10 winter wonderlands you must visit at least once

Winters almost here which means the Christmas holidays are just round the corner too. Started planning on where to go yet?  When there’s a plethora of places to choose from around the world, I admit the decision won’t be that easy. So since you’re in a muddle already, why not try something new this year! Instead of  heading off to the sandy beaches of the world or  stereotypical winter getaways like Switzerland or Wisconsin, soak in the pristine beauty of these 10 (rarely visited) snowy rendezvous.

1. Alcazar de Segovia- Spain

Designed to mimic the bows of a ship, the Alcazar de Segovia in central Spain has at one time been a fortress, a royal palace and a prison. It is also said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. Fortunately for the public, in it’s current incarnation it is a museum open to all. Even though it’s striking all year long, come winter and come snow, it literally turns into the fairytale castle it once inspired. So this December give Disney land a skip and head to the original Cinderella castle.

alcazar de segovia-spain 1

The interiors of the palace are definitely worth a visit for its still cherished flamboyance.

alcazar de segovia 2

 

 

2. Quebec city- Canada

When I first watched the 1988 film ‘Some Girls’, I noticed two things. One, how cute Patrick Dempsey(Dr Derek Shepherd for those of you who don’t know) looked when he was only seventeen and two the jaw dropping scenery. The acres and acres of coniferous trees layered with the whitest of snow’s. The quaint châteaus and the even more rustic streets had me spell bound. A Google search later I found out that this little gem was in fact Quebec city in Canada. From Winter carnivals, pine woods with frequent reindeer sightings to the world’s only Ice Hotel, this city has it all and is the perfect winter wonderland!

magical-winter-in-quebec-forest-canada

Head to Quebec to enjoy the perfect traditional white Christmas with a French twist or to star in your own version of the film ‘Frozen’ :p .

 

the perfect white christmases in quebec

 

3. Harbin city- China

Harbin is known as the coldest among China’s major cities and it has embraced it’s moniker of ‘Ice City’ with gusto. Every year it plays host to the Harbin International ice and snow sculpture festival, the largest snow festival in the world. The festival is spread over two areas on either side of the Songhua River, from which giant blocks of ice are taken to be used as sculptures. Come night and majority of these sculptures are illuminated with neon lights, making it a feast for the eyes.

 

harbin city during winter, china

Artists come from all over the world to participate in the festival and carve out sculptures that are often more than six storeys high.

2015-international-ice-and-snow-festival-harbin-china-

 

4. Bled- Slovenia

A walk to the edge of the Slovenian town of Bled, will bring you to a glacial lake, out of the middle of which rises an island. On this lone island stands a baroque church complete with Gothic frescos and gargoyles, whose bell when rung, is said to make wishes come true.

bled castle 1

 

Towering above the town on one side of the lake looms Bled Castle, locally called the ‘Castle of the moors’, a medieval era structure and one of the oldest castles in Slovenia. It is to these surroundings that winter brings it’s annual snowfall, serving only to add to the chilling beauty of the place.

castle of the moors-lake bled

 

5. Queens-town, New Zealand

The mountain range behind New Zealand’s Queenstown is known as ‘The Remarkables’. And most day’s the mountains do look like they were placed there for a film set. A winter festival is held every year, both in June and December, featuring music, dances, and of course snow centric activities.

remarkables_in_Winter,NZ

 

6. Salzburg, Austria

Most tour operators envision Salzburg as only a gateway to the Alps and give the rustic town a miss. But ladies, this charming city deserves much more than a pass and go on your itinerary, especially during the peak season! Resplendent with baroque architecture, during the winter months, the birthplace of Mozart becomes all the more enchanting when dusted with a layer of Alpine snow and a stay in Salzburg is a feast for all the senses. There is little better in terms of warming winter food than the Austrian version of pancakes washed down with Viennese hot chocolate.

austria-salzburg-in-winter

 

winter-hiking-salzburg-austria

 

7. Yosemite National Park, USA

To truly witness the changing of the seasons, little beats a visit to a national park blanketed in snow. The Yosemite National Park is one of those magical places and is also the perfect spot for cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. Visitors can stay in the Yosemite Valley or in the huts which have not been cut-off by the snowfall. Over here, more than the shifts in meteorology, it is the seasonal changes in the flora and fauna that exerts it’s pull on winter visitors.

Winter Season in Yosemite National Park

 

yosemite national park usa 2

8. Halla mountains, Korea

The Halla or Hallasan mountains is one of Korea’s natural forests and is also the home of Korea’s tallest mountain peaks. Though it offers a beautiful sight with acres of royal azaleas in the spring, the winter brings-forth snowfields and a sea of clouds.

Halla mountains

The relatively easy hike to the top rewards hikers with a view of crystal like flowers of ice formations on top of withered old tress, that sparkle in the faint sunlight. If you follow the winds of the snowfields, and can take your eyes of the wondrous snow, you’ll witness the ocean expanse that surrounds the forest island.

Halla mountains2

Look up and you’ll see the skies. Tourists describe it as “what Narnian skies must have looked like under the grip of the white witch”.

 

9. Shirakawa village, Japan

The village of Shirakawa in the Gifu perfecture of Japan has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In part for the traditional architecture of it’s houses. The ‘minka’ building style in Shirakawa includes the iconic vertiginous thatched roofs which prevents collapse during any heavy snowfall. And Shirakawa does have some of the heaviest snowfalls in the world, with an annual average of over thirty feet!

 

shirakawa japan 2

shirakawa japan 1

10. Auli, Uttarakhand

India’s very own Switzerland, Auli is also one of those hidden gem of a place. Tucked away in the Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, it’s a sylvan ski destination frequented by skiing enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Nestled at an altitude of  2800 meters above sea level, Auli has proven to be a serene and photogenic spot for the casual tourist as well. The best thing about this place is definitely it’s privacy when compared to more popular touristy destinations like Manali or Shimla.

Auli

 

” It lifts existence on a plane of snow

One level higher than the Earth below,

One level nearer heaven overhead,

And last year’s berries shining scarlet red”

All of the above places does justice to these lines by Robert Frost as such is their immaculate beauty.

So what are you waiting for? Go buy your mittens already!!

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *