Joanna Booth runs down the best locations for clients who want to be chilled and thrilled.
If it’s snow, ice, and all things nice and wintry your clients are looking for, they won’t go far wrong in these destinations. Send them to chase the northern lights in Scandinavia or to drink gluhwein in the Alps, or let them choose somewhere farther afield for a more exotic snowy adventure. Here are six great destinations for inspiration.
One of the greatest travel success stories in recent years, Iceland’s tourist numbers stay stable in its frozen winters, when the northern lights dance in the sky and visitors can take off-road trips in souped-up super jeeps with 46-inch tyres.
The destination is featured by everyone from Topdeck to Titan Travel, and Intrepid Travel reports that its Iceland trips book up very quickly. It’s Regent Holidays’ top seller in winter, and in addition to the group tours that have become a routine feature for many operators, the specialist has added short winter fly-drives to meet demand.
The five-day Hot Springs and Waterfalls, from £925, includes the chance to walk on the Sólheimajökull glacier, visit Gulfoss Waterfall and the Strokkyr geysir, and even snorkel between two tectonic plates at the Silfra fissure.
Of all the Scandinavian destinations, who knew it would be unassuming Finland that would prove most popular? It’s actually little wonder, with fantastic snowy pursuits, great northern lights sightings and competitive prices.
It’s the most popular winter destination for many operators, from snow-travel experts Exodus to lone-travel specialist Solos. Intrepid Travel launched an eight-day Finnish Lapland in Winter tour this year, from £1,750, including dog-sledding, a visit to a family of traditional Sami reindeer herders, snow-shoeing, ice-fishing and northern lights hunting.
Regent Holidays has seen ‘phenomenal’ growth in Finland in the past few years, and has added eco-friendly snowmobile safaris on zero-emission vehicles, and stays at the Arctic Snow Hotel where you can dine in the ice restaurant or take an ice sauna.
Austria offers brilliant winter value, with Alpine scenery and some of Europe’s grandest cities at prices that won’t break the bank. It’s Leger Holidays’ most popular winter destination, and the operator offers a range of Christmas market breaks, festive holidays, a new year trip, and the seven-day Scenic Austria Winter Wonderland, from £599, which includes visits to Sound of Music city Salzburg, the ski resort of Kitzbuhel, and beautiful, lakeside Zell Am See.
When it comes to winter city breaks, Just Go Holidays offers the eight-day Imperial Christmas in Vienna from £699, with Christmas Eve Sachertorte and a Christmas Day classical concert, and a December trip to Salzburg where a pageant is scheduled to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the carol Silent Night.
For quintessential Alpine splendour, Switzerland can’t be beaten, and Shearings reports that the iconic Glacier Express railway is featured on its most popular winter tours.
For train fanatics, the operator’s nine-day White Alpine Railways, from £905, includes trips not only on the Glacier Express, but on the Golden Pass, the Engelberg Snow Express and up the oldest cog railway in Europe, to the top of Mount Rigi, where passengers can walk on a glacier. Insight Vacations’ seven-day Magical Switzerland, from £1,639, includes the Glacier Express, plus Christmas markets and visits to Zermatt and St Moritz.
This is the land where winter tourism was born, and the ski market is huge. Just You offers group ski holidays in the Jungfrau region for lone travellers. For something more extreme, Exodus gives clients the chance to enter the 26-mile Engadin cross-country ski marathon in March.
Visit Canada in the winter and you’ll get the chance to think like a local – which means embracing the cold weather and getting out to enjoy the snow. The majestic Rockies are a highlight for many visitors, and Collette’s six-night Canada’s Winter Wonderland, from £1,399, shows the best of Alberta at this time of year, with snowshoeing in Jasper and a horse-drawn sleigh ride in Banff, plus stays at iconic Fairmont hotels in both.
Scenic Tours’ 18-day Winter Wonders visits Alberta before taking a snowy ride into British Columbia aboard Via Rail’s The Canadian, and then flying up to Whitehorse in the Yukon to search for the northern lights. Ice walks, dog-sledding and snowmobiling are among the activities on offer.
To get a broad-brushstroke sense of the whole country, Great Rail Journey’s 11-day The Canadian in Winter, from £2,795, travels from Toronto to Vancouver. After seeing Niagara Falls in the snow, clients board The Canadian and cross the frozen wilderness of the Canadian Shield, stopping in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Jasper.
The Land of the Rising Sun may not be the first snowy destination to spring to mind, but with heavy snow in mainland Honshu and the northern island of Hokkaido, it has perfect conditions for winter sports – plus a series of interesting winter culture and wildlife sights.
Intrepid Travel and Wendy Wu Tours will launch winter Japan tours next year, and InsideAsia Tours’ two-week Winter Highlights tour, from £4,150, has already become a best-seller. It includes a visit to the famous Sapporo snow festival to see the huge sculptures and drink at the ice bar, an icebreaker cruise on the Okhotsk Sea to spot sea eagles, and a visit to the Jigokudani Monkey Park in the Japanese Alps. Here, the country’s most famous simian residents have learned to stay warm by bathing in hot water springs, and have been known to throw a snowball or two at one another. With a stay at a ryokan, guests can take a dip, too – and there’s nothing stopping them throwing snowballs, either.
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