This list of winter wonderlands and tropical paradises, hand-picked by travel bloggers, will inspire you to travel during the chilly months. Although it is tempting to hibernate at home when the weather gets cold, you can actively explore sunny, seaside destinations or picturesque, snowy villages instead of permanently parking on the couch. Beautiful destinations from Finland to Jamaica are calling you… So, which will you pick? A winter wonderland? Or a tropical paradise?
Winter Wonderland: Interlaken, Switzerland
Interlaken, Switzerland is a dream destination for winter. Not only does it have the famed Christmas Markets that are ubiquitous throughout Europe during this time of year, but the town is also an extreme sports capital. Interlaken is the town that sits right at the bottom of Jungfrau, a mountain also known as the Top of Europe that is part of the Swiss alps. Needless to say, the skiing there is quite good. However, for those who can’t ski, my favorite winter activities in Interlaken are night sledding and paragliding. Not only is Interlakenand the surrounding towns incredibly picturesque, but you can have cheese fondue for every meal to warm yourself up after a long day on the slopes. I would go to Interlaken in winter just for the fondue alone!
Travel blogger: Jen of World On A Whim. See more on her Instagram feed.
Tropical Paradise: Port Antonio, Jamaica
Imagine deserted beaches, secret waterfalls inmerse in a lush and green tropical vegetation… That ’s what is waiting for you in Port Antonio, a small town, far from the beaten track in the north-east corner of Jamaica.
I lived in Jamaica for almost 2 years, and Port Antonio is one of my favorite spots. Despite the latest touristic developments, its charm has been preserved. You can find small boutique hotels, guest houses or private luxury villas overlooking the crystal waters of the Caribbean sea. My favorite hotels are Gee Jem, a real “gem,” nestled in the lush hills with stunning view on the bay, or Gobblin hill villas, private villas scattered around an immaculate tropical garden with hummingbirds.
Life there goes by slowly, which allows visitors and locals alike to float through the day, enjoying the sun on our skin and listening to the rhythm of a Bob Marley classic. When in Port Antonio, I suggest you visit the Reach Falls and the blue lagoon, eat the Jerk chicken at Boston Bay, take some surf lessons, walk along Long bay beach and spend a day in the private bay of Frenchman’s Cove. If you are looking for peace and tranquillity, Port Antonio is the place you want to go to.
Travel blogger: Isabella of Boundless Roads. See more on her Instagram feed.
Winter Wonderland: Lapland, Finland
There’s no place in the world that is as magical as Finnish Lapland in winter. Two years ago we visited Salla, a village in the wilderness of northern Finland where we had so many ‘winter wonderland’ moments. There are many things to do in Salla – one day we went cross-country skiing in the forest and had a coffee break in a wooden teepee, where we also roasted sausages by the fire. Another day we went on a reindeer sleigh ride, followed by a dogsled experience – spending the day with cute and cuddly huskies (which were extremely well looked after) was one of the highlights of your experience. We also went Alpine skiing and rode snowmobiles – the only experience that was missing from our ‘winter wonderland’ experience was seeing the Northern Lights. Oh well, maybe next time!
Travel blogger: Margherita of The Crowded Planet. See more on her Instagram feed.
Tropical Paradise: Hawaii, USA
When I hear the phrase tropical paradise my mind instantly takes me to Hawaii, the epitome of paradise. Living in Hawaii on the island of Oahu for 4 months was a dream come true. The one place in particular that stole my heart on the island of Oahu was the Lanikai Pillboxes Ridge hike. No matter what you are doing in Hawaii: surfing the waves of Waikiki, hiking into the mountain ranges or searching for hidden waterfalls, you will feel like you are in tropical paradise. If you are heading to the Hawaiian Island oh Oahu, you can also try shark cage diving, visit Kualoa Ranch or surf in Waikiki.
Travel blogger: Lucy of A Travellers Footsteps. See more on her Instagram feed.
Winter Wonderland: Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is one of the most magical cities in Europe to visit at any time of year, and in winter it is just breath-taking.
The Czech capital’s skyline of medieval towers and spires and Baroque domes is wonderful any time, but if you’re lucky enough to be there after a snowfall, you’ll see one of the most enchanting cityscapes in the world dusted white. Stand on the famous Charles Bridge or look down from the top of the Old Town Hall Tower and marvel at it.
