It’s finally hit us. The dreaded blue Monday: considered by many to be the most depressing day of the year. It's only been a few weeks but the festivities are already feeling like a distant memory: the endless supply of festive sweets has dried up; there’s no more peculiar cheeses or full bodied wine in the fridge. In their place are soups, salads, and more tubs of greek yoghurt and protein puddings than anyone has space for.
We start to dream of sandy beaches and blue skies, longing for the heat of the summer sun on our skin. You might have a few too many tabs open for a dreamy holiday destination or two. Don’t worry, we won’t judge.
But not everyone feels this way. Some love a crisp winter's morning: the crunch of snow underfoot, and a chilly clear blue sky. Those that have a fondness for this time of year often have hobbies and passions that surround it - whether it's skiing in the alps, venturing to the arctic in the hopes of spotting the aurora borealis, or they’re all about that cosy cabin life with a good book and a warm fire. This month, our team share some of the best winter trips you can enjoy for the next couple of months, plus a few warmer ones to consider if you need a hearty dose of sun.
This month, our team share some of the best winter trips you can enjoy for the next couple of months, plus a few warmer ones to consider if you need a hearty dose of winter sun.
The northern most city in Norway, some 350km from the Arctic circle, is the perfect place to embark on a hunt for the aurora borealis with a sledding trip in the mountains pulled by huskies or reindeer. The fjords of Tromsø also give an amazing opportunity to get up close on whale watching excursions.
Bring plenty of layers - thermals are your friend, as are shearling lined boots if you plan on staying out late to watch the aurora dance across the sky into the early hours. There’s plenty of piers to minimise light pollution from the cars and streetlights. Bring a torch and a thermos of soup or hot chocolate to keep yourself cosy. If you don’t manage to see them for yourself then head to Nordlysplanetariet, the Northern Lights Planetarium, to enjoy a recorded display from the comfort of a plush chair.
Take the Fjellheisen cable car up in the mountains an hour before sunset to take in the spectacular view of Tromsø with a glowing sky and snow capped mountains as far as the eye can see. When it gets too chilly, head into the restaurant to enjoy a mulled wine or hot chocolate.
TOP TIP Download the Troms fylkestrafikk ‘Troms Billett’ app to book your bus ticket and monitor live arrivals - even in 3 feet of snow their buses run to time! They’re great to reach all the key attractions: from the Arctic Cathedral, Planetarium, and Polaris Aquarium.
It’s a classic winter destination for a reason. While marketed as an aurora hotspot there’s so much more to the southern coast of this arctic island.
Take a day and follow the Golden Circle tour to explore Þingvellir national park. Along the way you can chase waterfalls (listening to TLC is optional), watch geysers shoot 40 metres into the sky every 5-10 minutes and if you’re driving you can even stop in to feed and pet horses at Bláskógabyggð, but mind your fingers - they like a nibble!
DON'T MISS If the weather permits, hire a car and take in the stunning coastal scenery on a 2-hour drive to the surreal Víkurfjara black sand beach, which featured in Game of Thrones.
While in Vik, stop in at Skool Beans micro roaster: a converted school bus that serves as a quirky cafe making everything from espressos to lavender hot chocolates. You might even be blessed with an appearance from Sir Jerffrey the cat who calls the bus home. Round off the trip to Vik with the Icelandic Lava show - an entertaining and historical insight into all things lava with a live display too!
With all the driving it's important to take the time to focus on wellness and rejuvenation while on a break, and where better than a geothermal pool. The Blue Lagoon is a regular haunt for tourists, with many enjoying it during a 4-hour layover as it’s so close to the airport. However, Sky Lagoon, which opened in 2021, gives you the opportunity to undertake a seven-step ritual including unparalleled sea views from their sauna, a cold plunge pool to awaken the body and mind, and their bespoke sea salt body scrub to have your skin feeling smooth and reinvigorated.
If you time your visit just right you can enjoy a dramatic sunset and if you’re really lucky, catch a few glimmers of the aurora overhead from the warmth of the lagoon.
ALPE D’HUEZ, FRANCE
Alpe d'Huez is one of France's best loved ski resorts, famous for its extensive ski area with over 250km of runs – this resort is the perfect choice for beginners to more advanced winter sports enthusiasts. You may know it for ‘The Sarenne’ which is often referred to as the longest black run in the world. With the prime ski season across Europe falling from January to March, Alpe D’Huez really comes to life around this time of year.
The easiest way to travel to this winter hotspot is a flight to Grenoble, you can then drive, take a bus or shuttle to reach the resort. The journey offers stunning views, especially as you ascend the winding roads leading to the resort.
TOP TIP Alpe D’Huez is part of The Grand Domaine Ski, which includes several interconnected villages and ski areas. Make sure your ski pass grants access to neighbouring areas to extend the potential of your trip and to avoid skiing into a territory your pass isn’t active for.
Can’t stand the cold and just need a healthy dose of winter sun? Here’s a couple of locations you can enjoy before the mercury rises:
Tellingly nicknamed the “island of eternal spring”, tiny Maderia sits close to the Canaries and has an average winter temperature of 16 degrees. Madeira is characterized by rugged and mountainous terrain, with steep cliffs along the coastline. As well as the subtropical weather, go for the thrilling volcanic geography and lush hiking, the stellar seafood, the dolphin-watching and the black-sand beaches.
Visiting in winter makes for a quieter island with far less tourists. You should swim in the lava pools in Porto Moniz, where the crystal-clear sea water is warmed by the sun, before flooding into the shallow pools made by the lava. Don’t miss the Madeira Botanical Gardens, which can be reached by cable car.
TOP TIP Don’t miss Porto Santo. Porto Santo is a smaller island in the Madeira archipelago, known for its long sandy beaches. You can take a ferry from the mainland for a day of adventure!
CAPE VERDE, WESTERN AFRICA
Lying about 350 miles west of Senegal, the archipelago is a scattering of 10 islands. The average temperature in winter is a balmy 23 degrees, making it a perfect destination to catch some winter sun.
For white-sand beaches and turquoise water, you’re spoilt for choice — on Boa Vista, try Praia de Chaves and Praia de Santa Mónica, and on Sal, head to Santa Maria. Many of the islands’ beaches have facilities to try windsurfing, scuba-diving and snorkelling. For a dip of an entirely different nature, head to Pedra de Lume on Sal— the centre of the islands’ salt production, the lakes here are salty enough that you’ll float in the water!
You are also spoilt for choice on spotting marine wildlife such as whale-watching, dolphin spotting and Caretta Caretta (loggerhead) turtles. We think the best way to find them all is taking an island hopping catamaran boat tour.
DON’T MISS The local cuisine - Seafood and stews are a speciality in a cuisine that draws heavily on Portuguese influences, and the quality of the local fruit is exceptional. Great for foodies like us! Have you been to any of these places, or now added them to your travel bucketlist?
Have you been to any of these places, or now added them to your travel bucketlist? Let us know and join the community discussion on Facebook at Get Lost.