On our 13th anniversary, we bring you 13 places for unforgettable winter breaks that will warm your soul. By Divya Behl & Vikas Plakkot
Every year, world-renowned ice sculptors join the Ice Magic Festival to design their masterpieces, and visitors flock to watch the artists sculpt these wonders. Located in Banff National Park, the frozen Lake Louise makes for the perfect venue for the festival. Visit the festival with family and kids to marvel at the sculptures, or enjoy activities like ice-skating, dog-sledding, snowtubing, etc. Suitable for all ages and pet-friendly, the host resort of Fairmont Chateau creates their own ice castle. Bed and breakfast package for two starts at INR 34,000.
Inspired by James Hilton’s novel, Zhongdian in China’s Yunnan province was re-christened Shangri-La. A far cry from metropolitan cities, Shangri-La is surrounded by snowy mountains, stunning valleys, and monasteries. Chat with a monk, hike in the Haba mountains, or enjoy a bowl of noodle soup—every experience will have you nodding vigorously in agreement with Hilton. Join Windhorse Tour on a nine- day tour of Yunnan for INR 1,00,000 per person.
Transylvania’s claim to fame isn’t a pleasant one—it was home to Vlad the Impaler, an inspiration for Dracula. In winter, when the sky turns grey and the castles are blanketed with snow, Transylvania is eerily magical. Get regaled with legends at Bran Castle, admire the architecture of Peles Castle, stroll through the World Heritage Site of Sighisoara, and slow down in Brasov. Rent a car from Avis Rental in Bucharest to explore freely. Rentals from INR 4,000 per day.
Take a private helicopter flight above the Himalayas and get dropped off at a phenomenal height—only to ski vertically down 5,000 metres on powder snow ending up in dreamy cedar forests. Heli-skiing in Kullu-Manali is a unique thrill; where else would you ski down steep cirque bowls and through glades of perfectly spaced birch and oak trees, surrounded by 6,500-metre-high peaks. Book a week-long Himalayan Odyssey package with Elemental Adventure that includes six days of skiing over 30,500 vertical metres. Seven-day all-inclusive package starts at INR 5,58,000.
In Iran’s northern region, ski resorts are ballooning up. The most famous one, Dizin, is under three hours from the capital up in the Dalborz mountains and has been placed among the top ski resorts consistently. A skiing trip to the north complements a journey to its hot southern desert regions—something few other countries offer. Sign up for a four-day skiing tour with Uppersia, combined with a seven-day luxury tour covering Tehran, Shiraz, and Isfahan. Skiing tour at `30,000, southern tour at INR 1,20,000.
The snow-capped Atlas Mountains remain Morocco’s little secret. Hike this range to enjoy its walnut groves, Berber villages with their mudhouses, stunning waterfalls, lush forested paths, and finally, to scale the highest peak in North Africa—Toubkal. Trapped by thick ice, the path becomes most adventurous during winter. Book a five- to six-day trek to take things slow and steady, leaving enough time to fully cherish the Atlas’ charm. Five-day trek starts at INR 30,000 per person.
Voted the best in Europe this year (europeanbestdestinations.com), the Christmas market in Tallinn is reminiscent of a fairyland. Far removed from the more popular markets in Germany, the celebrations at the Town Hall Square offer a peek into Europe’s Christmas traditions—minus the maddening crowds. Travellers brush shoulders with locals while shopping for handicrafts or enjoying local delicacies like blood sausage and gingerbread. Music and performances break out at the square every evening. Stay at Schlössle Hotel, located within the Old Town. Doubles from INR 15,000.
Spread across 270 square kilometres in the northern region of Finland, Oulanka National Park is abuzz with activity in winter. Put on a snowshoe and hike through the 85-centimetre-thick snow along the river. Next, visit a reindeer farm or go dog-sledding through the snow-caked forests nearby. Join Exodus Travels on their annual Finnish Wilderness Week expedition to live off the grid in Basecamp Oulanka. INR 1,50,000 per person.
Sandwiched between France and Spain, the tiny country of Andorra is a skiing paradise that usually glides under the radar. High up in the Pyrenees mountains, there are more than 210 kilometres of ski slopes just within the resort of Grandvalira. Offering excellent value for money, compared to neighbouring France, the resorts are packed with activities beyond skiing as well for a week-long family holiday. For INR 5,000 per day, secure a ski-pass for the lifts at Soldeu.
A journey to the end of the world aboard a luxury cruise liner is a singular experience deserving of a spot in every bucket list. An 11-day cruise starting in Ushuaia in Argentina, curated by The Q Experiences, allows you to hike on dramatic mountains, take selfies with penguins, witness majestic blue whales, say hello to Weddell seals, and set foot on the last frontier of our planet—all the while being spoilt by the gastronomic luxuries onboard the exceptional Majestic Explorer. Prices start from INR 10,55,000 per person onwards.
Situated in the middle of the Northern Lights Oval, Tromso’s location and weather make it the world’s best destination to watch the Northern Lights. Visit the town anytime between mid-September and mid-April to stand the highest chance of witnessing the dance of aurora borealis in the sky. Get a map and drive yourself around the area to chase the surreal light show or book a guided tour with local experts, who offer a luxurious Northern Light-viewing experience that features thermal blankets, cookies and warm milk, and a bonfire. Stay at Clarion Hotel The Edge, where a Deluxe Double room starts at INR 26,800 per night.
Buy the warmest jackets you can, and go on a rail journey in wild Alaska. With package options starting from a day to a week, the train ride promises views of the stunning Northern Lights and rare wildlife, besides surreal wintry landscapes. To make the most of it, book a six-night package starting from Anchorage and ending in Fairbanks in the GoldStar service section of the train, which has glass-domed ceilings, luxury dining, a private bar, and a personal guide. Six-night Aurora Package starts from INR 1,05,000 per person.
Covered in vast swathes of snow in winter, the Cairngorms National Park features four of UK’s five highest mountains. Scot Mountain Holidays runs a guided walk here between December and March that includes a night inside a self- made snow cave. Armed with shovels and axes, you dig through the snow to build your own cave, wherein you share life stories with your guide, a warm meal, and a dram of Scotch. Four-night expedition costs INR 47,000, all-inclusive.