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29 Epic Winter Vacation Ideas to Escape the Cold

Written by Becca

Updated on May 13th, 2024

Looking off an ocean of Cartagena

The best places to travel this winter that we’ve listed all have ideal weather for escaping northern cold winters, longer days and dry seasons. Let’s heat up with these favorite winter vacation destinations to get some winter sun!

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Best Winter Vacation Ideas

  • Miami & South Florida
  • Canary Islands, Spain
  • Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Cartagena & Santa Marta, Colombia
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Chile’s Coastline
  • West coast of Ecuador
  • The Yucatan Peninsula & Tulum, Mexico
  • El Salvador
  • The Philippines
  • Indonesia’s Many Islands
  • Sri Lanka’s Southeast and West Coasts
  • Southern & Southwestern India
  • Hong Kong & Macau
  • Cabarete & the North Coast of the Dominican Republic
  • Zambia & Victoria Falls
  • South Africa

Are you looking for the best places to travel this winter? Every year, we search for warm places to visit in December, January and February so that we can get some sun.

Traveling in the coldest winter months gives us something to look forward to, while the days get shorter. This is important for our emotional well-being, and our mental health!

The best places to travel this winter all have ideal weather for escaping northern cold winters, longer days and dry seasons. Check out my favorite winter destinations below, from the US, Europe and the Middle East, to Central and South America, Southeast Asia and South Asia.

Let’s heat up with these favorite winter vacation destinations!

best countries to visit for winter

I did a bunch of research lately because I wanted to know the definitive answers for the absolute warmest places in the US to take a trip to during the coldest winter months. My research led to some so-so answers (Phoenix, some parts of southern Texas, San Diego and Los Angeles, and New Orleans), but the two top answers were clear.

Miami & South Florida

Probably the best and easiest US destination with warm weather in winter time is Miami, which hands-down has the hottest climate of anywhere in the contiguous USA during the coldest months of January and February.

I’ve been to Miami in both November and December and can vouch for the fact that this is the city where the heat is on (thanks, Will Smith) even when there are blizzards up north, coating places like NYC with snow and ice.

A palm tree in front of a building with a mural on it.

In doing my own research to find the hottest places in the US that are ideal for winter getaways, Miami tops the climate charts at 74-75 degrees F as daily highs in Jan. and Feb.

A few of my favorite things to do in Miami are taking photos at the Wynwood art walls, eating Cuban food on Calle Ocho in Little Havana and doing my own self-guided art deco architecture walk in Miami Beach.

A plate of food on a table in a restaurant.

Hawaii will always be known for being America’s favorite vacation dreamland. It’s one of the warmest places to go in the US during December, January and February. In fact, from November to March, Hawaii is 75-80 degrees (on average, as it varies by islands and their southern or western sides).

Winter is the perfect time to escape the cold and get out to Hawaii. On the north shore of Oahu, waves get crazy big in the winter! This is great for adventurous surfers and spectators alike. Catch the surfing world cup (the Vans Pipe Masters) in December at Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline). In Honolulu, the waves on the south side of the island are super chill and relaxing in the winter.

Next, the days being shorter in December means you don’t have to wake up as early to catch a gorgeous Hawaiian sunrise (try Haleakala on Maui).

best countries to visit for winter

You can even enjoy temperatures of around 65 degrees at night in most of Hawaii during December, January and February after the sun goes down (which, in December, is around 5:45pm; compare this to 4:30 pm on a lot of the East Coast!). Also, no passport needed!

Check out these lovely photos of Hawaii in the winter, taken by my sibling Emma Siegel .

best countries to visit for winter

Remember to be a conscious and respectful traveler in Hawaii. It’s particularly important in regard to understanding the Hawaiian political history of colonization and militarization by the United State,s and the impact that tourists and gentrification have had on displacing native Hawaiians. Consider recent natural disasters as well, like the wildfires in Maui: make sure to be conscious and respectful of the impact on local communities this winter.

Europe (EU) & Middle East

We have tried for many years to find the warmest places for winter in all of Europe and the Middle East. Here’s what we found and where we’ve gone.

Canary Islands, Spain

Until recently, we did not know where the Canary Islands were, but as it turns out, we’ve now been there twice, both in winter and in summer. Travel to the Canary Islands during winter will give you the warmest destination possible within the EU, and we know this because we researched the topic in depth.

What we learned is that the south and east sides of Tenerife like at El Teide National Park and Gran Canaria get the most sun. These regions of the Canary Islands are warmest year-round.

In winter, check out the Maspalomas Dunes of Gran Canaria and the southern beaches of Tenerife to get your tan on and to see spectacular and unique volcanic scenery.

The Canary Islands are also a great destination for couples, as it’s helpful to rent a car and road trip around these islands. Super romantic, for adventurers!

Woman hiking on a wide desert hiking trail with red desert rocks in El Teide National Park in Spain

Stars are one of my favorite things to shoot. If you’re interested in learning how I took this photo, check out our article about night photography .

Tel Aviv, Israel

You may not have pictured Israel as a winter beach destination, but if you go to Tel Aviv between December and February, you can enjoy sunny days with highs in the mid 70s and get some beach time.

Israel is a fantastic cultural destination with so much to see, all in compact distances. Escape the winter cold at the Dead Sea, where temperatures year round are in the 70s and 80s, and you can take a dip and float in the saltiest body of water on earth.

The cost of travel in Israel is a bit like traveling in Europe, so we recommend traveling with a friend or significant other with whom you can share a private room.

If you travel solo and are looking for a great hostel dorm experience, check out a stay with Abraham Hostels .

Note that the rest of Israel has tendencies to get a bit cool during winter, and Jerusalem can even see snow.

Tel Aviv, though, stays consistently in the 70s through much of winter, making it a great escape for European tourists and Israeli natives alike, along with travelers from around the world coming to see the gorgeous Mediterranean beach culture.

View of a beach in Tel Aviv, Israel

Are you ready to take your trip?

Check out some of the things we pack to inspire you for your trip!

South America

South America (mostly all of it) gets its summer when the northern hemisphere experiences winter. This is technically true for South America south of the Equator, but luckily, countries like Colombia are warm all year round (save for elevated areas with high altitudes!).

Cartagena & Santa Marta, Colombia

You can usually find a cheap flight to Cartagena from various US cities if you choose to travel in January and February. If you only have time off in December, don’t worry!

Looking for new proven ways to save money on flights and airfare? The easy solution is to sign up for Going , the leading way to find flight deals and mistake fares, directly to your inbox. Use HALFHALF20 to get 20% off!

Cartagena is a super affordable destination for travelers and it’s hot all year round. Temperatures are never lower than 85 F during daytime and 75 F at night, and with the humidity, it always feels warmer.

Looking off an ocean of Cartagena

Cartagena and its nearby tropical island archipelagos have beautiful pristine beaches, lots of sun all winter long (dry season begins in February) and is an ideal winter vacation for couples, where a private room in a hostel will cost between $40 and $75 USD.

Staying in a hotel will cost between $100 and $200 USD in the mid-range, and there’s a lot of value here!

Santa Marta is an even more affordable destination because you can somewhat escape the tourist prices in Cartagena that cater to foreigners from all over the world. Santa Marta is a bit more laid back and authentic in its historic colonial center.

View from a beach in Santa Marta, Colombia

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina’s seasons are flipped with those north of the equator, so during December through February, the country enjoys its summer. Between these months, Buenos Aires, the capital city, gets highs in the 80s and lows in the high 60s at night.

Sounds beautiful to us, and it was (when we went)! Buenos Aires is a lively city teeming with culture and history.

We love the Buenos Aires outdoor cafe scene , the colors in La Boca, the tango dancing and the incredible architecture. Oh, and don’t forget the awesome nightlife scene. Argentina is surely a winter vacation idea for escaping the cold. Leave your coat at home!

Buenos Aires at night

Chile’s Coastline

Chile is a skinny country that will have its summer when the US and Canada have their coldest winter weather. Santiago, the capital city, has a daily average high temperature of 86 degrees F in January. Valparaiso, which has a Mediterranean climate, will have warm temperatures in the mid-70s during Jan-Feb.

The northern third of Chile has a “mild desert climate,” giving beaches like Viña del Mar high temperatures around 80 degrees in the warmest months.

A blue sky with white clouds.

West coast of Ecuador

Ecuador, a country that looks small on a map, lies at the Equator! Yes, Ecuador has warm places to travel all winter long.

Beware, though, because not every city in Ecuador is steamy hot. In fact, Ecuador is famous for packing all four seasons and countless types of climate regions into a single country that is about twice the size of Florida.

To get the warmest destinations in Ecuador, keep your travels to hug the Pacific coast, rather than venturing inland to areas that will quickly rise in elevation. For example, the capital city of Quito is several thousand meters above sea level and has an annual climate of a temperate Andean 66-68 degrees F on average, all year.

For the hottest places in Ecuador, check out Guayaquil, Playa Puerto Lopez, Mompiche and Montañita, a beach village popular with travelers.

Central America

Central America is known for being tropical, close to the US and Canada, and a fantastic place to plan your winter travel!

In fact, for many years (and still to this date), I focused on having a winter getaway to Central America specifically. During these travels, I took trips to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, from November to March (with most of those trips in January and February).

See what these awesome and mostly tropical winter destinations are all about, here.

The Yucatan Peninsula & Tulum, Mexico

One of our favorite winter weekend getaways from NYC is the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

You can also save money traveling this winter by flying into Cancun from major US cities and then hopping a bus immediately to less touristy cities like Valladolid or Merida .

Even if you want to go to a different part of the Yucatan like Merida, Isla Holbox or Playa del Carmen, take that nonstop flight from any international airport and you can get on an easy ADO bus to your destination when you land.

We loved exploring the cenotes outside Tulum by bicycle and seeing the clear water, which is so warm it feels like a bath. We also liked day trips like Uxmal , the Mayan ruins site outside Merida. Both are great options for seeing culture.

Our favorite part of traveling in Mexico might be the tacos, so get your stomach ready for some great flavors. Temperatures are always around the mid-80s during winter months of December to February, and nights are rarely lower than the mid-60s.

Teal (or light green) 1970s style Volkswagen Beetle

Having taken my glorious winter trip to Guatemala in January, I’ll vouch for the T-shirt-friendly weather that had me wearing a shirt and shorts visiting the enchanting Mayan ruins of Tikal and the incredible natural landscape at Semuc Champey.

best countries to visit for winter

Winter is Guatemala’s dry season, so you can unabashedly enjoy dry weather, sunny days, temperatures in the 80s. I recommend a stay in Antigua , as most travelers often opt for! During winter, you can soak up Vitamin D in the 74-77 degree air at any of Antigua’s rooftop cafes and coffee shops , which is a total treat.

I’ve also been to Guatemala in April, and that was nice, too! A city like Antigua is a great choice of a destination for all year round. Having been there both in winter and spring, I can say it’s an excellent escape from the snow and blizzards at home in the US. Check out my full guide for day trips from Antigua for some more travel inspiration.

best countries to visit for winter

I had an awesome time in Panama, one of my favoriate budget-friendly destinations in December! I spent time in all three parts of the Panamanian trifecta: in the mountains, at Boquete, at the beach, in Bocas del Toro and in the city in Panama City and Casco Viejo (the most beautiful historic quarter).

I was surely wearing a summer dress and a tank top and shorts at the beacn in Bocas, and while walking around Panama City, visiting the Panama Canal, in winter. Temperatures remain in the mid-80s or high 70s for December, January and February, and there’s a slight breeze.

At coasta locations like Bocas del Toro on the Carribean side, temperatures are 84-86 degrees year round, in fact! Nights may see the mid-60s, so bring a light coat and one pair of pants.

If you want to stay away from cold temperatures completely during your winter getaway, then stay away from the altitudes in Panama. The week before Christmas, I climbed the tallest volcano in Panama (Volcan Baru) and at the top, it was absolutely freezing! As we descended, though, it was sweaty all the way down in the sun.

best countries to visit for winter

Nicaragua is a fun place to go, and judging by the killer temperatures I had there in April (mid-90s… too hot!), I’d advise visiting this lovely Central American nation between November and March.

The best time to visit Nicaragua is indeed during winter, as the dry period falls between December and April. It’ll be wettest, with storms brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, during May to November, so conveniently, this is the less desirable time to go.

For winter climate averages, December to February is coolest, which provides some respite for those extreme high temps I experienced during my (potentially badly planned) trip in April. If I could do it again, I’d go to Nicaragua in December, January or February, especially as a break from the coldest temperatures at home.

