Whether you’re heading out of town with family members to celebrate the holiday season or escaping in search of a restorative vacation after the holidays, travel in winter always seems a bit more magical than any other time of year.
There’s something about a fresh layer of snow that makes everything seem instantly more charming. Perhaps you enjoy snowfall in the city, while shoppers bustle down streets and into cafes. Or maybe at the first sign of flakes, you strap on your skis and head to the nearest mountain.
But, perhaps you fall in the exact opposite camp. Snowbirds who avoid the cold all winter still have plenty of spectacular travel options for the season. Explore ancient palaces or snorkel in little-explored waters, snapping pictures that will make everybody on the slopes jealous.
No matter your winter travel style, we’ve found 10 places on the planet that come alive in winter. Be sure to clear room on your phone, because these cities, parks, regions, and villages will put on their most fantastic displays this season.
Scroll through to discover which 10 destinations will trigger your camera shutter this winter, no matter your style of travel.
Montreal is perhaps one of the most underrated cities in North America. And, although some may find its winter temperatures brutal, a coating of snow is what gives the city its most magical charm. Climb to the top of the city to see it all covered in white and then head back down to the center for some seasonal ice-skating.
Informally, this French town is considered one of the capitals of Christmas. If your Instagram feed is begging for photos of mulled wine, ornamented fir trees, and timber houses that date back hundreds of years, you’ll find it all on the same street here. Get lost in the area known as “La Petite France” for canals, windmills and winding cobblestone alleys. It’s truly Disney-level magic around here.
The village of Lauterbrunnen in the Lauterbrunnen Valley exudes a special kind of Swiss charisma. It’s got the quintessential Swiss chalets built into a mountainside, snow that seems to fall only in perfect powder and a charming main strip with cafes, bars, and boutiques. Oh, and you can walk to a system of waterfalls in less than 30 minutes from the town center.
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Visitors to the Lofoten Islands often comment on the color of the sky in wintertime. When the days are short, the mountains pop against a sky that always seems to be glowing pink. The pastel color scheme—alongside opportunities for spotting the northern lights—make this remote Norwegian destination a must-see for anyone who loves photographing color.
The winter wonderland that is Banff puts any snowglobe to shame. It’s almost otherworldly how dramatic the mountains appear here. The mountain peaks here reach as tall as 11,850 feet. While the mountains are best experienced while you’re on them, be sure to take a step back and admire the landscape in all its majesty from a distance, too.
Buffalo, New York
The snow capital of the US, Buffalo, New York offers quaint tree-lined streets filled with Victorian-era homes and loads of snow from November through March (sometimes even later.) Head to the Allentown and Elmwood Village neighborhoods for beautiful architecture, or to Canalside for sweeping views of the Buffalo River and Lake Erie.
There’s no need to go to the Alps like everybody else. Instead, escape to scenic Northern Italy and the Dolomites. It’s one of Italy’s lesser-visited regions, but it still feels deeply Italian. (Who doesn’t want to eat pizza and pasta while relaxing apres ski?) Like most things in Italy, the mountains appear a bit unruly, twisting into dramatic shapes in the sky that will photograph beautifully.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a snowy fairytale come to life. The historic village has thatched huts that date back more than 250 years. Their unique shape was built to withstand the heavy snowfall in the region—and the extra attic space was often used to cultivate silkworms. Select weekends every winter, the village puts on an illuminated light show at night, bringing the houses beautifully into the 21st century.
This charming town calls itself the gateway to Glacier National Park. It’s got one of those absurdly-picturesque main roads with breweries, restaurants, and jaw-dropping mountain views. Book a stay at the Montana Treehouse Resort for one of the most unique ways to experience the region.
The otherwordly landscapes of Iceland always make for dramatic views but during the wintertime, when temperatures are particularly brisk, the snowy landscapes are particularly ethereal. Jökulsárlón, also known as Glacial Lagoon, is one of the most beautiful perspectives in the whole of the country.