Top travel bloggers share their most inspiring deep winter travel tales.
It's hard to imagine travel or vacation without instantly picturing a beautiful beach somewhere - and I must confess to being a fan of warm weather myself. But there are amazing travel experiences all around the world and all around the calendar. Cold weather is no reason not to enjoy travel to the fullest. Even deep winter experiences, where the snow goes up to the roof and the thermostat plunges down to -20 (or even -40!) can be incredibly enriching and surprisingly comfortable experiences - provided you know what you're getting into!
I asked nine experienced travel writers to share their best tips and happiest memories from their frostiest travel experiences and I know their advice will warm your heart - and maybe even your toes!
When in doubt, get festive!
If you've ever wanted to experience a winter festival, visiting Alberta in January is a must. Just like summer festivals (but with parkas & snow boots), winter festivals offer wonderful opportunities to absorb Alberta's multicultural spirit & stunning beauty while actually ENJOYING the deep freeze. From Edmonton’s Viking-themed Deep Freeze Street Festival to the international ice carving competitions Ice on Whyte (Edmonton) and Ice Magic Festival (Lake Louise),to the mountain-celebrating Jasper In January, the focus is on winter activities while having fun. Try snowmobiling, ice-carving, snowshoeing and more - all while also enjoying art, music, food and warm drinks. I can't think of a better way to beat the winter blues!
Joanna Farley is a blogger at www.vintagegirltravels.com. Based in Calgary, Alberta, she only leaves the house in winter if there's a festival happening or she's out of chocolate.
Nordic skies and frozen noses in Finland.
Saariselkä, Finland. Early February. Temperature -20°C, and moisture in my nose starts freezing if I breathe heavily. Which I am; my first time on Nordic skis, and I've yet to master the effortless way people breeze up slopes, flicking out the tips of their skis, sending powder spraying. I slow for yellow warning triangles; Finnish doesn't have the same root as most European languages, and I can't make out from the jumble of letters whether to prepare for a steep slope, snowmobile crossing, or a nest of bears further along the trail.
I recognize the sign for a café ahead, and stop for a photograph. The weak sun just clears the treetops, bathing the forest in golden light even though its only mid-morning. Snowmelt on branches freezes again as it runs down the trunks of the trees, crackling and popping like a bowl of cereal. In seconds my hands hurt with the cold, so I head to the café. Stopping for coffee (and a doughnut) isn't a treat, its an important Arctic survival strategy.
Vicky Inglis blogs at These Vagabond Shoes. Based in the south of England, she's disappointed at the complete lack of snow so far this winter.
Preventing a camera crisis, Lapland-style.
Having spent most of my life in a sub-tropical climate, I approached my visit to Lapland, Finland with some trepidation. However, in the dry cold, I found temperatures down to -20 Celsius to be bearable. Below that, keeping warm required more work (-40 Celsius particularly so). Around the -20 Celsius mark or lower, batteries lose their charge very quickly; maybe even 30 minutes or less for a fully charged battery. Suggest you keep batteries warm against your body and only insert them into your camera when needed. Best to carry two batteries. Extreme winter weather holds no fear for me now.
Shane is an avid explorer of The Road Less Travelled and shares his tales through Social Media, photography, writing and speeches.www.thetravelcamel.com
Braving the polar vortex in middle America
I have lived in Southern California my entire life and can count on two hands the amount of times I have actually touched snow, so I wasn't sure what to expect when a friend invited us to Madison, Wisconsin . . . in the middle of winter. While nervous about spending an extended weekend in snow, I was intrigued by the outdoor winter activities. Our trip fell in between two polar vortexes, so the temperature fell to -6F/-21C, but we were prepared with wool socks, thermals, etc. Snowshoeing was an experience like I have never had before, with the still cold beauty interrupted only by the occasional sound of creaking, snow covered trees and the crunching of our snowshoes. Ice skating on a frozen pond was incredible, and I marveled at the frozen bubbles and fallen leaves trapped in the ice beneath my feet. We enjoyed our first winter travel escapade so much we will next be braving a trip to Sweden’s Lapland for dogsledding, snowmobiling, and chasing the Northern Lights.
