Find the world's most beautiful winter destinations and swap staying at home for exploring. The coldest season seems to make many places shine their brightest, so take a look at 20 of the beautiful winter trips we recommend you try.
Check out the wintery city of Chicago and you might be surprised at how well the windy city swaps breezes for snow in the coldest months of the year. January and February are coldest of all and if you're lucky and it's a particularly harsh winter, you may even see Lake Michigan frozen over. But to keep cosy, stay at Warwick Allerton in Downtown.
Tallinn in Estonia comes with extra winter enchantment thanks to its medieval old town being blanketed in snow. Pay particular attention to the frosty, fortified Toompea or Raekoja Plats and always make a point of visiting the city's pretty town hall. If you want to enjoy Tallin's winter charm first hand, think about staying at Rija Old Town Hotel.
Plitvice, the most visited national park in Croatia, is famous for 16 interconnected lakes, spectacular cascades and hordes of summer tourists. But visit in winter and not only can you see the waterfalls dramatically frozen, there's a high chance of having the park almost all to yourself. If you'd like a little company, why not take a Plitvice Lakes tour from Split?
The famous bathing snow monkeys at Jigokudani natural hot springs in Japan are actually Japanese Macaques and according to experts, they bathe in winter to stay warm and reduce stress levels. To join the red-faced macaques at Jigokudany and relax into the soothing, hot spring experience, consider a stay at Hotel Omodaka.
Banff National Park is astonishing in winter when the waters of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are at their crystal clearest. Banff is also home to the Valley of the Ten Peaks, so you've remarkable views of snow capped mountains to look forward to here as well, and for an in-depth Banff experience, a guided tour of the lakes is another winter treat.
More ideas for your Canadian winter holiday can be found in our guide to the best things to do in Canada.
The tiny lakeside village of Hallstatt in Austria is extra pretty in winter so you should visit to admire the sweet Alpine architecture and dramatic, snowy Salzburg Mountain. But don't rush away, fascinating World Heritage Hallstatt is also home to the world's oldest salt mines and has lots of charming places to stay, like Lakeview Apartments.
You should visit London parks in winter for their sense of peace, undeniable beauty and wide open spaces. At 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the biggest London park and has an atmosphere that feels almost rural, not least of all because herds of wild deer still make their home here. Come in the very depths of winter and there's even a chance of snow, which only adds to the serenity.
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In your quest for winter beauty, head to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia on 6 and 7 March because those are the dates of the 1000 Camel Festival at Dalanzadgad. This annual event is known for camel polo matches and races, but is perhaps most famous of all for its Camel beauty pageants. For an inside look at this less travelled area, take a semi-Gobi desert camel tour with local guides.
See Bruges in winter for cobbled streets, charming architecture and frozen canals, chocolatiers, cosy hotels and quaint restaurants. Make time to tour a few of the 470 local castles and then simply relax, as beautiful Bruges is almost tourist-free in January and February. If you want extra atmosphere, stay at Martin's Brugge in the old town.
Winter really suits Germany, and if you need proof, just take a look at Bavaria and snow covered Schloss Neuschwanstein. This is the Schloss which inspired Disney's Cinderella Castle and it looks even more like a fairy tale in frosty weather.
You'll find it above Hohenschwangau village in Southwest Bavaria, and if you want to stay nearby, Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein is very close indeed. For more winter inspiration see 10 reasons why Saxony in Germany should be on your travel list.
Head to Lithuania in winter to see Trakai Castle sitting on its own islet, surrounded by a frozen lake, just west of Vilnius. The castle dates back to the 1400s and comes with dramatic turrets and a drawbridge, which only makes it all the more enchanting. If you're tempted to take a winter break in Lithuania, stay at Old Town Trio in Vilnius.
For winter sun and snow, head to Morocco between November and April when it's a tourist-light time of year in the snowy High Atlas Mountains. There's low-crowd skiing at Oukaimeden, technical climbers get to test their skills on Mount Toubkal and you can enjoy both the peace and weather with a stay at Aurochar Oukaimeden.
Visit New Zealand from May to September and make for the city of Queenstown. This is a fun place to be year round, but it really shines in winter and its astonishing views of The Remarkables mountain range are worth a visit alone. The nearby Coronet Peak range also offers some of New Zealand's best skiing, so if you want to ski and see Queenstown think about staying at Coronet Peak's Swiss-Bel Resort.
Wildlife in Yellowstone is very evident winter when snow on the high ground of this vast, volcanic National Park forces bison migrate to lower grazing areas. You might also spot bears, wolves or elk and, if you're very lucky, sightings of pronghorn antelope are most common in winter. But, for the most rewarding wildlife watching, you should take a winter tour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton with local guides.
To see Northern Lights in Finland head to Lapland as the long, dark winters make this eerily beautiful part of Europe an Aurora Borealis hotspot. For the best sightings, visit between January and March or, better still, stay in Rovaniemi and go Northern Light hunting with local guides.
Prague does winter beautifully so wrap up warm and go wandering around the atmospheric old town, which looks its loveliest dusted with snow. Don't forget to make a pit stop to try Klobása barbecued sausage washed down with svařené víno mulled wine or to fully immerse, stay at Old Prague Hotel in the historic centre.
Journey to Harbin in northeast China during January when winter temperatures of -20°C during inspires great art at the world's largest Ice and snow sculpture festival. This annual event now attracts global participants and the vast ice designs are nothing short of incredible. Go see, then find out more on private tour of Harbin with local guides.
See romantic Lake Bled in in the Upper Carniolan region of Northwest Slovenia during winter when it's surrounded by snow covered mountains. There's a lovely circular walk you can take round the lake which gives you a great view of Bled Island and its pretty church tower. If you feel like more exploring Čarman House is one of the cosiest places to stay.
New York City does winter well, as freezing weather is often countered by brilliant blue skies and heavy winter snow prettifies the city. There's also Christmas shopping to look forward to, not to mention skating in Central Park with a Manhattan skyline view. So think about staying at the heart of everything in Sonder I Chambers.
The dramatic Pamir Mountains are at their loveliest in winter and you'll find them in Tajikistan in Central Asia. Deserted during the coldest months of the year, they're snow-covered, rugged and only explored by the most intrepid travellers, however, they're still stunning to look at and a private day tour to Karakul Lake doesn't demand too much courage.
Inspired to take a winter trip? Take a look at our pick of the best winter sun destinations around the world. And if you are a fan of winter sports, find the best skiing and snowboarding destinations on our list of top ski resorts.