For what to see in Nicaragua, check out a few of my favorite destinations: San Juan del Sur, Granada and Leon. I was charmed by the west coast Pacific sunsets and by the colorful vibrant personalities of these historic and colonial cities.

best countries to visit for winter

I took my trip to Costa Rica smack in the middle of December and it was bathing suit weather the whole time (on the coast). If you are looking for cooler temperatures (AKA a way to not lose your mind in your sweat), stick to the inland areas for ecotourism like Arenal and Monteverde.

If you do want to get your suntan on and go hiking in a bathing suit, check out year-round hot areas like Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo and Parque Nacional Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast.

Beware of the Costa Rica humidity: this is not a place to smooth out the frizz in your hair!

El Salvador

El Salvador is somewhere I’d really like to go during winter because of its tropical location on the west side of the Central American region. With beaches for surfing and the Ruta de las Flores hiking, it seems like a varied destination for winter travel that’ll be warmer than your home city this time of year.

Between November and March, El Salvador has its winter, but strangely, temperatures peak in April. This being said, in the months leading up to April (January-February-March), daily temperatures are in the 80s and the nights can be nice and cool in the mid-60s.

El Salvador’s tropical climate has its rainy season from around May to August, so by heading there during winter as a vacation destination, you’ll be experiencing the country in its driest period.

Belize has some of the best temperatures for a winter vacation: I don’t Belize you! (Ha ha)

Incredibly, Belize in winter (December to February) won’t make you sweat so much that you’ll want to escape to A/C: no, no, quite the contrary. The winter temperatures in this Caribbean and Central American destination hover in the 70s for much of the winter due to weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico.

This being said, gorgeous destinations in Belize like Caye Caulker, San Ignacio, Tobacco Caye and the Great Blue Hole will have some of their driest weather between December, January, February and March.

Belize is a pretty adventurous travel destination , so go see for yourself!

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is a big place, full of amazing places to see. Lots of Southeast Asia will be hot during the northern hemisphere winter, but not all of them . Read on to see the hottest places in Southeast Asia during winter.

The sun is setting over a body of water.

When talking about Vietnam as a winter destination, we have to be a little bit careful: Vietnam is a L O O O N G country, much like California is a long (tall?) state, and temperatures are very different at the top (near China) and the bottom (tropical, near the Gulf of Thailand).

I have been to Vietnam twice in winter (January to be exact, and twice!) and have spent time in the north, central regions and the south. If you really want the “sweat your face off in Southeast Asia experience,” you’ll stick to the south.

best countries to visit for winter

The north isn’t all too “cold” in winter, though. Hanoi, the capital city, will be 68-70 in winter. I was able to wear a sundress on some days, and just took a jean jacket with me in my backpack for the day.

Go to central Vietnam in winter, though, and Hoi An (one of my favorite destinations!) will give you daytime highs of 77-79. In thes outh, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is even warmer, with daytime highs anywhere between the mid 80s to potentially low 90s in December, January and February. No sweater needed!

Having spent a month in Vietnam in Hanoi, I can surely tell you how cool of a country it is. If you have the time (two weeks, or three), it’s great to explore of all the gorgeous scenery and culture inside Vietnam. The food is some of my favorite in all my travels, and that says a LOT.

Here is a photo I took during winter in Hoi An.

Thailand may seem like an obvious choice for a destination to beat the winter blues, but my advice is to consider that only the southern half of Thailand is going to truly be insanely hot during the winter months of December through March.

Take it from me: having been to Thailand three times during winter, I have sweated my face off in the islands like Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, and I have frozen my feet off while trekking in the hills outside Chiang Mai in January, with lows of 44 F and no heat!

best countries to visit for winter

Given this, my immediate recommendation for visiting Thailand in winter is to fly into Bangkok, warm up at the beaches that are closer to the Bangkok region like Pattaya, and then, if you have five to ten days for your itinerary, head down to the islands via train or flight, hitting Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi. If you’re so inclined, spend some time on the famed beaches of Phuket to see what that’s all about.

I personally love the north of Thailand, and spent time up there in winter (January to be precise). Temperatures in Chiang Mai may be as high as 88-91 during January and February, and 84 in December. Nights will be down in the high 50s because of the dryness in the air. If you want to avoid the chilly weather of the mountains, stay at lower altitudes, because mountain treks will have nights in the 40s.

best countries to visit for winter

I have only taken a trip to Cambodia once, but it was in January-February, so I have a pretty good handle on the temperatures in Colombia in the “coldest” of the Northern Hemisphere winter months.

A winter in much of Cambodia is daily temperatures in the 80s and 90s, and nights in the 60s or 70s. It is quite beautiful. I remember getting so hot seeing the temples of Angkor Wat that my friends and I needed a siesta break in the middle of the day to beat the heat with cold drinks and resting.

If you want a sure way of finding hot weather and sun, head to Cambodia’s south coast to visit its famous coastline that has had tons of development in the last decade. The most famous destinations are Sihanoukville and the surrounding beaches.

Don’t worry, though, if you’re not a beachgoer, cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (along with the boat ride from one to the other) will keep your skin glowing with the tropical warmth. Nights are rarely cool enough to require a layer on top of a T-shirt, and sunny days during the winter dry season will keep rain away.

Remember that Cambodia requires a travel visa for foreigners. See more about tourist visas in our guide to figuring out if you need a visa to travel .

The Philippines

Can you tell already that I love traveling in winter to escape the cold? I’ve been to the Philippines not once, but twice, over Christmas, and can vouch that this is a HOT place to travel in.

January is the coolest month in the Philippines, but that doesn’t say much for a country that often has average highs at 90 degrees F most of the year. Destinations like Boracay have tropical climates that let temperatures, even in January and February, settle at 86 degrees F.

Dry season is from December to April or May, so by planning your travels for January, February or March, you’ll avoid typhoons completely and experience fewer rains than other times of year.

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Malaysia comes in two halves, and both are warm in winter! This country located right above the Equator is tropical and a lot of fun to travel in!

I’ve been to Malaysia twice, spending time in Kuala Lumpur and Penang (my favorite). In December, January and February, Penang will have highs between 88 and 90 degrees, and Kuala Lumpur will be much the same, at 89-91. With nights in the 70s in both, and for basically the entire year, this such a nice winter getaway!

best countries to visit for winter

Also, if anything … go for the food. Malaysian food is incredible. Just look at this photo of my bowl of cold cendol (a sweet soupy and icey dessert to keep you cool in the heat, with jellies and a ton of coconut milk). YUM!

Would you have ever thought of a winter trip to Singapore? It’s a good idea for escaping winter and getting your fill of a tropical getaway! In December through February, Singapore days will be about 88 degrees and nights are only 76!

If you saw Crazy Rich Asians (the movie), you probably saw the scenes of eating in the hawker market. This is one of the best things to do in Singapore, and it’s a Singapore tradition to visit all the stalls to see what you want to eat, and then sweat while digging in!

What I like about Singapore is how clean it is. During my trip, I took the Singapore metro (MRT), visited Chinatown, went to rooftop bars with my friend who lived there at the time and tried LOTS of amazing food! I also liked Little India, as the city has such a mix of cultures.

The driest winter month is February, so that would be a great time to go and enjoy the warm temperatures.

best countries to visit for winter

Indonesia’s Many Islands

Indonesia is an island nation that has a tropical climate that keeps its temperatures warm all year (save for some elevated areas with high altitudes that would be inland). You’ve likely heard about Bali by now, and Bali makes a great destination for winter time, but did you know that Indonesia has other places to visit that are great ideas for escaping winter?

Visit Jakarta, Surabaya, Lombok and Medan, and don’t underestimate the beauty in the Gili Islands, West Java and South Sumatra. Beware that the hottest month in Indonesia is actually October, so traveling in the months that follow mean very warm days in the 80s.

Lots of South Asia will be hot during winter, so it is a great region to travel and explore in December, January, February and March.

A woman standing on top of a mountain overlooking a valley.

Sri Lanka’s Southeast and West Coasts

Sri Lanka is a tropical island located south of India. It is a lovely place to plan a one-week or two-week winter getaway, and temperatures remain tropical all winter long due to its location close to the Equator and in the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka does in fact have some elevated areas in its center, which will get chilly due to altitude at any time of year. For keeping your trip completely warm and hot, stick to the coasts, visiting Colombo, Galle Fort and the east coast beaches for surfing.

A rocky shore with waves and a cloudy sky.

Southern & Southwestern India

The hottest places in India in winter are going to be the west and southern coast (think Mumbai-Maharashtra and Kochi-Kerala) and the southeastern provinces like Tamil Nadu.

Take Chennai, for example, on India’s east coast, which will have winter temperatures ranging from the high 80s to real feels of 90s during the daytime, even in February. And Goa, India’s famed beachgoer paradise on the mid-west coast, with temperatures in the mid-80s and an ocean temperature of around 82 degrees F. Sounds like bathwater.

India is also one of the most affordable places to travel in , and you’ll see when you get there that there is a huge bang for your buck.

A lake with a lot of trees in it.

While not entirely tropical, there are a few exciting travel destinations in East Asia that are warmer than others. Let’s see which ones make the cut for the warmest places in East Asia during winter.

A crowd of people crossing a street.

Hong Kong & Macau

Although it’s far from North America and from Europe, Hong Kong is a worthwhile place to spend a winter getaway and it never disappoints.

Most North American and European citizens do not need a visa to get to Hong Kong, so you can show up when you want! For Hong Kong, a city with a scorching summer reaching the 90s and with humid, wet weather, winter months present an amazing time to visit.

Your escapes from the heat are getting on a junk boat and walking around at night .

Hong Kong winter, between December and February, is the driest time of year, so you’ll avoid all types of monsoons and storms. Humidity dies down, and days are comfortable in the 70s, with nights in the mid-to-high 60s.

Check out the various hikes that are ideal for the dry winter months, and of course explore the incredible urban jungles of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Make sure to check out all of the hidden photo spots in Hong Kong as well!

If you’re interested in visiting Macau (also spelled “Macao”), note that it has largely the same warm climate pattern as Hong Kong, being only an hour away by ferry. Macau has an incredible mix of east and west because of its Portuguese colonial roots. You can see this European history, meshed with that of China, apparent in the unique Macanese cuisine and architecture of Macau.

Hong Kong skyline with a road and a bridge

The Caribbean Islands

The Caribbean will always be a good choice for American and Canadian travelers seeking some winter sun during the coldest months of the year.

What’s stopping you from an easy warm getaway to the Caribbean islands during December, January and February? Start planning with these winter escape ideas below.

Cabarete & the North Coast of the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana’s white beaches and turquoise seas are probably what you think of when you think of spending the worst of winter in the Dominican Republic.

It’s what we think of, too, but it isn’t how we wanted to experience a trip to this country that sits rather close to the continental US. We opted for a trip to explore the sights and beaches of Cabarete and the Dominican Republic North Coast instead.

Surfer beach lined with palm trees in the Dominican Republic

The good news for this destination as your winter getaway is that it doesn’t come at the price of a 4- or 5-star resort. In fact, you can stay in budget accommodations that bring you close to nature and other backpackers. In Cabarete alone, there’s Ali’s Surf Camp (also known as Surf Camp Cabarete), a nearby hostel and a few Airbnbs.

We opted for a combination of both, between our travels that ranged from Puerto Plata to Rio San Juan, by comparing accommodation options .

For fun ways to get around, there are the local guaguas. These are sure to give you an authentic and semi-crowded Dominican transit experience. The great thing is that they cost between $1 to $2 USD per trip! It’s great value for your money, because other things like private taxi rides don’t come cheap.

There’s lots to do in surf paradises like Cabarete. For coffee lovers, you can visit the local cafe scene .

Two cold brews on a table at Vagamundo in Cabarete

For the more adventurous type, you can check out some unusual and unique things to do in Sosua and Puerto Plata .

Mundo Kong front sign

Temperatures range from 65F at night to 85F during the day (it can feel warmer in the sun, but cools down by sunset and it’s pretty temperate).

Given that Jamaica is located in the Caribbean and you’ll want to avoid all of hurricane season completely, visiting this island in the winter time is the best idea. From January to February, Jamaica will have temperatures in the 80s, and this is the “coolest” time of year to visit the tropical island.

What’s there to do in Jamaica? Aside from the well-known destinations of Montego Bay and Negril, there’s Ocho Rios, Kingston, Blue Lagoon and Pelican Bar.