Katherine Belarmino is the author of the travel blog Travel the World where she and her husband Romeo share their travel adventures.
Seeing the Northern Lights in the land of ice
Reykjavik isn’t as far as most think. With flying time under six hours from the east coast of the United States, you can easily do a quick long weekend away as I did with a suitcase full of layers, wool mittens, wool socks and waterproof jacket (with hood) and boots. If you want to see the Northern Lights, don’t wait. Book the first night in case you don’t see the lights, as many operators give you a do-over on the next tour. Iceland' roads are long stretches so bring snacks and always use the restroom when you have a chance.
Suzanne (aka PhilaTravelGirl) loves travel, wine and cookies and she's flying by the seat of her points to experience the world www.philatravelgirl.com
The dog days of winter
Dog sledding along the frozen Canadian mountain lake, I imagined arctic explorers behind similar canine teams discovering new polar lands. Huskies not only withstand the snow and extreme cold but thrive in it. I will testify as the icicles formed on my eyelashes, the dogs remained unfazed by the blizzard like conditions. At Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours in Canmore, Alberta you can have a guide or drive yourself. Just never let go or these enthusiastic pups will run for miles. Dress for the weather and this is a true winter thrill. My 84 year old mother-in-law thought so too.
Sue and her husband Dave love adventure travel. Inspiring young and old alike to live big at Travel Tales of Life
Soup and sake on a frostbitten night
-20 degrees Celsius. Japan. Nozawa Onsen. Deep snow. Traditional village. Lantern Festival. Miso soup. Chop Sticks. Sake. Frost bite. Put these together and you get the picture.
The Lantern Festival in Nozawa Onsen is like a progressive dinner where you go from district to district in this small village in Japan tasting each miso and drinking each of their sake, all different and all very good and all done in the extreme cold.
Eating said soup with chopsticks with a husband who was being fed a lot of sake by the elders of the village district and this all explains this photo..
Paula and Gordon of Contented Traveller like doing unusual things.
Camping: Yes. Cotton: No.
Winter camping in the mountains of British Columbia isn't as scary as it sounds. After all, there are no bugs, you can easily clean dishes with snow, and the scenery is breathtaking. However, in -25C temperatures, the weather can be literally breathtakingly cold. Winter camping is not an activity for the faint-hearted. But for adventurous Canadians, there is a pride that comes with making it through a cold winter’s night in a tent, to ski across a frozen lake in brilliant winter sun. That is, if your gear doesn't freeze and crack in the cold, of course. Tip: Cotton kills. Layer with merino or coarse wool and waterproof outwear.
Claudia Laroye is a travel writer and blogger based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She shares travel tips & tricks at her blog The Travelling Mom.
When layers aren't enough, go for glogg.
Don't let the smile fool you-- that's completely staged for the photo-- I can't remember ever being so cold as I was when I posed for this photo in Stockholm, Sweden. The cold was even worse because I couldn't wear my bulky mittens and hold the tiny cup of glogg at the same time so I had to keep switching hands to prevent frostbite (because not drinking the glogg was not an option). When I decided to visit Stockholm in December to visit the Christmas markets, I was sure I could handle the cold if I dressed properly. Each morning I went through the tedious process of layering--long silk underwear, a thin wool top, and cashmere sweater (sometimes I even wore two), topped off with a knee length down coat. But none of this mattered as I learned that no amount of layers could keep out that whipping Nordic wind.
Kristin Francis is a New York City travel writer who shops the world and finds the stories behind the unique souvenirs, shops and pop culture trends on her website Souvenir Finder.
Vanessa's advice: make the most of it - and bring spare socks!
Our home base is Ottawa, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the coldest capital city in the world. It's not entirely unusual to see windchill temperatures of -40 Celsius and it's nothing to spend an entire week in the -20+ range. But while we love to complain about the cold and the weather, the truth is that most locals have found a way to happily co-exist with Mother Nature. Our frozen canal is groomed and prepped and turned into the world's longest ice skating rink. When the temperatures are at their coldest in mid-February, we celebrate with the Winterlude festival. And for those less hearty souls, the winter is a chance to take a pause from an otherwise hectic life and enjoy the simpler pleasures of staying cozy inside and nesting.
