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8 Top Snowy Destinations for Winter Activities

From wild natural park excursions to scenic cultural stops, these eight snowy destinations will transport you to your very own winter wonderland.

Planning a vacation to remember doesn’t have to mean beach trips or tropical escapes. In fact, it’s worth flipping the calendar and traveling when you’re guaranteed frosty temperatures and thick, fluffy snowfall. Luckily, you have plenty of options for the kind of wintertime retreat that would make even Currier and Ives jealous. From the UNESCO-listed scenery of Banff National Park to the North Pole–style attractions of Lapland, here are eight places that are best explored during the coldest months of the year.



A reindeer sled ride is one of the top winter activities in Finnish Lapland. Photo: Andrei Kobylko / Shutterstock

For a true winter wonderland experience, you’ll want to aim for the North Pole — and Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, is about as close as you can get. By day, you can go on a husky safari through the subarctic wilderness, visit a reindeer farm, and even meet jolly old St. Nick at the Santa Claus Village. And by night — which lasts for some 18 hours during the winter — you can bundle up to eat in an ice restaurant before turning your eyes to the heavens and taking in a kaleidoscopic Aurora Borealis show.

Explore Lapland

St. Petersburg


St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace is a must-see in this cold-weather destination. Photo: Katya Rezvaya / Viator

St. Petersburg is known for its regal splendor, and it’s true that its colorful onion domes and imperial palaces look even better when frosted with a light coating of snow. Enjoy an old-fashioned exploration of Russia’s cultural hub when you travel through the city by horse-drawn sleigh, or go for a dog-sledding excursion before warming up with mulled wine. And when those Baltic temperatures get a little too fierce, head indoors to wander the Hermitage Museum (housed in the aptly named Winter Palace), or even see The Nutcracker at the Mariinsky Theatre, where it first premiered in 1892.

Explore St. Petersburg



Banff is one of Canada’s top winter destinations. Photo: Eustacio Humphrey / Viator

Banff’s UNESCO-listed scenery — from its Rocky Mountain peaks to its azure lakes and sprawling glaciers — is impressive enough on its own. But this national park also happens to be one of North America’s top destinations for winter sports enthusiasts. The region’s three main ski resorts (Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Norquay) offer perfect powder and steep slopes, while backcountry skiing and waterfall ice climbing present their own challenges for intrepid types. Alternatively, for a gentler way to discover Banff’s scenery, travel by a one-horse open sleigh (and feel free to whistle along as you go).

Explore Banff



Visiting Harbin’s Ice and Snow Festival is a must for winter activity fans. Photo: Haobo Wang / Shutterstock

Whether you plan a standalone visit or arrive via the Trans-Siberian Railroad, Harbin — the capital of Heilongjiang, the northernmost province in China — is best discovered during the colder months. That’s thanks to the world-famous Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, held here since 1963. The event transforms the city into a veritable winter wonderland with its soaring snow sculptures, illuminated ice palaces, skating rinks, sledding hills, skiing options, and more. There’s really no better place to soak up your dose of wintry magic (as long as you bundle up in your warmest parka).

Keep reading: 15 of the Greatest Train Journeys Around the World

Explore Harbin



It’s well worth visiting Hokkaido in wintertime. Photo: Travel man / Shutterstock

Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, has a climate that’s closer to Russia’s than the rest of the country’s — and that means winter here, with its sub-zero temperatures and stacks of snow, is a major event. Ski resorts like Niseko Village are internationally renowned, the Sapporo Snow Festival is a highlight every February, and the pop-up ice village on Lake Shikaribetsu is a major tourist attraction. Happily, there are also many ways to warm up, from steaming onsen hot springs to hearty bowls of miso ramen (enriched with butter for added coziness).

Explore Hokkaido



Don’t miss the many geysers in and around Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo: Brian Fulda / Viator

With its rugged scenery, its frigid snowscapes, and its active volcanoes, Iceland’s wild and untamed beauty makes it an ideal wintertime destination — and Reykjavik is the perfect base for your explorations. Begin with a stop at the Blue Lagoon, which is fed by geothermal water and remains steaming-hot all year round. Then continue to the Golden Circle, a circuit covering many of the top attractions in southwestern Iceland (including the frozen-over Gulfoss waterfall and Geysir, a geyser that shoots 100 feet, or 30 meters, high). Cap it all off with glacial snowmobiling — or a late-night northern lights viewing.

Explore Reykjavik



Zermatt, Switzerland is a quintessential wintertime destination. Photo: emperorcosar / Shutterstock

Crowned by the Matterhorn’s readily recognizable, crooked peak, well-heeled Zermatt is a ski lover’s paradise, as well as one of Switzerland’s most beautiful corners. For an expansive overview of the region, hop aboard the Gornergrat Railway — the world’s first cog railway — for magnificent vistas. Skiing is, of course, a must, and with three mountains to choose from, there are plenty of options when hitting the slopes. In between the outdoorsy excursions, you can browse the luxury boutiques along the Bahnhofstrasse, visit the Matterhorn Museum, and warm up with fondue before indulging in the hedonistic après-ski scene.

Explore Zermatt

Yosemite National Park

United States

A snowman sits in the Yosemite Valley during winter. Photo: Diego Grandi / Shutterstock

Discover a new perspective on Yosemite’s iconic sights, from El Capitan and the Half Dome to Bridalveil Fall, when you plan a wintertime visit to one of the country’s first national parks. Snowshoe hiking makes navigating the drifting snow banks easier, while the Badger Pass Ski Area (the oldest ski resort in California, and one of the only such facilities within a national park) offers skiing, snowboarding, and tubing opportunities. And don’t forget to drop by the Ansel Adams Gallery to see the photographic master’s timeless shots of Yosemite’s landscapes (and snowscapes).

Explore Yosemite

Author: Claire Bullen

Claire Bullen is an award-winning food, drinks, and travel writer and editor who has lived and worked in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Paris, and London. She is the author of The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, and the editor at Her writing has also appeared in Time Out New York, The Daily Meal, Pellicle Magazine, and beyond.




Viator, a Tripadvisor company, makes it easy to find and book something you’ll love to do. With access to the world’s largest selection of high-quality experiences, there’s always something new to discover, both near and far from home.

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