It’s easy to get a flight to Jamaica from the US or Canada.

Africa is far for most travelers coming from North America and Europe, but it is worth the trip. Much of Africa remains warm throughout the year, which makes the African continent a great idea for traveling in November, December, January, February and March.

A person is standing on top of a rocky mountain.

Zambia & Victoria Falls

Due to being in the southern hemisphere, Zambia, a country in southern Africa, has a subtropical climate that will get you an 87-degree (Fahrenheit) day at Victoria Falls (one of the seven greatest natural wonders of the world).

Pair a trip to Zambia with a trip to Namibia, Botswana or South Africa, and you’ll be able to have a two-week bender seeing the best of Africa during winter in outrageously warm weather.

If you do make it to Zambia, be sure to go for a river cruise on the Zambezi River, trying local brews and seeing hippos with your boat driver and guide.

Two women sitting on a boat.

South Africa

Beautiful South Africa is an excellent choice for a winter trip, as the country is in the Southern Hemisphere and will experience the height of its summer during December, January and February.

Catch a safari, see the beaches in Cape Town, visit wineries in Stellenbosch and hang out in Pretoria, all in temperatures like 80-85 degrees F during the day.

Looking to update your travel attire and gear for the winter? Visit our favorite travel gift ideas .

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best countries to visit for winter

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The best winter-sun destinations

By Olivia Morelli

The view from Amanwella near Tangalle Sri Lanka

Summer may be well and truly over in the UK as back to school season begins but it's just getting started elsewhere in the world. Or better yet, it's continuing in some places that are closer to home – where it's possible to grasp onto a sunny holiday right up until November. From tropical islands to desert escapes, we’ve collated the destinations that offer warm weather during the winter, as well as smart places to stay, covetable culture and a brilliant food scene. For more ideas, see our guide to the best winter sun destinations in Europe .

Flight time 10 hours When to go DecemberApril Average winter temperature 28°C  There is no bad time to go to the...

The Maldives

Flight time: 10 hours When to go: December–April Average winter temperature: 28°C

There is no bad time to go to the Maldives. There is nothing bad about going to the Maldives at any time ever. They are perfect little islands, whichever you choose – tiny castaway-fantasy sandy islets, mostly with one immaculate resort, with various levels of splendidness. Even people who think they will get bored in the Maldives end up loving the Maldives. They're family-friendly , and for blissed-out beachy nirvana, they're hard to beat. And they're at their best during the British winter, and a quite do-able 10 hours away.

Where to stay: It's hard to beat Gili Lankanfushi, which sits on what might be the most beautiful lagoon in the country. We also love Alila Kothaifaru on the natural island of Kothaifaru, with its spattering of jungle-y vegetation between villas creating a truly private retreat. For some of the best snorkelling around, the Emerald Faarufushi Resort & Spa is located in one of the Maldives’ deepest, most northern atolls, ensuring plenty of marine life to peek at among the fluttering corals. See more of the best hotels in the Maldives

See more of the best hotels in the Maldives

Flight time 4 hours 30 minutes from London When to go MarchMay OctoberNovember Average winter temperature 22°C  The...

Flight time: 4 hours 30 minutes from London When to go: March–May; October–November Average winter temperature: 22°C

The eastern Mediterranean Sea around Cyprus may be chilly in winter, but the island gets plenty of sunshine all year, so there's a good chance you'll get T-shirt weather even in the coldest months. From March, the island's flowers start to bloom, and there's barely another visitor in sight. It's a great option for families too as it's only a short hop from the UK and there are plenty of child-friendly hotels once you're there.

Where to stay: Anassa in Latchi made our Gold List this year as one of the best hotels in Europe . The elegant series of white buildings is particularly beloved for its multigenerational appeal thanks to a super slick kid's club and effortlessly chic adult-only spaces. For a child-free stay, adults-only Amavi is a glossy beachside bolthole with a fantastic rooftop sushi restaurant. Foodies will like Cap St George , with its seventh-floor restaurant offering incredible sea views and a regular rotation of Michelin-star chefs flown in from across the globe. For more, see our pick of the best hotels in Cyprus .

Flight time 7 hours from London When to go NovemberMarch Average winter temperature 26°C  For yearround sunshine...

Flight time: 7 hours from London When to go: November–March Average winter temperature: 26°C

For year-round sunshine, spotless beaches and impeccable service a short hop away, Dubai is an obvious choice. The Palm, a manmade sweep of beach packed with superb hotels, each with its own immaculate patch of beach, is perfect for family holidays . It's not all glass and shopping malls in Downtown Dubai: the Old Souk is a warren of glittering jewellery and pots, and the peaceful Dubai Creek hints at a time before the seven-star hotels and indoor ski slopes. Two new creative districts (Dubai Design District and Al Quoz) have gained the attention of the international art scene, too. To see the city in its best light, go in November, when it's not too humid and you can happily bronze by the pool all day.

Where to stay: The newly-renovated Bab Al Shams now has a bright, contemporary aesthetic that remains true to its Arabian roots, with new restaurants and fantastic sunset views. For some old-world glamour, there's the maximalist marble-clad palace Jumeirah Al Qasr , which made our Gold List in 2023 . And it’d be remiss not to mention Atlantis the Royal , the self-described ‘most ultra-luxury experiential resort in the world’, which saw Beyoncé perform at its opening celebration. See our best hotels in Dubai guide for more.

Flight time 16.5 hours from London When to go Bali is hot yearround. It is rainiest  NovemberApril but even when it...

Flight time: 16.5 hours from London When to go: Bali is hot year-round. It is rainiest (and thus cheapest) November–April; but even when it rains, it's in short, tropical bursts. Average winter temperature: 27°C

Bali is the heavenly island with earthly pleasures. Back-to-blissed-out spa retreats so fine that Bali has developed a style all of its own: clean and contemporary, dark wood and linen whites. Parties, from flip-flop full-moon raves in hidden-away coves to the cool Potato Head Beach Club and The Lawn at the boho beach spot that everyone's talking about, Canggu . There's glamping here now, and chic boutiques. There's art in Ubud . There are spas absolutely everywhere. There are beaches, of course. And the pools here are something else: a classy, jungly deep green, shrouded by tropical leafery. Those incredible horizon pools high up overlooking rainforest – that's classic Bali.

Where to stay: Book ahead and you could nab a night in one of the world's most popular Airbnbs, The Hideout , a magical looking two-story bamboo hut in Selat. In Ubud, Capella Ubud is an African-inspired jungle camp home to 22 one-bedroom suites with sprawling outdoor decks and private plunge pools. At the edge of the Uyung River, Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve has a gilded, glittering on-site temple, spacious villas with jungle views and spa treatments by renowned intuitive healer Ibu Ketut Mursi. See our edit of the best hotels in Bali for more.

Flight time 13 hours from London to Mah  When to go OctoberNovember Average winter temperature 29°C  Adrift in the...

Flight time : 13 hours from London to Mahé (including one stop) When to go : October–November Average winter temperature: 29°C

Adrift in the Indian Ocean , a thousand miles from the nearest coast of Africa , the Seychelles are the ultimate fantasy-island escape.  The archipelago has year-round heat and sunshine, as well as its fair share of rain. The wettest months in the Seychelles are November to March, but temperatures never get too oppressively hot (meandering around 24ºC at night and up to 29ºC in the daytime, year round). October is a great month to go for a hit of sunshine, before it gets too rainy, and the air is fresher.

Where to stay: Its private-island resorts – North Island , Denis Island , the Six Senses Zil Pasyon – are possibly the most sensational anywhere in the world, a honeymooner 's dream (even William and Kate honeymooned at North Island, though the hotel is too discreet to admit it). For more options, see our guide to the best Seychelles hotels . 

Flight time 12 hours from Londonnbsp When to go MayDecember Average winter temperature 28°C  What Mauritius has over its...

Flight time: 12 hours from London  When to go: May–December Average winter temperature: 28°C

What Mauritius has over its Indian Ocean neighbours, the Seychelles and the Maldives, is its size and natural diversity, and the fact that you can do it independently. Its beaches are still potted tropical paradises, and here you can rent a car and go exploring to find your own deserted cove, drive or hike up into its rainforested hills, take a boat out and go snorkelling or dive in its extraordinary underwater world. It has a bit of a reputation for overly groomed resorts – but it also has some of the finest beach hotels in the world, and you can find little boutique hotels right on the beach, too. Perhaps the best months to go to Mauritius are September, October and November, when it's hot but not too hot (averaging around 25-28ºC in the day, a cooler 17-19ºC at night), and at its driest (the rainy season in Mauritius is from January til April).

Where to stay: The most spectacular stay might be Shangri-La Le Touessrok , a private island escape with two pristine golf courses, a pagoda-style spa and a sushi restaurant. For a fun Soho house-style atmosphere try LUX* Grand Baie – there's a poolside DJ, a rooftop athletics track and a nightclub underneath its fabulous Asian restaurant Ai KISU. See our best hotels in Mauritius guide for more.

Papagayo beach Lanzarote

Canary Islands

Flight time: 3 hours 30 minutes from London When to go: Year-round Average winter temperature: 22°C

It's summer all the time in the Canaries, where temperatures average in the low-mid 20s all year round. As well as the well-known destinations – Gran Canaria , Tenerife , Fuerteventura, Lanzarote (pictured) – there are three smaller islands that are less visited and less spoilt: La Palma , El Hierro and La Gomera . They don't appear on the average British holidaymaker's mental world-map, and make for interesting exploring and winter sunshine.

Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton in Tenerife made our Gold List in 2022 – a pastel-pink, Moorish palace mansion of a hotel with eight restaurants, a handful of swimming pools and a decadent spa.

Flight time 13 hours from London When to go NovemberMarch Average winter temperature 32°C  The islands of Thailand are...

Thai islands

Flight time: 13 hours from London When to go: November–March Average winter temperature: 32°C

The islands of Thailand are the stuff of castaway fantasies. White sand, rustic-chic beach shacks, a hammock gently swaying between two palm trees as a turquoise sea laps at the shore… There are dozens to choose from, and each offers something quite different, from the super-spas of Koh Samui to barefoot beach-bum in Koh Lipe, while Koh Lanta remains quietly chilled out with lovely places to stay on beaches that stretch for miles.

Where to stay: On Phang Nga, Six Senses Yai Noi has created the perfect castaway experience via a collection of stilted thatched-roof villas and a hilltop half-moon infinity pool. If you're headed to Phuket, Amanpuri has a special location on Pansea beach, plus an impressive selection of restaurants and a world-beating spa. For something the kids will love, the railway-themed InterContinental Khao Yai Resort has upcycled vintage railway carriages serving as suites, and an old-timey ticketing booth for a lobby. See the best hotels in Thailand for more.

Flight time 10 hours from London When to go NovemberMarch Average winter temperature 24°C  Mexico's Yucatn Peninsula on...

Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

Flight time: 10+ hours from London When to go: November–March Average winter temperature: 24°C

Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, on the Atlantic Coast, has a magical mix of ancient and buzzy-right-now cultures. Swim in its green ceynotes, discover temples, salute the sun beneath the glitterball gods with fashionistas on the beach in Tulum . Mix it up in colonial Mérida . Go barefoot on Isla Holbox . The best time to come is during Britain's darkest months.

Where to stay: Beachside retreat Hotel Esencia , beloved by celebrities such as Bella Hadid and Lupita Nyong’o, made our gold list of the best hotels in the world for 2023. Likewise Habitas Bacalar , a small – just 34 rooms – off-the-beaten track stay that hosts local vendors for guests experiences and uses traditional Mayan cooking techniques within its restaurant. For more options, see our pick of the best hotels in Mexico .

Flight time 3 hours 50 mins from London When to go DecemberMarch Average winter temperature 21°C  Once a slightly...

Taghazout, Morocco

Flight time: 3 hours 50 mins from London When to go: December–March Average winter temperature: 21°C

Once a slightly rough-around-the-edges hippie town, Taghazout is now Morocco ’s top surf destination. The sleepy fishing village on the Atlantic coast hasn’t lost any of its old-fashioned charm, and goats still wander gormlessly through the dusty tangerine-coloured streets while fishermen haul in their daily catches from rickety blue and white boats. For serious surfers, winter marks the beginning of peak season, and as the swell rips up, the break-chasing crowds arrive. Temperatures usually hover around a very pleasant 20°C, but Saharan winds often push the mercury up much higher. The places to stay keep getting smarter, offering surf lessons in the day and rooftop yoga at sunset. And even if you’re not into surfing, there are plenty of beautiful hiking trails nearby, camel rides along the beach and excellent fishing too.

Where to stay: 15-room, Afro-inspired Munga Guesthouse is owned by former pro surfer Mounir Bouallaq.

Flight time 7 hours from London When to go OctoberMarch Average winter temperature 24°C  The midAtlantic archipelago of...

Flight time: 7 hours from London When to go : October–March Average winter temperature: 24°C

The mid-Atlantic archipelago of Bermuda , mythical setting for Shakespeare's Tempest , is a land of pink beaches, pink houses and brightly coloured shorts. It is Caribbean in nature, though it's much closer to the UK – so shorter flight times – and has a distinctive character all of its own. Its pink-sand beaches are lovely, too. Those along the South Shore are the glory of the island. Horseshoe Bay is the best known and most crowded, though Warwick Long Bay, a short way along the coast, is just as alluring. At one end of Horseshoe there is a little patch of sand the size of a playground, cut off from the rest of it by a rocky hillock.

Where to stay: We like the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club , a 19th-century retreat set right on the capital's harbour.

Flight time 10 hours from London When to go Yearround Average winter temperature 21°C  'The Golden State' is an...

Flight time: 10 hours from London When to go: Year-round Average winter temperature: 21°C

'The Golden State' is an appropriate nickname; California is one of the sunniest of US states, with mild winters, little rain and plenty of sunshine, especially in the south. For a classic USA road trip , hire a convertible and hit the Pacific Coast road. State Route 1 runs 550 miles from Leggett all the way down to Malibu. It has famously beautiful views much of the way, and the best section is that from San Francisco through Monterey and San Simeon to San Luis Obispo (where the road drifts inland), although north of San Francisco the route is wilder and less crowded. Aim to drive southwards, to be closer to the sea.

Where to stay: In Los Angeles, The Hoxton has brought a healthy dose of European flair to the West Coast. For a classic stay, Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica has come to embody the finest of So-Cal's barefoot luxury. In San Francisco, Proper is a buzzy stay beloved for its eclectic decor and perennially-packed rooftop bar, Charmaine’s. See our edit of the best hotels in California for more.

Flight time One full day from the UK When to go Yearround . Average winter temperature 28°C  In both geography and...

Bora Bora, Tahiti & French Polynesia

Flight time: One full day from the UK When to go: Year-round (though March is particularly rainy on Tahiti). Average winter temperature: 28°C

In both geography and spirit, just about as far from a drizzly British winter as you can get. French Polynesia is made up of 100-odd little islands in the South Pacific Ocean, the best-known of them Tahiti and Bora Bora. They are out of this world. Castaway fantasy, ringed by reefs; the water unbelievable shades of turquoise blue; the hibiscus flowers Gauguin bright; everything bright and light and hyper-real.

Where to stay: The Brando is the area's biggest-hitting hotel – owned by Marlon Brando and set on a stunning, living coral reef. 

Flight time 12 hours from London When to go NovemberMarch Average winter temperature 27°C  It might be in another...

South Africa

Flight time: 12 hours from London When to go : November–March Average winter temperature: 27°C

It might be in another hemisphere, but South Africa is in the same time zone as the UK – which means no jet lag. In Cape Town and beyond there is stunning scenery, breathtaking beaches, as well as world-class wines and fabulous food.The country's most celebrated stretch of coastline is the glorious Garden Route. However in the other direction, a road trip through the Western Cape makes a rewarding alternative and the weather is particularly good in December and January. The less-explored Overberg Coast has wide beaches, good restaurants and wineries, moody seas at the southernmost tip of Africa, and a sensational coastal reserve that even the locals don't know about.

Where to stay: In Cape Town, check into The Silo , which sits on top of the Museum of African Art. Just over an hour's drive away Leeu Estates (pictured) in Franschhoek is an arty stay for post-safari relaxation. 

Flight time 8 hours from London When to go OctoberMarch Average winter temperature 25°C  With its cities of pink blue...

Rajasthan, India

Flight time: 8 hours from London When to go: October–March Average winter temperature: 25°C

With its cities of pink, blue and gold, its romantic lakeside palaces and desert camps, Rajasthan is India 's brightest and most beautiful state. Go there and get carried away, whether you're getting stuck into the hustle-bustle streets of Jaipur , escaping into the desert around Jaisalmer, or floating wistfully across the lake in romantic Udaipur.

Where to stay: Six Senses Fort Barwara took almost a decade to transform the 700-year-old fort into a 48-suite hotel. Its small garden grows everything from desi roses to cauliflower, cabbage, guavas, and jamun, while the ancient temple spa blends Ayurveda with Six Senses’ inimitable touch. Read more at our Six Senses Fort Barawara review .

Flight time about 10 hours from London When to go NovemberDecember and March Average winter temperature 25°C  Once a...

Flight time : about 10 hours from London When to go : November–December, and March Average winter temperature: 25°C

Once a hiding place for pirate treasure and prohibition liquor, Harbour Island in the Bahamas is a colourfully eccentric retreat where every night is a party and every day more vibrant than the last. The sand is pink, the turquoise water is home to green sea turtles and orange starfish, and yellow-throated birds fly about the trees. Days on the beach are long and lazy, and the time of day forgotten.

Where to stay: For a boutique stay, The Other Side is a small, gorgeous set of tents and shacks on Harbour Island. 

Flight time 5 hours from London When to go MarchMay OctoberNovember Average winter temperature 23°C  Israel enjoys...

Tel Aviv, Israel

Flight time: 5 hours from London When to go: March–May; October–November Average winter temperature: 23°C

Israel enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year – and although winter here may not be as scorching as some of the other big-hitters, if you come towards the beginning or end it’s still warm enough to lie on a beach. The modern Middle Eastern metropolis of Tel Aviv is just a five-hour flight from London, making it an easy long-weekend hop. With its skyscraper skyline, striking Bauhaus architecture, avant-garde art galleries, world-class restaurants and hedonistic after-dark culture, this is the Mediterranean’s very own version of Manhattan. Throw in 14km of beautiful coastline, and it’s easy to see why so many creatives are drawn to the vibrant city.

Where to stay: One-time 19th-century convent The Jaffa , in the city's Arabic district, is the most ambitious design hotel. 

Flight time 5 hours 10 minutes from London When to go FebruaryMay  MarchMay and SeptemberOctober  Average winter...

Flight time: 5 hours 10 minutes from London When to go: February–May (south); March–May and September–October (north) Average winter temperature: 21°C

Jordan is full of surprises. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to give it its full name, has wonders both natural and ancient. It's true that much of the country is desert (seemingly endless Wadi Rum has even doubled as the moon in Hollywood movies), but there are also swathes of fertile land, bright and beautifully green. The waters of the Red Sea, off the coast of Aqaba, are bath-warm all year – and colourful, too, home to myriad fish, rays and turtles which make their home on the full-of-life coral reefs – and the best time to go for beach weather is February til May. Meanwhile, winters can be chilly in the north of the country, where snow caps the magnificent treetops of the Ajloun Forest Reserve; and the best months to go to ancient Petra, Amman and the north are March, April, May, September and October.

Where to stay: Feynan Eco-Lodge is one of the only places to stay under the stars at the Dana Biosphere Reserve.

Flight time 7 hours and 15 minutes from London When to go OctoberApril Average winter temperature 26°C  Oman is a...

Flight time: 7 hours and 15 minutes from London When to go: October–April Average winter temperature: 26°C

Oman is a less-glitzy, laid-back alternative to Dubai – only the landscape here is more dramatic: wide open spaces punctuated by oases and desert towns; valleys fragrant with rose and sandalwood; hidden coves with golden beaches and brilliant-turquoise water. The capital, Muscat dazzles in the year-round sunshine with its grand mosques and bustling souks. Up in the far north-east, the Musandam Peninsula has some of the best diving in the Middle East (whale shark and turtles are the big draw).

Where to stay: Six Senses Zighy Bay is on a golden sweep of sand backed by the impossibly steep Al Hajar Mountains. To feel truly isolated, camp in handmade Bedouin tents among the epic sand dunes of the Wahiba Sands south of Muscat – it's the best way to find authentic Oman.

Flight time 13 hours from London When to go OctoberApril Average winter temperature 27°C  With its lovely Caribbean...

Flight time: 13+ hours from London When to go: October–April Average winter temperature: 27°C

With its lovely Caribbean climate, guaranteed warm and sunny days and very little rain, Cuba ’s weather is at its most reliable during the UK winter. The beaches down on the south coast may get the best sunshine and draw the biggest crowds, but there’s plenty beyond the palm-fringed stretches of sand. Havana ’s got its colourful pastel-hued buildings, cigars and Cadillacs, while the perfectly preserved Spanish colonial architecture in UNESCO-protected Trinidad makes the city feel lost in time. Elsewhere, there’s no end of nature reserves, lush forests, mountains and tobacco plantations to explore.

Where to stay: Gardens Havana is a sweet guesthouse in a faded, renovated townhouse in Havana. 

Flight time 20 hours from London When to go NovemberMarch Average winter temperature 35°C  The northwest coast of...

Western Australia

Flight time : 20 hours from London When to go : November–March Average winter temperature: 35°C

The north-west coast of Western Australia is remote (it closed its boarders to the rest of Australia for over two years during Covid), beautiful and largely uninhabited. It has the least-visited of all Australia's coral reefs, Ningaloo Reef, a pristine 260km stretch of coral where thrilling encounters are fairly routine, whether you're diving or snorkelling. Turtles nest from November to March.

Where to stay: Como the Treasury in Perth is the city's smoothest stay, with a rooftop restaurant and beautiful bedrooms. 

Flight time 14 hours from London  When to go NovemberMarch Average winter temperature 27°C  Astonishingly Namibia gets...

Flight time: 14+ hours from London (via Johannesburg) When to go: November–March Average winter temperature: 27°C

Astonishingly, Namibia gets barely half a million visitors a year – while neighbouring South Africa receives almost 10 times that number. But as travellers are slowly beginning to discover, this is one of Africa’s most fascinating destinations: rugged, intrepid and dramatic. More than a dozen new camps and lodges have opened up over the past few years, each one rocking a more creative approach to conservation. Namibia is usually touted as a year-round destination, but in truth the searing summer temperatures can be oppressive. November to March may coincide with the country’s wettest months, but with the rain comes a stunning transformation of scenery. The arid desert morphs into a lush green carpet; swarms of migratory birds arrive, and animals start breeding. Rain is localised and comes in short, sharp bursts, so it’s unlikely to have too much of an impact on your trip.

Where to stay: Habitas Namibia offers an intriguing blend of safari , wellness and culture. For more, see our favourite off-grid safaris in Namibia .

privatepoolterrace ka'ana

Flight time: 16+ hours from London (via Houston) When to go: December–April Average winter temperature: 30°C

Belize ’s peak season coincides perfectly with the UK’s coldest months. Although temperatures remain high all year-round, January to March has the lowest chance of rain, making this an ideal time to explore this tiny adventure-packed nation. Bordered by Guatemala and Mexico, Belize attracts a fraction of the crowds of its neighbours, yet the natural and cultural diversity of this former British colony is truly compelling. It’s home to Mayan ruins, national parks, nature reserves and the Belize Barrier Reef (which forms part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world’s second largest), all begging to be explored. The country’s jungly interior contrasts with a dazzling Caribbean coastline and hundreds of small cayes and islands, while a flurry of fresh hotels have all put eco-tourism at the top of their agenda.

Where to stay: At rattan- and plant-filled Itzana .

Flight time 17 hours from London via Nairobi When to go DecemberFebruary Average winter temperature 32°C  When the...

Lamu, Kenya

Flight time: 17+ hours from London, via Nairobi When to go: December–February Average winter temperature: 32°C

When the Foreign Office slapped a travel ban on Lamu after the 2011 Somali terrorist attacks, it fell off the map. But now with sanctions lifted, crowds are starting to flock back to this far-flung African island that still feels totally unchanged by time. It’s long been a popular beachy bolt-on after an epic Kenyan safari, attracting curious travellers rather than flag-following sightseers. There are no vehicles, just donkeys and dhows, and the heady mix of Arab, Persian, Chinese, Indian and European cultures is mesmerising. After a few days in the UNESCO-protected Old Town, head south to the deserted beaches or drift over by dhow to the nearby Robinson Crusoe islands of Manda and Kiwayu. From December to February, temperatures average a steamy 32°C, making winter the prime time to come and enjoy the postcard-perfect empty sands and Lamu’s laid-back rhythm.

