Winter Travel Destinations & Ideas

From Colorado to Switzerland, here's where the most wonderful time of the year is even more magical

Winter is the season of romance: candlelit dinners, fireside cuddles, evening strolls beneath street lamps as snow dusts your sleeves. How better to entice your loved one than with a magical getaway to a winter wonderland? Our favorites span the planet from the Rockies to the Arctic Circle, each home to its own frosty form of allure. So grab your partner for a trip to one (or more) of the following nine destinations—because the most wonderful time of the year is even better there.


One of the world's most romantic winter destinations lies in the European arctic. Finnish Lapland is perfect if you and your special someone want to see the northern lights. Snuggle in a glass igloo at Hotel Kakslauttanen as colors dance across the sky overhead, making for what is unequivocally one of the planet's most enchanting stays. A cooler alternative is to check into an ice hotel, such as the SnowHotel at SnowCastle of Kemi. This combined resort and art exhibit is sculpted anew each year (this year, in the spirit of the 2018 theme, Animal Wonderland) and entails a snow chapel in addition to the world's largest restaurant made of snow. While exploring this glistening region, popular activities include skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, relaxing in saunas, hanging with reindeer and visiting Santa (you may have thought his home was in the North Pole, but it's here).


Photo: Gian Giovanoli/St. Moritz Tourism
Switzerland is full of elegance—a fact that's all the more prevalent when it's also draped in snow. Fall in love with the Alps in the resort town of St. Moritz, where soaring down world-renowned slopes comes with views of the Engadin lake district. Stroll the town for art galleries, fine dining, luxury boutiques, chocolate shops and five-star hotels, then cuddle up for a horse-drawn carriage ride atop frozen Lake St. Moritz. However, this entire country was made for love—so if you're having a difficult time choosing just one destination, a train ride is an ideal way to explore the best of everything. The Glacier Express winds over stone bridges and past waterfalls from St. Moritz to Zermatt; Jungfraujoch climbs upward through mountain tunnels until it reaches the highest-altitude railway station in Europe (read: views!); the Gotthard Panorama Express tours from Luzern to Locarno—German- and Italian-speaking, respectively—past castles galore; and the Bernina Express, which travels from Chur to Tirano, Italy, along the continent's highest-altitude train journey, is so marvelous it's recognized by UNESCO. Whatever you do, don't leave the country without indulging in cheese fondue (you'll thank us).


While our 50 states include some seriously romantic winter contenders, our vote for the snow-sport variety goes to the Centennial State. Colorado's Rocky Mountains are brimming with world-class skiing across the likes of Aspen, Vail, Telluride and Breckenridge, to name a few places. Aspen is the go-to for winter glitz and glam; eco-friendly Vail touts European charm; modern luxury meets the Wild West in majestic Telluride; and Breckenridge is not only one of the best places to ski in the state, but it also made our list of top six ski resorts in the country this year. Romantic activities abound in whichever wonderland you choose. Take your love to new heights with a gondola ride, cozy up by the fire for après-ski hot toddies, melt into a well-deserved couples massage, then settle in for the night at any number of five-star hotels.


Photo: daita/Event Carnival

Fall head over heels with winter activities in Japan—all served with a side of some of the world's best food. Chill out by soaking in a traditional onsen, where natural outdoor hot springs will send you to a steamy sense of Zen. The country is also ideal for snow sport fanatics; hit the slopes with your loved one all over the country, from Hokkaido to Nagano and beyond (we recommend trying out a local method called snowsurfing; lessons always make for a cool date!). For an even more adorable date idea, check out one of the country's many winter and snow festivals, such as the Sapporo Snow Festival and Asahikawa Winter Festival. Admire dramatic ice sculptures while embracing your inner child with snow slides, snowmobile rides and stalls selling traditional treats. Most romantic of all is the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, seen here, when the city and its river glimmer and glow for 10 days in February.

South Korea

Another winter wonderland in Asia—one that will be the spotlight in particular—is South Korea. If a dream getaway for you and your love includes watching top athletes compete for medals (not to mention an epic ceremony or two), head to Pyeongchang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. From there, continue the romance in Seoul: Stroll through Gyeongbokgung Palace, ice-skate at Seoul Plaza, catch glittering night views atop Namsan Seoul Tower and embrace a love affair with Korean barbecue all along the way (this chef will help you find some of the best). 


