.
- this island in the Indian Ocean, thanks to its “underwater waterfall”—a visually stunning runoff of sand and silt best viewed from above. Roughly 550 miles east of Madagascar, Mauritius may also be home to a lost continent hiding beneath the waves.
- hygge (basically the Danish concept of “coziness”), you better believe your winter vacation is going to be aces. That feeling can be found throughout Copenhagen, from pastry shops to inviting hotels.
- winter getaway. Instead of staying in Puerto Vallarta, though, head north to the quieter, more upscale Riviera Nayarit. It has all the natural wonder and beauty familiar to regular visitors to the region—200 miles of pristine shoreline and sunshine for 90 percent of the year against a backdrop of the Sierra Madre mountains.
- Stowe Mountain Lodge, is a self-contained adventure destination, where snowboarding, ice climbing, cross-country skiing, and, of course, excellent skiing are on the agenda.
- misty waterfalls, deserted beaches, and protected jungles. In fact, more than a quarter of Costa Rica enjoys some form of environmental protection. November is arribada season, when 20,000 sea turtles appear for their annual, large-scale nesting on the beaches of Tamarindo and Playa del Coco along the Pacific coast.
- Prague was beautiful in the summer, just wait until you see it during the month of December: The city’s Gothic architecture provides the perfect backdrop for savoring sugary pastries and roasted ham, warming up on mulled wine, and indulging in some major holiday shopping. Prague’s main Christmas markets take place in the Old Town and Wenceslas squares, which are conveniently just five minutes apart by foot. Aside from the aforementioned food and beverages, the markets are filled with traditional Czech goods and ornaments, and marked by a frenzy of holiday carols and lights.
- beautiful black-sand beaches) more than make up for it. The island of Gran Canaria, just off northwestern Africa, is said to have the best climate in the world.
- natural wonder of Iceland, with black volcanic sands providing a stark backdrop for the chunks of ice that wash ashore. Find it on a road trip around the island, about five hours east of Reykjavik.
- Cape Town‘s restaurant, hotel, and nightlife scenes—which rival major European and American metropolises—are at their best. Plus, it’s growing season in South Africa’s winelands, from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek to Swartland, all of which are just a short road trip away.
- Hotel Goldener Hirsch.
- city Colombo and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- In the winter, rise early to take in the rosy glow of sunrise from Zabriskie Point and hike through the mustard-hued walls of Golden Canyon, before lounging poolside at the freshly updated Inn at Death Valley.
- Gilberto Mesquita/AlamyIlha Grande, BrazilIlha Grande is still in the state of Rio de Janeiro, but step one foot on its wild beaches or sail its crystal clear waters, and it’s easy to feel a world away from the bustling capital city. Development restrictions on Ilha Grande mean the rainforests filled with sloths, monkeys, toucans, and macaws are preserved, and there’s just as much to see under the water, too. Magellanic penguins even visit the island, thanks to the unique convergence of currents in the area that also brings humpback whales, orca, and sea turtles.