Where to stay: Seafront Peponi was built in the 1930s and has been a hotel since the 1960s, with an incredible pool, shady verandah and a list of former guests that includes Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall. 

Flight time 17 hours from London  When to go DecemberApril Average winter temperature 30°C  Over on Mexicos Pacific...

Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Flight time: 17+ hours from London (via Mexico City) When to go: December–April Average winter temperature: 30°C

Over on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, two beach towns sit side-by-side: Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo . They couldn’t be more different. Ixtapa, stacked with high-rise hotels and modern infrastructure was purpose-built for tourists, while, just round the bay, Zihuatanejo has kept hold of its old-world charm and sleepy-fishing-village feel. It’s a low-key beach retreat with genuine Mexican flair; fisherman flog their catches on the shore each morning, and the town centre is filled with historical cobbled streets and a buzzy market. Clutches of boutique properties sit right on the beach or overlooking the bay – which is a hit with surfers. It’s hot all year round, but October to April sees the least rain, making this a perfect spot for a hit of winter vitamin D.

Where to stay: We love the Thompson , which spotlights interiors from Mexico City-based studios.

Flight time 13 hours from London When to go DecemberMarch Average winter temperature 32°C  The Gulf of Chiriquí is...

Gulf of Chiriquí, Panama

Flight time: 13+ hours from London When to go: December–March Average winter temperature: 32°C

The Gulf of Chiriquí is nothing new – travellers have long been flocking to the white-sand beaches and dazzling turquoise waters of Panama ’s Caribbean archipelago. But the Pacific side is still significantly less discovered. There’s Islas Secas, a highly exclusive, privately-owned archipelago of 14 islands offering pristine beaches and one of the largest coral reefs in the Pacific, making it the perfect spot for diving and snorkelling. It's just under an hour from Panama City by twin-otter plane and is totally worth it for the privacy and seclusion once you arrive. The best time to come is from January to April, when the wet rainy season gives way to a few months of glorious sunshine and scorching temperatures.

Where to stay: Philanthropist Louis Bacon opened Islas Secas , home to four individually designed Casita sites and, three Tented Casitas, all located on one of the islands and sleeping up to just 24 guests.

Flight time 20 hours from London  When to go DecemberFebruary Average winter temperature 30°C  Marooned off the coast of...

São Tomé and Príncipe

Flight time: 20+ hours from London (via Lisbon and Accra) When to go: December–February Average winter temperature: 30°C

Marooned off the coast of Gabon, these tiny unspoiled islands together make up Africa’s smallest and least-visited country. But it’s thanks to the tiny tourist numbers that São Tomé and Príncipe still retain the allure of somewhere almost completely undiscovered. These jungly islands are home to more endemic species per square mile than anywhere else on earth – making them a bit like Africa’s very own Galápagos . January, February and March are the hottest months, when the dry and dusty winds blow straight in from the Sahara.

Where to stay: When South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth opened up his first boutique hotel, Bom Bom , back in 2013, a new breed of luxury traveller arrived; since then, he’s opened two more, Roça Sundy and Praia Sundy . They’re all part of a wider project to create jobs and boost tourism – so you’ll be doing good while on holiday too. 

Flight time 13.5 hours from London UK  When to go AprilNovember Average winter temperature 26°C  This southern African...

Flight time: 13.5 hours from London UK (via Johannesburg, South Africa) When to go: April–November Average winter temperature: 26°C

This southern African country has the most astonishing coast – the beaches of Mozambique are out of this world. Great stretches of sand, wild and dune-backed; lapped by the beautiful Indian Ocean where humpback whales breach, where you can swim with manta rays in the Mozambique Channel. In the little islands of Mozambique's Bazaruto Archipelago , a protected marine park towards the south, there are sand-floor bars and simple thatched lodges, and the most sensational sandy islets in bluer-than-blue waters, like wisps of cloud in a summer sky. On the beaches of northern Mozambique you feel as though you're at the end of the world; off this coast are the dreamlike Quirimbas Islands, including heavenly Vamizi

For those keen to tread where others have not, Mozambique has a certain caché – savvy travellers have been returning, in small numbers, to this coast for the past 20-odd years – and a few new spruced-up hotels are starting to appear – but are keen to keep it all a secret. We say go now, before the secret is out.

Where to stay: In one of the 17 prettily stripped-back bandas on the southern peninsula's tip at Machangulo Beach Lodge .

Flight time 15.5 hours from London When to go FebruaryMay Average winter temperature 31°C  More than 7000 islands....

The Philippines

Flight time: 15.5 hours from London When to go: February–May Average winter temperature: 31°C

More than 7,000 islands. Deserted white-sand beaches lined with tilting coconut trees. Protected marine parks with pristine reefs like giant tropical fish bowls. Surf breaks so phenomenal they draw the world's best pros. Low-key but slick hotels and villas. And some of the friendliest people on the planet. This is the glory of the Philippines .

Where to stay: Amanpulo , in the Palawan archipelago, is a blissed-out private island hotel.

Flight time 13 hours from London When to go OctoberFebruary Average winter temperature 31°C  On Brazil's Atlantic...

Bahia, Brazil

Flight time: 13 hours from London When to go : October–February Average winter temperature: 31°C

On Brazil 's Atlantic seaboard, far from the tourist trail, Bahia has deserted beaches, rainforests full of wildlife, cocoa farms, a surfers' town and several barefooty resorts that you'll never want to leave. Head to the small town of Itácaré for surfing, sailing, walking and birdwatching; to Trancoso for people-watching and beach-partying.

Where to stay: Built between a deserted beach and a black lagoon, Butterfly House is an eco-luxe guuesthouse made up of five green-grass-roofed bungalows on bamboo stilts, enveloped by thousands of citronella plants.

Flight time 10 hours from London When to go NovemberMay Average winter temperature 29°C  It may not the obvious choice...

Flight time: 10 hours from London When to go: November–May Average winter temperature: 29°C

It may not the obvious choice for a beach holiday, but all the better for it: Senegal , in West Africa, has some beautiful golden sands, fantastic surf, great music and delta wildlife. Go for a holiday of life-changing experiences. 

Where to stay: Sobo Badé hotel in Toubab Dialaw is an utterly serene stay.

Flight time 14 hours from London When to go NovemberMay Average winter temperature 25°C  In Central America the ancient...

Flight time: 14 hours from London When to go: November–May Average winter temperature: 25°C

In Central America, the ancient Mayan cities of Guatemala , hidden deep in rainforests full of colour and exotic noise, make Rome seem as if it was built in a day. From jungle temples to beachfront bars, the delights of this magical country make for an unforgettable journey.

Where to stay: La Lancha is made up of 10 bungalows scattered on the hillside above Lake Petén Itzá.

Flight time 18 hours from London When to go Yearround. February is particularly good. Average winter temperature 24°C ...

Flight time: 18 hours from London When to go: Year-round. February is particularly good. Average winter temperature: 24°C

Yes, Hawaii is hot all year round. And yes, it has a lot of swanking five-star resorts that cater to your every whim and could be anywhere in the world. Some people – a lot of people – like those places; and why not? For others, there is everything else Hawaii has to offer. The real Hawaii. The best beaches, the best surf, the best walks through rainforests or up volcanoes.

Where to stay: Ask any Hawaii loyalist and a common answer is Mauna Lani , one of the most beautiful hotels in the US .

Flight time 9 hours from London When to go NovemberMarch Average winter temperature 27°C  Calm cool and green Kerala is...

Kerala, India

Flight time: 9 hours from London When to go: November–March Average winter temperature: 27°C

Calm, cool and green: Kerala is not how you imagine India to be. A meandering voyage through the backwaters of this southern state is a wonderful way to see the subcontinent. Old Fort Cochin is bound to delight, and there are some lovely beaches, too.

Where to stay: Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort in Kovalam is one of our favourite spas in India .

Flight time 5 hours and 15 minutes from London When to go OctoberDecember Average winter temperature 25°C  The oases of...

Siwa Oasis, Egypt

Flight time: 5 hours and 15 minutes from London When to go: October–December Average winter temperature: 25°C

The oases of Western Egypt have always been havens of refuge in a beautiful but unforgiving landscape; and with the advent of small, low-key hotels in the area, designed to respect and reflect the local environment, their capacity to refresh is greater than ever. Head to Siwa Oasi s for its ancient temples, salt lake, hot springs, shimmering heat and big, shifting dunes.

Where to stay : Adrère Amellal , a simple hotel with 40 rooms in the Oasis. 

Flight time 19 hours from London When to go NovemberFebruary Average winter temperature 25°C  Everyone is seduced by...

Flight time: 19 hours from London When to go: November–February Average winter temperature: 25°C

Everyone is seduced by Laos's misty, mystic mountainscapes and its historic city, Luang Prabang From the moment the country opened its doors to tourism in the 1980s, visitors have talked in reverent tones about the sleepy town far upcountry on the banks of the Mekong River. It captivates. It weaves a spell. It carries some flavour of Indochina before the modern world got there.

Where to stay: Rosewood Luang Prabang is made up of safari tents surrounded by jungle. 

Phum Baitang Siem Reap Cambodia

Flight time: 14 hours from London When to go: November–April Average winter temperature: 32°C

If you want to see South-East Asia at its most beguiling, you need to head to Cambodia . Go to watch dawn break over the jungle temples of Angkor (pictured), and for the authentic traditions of its villages and laidback capital, Phnom Penh. But also go for its immaculate beaches.

Where to stay: Shinta Mani Wild consists of 15 tents across a private state. See our pick of where to stay in Cambodia for more. 

Flight time 11 hours from London When to go DecemberMay Average winter temperature 26°C  Ecuador is less developed than...

Flight time : 11 hours from London When to go : December–May Average winter temperature: 26°C

Ecuador is less developed than Costa Rica , so expect an adventure — one with everything its Latin cousin has to offer, and more besides. Want wildlife? Take a luxury cruise into the Ecuadorian Amazon. Want surf ? Ecuador’s 1,400 miles of Pacific coast has plenty of that. And then there’s Quito , a much smarter capital than San Jose: a heady blend of steamy salsotecas, grand Andean vistas, and fabulous hotels in ravishingly restored colonial mansions (none more elegant than the peerless Casa Gangotena). You may have heard of another of its under-the-radar destinations, the Galapagos, too. Ecuador’s different geographical zones have their own, distinct weather patterns, but Europe’s winter is when the weather is warmest in Quito and the Highlands; driest in the jungle; and sunniest on the coast. Above: Laguna de Quilotoa is a beautiful crater lake in a secluded location of the Ecuadorian Andes.

Where to stay: Want an eco-stay? The five-star Mashpi Lodge is a sustainable, all-glass stunner hiding out in a cloud forest.

Flight time 14 hours from Londonnbsp When to go JanuaryMarch Average winter temperature 29°C  Every bit as dreamy as the...

The Andaman Islands

Flight time: 14 hours from London  When to go: January–March Average winter temperature: 29°C

Every bit as dreamy as the Maldives, but more satisfyingly off-radar, the Andaman Islands have smartened up. This tropical archipelago — geographically closer to Myanmar and Indonesia than its owner, India — has always been brochure-beautiful, but only recently blessed with luxury digs. Those far-flung beaches and impossibly pure waters were more reward for intrepid surfers and gap-year backpackers until now. But it was only a matter of time before this primitive paradise turned upscale. Havelock is the most developed of the 572 islands, the vast majority of which are off-limits to visitors (and populated by indigenous tribes). It’s here that Indian luxury hotel giant Taj has newly scattered 72 thatched villas under a rainforest canopy, fringing the fabled Radhanagar beach, widely said to be among the best in the world.   Winter is the clearest, driest time of year — particularly January to March — with temperatures around 29C.

Where to stay: Jalakara is a boutique, teak-and-concrete sanctuary tucked into a banana plantation, where there’s no WiFi, no TV — just utter, nature-swathed serenity.

Flight time 9 hours from London When to go OctoberApril Average winter temperature 27°C  Karnatakas beach scene is every...

Karnataka, India

Flight time : 9 hours from London When to go : October–April Average winter temperature: 27°C

Karnataka’s beach scene is every bit as beautiful, but rather less glowsticky, than Goa ’s, though it shares the same coast (the state of Karnataka is further south). Gokarna beach, often listed among India’s finest sandy crescents, is chilled-out, powdery and palm-fringed; beach-goers more hammock-swinging yogis than UV-painted ravers. Better still, there’s more to explore beyond browning and sun salutations. Hampi ’s magical, ancient temples and bizarre, perilously-stacked boulders have fascinated wanderers and vagabonds for hundreds of years.