Prague is also home to one of Europe’s most picturesque Christmas markets. The main one is on the Old Town Square, surrounded by the Old Town Hall, the Baroque St Nicholas’ Church and the fairytale spires of Our Lady Before Týn church overlooking the scene. It doesn’t take long to forget the winter cold, as you warm up with a glass of mulled wine and a piece of sugar-coated trdelnik cake.
Travel blogger: David of Delve into Europe. See more on his Facebook page.
Tropical Paradise: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
If you are someone who likes to get away from the cold by visiting a warm and beautiful place during those dreary months, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, is a perfect destination for the winter. Aside from being a warm and beautiful place, Koh Phi Phi is full of a variety of exciting activities. You can do island hopping tours, feed monkeys, explore a bustling series of streets with fun shops, swim with sea turtles, rock climb, visit mangrove forests, go scuba diving, take cooking lessons, rent a kayak or canoe, do yoga on the beach, and hike to some amazing views. Or if your preference is to lay on the beach and soak up the sun instead of doing excursions, there’s plenty of beach space for you to relax and indulge in as much sun as you need. There is literally something for everyone on this beautiful tropical island. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
Thailand is home to many lovely islands, but do NOT visit Coral Island!
Winter Wonderland: Quebec City, Canada
While most places bundle up when the weather gets cold, few places celebrate winter quite like Quebec City. This French influenced walled city on the banks of the St. Lawrence River is a captivating destination any time of year, but in the winter it is simply magical – with ice sculptures decorating the cobblestone streets of the Old City and a toboggan run with views of the iconic Le Chateau Fronternac right in the middle of town.
While Rio has Carnivale and New Orleans has Mardi Gras, Quebec City celebrates all things frozen with it’s Winter Carnival, a two week long festival with parades and winter activities presided over by Bonhomme, a jolly snowman that is as beloved by Quebocois children as Santa. Just outside of the city is the Hotel de Glace, a whimsical hotel made completely from ice that is built anew each winter with a completely different theme than the year before.
Travel blogger: Brianna of The Casual Travelist. See more on her Instagram feed.
Tropical Paradise: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is the perfect warm weather getaway for winter. The once quiet fishing village has emerged as a great spot for surfing along the pacific beaches. Playa Hermosa and Playa Maderas are nearby and great for any water activities. You must try surfing while you’re there. If you’re not quite ready for the thrill of surfing, take a catamaran boat ride, complete with mai tais, ceviche, and a stop at a private beach. There are lots of outdoor activities in San Jaun del Sur, and you can’t go wrong with a trip over there during the winter months.
Travel blogger: Tarah of Fit Two Travel. See more on her Instagram feed.
Winter Wonderland: Venice, Italy
I just got back from spending Christmas in Venice, and my trip convinced me that the City of Canals is one of the best destinations to spend time in during winter! At the time we went there was, unfortunately no snow, but holiday cheer was definitely in the air. You can find Christmas music playing, holiday markets, and even lower prices for the off season.
I have been to Venice twice now, both in the winter, and I love visiting because of the low amounts of tourists present. Instead of over-crowding and locals that get fed up with mass tourism, I found empty streets and friendlier Venetians. (Of course, the Italians are usually friendly!) In the winter time, the “sewage smell” that many complain about during the summer is virtually non-existent and flooding is mild. Venice is a popular tourist destination, but if you come during the winter seasons chances are you will have a much better experience!
Travel blogger: Natasha of The World Pursuit. See more on her Instagram feed.
Tropical Paradise: El Nido, Philippines
If you’re looking for a beautiful tropical destination, El Nido is one of the best! Located on the island of Palawan in the Philippines, it is, supposedly, the inspiration for Alex Garland’s famous novel, The Beach.
It’s easy to see why. El Nido is a five hour drive from the nearest city, Puerto Princessa. Travelers will arrive at a secluded paradise with towering limestone cliffs and long stretches of beach. One of the best things to do is to go on an island hopping tour. You get to explore Bacuit Bay and the nearby naturally scenic islands.
Once you’ve completed the tour, you can simply relax on the numerous gorgeous beaches around El Nido, basking in the beautiful scenery all around you!
Travel blogger: Tom of The Travelling Tom. See more on his Instagram feed.
For more winter holiday inspiration, whether you prefer to bundle up in snowy scenery or sunbathe on beaches, see the first Winder Wonderland vs. Tropical Paradise post.
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