TOP TEN WINTER DESTINATIONS

A selection of ten world-class winter destinations | Five sunny and warm destinations for those escaping cold weather | Five for those who wish to enjoy winter in a cold place

TOP TEN WINTER DESTINATIONS

There are two ways you can enjoy a winter vacation: choose a destination where you can enjoy all the fun that winter brings with it, or escape to warmer climes if you want to avoid the cold altogether.

Based on that, we have compiled a list of ten destinations, with five dedicated to Cold Winter Destinations and five to Warm Winter Escapes.

Tallinn, Estonia

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Not everybody runs away to warmer destinations for a winter vacation; there are those who choose to experience cold places to enjoy winter in all its white splendor.

A winter trip to Tallinn is like being transported back in time to the medieval ages where everything looks straight out of a fairytale book.

Christmas is an important event in Tallinn and an extended one too, celebrated well into the early weeks of January. The annual Christmas Market kicked-off on November 17 this year and will remain open until January 6, 2018, from 10 am to 7 pm every day.

Setting up a Christmas tree in the middle of Town Hall Square in the medieval Old Town is a tradition that has been continuing since the 15th century. In recent times, rows of beautifully illuminated stalls form a circle around the Christmas tree, making up the temporary Christmas Market.

The stalls sell everything from mulled wine and handicrafts to woolly gloves and Christmas hats and, of course, Estonian delicacies and drinks.

The well-lit buildings surrounding the square add to the fairytale atmosphere of the place.

If something on your shopping list is not available at the Christmas Market, there’s always the charming St Catherine’s Passage where specialist craftsmen make and sell all sorts of hats, quilts, ceramics, hand-painted silk and much more.

More handicraft and jewelry shops can be found at the nearby Masters’ Courtyard.

The Kohtu Street and Patkuli platforms up the Toompea Hill are the best vantage points for uninterrupted views of the UNESCO-protected Town Hall Square in all its Christmas glory.

Hallstatt, Austria

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Situated on the bank of a glassy-still lake with the Salzburg Mountain blanketed in snow as a backdrop, the tiny hamlet of Hallstatt is one of the most stunningly picturesque sights you can ever hope to see. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Austria is regularly voted as one of the most beautiful villages on the planet.

There is something about mountains that gives you a sense of freedom, a feeling of detachment from the affairs of the world as if time has frozen to match the icy surroundings. It is indeed a sight for sore eyes.

About twenty minutes out of Hallstatt, between the spectacular Dachstein Glacier and the lofty peaks of the Gousaukamm mountains, is the lake Gosausee. It is a place of surreal beauty surrounded by mountains. Wooden cabins dotting the snowy landscape simply add to the gorgeousness of the place.

Harbin, China

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Harbin comes alive in January every year when the city hosts the world’s largest ice and snow sculpture festival, attracting participants from all over the globe to showcase their ice sculpting skills, carving out palaces and castles from blocks of ice, building huge snow sculptures, designing ice slides for children, and more.

So popular is this winter event in Harbin that even -20° Celsius temperatures do not deter millions of visitors from coming every year to witness and participate in the spectacular event. The biggest crowds are seen at night when the ice buildings are bathed in colorful lights making them look enchantingly beautiful.

Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany

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Located on a rugged hill above the town of Hohenschwangau in southwest Bavaria, Germany, Schloss Neuschwanstein (Neuschwanstein Castle) is a sight to behold in winter.

Surrounded by snow-dusted forests and snow-capped peaks, this fairytale structure is the inspiration behind Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland. The castle and the magical scenery of the valley below and the mountains beyond will forever stay etched in your memory.

However, be prepared for the extreme winter temperatures the place is known for. January and February are the coldest months of the year, in that order, with -2.6° C in January and -1.6° C in February, the average temperature staying below 0° C on any given day of the month with an inch of snow falling every day.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

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One of the most visited sites in Slovenia, Lake Bled is located in the Upper Carniolan region of Slovenia in the Julian Alps.

An hour is enough to walk a full circle around the lake; however, you are sure to take twice as long, or perhaps more, as you will not be able to resist stopping every now and then to marvel at the sheer gorgeousness of the place and to capture it in your camera.

You are sure to photograph the always-in-view Island Church of the Assumption in the center of the lake, with snow-capped mountains serving as a breathtaking backdrop, from different angles of view.

WARM WINTER ESCAPES

Miami, Florida, USA

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Perfect climactic conditions throughout the year with plenty of sunshine, great beaches lapped by aquamarine waters of the Atlantic; the Art Deco architecture lining the Miami Beach; the Everglades National Park just outside of the city; and a plethora of fun activities to indulge in – all make Miami, not only a top winter destination but a world-class location for all seasons.