Where to stay: Try trekking and then de-stressing at the Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa , in the emerald, coffee- and spice-planted hills of Coorg.

Vietnam

Flight time: 12 hours from London When to go: November–February Average winter temperature: 27°C

Vietnam may well be one of the most fascinating, beautiful and charming countries you will ever visit. Saigon is wonderful, colonial and quirky; Ho Chi Minh City has one of the world's best food scenes. And the coast of Vietnam – oh, the coast! The beaches are extraordinary. So much untouched beauty. Little islands and dramatic bays to explore by boat. Out-of-this-world beach-chic places to stay, right on the sand. And even though it's easy-going and luxury can be found everywhere, it still feels like a secret, still some sense of discovery about a trip there.

Where to stay: On a stretch of under-rated Vietnamese coastline, Regent Phu Quoc is a luxury gem with all the trimmings for an idyllic long-haul fly-and-flop.

Flight time 7 hours from London When to go OctoberMarch Average winter temperature 28°C  Ghanas ‘Africa for beginners...

Flight time: 7 hours from London When to go: October–March Average winter temperature: 28°C

Ghana’s ‘Africa for beginners’ reputation tips a hat to the ease of a trip here — stable politics, developed towns, functional transport. But it misses all the other things that make Ghana great. Like the capital, Accra, a spirited city stuffed to the gills with red-hot food, nightlife and art. See Urban Grill, Afro-Latin fusion helmed by Andrew DiCataldo, of Manhattan’s once-loved Patria; rooftop club Carbon, owned by Nick House of Mahiki; and Gallery 1957, with its knack for edgy homegrown shows that blow up on social media. Then there’s the beaches: bonfire parties and street food at Accra’s own Labadi. Winter months are hot — temperatures average around 28°C — so you’ll be glad of a bracing Atlantic dip. Alright, there’s no Big Five, but there are safaris: walking with elephants, world-class birding, humpback-whale-watching. Plus there’s that handy hour’s time difference in common with South Africa, with only half the flight time.

Where to stay: The soothing White Sands Beach Resort & Spa , an exclusive private members’ club just an hour’s drive from Accra.

Flight time 3 hours 40 minutes from London When to go MarchMay Average winter temperature 17°C  From the 1920s to the...

Tangier, Marrakech

Flight time: 3 hours 40 minutes from London When to go: March–May Average winter temperature: 17°C

From the 1920s to the 1950s, port city Tangier was a playground for the maddest and baddest bohemians: Beat icons like Burroughs and Kerouac; glamorously demon-plagued playwrights from Tennessee Williams to Jean Genet. But it wasn’t just the romance of boxy white-washed buildings fanning along a too-blue African shoreline that brought them. The city’s status as a near-lawless ‘international zone’ made strong drugs, strong cocktails and other strongly sordid entertainments all-too-readily available. The Moroccan monarchy later enacted punishment: the city was left to rot. A new king and a new attitude have revived it, widespread restoration inviting a smarter vitality, where cafés-cum-bookshops and speakeasies retain a raffish-cool, without segueing into seedy. In a hilltop casbah, El Morocco Club is where the leisure class make easy work of looking beautiful while slurping oysters and sipping Mojitos. And though chaotic Marrakech isn’t short of designer riads to escape to, Tangier is an infinitely jauntier option, and with T-shirt temperatures to boot.

Where to stay: Hôtel Nord Pinus is all handmade fabrics, traditional Fez tiles and antique furniture. 

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20 most beautiful winter destinations in the world

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Greg Dickinson

written by Greg Dickinson

updated 06.05.2024

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Find the world's most beautiful winter destinations and swap staying at home for exploring. The coldest season seems to make many places shine their brightest, so take a look at 20 of the beautiful winter trips we recommend you try.

  • 1. Chicago is one of the USA's beautiful winter destinations

2. Tallinn in Estonia

3. plitvice lakes national park, croatia, 4. jigokudani monkey park, japan, 5. banff national park in canada, 6. hallstatt in austria, 7. richmond park, uk, 8. gobi desert in mongolia, 9. bruges in belgium, 10. schloss neuschwanstein, germany, 11. trakai castle, lithuania, 12. high atlas mountains in morocco, 13. queenstown, new zealand, 14. yellowstone national park, usa, 15. lapland, finland, 16. prague, czech republic, 17. harbin in northeast china, 18. lake bled, slovenia, 19. new york city, usa, 20. pamir mountains, tajikistan, travel ideas for germany, created by local experts.

A self drive exploration of UNESCO Sites in Southern Germany

A self drive exploration of UNESCO Sites in Southern Germany

Explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites across different German states. This self drive trip allows you to design your own days with recommendations stated for each day.

Explore Berlin and Potsdam in depth

Explore Berlin and Potsdam in depth

The German capital Berlin has plenty to offer: from historical sites to world-class museums and a vibrant nightlife. Enjoy this private tour to explore a wide range of activities in Berlin and Potsdam, including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Explore Northern Germany on Your Own

Explore Northern Germany on Your Own

From Bremen to Stralsund - Northern Germany offers plenty of gems to explore. With well-developed public transportation links, this itinerary is suited for everyone wanting to explore on their own - getting lost on the cobble-stoned streets of many UNESCO World Heritage Highlights.

Capitals of Europe - Berlin, Prague, Vienna and more

Capitals of Europe - Berlin, Prague, Vienna and more

This trip is ideal for all city & culture lovers: the Reichstag in Berlin, the castle in Prague, historical Cesky Krumlov, St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, the fortress above Salzburg and Schloss Neuschwanstein near Munich - these are just some of the highlights of this incredible roundup trip.

Castles across Austria and Czechia

Castles across Austria and Czechia

Austria and Czechia are home to some of the world's most beautiful architecture and culture gems, such as Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna, Prague castle, the fortress above Salzburg and many more. Finish your tour with a visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein before flying out of Munich.

Best of Germany

Best of Germany

Germany has a lot to offer to visitors: history buffs will enjoy guided tours in Berlin and Dresden, children (and those at heart) will marvel at Schloss Neuschwanstein, scenery lovers will appreciate Rothenburg and the Black Forest. This trip truly has something for everybody!

1. Chicago is one of the USA's beautiful winter destinations

Check out the wintery city of Chicago and you might be surprised at how well the windy city swaps breezes for snow in the coldest months of the year. January and February are coldest of all and if you're lucky and it's a particularly harsh winter, you may even see Lake Michigan frozen over. But to keep cosy, stay at Warwick Allerton in Downtown.

Tallinn in Estonia comes with extra winter enchantment thanks to its medieval old town being blanketed in snow. Pay particular attention to the frosty, fortified Toompea or Raekoja Plats and always make a point of visiting the city's pretty town hall. If you want to enjoy Tallin's winter charm first hand, think about staying at Rija Old Town Hotel .

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Tallinn is one of the most beautiful winter destinations in Estonia © Shutterstock

Plitvice , the most visited national park in Croatia , is famous for 16 interconnected lakes, spectacular cascades and hordes of summer tourists. But visit in winter and not only can you see the waterfalls dramatically frozen, there's a high chance of having the park almost all to yourself. If you'd like a little company, why not take a Plitvice Lakes tour from Split?

Looking for even more options for your winter getaway? Explore our guide to the best places for a February holiday .

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Frozen Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia © Another Sun Photography/Shutterstock

The famous bathing snow monkeys at Jigokudani natural hot springs in Japan are actually Japanese Macaques and according to experts, they bathe in winter to stay warm and reduce stress levels. To join the red-faced macaques at Jigokudany and relax into the soothing, hot spring experience, consider a stay at Hotel Omodaka .

Related articles from the blog

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Banff National Park is astonishing in winter when the waters of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are at their crystal clearest. Banff is also home to the Valley of the Ten Peaks, so you've remarkable views of snow capped mountains to look forward to here as well, and for an in-depth Banff experience, a guided tour of the lakes is another winter treat.

More ideas for your Canadian winter holiday can be found in our guide to the best things to do in Canada .

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Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park © Shutterstock

The tiny lakeside village of Hallstatt in Austria is extra pretty in winter so you should visit to admire the sweet Alpine architecture and dramatic, snowy Salzburg Mountain . But don't rush away, fascinating World Heritage Hallstatt is also home to the world's oldest salt mines and has lots of charming places to stay, like Lakeview Apartments .

You should visit London parks in winter for their sense of peace, undeniable beauty and wide open spaces. At 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the biggest London park and has an atmosphere that feels almost rural, not least of all because herds of wild deer still make their home here. Come in the very depths of winter and there's even a chance of snow, which only adds to the serenity.

Prefer to leave planning and booking to experts? Have a look at some sample itineraries. All Tailor Made Trips can be modified together with your local expert, then booked for a stress-free holiday. Click 'Modify this itinerary' to contact a local expert.

Deers in Richmond Park London © Marco Scocco/Shutterstock

Wild deer in Richmond Park the largest park in London © Marco Scocco/Shutterstock

In your quest for winter beauty, head to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia on 6 and 7 March because those are the dates of the 1000 Camel Festival at Dalanzadgad. This annual event is known for camel polo matches and races, but is perhaps most famous of all for its Camel beauty pageants. For an inside look at this less travelled area, take a semi-Gobi desert camel tour with local guides.

Gobi desert snow winter Mongolia © RethaAretha/Shutterstock

The Gobi Desert Mongolia in winter © Shutterstock

See Bruges in winter for cobbled streets, charming architecture and frozen canals, chocolatiers, cosy hotels and quaint restaurants. Make time to tour a few of the 470 local castles and then simply relax, as beautiful Bruges is almost tourist-free in January and February. If you want extra atmosphere, stay at Martin's Brugge in the old town.

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Bruges is one of the most beautiful winter destinations in Europe © Shutterstock

Winter really suits Germany , and if you need proof, just take a look at Bavaria and snow covered Schloss Neuschwanstein . This is the Schloss which inspired Disney's Cinderella Castle and it looks even more like a fairy tale in frosty weather.

You'll find it above Hohenschwangau village in Southwest Bavaria, and if you want to stay nearby, Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein is very close indeed. For more winter inspiration see 10 reasons why Saxony in Germany should be on your travel list .

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Schloss Neuschwanstein in Germany, the original Cinderella Castle © Shutterstock

Head to Lithuania in winter to see Trakai Castle sitting on its own islet, surrounded by a frozen lake, just west of Vilnius. The castle dates back to the 1400s and comes with dramatic turrets and a drawbridge, which only makes it all the more enchanting. If you're tempted to take a winter break in Lithuania, stay at Old Town Trio in Vilnius.

For winter sun and snow, head to Morocco between November and April when it's a tourist-light time of year in the snowy High Atlas Mountains . There's low-crowd skiing at Oukaimeden , technical climbers get to test their skills on Mount Toubkal and you can enjoy both the peace and weather with a stay at Aurochar Oukaimeden .

Oukaimeden a ski resort in the Atlas mountains, Morocco © Novie Charleen Magne/Shutterstock

Oukaimeden ski resort in the High Atlas mountains, Morocco © Novie Charleen Magne/Shutterstock

Visit New Zealand from May to September and make for the city of Queenstown . This is a fun place to be year round, but it really shines in winter and its astonishing views of The Remarkables mountain range are worth a visit alone. The nearby Coronet Peak range also offers some of New Zealand's best skiing , so if you want to ski and see Queenstown think about staying at Coronet Peak's Swiss-Bel Resort .

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View of The Remarkables in winter, Queenstown, New Zealand © Shutterstock

Wildlife in Yellowstone is very evident winter when snow on the high ground of this vast, volcanic National Park forces bison migrate to lower grazing areas. You might also spot bears, wolves or elk and, if you're very lucky, sightings of pronghorn antelope are most common in winter. But, for the most rewarding wildlife watching, you should take a winter tour of Yellowstone and Grand Teton with local guides.

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Spot winter wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, USA © Shutterstock

To see Northern Lights in Finland head to Lapland as the long, dark winters make this eerily beautiful part of Europe an Aurora Borealis hotspot. For the best sightings, visit between January and March or, better still, stay in Rovaniemi and go Northern Light hunting with local guides.

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Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland during winter © Shutterstock

Prague does winter beautifully so wrap up warm and go wandering around the atmospheric old town, which looks its loveliest dusted with snow. Don't forget to make a pit stop to try Klobása barbecued sausage washed down with svařené víno mulled wine or to fully immerse, stay at Old Prague Hotel in the historic centre.

