You may be visiting family for the holidays, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all the travel you’ll do this winter!

If you’re thinking of taking a vacation off the beaten path, we’re here to help: from the serene snowscapes of Norway to the bright cultures of India, each destination we’ve featured below has its own take on winter celebrations.

Whether you’re interested in chasing the Northern Lights, exploring ancient castles and fascinating museums, or immersing yourself in an actual Christmas village, there’s something here for everybody—let’s dive in!

Røros, Norway

8 Creative Winter Vacation Destinations: Gulmarg, Takayama & More - Frayed Passport - Roros, Norway

Photo by Solveig hjelme on Wikimedia Commons

Røros, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stands out for its well-preserved mining town history. Here you’ll find historic wooden buildings reflecting centuries of Norwegian culture—and if you visit during the winter, you can view and enjoy activities like dog sledding, ice fishing, and snowmobiling. Nearby, see the Smelthytta World Heritage Centre and Museum, or go further afield and enjoy Forollhogna National Park.

Abisko, Sweden

In the Arctic Circle, Abisko is a prime location for viewing the Northern Lights, with clear skies and natural beauty. Winter activities here include dog sledding, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing. Visit the Abisko National Park for spectacular views and hiking opportunities. The STF Abisko Turiststation is a comfortable base for exploring this Arctic wonderland.

Mestia, Georgia

Mestia, based in the Caucasus Mountains, is a destination for ski enthusiasts seeking quieter slopes. The town is dotted with medieval towers, providing a look into Georgian history. Ski at the nearby resorts of Hatsvali and Tetnuldi. Don’t miss the Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography for a deep dive into local culture, including collections focusing on archaeology, art, manuscripts, and much more.

Takayama, Japan

Takayama, a mountain town, is a mix of traditional Japanese culture and winter beauty. Explore its well-preserved old town for a taste of historic Japan. Enjoy the onsen, with Hirayu Onsen being a popular choice. A visit to the nearby Shirakawa, known for its thatched-roof houses, is a must, especially when they’re lit up in the evening!

Fernie, British Columbia, Canada

Fernie, in the Canadian Rockies, is known for its world-class skiing. The town has a laid-back vibe, complemented by its local cafes and art scenes. Ski or snowboard at Fernie Alpine Resort. For a cultural experience, visit the Fernie Museum or enjoy the local arts at The Arts Station.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, while popular in the summer, is a tranquil winter destination. The Julian Alps and medieval castle create a stunning backdrop. Enjoy ice skating on the lake or hike to the Bled Castle for gorgeous views. For a unique experience, take a traditional pletna boat to Bled Island.

Gulmarg, India

Gulmarg in Kashmir offers a unique winter sports experience in Asia. Known for its skiing, the Gulmarg Gondola provides access to some of the world’s highest ski slopes. Explore the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve for a touch of nature. For a cultural experience, visit the local markets and try traditional Kashmiri cuisine.

Leavenworth, Washington, USA

Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed town in the Pacific Northwest, transforms into a winter wonderland each year. Alpine-style buildings and regular snowfall create a charming atmosphere. Enjoy the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club’s activities or visit the Nutcracker Museum for a unique experience. The Christmastown of course is a highlight during the holiday season!

Ready to Travel?

Our tour of these eight international wonders reveals that the world is full of absolute gems just waiting to be discovered during the colder months—we hope you’re excited to explore these amazing destinations and make your winter vacation dreams come true!

Featured image by Devesh Sangwan on Unsplash

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