Located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida, Miami is not only a major business and cultural hub in the southeastern United States but is also known for leading the way in media, entertainment, the arts, and international trade in the region.

Miami’s blazing nightlife caters to all categories of party animals. From glamorous candle-lit lounges, scintillating rooftop bars with intoxicating views of Biscayne Bay and the dazzling skyline, to the backyard bars and hidden dens of licentiousness and immorality, there’s something for everyone – right from the classy to the downright depraved.

Christmas time in Miami promises plenty of sunshine, parties galore, and an abundance of Christmas events to make it one of your most memorable holidays.

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

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If you are tired of spending Christmas holidays in icy weather, year in and year out, Playa Del Carmen in Mexico is the place to head to this season for a Caribbean Christmas and New Year.

Sunbathe at the amazing Porto Playa Condo Hotel & Beachclub deck; relax at Magia Beachside Condo Hotel common grounds; enjoy the luxurious ambiance of the Villas Sacbe Condo Hotel and Beach Club; or enjoy a refreshing drink at the El Taj Oceanfront & Beachside Condo Hotel rooftop.

Riviera Maya promises some wonderful Christmas and New Year festivities with an assortment of irresistible Mexican delicacies.

Santorini, Greece

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Santorini, the best-known island of the Cyclades is truly a romantic getaway with picture-perfect sunsets and sparkling white stone cliffs against the backdrop of clear blue skies.

The edge of the submerged Caldera, the epicenter of recorded history’s biggest volcanic eruption, borders one side of Santorini with the other side offering beautiful stretches of white-, red-, and black-sand beaches.

Santorini’s Christmas celebrations are not about frantic shopping, traffic snarls, and noisy streets; Christmas here is a relatively quiet affair with the focus mainly on traditional foods, including the Greek Fava – a delicious dish made from yellow split peas with onions and garlic, and olive oil.

Must see spots on Santorini Island

  • Ola Town
  • Fira Town
  • Kamari Beach
  • Red Beach
  • White Beach
  • Akrotiri
  • Volcano and Thermal Springs

The Maldives

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An archipelago of 1,192 coral islands, naturally grouped into a chain of 26 coral atolls, make up the stunningly picturesque Republic of Maldives located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India and Sri Lanka. Covering an area of about 298 square kilometers, the Maldives is the smallest country in Asia by area as well as population.

The capital city of Malé, also known as the “King’s Island” due to its central location on the archipelago, has the highest concentration of the nation’s, roughly, 394,000 inhabitants occupying less than 200 islands. The other islands are predominantly used for economic purposes.

The highest point on this beautiful island nation is no more than three meters above sea level making it the lowest lying country on the planet. The white sandy beaches, the surrounding crystal clear aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean, and the submerged coral reefs teeming with marine life all along the archipelago attract beach bums, divers and snorkelers and from all parts of the world.

As is expected in the region, the Maldives is blessed with a tropical climate with its generous share of the sunshine and a maximum temperature that hovers around 30° Celsius all through the year, making it an ideal winter destination, far away from icy winters, snowy landscapes, and the wind-chill factor.

Madeira, Portugal

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The Madeira archipelago is made up of two inhabited islands of Madeira and Porto Santo and two uninhabited groups of islands, the Selvagens and the Desertas.

Blessed with a warm subtropical climate, Madeira and Porto Santos make excellent winter destinations for travelers looking for a respite from extremely cold climes. The islands are a haven for outdoor adventure seekers, offering activities like hiking, sailing, surfing, dolphin watching cruises, and scuba diving at the Garajau Marine Nature Reserve.

For party animals, some of the best night spots are:

Hole in One

The Hole in One is a large pub with a nice garden area and a pleasant ambiance. The place boasts live and recorded music unlike the “semi-live” programs offered at nearby five-star hotels.

The Pukiki Bar

The Pukiki Bar is an awesome watering hole offering some amazing cocktails, quality rum, and a cozy ambiance.

Revolucion Rock Bar

The Revolucion Rock Bar is a great place for enjoying superb cocktails, great music, making some friends, and sharing a few laughs. You will certainly carry back some fine memories of the place with you.

Well.Com Coffee Bar

If you are looking for quality food, impeccable service offered by a friendly staff, local live music, bottled real ales from a popular Madeiran microbrewery, and a relaxing atmosphere, Well.Com Coffe Bar is the place to go to. The burgers here are out of this world.

Other spots worthy of a mention are the Madeira Rum House, Trap Music Bar, Teleferico Bar, Discoteca Copacabana, 23 Vintage Bar, Bar Pe De Cabra, Mini Eco Bar, Studio, and Mercearia da Poncha among several others.

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