Looking for more options? You'll find them in our guide to the best places to stay in Prague .

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Christmassy snow covered Prague in winter © Shutterstock

Journey to Harbin in northeast China during January when winter temperatures of -20°C during inspires great art at the world's largest Ice and snow sculpture festival. This annual event now attracts global participants and the vast ice designs are nothing short of incredible. Go see, then find out more on private tour of Harbin with local guides.

Sculpture at the Harbin Ice festival in China © Andy Poole/Shutterstock

Sculpture at the Harbin Ice festival in northeast China © Andy Poole/Shutterstock

See romantic Lake Bled in in the Upper Carniolan region of Northwest Slovenia during winter when it's surrounded by snow covered mountains. There's a lovely circular walk you can take round the lake which gives you a great view of Bled Island and its pretty church tower. If you feel like more exploring Čarman House is one of the cosiest places to stay.

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Church of the Assumption, Lake Bled, Slovenia © Shutterstock

New York City does winter well, as freezing weather is often countered by brilliant blue skies and heavy winter snow prettifies the city. There's also Christmas shopping to look forward to, not to mention skating in Central Park with a Manhattan skyline view. So think about staying at the heart of everything in Sonder I Chambers .

The dramatic Pamir Mountains are at their loveliest in winter and you'll find them in Tajikistan in Central Asia . Deserted during the coldest months of the year, they're snow-covered, rugged and only explored by the most intrepid travellers, however, they're still stunning to look at and a private day tour to Karakul Lake doesn't demand too much courage.

Beautiful view of Karakul lake in Pamir in Tajikistan © NOWAK LUKASZ/Shutterstock

Beautiful view of Karakul lake in Pamir in Tajikistan © NOWAK LUKASZ/Shutterstock

Inspired to take a winter trip? Take a look at our pick of the best winter sun destinations around the world . And if you are a fan of winter sports, find the best skiing and snowboarding destinations on our list of top ski resorts .

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Best winter vacations in europe.

Just about every European city becomes chock full of tourists during the summer months. However, those crowds are avoidable if you're willing to embrace cooler temperatures. Not only will you run into fewer travelers during this time you're also likely to score travel deals, especially on cruises . To guide you through the continent's wintry choices,  U.S. News  combined reader votes and expert analysis to rank the best winter vacations in Europe. Start planning your next trip using these ideas, and help us decide next year's list by voting for your favorite destinations.

best countries to visit for winter

A winter visit to Rome may have you bundling up to see iconic sights like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, but you'll have ample opportunities to warm up, too. Head indoors to admire Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel before sampling some of the city's world-renowned pizza and wine. Prices for accommodations drop dramatically, and deals on Italian products are abundant during the offseason.

best countries to visit for winter

The charms of Paris are alive and well in winter. Warm up while sipping coffee in romantic cafes, and spend time visiting heated indoor museums like the Musée du Louvre, the Musée Rodin and the Musée d'Orsay while the crowds are away. If you don’t mind the cold, walk down the Champs-Elysées at Christmastime and enjoy the illuminated trees that line the boulevard.

best countries to visit for winter

Winters in Amsterdam can be chilly, but those willing to endure the cold will enjoy significantly discounted hotel rooms and flights. Most of Amsterdam's attractions are open year-round, and, during the winter months, the city offers holiday festivities and many places to ice skate. What's more, the Amsterdam Light Festival is a bright display of international artwork from November to mid-January.

best countries to visit for winter

Budapest gets pretty cold in winter and snowfall is frequent. But, you can snag inexpensive hotel stays and plan your trip around indoor activities like the Hungarian National Gallery. Christmas markets also offer delicious food and unique treasures to buy as gifts. If you're feeling adventurous, warm up with a dip in the city's outdoor thermal baths.

best countries to visit for winter

Although you'll still find some visitors in Venice during winter, you can expect airfare and hotel rates to be cheaper. Crowds in St. Mark's Square will also thin out as a mist falls over the island, providing stunning photo-ops for those willing to endure temperatures in the high 30s. If you visit in February or March, you'll witness the exciting festivities of Carnevale.

best countries to visit for winter

Prague's castles and underground restaurants are perfect spots to seek refuge from the city's winter weather and enjoy a Czech beer. Travelers will also encounter fewer crowds at the city's museums, which are open year-round. For those willing to brave the cold, there are festive options like Prague's beloved Christmas markets and outdoor ice skating rinks.

best countries to visit for winter

If you like the idea of beautiful castles, cathedrals and other Baroque buildings covered in snow, one look at Salzburg, Austria, might be enough to lure you in. Add in Christmas bazaars in the town square and easy access to some of the finest ski areas in the Alps nearby, and you'll be sold on vacationing in this charming city during the winter.

best countries to visit for winter

Vienna welcomes winter with advent markets, public ice skating rinks and plenty of lavish parties. Add wintry touches like snow-covered rooftops and nearby ski slopes into the mix and you'll find yourself in a European winter wonderland. Classical music concerts in extravagant music halls and a world-famous New Year's celebration are marquee events unique to this city.

best countries to visit for winter

The Austrian Alps peek through the skyline of this charming city, home to the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. Innsbruck, with its abundance of ski resorts and winter attractions, offers all-inclusive packages through the region's ski organization, Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck. For less sporty travelers, the medieval streets with snow-capped rooftops, tolling cathedral bells and romantic coffee shops are perfect for strolling.

best countries to visit for winter

Set in the shadow of the Swiss Alps and nestled next to Lake Lucerne, this German-speaking town is about as picturesque as it gets in the winter. Visitors can enjoy sports like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and winter hiking at a number of resorts and trails that surround the medieval town. Or, journey to the summit of Mount Pilatus for an unforgettable meal in the clouds.

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Triponzy!

15 Best Countries To Visit In Winter

There’s no end to exploring the earth and discovering new places around it. Picking up your next travel destination is not an easy thing if, you are planning to tour around in winter. But yes, for all winter lovers, this is indeed the best time to travel across and witness some mesmerizing winter views and temperatures across the world.

Winters are indeed very special across the globe as the world marks them with festive vibes and New Year’s Eve.  So what are you waiting for, dust off your passport and pack your bags. Here’s a guide to spin your travel globe and discover the next best place to visit this winter.

Also see: Best Places To Visit In India During Winter

Countries To Visit In Winter

Tajmahal

India is a fantastic country to visit during winter, offering a diverse and delightful experience for travelers. From the snow-capped mountains in the north to the warm beaches in the south, India has something for everyone. If you love adventure, the Himalayan regions provide excellent opportunities for skiing and breathtaking views. For a more relaxed vibe, explore the beautiful beaches of Goa or Kerala in the south, where the weather is pleasant and inviting. You can visit beautiful east India and explore the historical east India as well in winter.

India’s winter is also marked by vibrant festivals and cultural celebrations, adding a touch of festivity to your visit. With delicious food, friendly people, and a rich tapestry of traditions, India promises a memorable winter getaway for those seeking warmth, both in terms of weather and hospitality.

Read more, Best Places to visit in December in India

svalbard norway

Norway shines as an ideal winter destination, captivating visitors with its enchanting snowy landscapes and unique experiences. The country is a winter wonderland, offering the chance to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights in places like Tromsø. If you’re a fan of winter sports, Norway’s resorts in Geilo and Hemsedal provide thrilling adventures in the crisp, white snow. Cozy up in traditional cabins, surrounded by stunning fjords and icy beauty.

The Norwegian winter also brings the opportunity to indulge in cultural festivities and warm drinks by crackling fires. With its friendly locals, picturesque scenery, and magical ambiance, Norway beckons travelers to embrace the charm and wonders of winter.

Countries To Visit In Winter: Germany

Christmas in Europe is the best thing to witness and enjoy. From old age traditions to vibrant decors, every corner sparkles around in its beautiful way. Germany takes a chill romantic turn with its weather in every way possible. You can enjoy shopping along with the snow-dusted shops that sell winter specials and unique handcrafted things around. Different markets in different corners of Germany are well known in Europe for their charm and beauty. The country welcomes winters with bright happy festive vibes and enjoys the whole romantic theme until the New Year begins.

Countries To Visit In Winter: Iceland

If you are an extreme winter enthusiast and love feeling the cold on your breath, then step up and make plans to witness the live nature’s winter wonderland. Sow dusted forests, rushing waterfalls, cool breeze, and much more. Iceland is the ideal destination to experience the winter fully like nowhere else. You can witness the spectacular northern lights, visit the Gullfoss waterfall, enjoy whale watching, and also go snorkeling in a dry suit. The place has endless possibilities to enjoy the snow-filled surroundings and have some peaceful quality vacations.

Also see: Best Indoor Christmas Decoration Ideas for your Home

Countries To Visit In Winter: Austria

Austria is another classical destination in Europe not to be missed on winter vacations. Every hook and corner of the place has a different surprise for you to enjoy and discover during the winter. From fairytale villages to rugged mountains, rugged mountains to snow-wrapped lakes and forests, nature has a pleasant welcome to the winter. Apart from nature’s winter gifts, you’ll also find the people living around with some extra festive vibes following their culture and traditional practices. They make special winter sweets called Kaiserschmarrn which is a winter special in Austria. 

Countries To Visit In Winter: Italy

Winters are the best time to visit Italy. There are many resorts and mountains around with some beautiful views and sceneries. Italy is also well known for its winter markets where you can find a variety of handcrafted materials, ornaments, and culinary treats. The country also celebrates winter with different light festivals. Christmas parades and tributes to the festive holiday season of the year. Apart from enjoying the winter vibes, you can also visit other popular tourist destinations as they are less crowded in the winter months.

Countries To Visit In Winter: Japan

Japan has always something special to enjoy in a different season of the year. From cherry blossoms to sakura falls and autumn leaves, Japan is great to stop by if you want to discover and enjoy the hidden beauty of winter. You can also enjoy here different sporting activities like skiing and snowboarding in winter. Don’t forget to check on the cute snow monkeys in Jigokudani. 

Also see: Best Places to see Snowfall in India

8. Switzerland

Countries To Visit In Winter: Switzerland

With a rich culture and lovely people around, Switzerland is another favorite destination to plan your winter trips.  There are plenty of outdoor activities to experience and enjoy. Activities like skiing, tobogganing and much more, are extremely famous here. Switzerland is home to one of the best Christmas celebrations as well. Winters here are no less than a feast with different types of chocolates and fondue dishes in the market. There’s a sparkling fusion of bright lights and classical music in different corners of Switzerland. With chilly winds and picturesque corners, everything is just like a living dream here.

9. Maldives

Countries To Visit In Winter: Maldives

With blowing sand and soft water ripples, Maldives is a perfect destination for a beach holiday. The Maldives sees rainy days as well as a cool winter breeze in December. You can party across the shores or even enjoy water sports in this country. The initial month of December sees 13 rainy days and later enjoys pleasant weather around 27°C. going on a cruise is another popular winter activity here. The nightlife in the Maldives is a must-experience to live and feel the refreshing vibes. 

Countries To Visit In Winter: Sweden

Europe has the best places to travel across in winter.  And as far as the eyes can see, Sweden is another destination not to miss during the winter season. Especially the Abisko in Lapland, which is a must-visit for the lovers. The place has fresh orchids and mountain valleys surrounding it.  Winters here are cold, moisturizing, and romantic. The sun doesn’t rise for many weeks yet still, the night holds one of the most majestic views to witness on this planet. You can also enjoy other activities here such as skiing, husky mushing, and much more.

11. Dominican Republic

Countries To Visit In Winter: Dominican Republic

Another popular beach destination to visit in winter is the Dominican Republic. This Caribbean country has one of the best affordable beaches with a mild temperature to enjoy in winter. It is one of the ideal spots for couples looking for a destination to spend their winter vacations privately. The temperature neither remains too cold nor too hot. Santo Domingo is the oldest city here and is one of the best places to visit here.  The place has a true essence of art with different museums showcasing fine and modern art. From shopping to winter views, you can stop by here to enjoy peacefully without many hustles.

Also see: Coldest Countries in the World

12. Mauritius

Countries To Visit In Winter: Mauritius

A beautiful country in South Africa with lush green land and breathtaking mountains and beaches that will leave you mesmerized by its charm and beauty. Apart from being the best place to visit in winter, Mauritius is also one of the most visited tourist places in the world. The winter weather here is neither too extreme nor too humid. The early December sees a good amount of rainfall and then the weather becomes pleasant with 20-25 degrees. There are different peace and tranquility in this place. The lord Shiva temple located 1800 above sea level in Grand Baie is a must-visit for all the followers of Shiva. 