Photo: Steve Leclrece/Flickr

One of the most romantic destinations on earth is unquestionably Quebec, Canada. Our vote for most charming place in this French Canadian province goes to Quebec City; its Historic District is so historic that it's actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander cobblestoned streets past centuries-old buildings, boutiques and bistros all covered in snow. For an opulent splurge, check into the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (or simply enjoy its views of the Saint Lawrence River over wine and cheese at 1608). A second Quebecois city that's made for winter romance is Montreal. Relax with a spa day at Bota Bota, which floats atop the river in a converted ferryboat. If your idea of a winter wonderland is more outdoors than urban, you'll want to head west to Banff National Park. Explore frozen waterfalls on Johnston Canyon Icewalk, hit the ground running behind a dogsled, try your toes at a triple Salchow atop Lake Louise or strap in for unbeatable aerial views with a heli-snowshoe tour. After adventuring, unwind with a couples massage or a soak in Banff Hot Springs—an experience that's undeniably romantic no matter where you are in the world.

New Mexico

This state may not be the first place that comes to mind when you hear "winter wonderland," but that's about to change. Winter in Santa Fe is paradise; where frosted adobe walls house art galleries galore (the city is America's third-largest art market), and world-class restaurants make the chill air smell like chiles and other savory Southwestern flavors. After sharing your fill of fajitas, dive into history at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum or Bandelier National Monument, just outside the city. New Mexico is also ideal for athletic couples, thanks to its nine downhill ski areas (Taos and Angel Fire are two of the most popular) and some of America's best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing—specifically Valles Caldera, a collapsed volcanic crater that's teeming with wildlife, as well as the dog-friendly Enchanted Forest. Get toasty in another epic hot-spring destination at Ojo Caliente spa, which is the only one in the world with four different types of healing mineral waters (lithia, iron, soda and arsenic). Finally, top off the romance with a ride up Albuquerque's Sandia Peak Tramway, the country's longest aerial tram, which was practically made for swooning over high-desert sunsets.


Photo: Nico Benedickt/Unsplash

If holiday cheer makes you and your lover's hearts sing, pack your bags for the world's Christmas market capital: Germany. Explore nearly 70 of them across the country—from the straight-out-of-a-fairy tale Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market in the Black Forest Highlands to a regal holiday experience at Hohenzollern Castle's Royal Christmas Market. Continue the Bavarian romance across Germany's cities as well. Find romance alongside graffiti in hipster Berlin, where an island in the middle of the River Spree is home to a cluster of five museums, and Tiergarten park turns uber alluring when covered in snow. Another artsy option is the city of Düsseldorf. Its old town holds the nickname of the "longest bar in the world," thanks to 300-something watering holes filling a half-square-mile radius. Embrace a buzz with a local brew (or two) before riding a boat down the Rhine to Kaiserswerth—a historic area that's home to Baroque-style houses and the ruins of Kaiserpfalz castle. Speaking of castles—no trip to Germany is complete without a visit to Neuschwanstein: a place so magical, it inspired the castle at the Most Magical Place on Earth.

New York

The Northeast is another of America's dreamiest winter destinations. Attractions in Upstate New York include a charming stroll along Hudson's Warren Street; hiking around Ludlowville's frozen waterfalls; skating on an outdoor ice rink in Bear Mountain State Park; and exploring Lake Placid, whose village has hosted the Winter Olympics twice. Heading south, Manhattan's cosmopolitan magic is in a league of its own—and when the flurries start falling, that experience grows tenfold. Don your peacoats and scarves for NYC's classic winter date, ice-skating—either with holiday cheer at Rockefeller Center or for fewer crowds, at Wollman Rink, followed by a stroll through Central Park. The Big Apple is also ideal for lovers of art and history, considering the wealth of top-rank museums (the Met and MoMA are just the beginning). New York City is also a top contender for the world's food capital. Date night can span anything from gourmet vegetarian and epic food halls to romantic splurge spots galore; if you're overwhelmed by the plethora of options, these chef recommendations are a good place to start. Top off your weekend with a Broadway show—Hamilton and The Book of Mormon are still on stage.

This article originally appeared on AFAR.