When people think of winter holidays, they mostly tend to think of skiing breaks. Though skiing is a fantastic sport, wintertime holidays are limitless when you open up to the possibility of what the world has to offer.
Below are four destinations we think are worthy of mentioning and definitely visiting. They retain the charm of winter and demonstrate the fascination of how people and nature interact with the extreme weather.
Nothing quite declares winter the way a glacier does. Perito Moreno Glacier grows daily, with a height over 73 metres above sea level and covering about 195 square kilometres. There are viewing platforms to marvel at its majestic size and blue hues where you can also observe the roar of massive chunks of ice calving and crashing into the waters.
If you want to get more up close and personal to the glacier, you can join the many boat excursions that take you around it. The perspective from the water is even more spectacular than from the viewing platforms. Alternatively, it is also possible to trek on and inside the glacier itself with crampons and ice axes provided by the one excursion company on site.
There are not many places on the planet that can bring you to the depths of a natural luminous blue ice cave, where you can see, first-hand, the scenes of hidden streams and rocks, but Perito Moreno delivers. A UNESCO World Heritage site and also the third largest reserve of fresh water, its beauty will have you forgetting the cold air and the layers of clothing you are wearing.
The feat and artistry of man is something to be admired in Harbin Ice City, Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. An annual operation, this wonderland of ice sculptures is considered the largest in the world. Spanning an area around 800,000 square metres, with more than 2,000 ice sculptures; it also holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest single ice sculpture. Immersing yourself in the sculptures is easy as you navigate through or climb aboard the labyrinth of intricately carved art combined with light, sound, and movement.
Previous ice sculptures and events included life-size buildings, lantern shows, mazes, fountains, and multi-coloured screens. The making of the sculptures starts in early December with the sculpture competition commencing on January 5th. The exhibits remain open through February 2019. Temperatures average around minus 12 degrees Celsius in the day and drop to minus 24 degrees Celsius at night, which allows the artwork to stay in pristine frozen condition for the duration of the exhibition. Just be sure to dress in warm clothing and perhaps invest in a thermos of tea or coffee to better enjoy the delights of this fairytale world.
Winter brings with it a host of difficulties, from less food to dealing with the cold itself. Jigokudani Monkey Park is the only place where you can see wild Japanese Macaques bathing in the hot springs to warm themselves against the cold: a practice which the monkeys took up from watching people bathe in the hot springs decades ago. The monkeys migrated to the area due to the encroachment of ski resorts upon their own habitat, and they started pilfering from the nearby farms.
To maintain harmony amongst all the inhabitants, Jigokudani Monkey Park was founded where food is left to entice the monkeys away from the farms. With no barriers to keep the macaques at the park, they are free to come and go as they wish. Visitors can observe the monkeys’ wild behaviour close-up as they roam freely throughout the park. Cold winters and snowfall is the best time to see large numbers of monkeys bathing without the need for much incentive, providing a truly one of a kind experience.
To be able to catch even a glimpse of the northern lights is an unforgettable experience. With legends depicting the light show as a message from the Gods, to the physics behind the Sun’s particles interacting with the Earth’s atmosphere, this phenomenon will have you staring in awe at the heavens we live under. Sightings are more frequent in winter where the evenings are longer and the skies are clearer.
There’s no better place to optimise these conditions than in the most northern part of Norway. Svalbard in winter is a location where the sun never rises, allowing for sightings of the northern lights even at midday. Make the most of the polar night and the lack of light pollution to spy shooting stars and identify constellations.
Surrounded by steep mountains and several glaciers, there is no shortage of activities which can be combined with northern lights sightings. Driving snowmobiles, hiking, dog sledding, and cruises are some of the many available activities. A holiday here will give you an insight into a special way of life in a community embracing and thriving in months of darkness.
The cold no longer needs to be something to endure, but instead something to anticipate. It can be a magical period where both nature and man display breathtaking marvels. Winter brings its own sort of adventures and we hope the destinations above provide some inspiration for your next getaway.