I think the secret to great winter travel is the same as regular travel. You need a combination of good attitude and preparation and, when winter is involved, that preparation might take a bit more time and consideration. My number one tip is all about feet. Always carry a spare pair of socks - wool, not cotton. Nothing is more miserable (or, frankly, dangerous) as wet, cold feet. Even if your boots don't leak, chilling moisture and sweat can make things just cool and clammy enough to ruin your entire excursion. Changing into fresh, dry, warm socks mid-day will do wonders for moral and comfort.
Now what are you waiting for? Go play in the snow!
What's your number one winter travel destination? What destination is better in winter than it is in summer?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
Heating Up Winter in Haliburton
Snowshoeing in the Ontario Highlands
Icefishing in Central Counties Ontario
23/1/2015 03:14:21 am
Wow! I was cold just reading this article! I'm from Miami so I'm a warm weathr kind of girl, but I have experienced the cold many times. I lived in Europe for 3 years and in Colorado for 1. It's all what you make of it. Thanks for the inspiration!
23/1/2015 03:40:28 am
The article needs a warning: Do not proceed to read without mittens!
23/1/2015 04:40:00 am
Exactly - when you live in northern climates you got to make the most of things!
23/1/2015 04:26:05 am
Thanks for including my story! Reading every one else's stories makes me so excited to head out for another winter vacation! I will definitely be taking Shane's advice about bringing multiple camera batteries.
23/1/2015 04:40:45 am
Isn't that a crafty tip? I had no idea our gear could get hypothermia.
24/1/2015 01:16:34 am
Great collaborative post. Wish I had participated with my Iditarod dogs photo!!! Thanks for doing this!
24/1/2015 09:19:10 am
I would have loved to see the Iditarod dogs! That's such an amazing event.
24/1/2015 03:49:14 am
Brrrr, got cold just reading this post. A few years back we relocated from Florida to Michigan and really got a taste for a real winter. I have to say, embracing the winter activities was so much fun. Great tips from everyone too. I tried dog sledding in Canada and actually got frost nip on my big toe. I think it was due to the cotton socks. Great advice too about bringing extra batteries for cold weather excursions, something I wouldn't have though of!
24/1/2015 09:20:05 am
Cotton really is the devil of the outdoors. The fibers hold moisture and when that moisture freezes against your skin - look out!
24/1/2015 09:21:57 am
I'm really inspired to travel to Japan as well. I never think of it as a winter destination but clearly there's a lot of cool stuff going on.
24/1/2015 05:13:44 am
I am a beach girl, but there are so many other great places to visit in the winter. I want to try dog sledding now!
24/1/2015 09:22:36 am
I haven't been dogsledding yet but everyone I know who has experienced it has loved it.
24/1/2015 07:34:30 am
I am a 5th generation native Floridian, but winter travel has never slowed me down. I love cold weather! Thanks for sharing all the diverse options for winter travel. Hope I get to do the all!
24/1/2015 09:23:20 am
You get bonus points for being a true Floridian who can still embrace the cold weather :-)
24/1/2015 08:31:52 am
Great compilation! I do love the snow and winter, though I don't know if I'm keen enough to camp out in it lol I did one winter in Finland which was absolutely gorgeous and the air literally glittered from the frost and snow, though I spend a full day of my vacation just hibernating huddled up in bed because of the minus temperatures :D
24/1/2015 09:25:31 am
I know what you mean about the glittering air - we have that in Ottawa as well when the sun shines on the snow. In fact, it seems like our coldest days are when the sun is absolutely gleaming.
25/1/2015 05:31:16 am
One of my coldest travel experiences was in Brussels, where the temperatures dropped to freezing and there was a bad wind. But the bigger problem was that I had brought along autumn clothing, nothing for winter! So while I've travelled to places that are much colder, I have rarely felt so cold as I did in Brussels.
27/1/2015 01:28:43 am
Great post. I learned a lot about how to deal with winter. Particularly about cotton!
27/1/2015 01:54:10 am
Cotton is emerging to be everyone's unknown enemy!
28/1/2015 06:03:07 am
Winter travel is awesome! I'm really loving my time in Lapland!
28/1/2015 06:27:53 am
I'm so glad you're having such a great time!
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