20 wonderfully winter vacations to embrace the chill of the cold
Don’t take away from the warm magic of the tropics, the waves and the scent of a palm-fringed beach, but for me the strongest holiday spell is the freezing cold. Maybe it’s a northern hemisphere problem. There are a surprising number of people – my fair-skinned son is one of them – who get heat rash from the idea of ââa beach. I also love the tropical climate, but there is something about the deep winter that is transcendent and otherworldly. The cold itself is invigorating. The first cold breaths clear your head. Your mind becomes espresso. Unlike sleepy heat, cold invites you to engage in healthy outdoor activities. It’s not just skiing, it’s ice skating on frozen lakes, dog sledding, ice fishing – maybe even a swim.
One January, about 10 years ago, I jumped into an ice hole in the Dnieper River in Kiev for a challenge. Seemed like a bad idea until I did it and came out with my eyes crazy with feel-good endorphins. Now it has become a habit that I find it hard to explain to people who have never tried it.
Another winter, I shared a memorable immersion with Cossacks in the frozen Don outside of Rostov on the feast of the Epiphany. One of the great joys of a winter vacation is being cold and enjoying the delicious contrast with the warmth that follows. The cold-to-warm reset can take place in a pine-scented Finnish sauna, or a Japanese onsen, or an outdoor hot tub in Iceland from where you can see the Northern Lights moving slowly across the sky like a veil. of green silk. The cold also demands its own high-calorie cuisine: fondue, elk stew with dumplings, hot chocolate, gluhwein. And how well you eat and sleep after a day in the fresh air!
Above all, the cold has a particular aesthetic. Snow and ice cast a special spell on a place. Just as the evil fairy calms the palace, princess, and courtiers of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, deep winter administers overwhelming drops to stress and the affairs of ordinary life. When the Celsius drops to minus 40 in the Verkhoyansk roller coaster, it locks the place under the spell of the cold. Everything becomes a little surreal: the laundry freezes on the line, the smoke rises from the chimneys then flattens and moves sideways. Piles of blue ice stored next to houses turn out to be the water supply.
The snow not only looks beautiful, sparkling under the low yellow sun, but it also creates a vast acoustic blanket. The resulting silence is as perfect as fresh virgin snow. An etymology of the word Siberia is that it comes from a Turkish word meaning sleeping land. Sounds exactly right to me, because the most perfect winter vacation has the haunting quality of a remembered dream. Here are 20 inspiring vacation ideas to create your own winter memories.
Go to the extreme
Get moving in Finland
For a truly authentic Arctic adventure, travel like centuries of locals have done before. On the Mountain Kingdoms Hut-to-Hut Husky Sled trip, you’ll drive and care for your own team of hard-working dogs, traversing frozen lakes and tundra on the edge of Pallas-Yllas National Park in Finland. By day you’ll cover up to 40km of sparkling terrain, by night you’ll warm up in wild saunas and sleep in log cabins, totally off-grid.
How to do: A seven-day Arctic Husky sled adventure costs from Â£ 2,395 per person, including flights, accommodation and meals. December 26, 2021, March 13, 2022 (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com).
Hit peaks without crowds in Slovenia
The Julian Alps of Slovenia are the often overlooked mountains of Europe, just as beautiful as the peaks further west (especially in the snow) but much quieter. Much Better Adventures Winter Trek Weekend here explores the idyllic areas of this peaceful snowshoe beach. Run through densely wooded valleys, frosted plateaus, 2000m peaks and remarkable ridges that offer views of the Triglav massif; finish in warm and welcoming mountain huts, where hearty home cooking and free-flowing schnapps await.
How to do: A three-night guided winter hiking trip in Slovenia costs from Â£ 484 per person including accommodation and meals, excluding flights. January-March 2022 (020 3966 7597; muchbetteradventures.com).