Countries To Visit In Winter: Laos

Not sure of how well you’ve heard about this country but trust us, it is no less than nature’s treasure to visit at least once. Laos has pleasant smooth weather in December which makes it perfect to explore and discover this scenic beauty. Pakse and Phonsavan where you can enjoy the same quality time with nature and waterfalls. The nightlife is quite loud here and has many socializing spots that will keep you fresh and energetic. Embedded with French architectural buildings and beautiful sightseeing spots, the place is a beautiful country to explore in winter.

14. Thailand

Countries To Visit In Winter: Thailand

This place needs no introduction to the magnifying beauty that it holds. There’s a perfect balance in Thailand for everything that you can enjoy in winter. The winters here in December are never extreme and stay from 20-30 degrees. From classic history to natural goodness and some scenic views, everything’s just perfect in Thailand. You can enjoy the beautiful beaches of Ko Samui and Phuket which are mostly less crowded from Nov to Dec. or maybe climb up to the Phang Nga Bay valley which has quite pleasant weather in winter and discover the ancient history of the place. There’s a lot that you can do in this country. From electrifying nightlife to calm serene corners, there’s everything for everyone.

15. South Korea

best countries to visit for winter

South Korea offers a delightful blend of tradition and winter fun during winter. During the winter months, places like Yongpyong become a haven for snow enthusiasts, providing excellent skiing opportunities and breathtaking snowy landscapes. Winter festivals add a touch of magic to the experience, showcasing South Korea’s rich cultural heritage. Warm up with delicious hot pot dishes and explore ancient palaces adorned with a dusting of snow.

The country’s unique mix of modernity and tradition creates a charming atmosphere during the winter season. With its friendly locals, delicious winter cuisine, and the chance to engage in both winter sports and cultural exploration, South Korea stands out as a fantastic destination for those seeking a memorable winter adventure.

Read more, Popular Winter Festivals Around the World

We hope you loved these top 12 holiday destinations for the winter. Do let us know what you think about it and share with us your thoughts.

Ans : While India is a diverse and fascinating country with much to offer, there are certain times when visiting may be less ideal due to weather conditions or other factors. Here are some considerations for when not to visit India: Monsoon Season (June to September): Many parts of India experience heavy rainfall during the monsoon season, leading to flooding and transportation disruptions. The humidity can be intense, and some regions may be prone to waterborne diseases. Extreme Summer Heat (April to June): Northern and central India can experience scorching temperatures during the peak summer months. The heat can be unbearable, especially in places like Rajasthan and the Indo-Gangetic plains. During Political or Social Unrest: Stay informed about the current political and social situation in specific regions of India. In times of unrest, it’s wise to postpone travel plans to affected areas. During Health Emergencies (Varies): Stay updated on health advisories and potential disease outbreaks, such as those related to waterborne diseases or viral infections. Remember that India is vast and diverse, so the best time to visit can vary depending on the specific regions you plan to explore. Checking regional weather patterns, researching local festivals, and staying informed about any travel advisories are essential steps in planning a trip to India.

Ans: December is a peak tourist season for Bali due to the holiday season. Popular tourist areas and attractions can be crowded, and accommodations may be in higher demand. If wevtalk about weather, December falls within Bali’s wet season, but the weather can vary. While some areas may experience occasional heavy rainfall, others might have periods of sunshine. The temperatures are generally warm and range from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius (77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit).

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Estonia

Where to go in winter, according to 8 travel writers

From the golden shores of Egypt to small-town Massachusetts, these are the best destinations to visit this winter – as chosen by globetrotting travel writers

Photograph: Shutterstock

Grace Beard

Baby, it’s cold outside! And inside, for that matter. Winter is settling in, but that doesn’t mean travel has to go on hold – in fact, this is one of the best times of the year to hit the road. And if you’re looking for some winter destination  inspiration, look no further.

We went to some of our favourite travel writers who have published books this year, and asked them  about the one place they love to visit in winter. The resulting list celebrates the destinations that shine in the colder months – whether they’re winter-sun spots offering an escape from the cold, or places to embrace the season’s chilly delights.

So don’t wait till summer to get out there. Grab your snow boots (or your swimsuit) and explore the best winter destinations on earth.

RECOMMENDED:

🎄  The best places to travel in December ❄️ The best places to travel in January 💙 The best places to travel in February 🎁 The best places to go for Christmas 🎆 The best places to celebrate New Year

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

The world’s best winter destinations

West bali, indonesia.

West Bali, Indonesia

Chosen by Mark Eveleigh

‘ Overcrowded, overdeveloped and over-exploited, or the most beautiful island in the world? There’s a Balinese belief that everything – good and bad, life and death, beauty and ugliness – is in a state of perpetual balance. Sometimes two apparent opposites can be true at the same time.

‘In 25 years as a travel journalist I’ve lived in many parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa. But there’s a good reason why, these days, I choose to make the four-hour drive from Bali ’s airport, leaving the crowds behind and heading out to the island’s “wild west”.  Often, when I’m heading to my local pointbreak to surf with Balinese friends, I still gasp at the unbelievable beauty of dawn in West Bali. The bronze rays of the sun glinting on flooded terraces. The neon patchwork of young rice plants. Foamy waves rushing up a black volcanic beach. 

‘I was raised in  England  so it’s not surprising that I’d choose tropical climes for a winter destination. Things are changing rapidly here but, for the moment at least, I still believe that Bali deserves its reputation as the world’s most beautiful island.’

Mark Eveleigh is a novelist and travel writer. His book  ‘Kopi Dulu: Caffeine-Fuelled Travels through Indonesia’   was published by Penguin Random House SEA in August 2022.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Chosen by Shafik Meghji

‘The Salar de Uyuni – the world’s biggest salt flat – is an otherworldly landscape. Roughly the size of Jamaica , this ancient lake bed sits on a high Andean plateau in south-west Bolivia, more than 11,000 feet above sea level. It is a pancake-flat, dazzlingly white expanse dotted with islands of giant cacti, flanked by soaring mountains and volcanoes, and home to and rabbit-like vizcachas and vast reserves of valuable lithium.

‘Over the last 18 years, I’ve been drawn back repeatedly to this starkly beautiful wilderness. My favourite time to visit is during Bolivia’s rainy summer season, from November to April. That’s when large tracts of the Salar de Uyuni flood, creating a mind-bending mirror-like effect. Travelling here at this time of year can be a little challenging, but it’s an unforgettable experience.’

Shafik Meghji is a journalist, travel writer and author of ‘Crossed off the Map: Travels in Bolivia’ .

Capri and Sardinia, Italy

Capri and Sardinia, Italy

Chosen by Giancarlo Ascari and Pia Valentinis

Giancarlo Ascari: ‘ Winter is the best season to visit the island of Capri, in the Bay of Naples . The flow of tourists who flock to it during the rest of the year decreases and you can discover a place with an incredible history. Here Tiberius spent his last years, governing the Roman Empire with signals of light sent from his villa towards the continent. In Capri have lived hermits, theosophists, industrialists like Alfred Krupp, writers like Graham Greene and Pablo Neruda, famous doctors like Axel Munthe. It is easy and fascinating to find their traces, to recognise the places they have told. The nature is beautiful, the views are gorgeous, the taxis are old American open cars from the ’50s. And in winter, if you are lucky (or unlucky), the rough sea will block the navigation of the ferries for a few days – so you will stay in Capri longer than expected.’

Pia Valentinis: ‘I prefer the sea in winter, when the light is less dazzling, the water reflects dark clouds and there are no people around. In Sardinia , the beach of Cagliari – the Poetto – extends for seven miles: perfect for long walks. Looking up, you can see seabirds such as Eurasian plovers, black-winged stilts, red, white and grey herons. On the shoreline you can collect the objects that the sea brings in during storm surges, such as shells and bottles with messages inside. And you can always find a bar open for some prawn pasta or a glass of wine, best sipped gazing towards the horizon.’

‘Bridges of the World ’  by Giancarlo Ascari and Pia Valentinis is published by OH Editions .

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Chosen by Mark Vanhoenacker

‘Winter is my favourite season. I love both the cold and all the delights – hot chocolate, roaring fires – of coming in from it. And I love how snow can silence and transform a place I thought I knew.

‘For a reliably snowy break in a major metropolis, head to Montréal . For a smaller and less well-known destination, however, I recommend Pittsfield, my hometown in the Berkshire Hills of rural western Massachusetts . This small city plays an outsized role in “ Imagine a City” , my memoir and travelogue in which I document my small-town dreams of becoming an airline pilot, and my journeys as an adult to some of the largest metropolises on Earth.  No matter how far I fly, my heart remains in Pittsfield.

‘For visitors, Pittsfield and its environs offer friendly, inexpensive and nearly queue-free alpine skiing (indeed, several Olympians first learned on its slopes). The Berkshires also have dozens of ponds and lakes for skating and informal hockey matches, and endless fields and forest trails for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Stand still for a (chilly) moment or two, and perhaps you’ll spot the striking swoop of a blood-red cardinal over the snowbound world, a vision that embodied the beauty of North American winters to my Belgian-born father.

‘The Berkshires pair outdoor pursuits with world-class museums such as the Clark Art Institute and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art . My favourite indoor destination, however, is Arrowhead , Herman Melville’s farm in Pittsfield. Stand by the hearth of the author of “Moby-Dick” and marvel at the harpoon repurposed as a poker, then gaze from the windows of Melville’s study up to Mount Greylock, the loftiest peak in Massachusetts, whose contours and midwinter complexion are said to have suggested a white whale. Then head to Dottie’s Coffee Lounge on North Street in downtown Pittsfield for some of the tastiest hot chocolate I know.’

Mark Vanhoenacker flies the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for British Airways. He is the author of ‘Imagine a City: A Pilot Sees the World’ and ‘Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot ’ .

Dahab, Egypt

Dahab, Egypt

Chosen by Rebecca Lowe

‘Dahab means “gold” in Arabic, although the precise origin of the name is unclear. Some believe it comes from the Bedouin phrase for “time is golden”, al waqt min thahab , while others say it derives from the ancient gold washed down the mountains by seasonal rains, or the drifts of sand deposited by floodwaters into the bay.

‘Having spent many a happy winter bathing in the turquoise waters of this deliciously mellow fishing-village-turned-diving-mecca, I wonder if there could be other interpretations too: the sizzling grouper and red snapper fish bronzed to perfection on beachside barbecues; the sparkling carafes of ‘Moon Blush’ scuppering your early-morning scuba dive; the distant peaks of the Arabian Peninsula gilded amber by the rising sun.

‘One kind of gold Dahab has long struggled to hold onto, however, is the kind you carry in your pocket. Since a violent insurgency emerged in northern Sinai a decade ago, foreign holidaymakers have largely stayed away, causing lasting damage to local trade. But Dahab lies in the south, two hundred miles from danger, and could not feel more sheltered or safe. It is a truly magical place – and it needs our custom to survive.’

Rebecca Lowe, author of ‘The Slow Road to Tehran ’ , is a freelance journalist and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who specialises in the Middle East.

Estonia

Chosen by Richard Hammond

‘Back in 2010, I travelled from London by train to the German port of Rostock, and then by ferry up the Baltic Sea to Estonia, where Europe meets the east. Tourism to this beautiful, tech-savvy country has evolved much over the past decade. Food is the big draw: earlier this year Michelin published its first guide to the country, featuring over 30 restaurants. (Põhjaka Manor in Mäeküla and Fotografiska in Tallin were awarded the Michelin Green Star for sustainability.)

‘Winter is a great time to make the most of the country’s alternative winter sports among the clean air of its abundant forests, from snowshoeing and ice-skating to kick-sledding, bog swimming and canoeing: one-fifth of Estonian landscape is covered by bogs, some of which date back over 10,000 years. Brave a dip in icy water followed by the traditional smoke sauna of Old Võromaa at Moosa (recognised as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of the world) and don’t miss the Christmas Market in the Old Town Square of the medieval capital, Tallinn – the Green Capital of Europe in 2023.’

Richard Hammond is a writer, videographer and founder of GreenTraveller.co.uk . His book ‘The Green Traveller: Conscious adventure that doesn't cost the earth ’   was published by Pavilion in 2022.

Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

Chosen by Micheal Webster

‘If it’s midwinter in the UK , it must be midsummer in Argentina . I dream of going back to Puerto Iguazú, right in the north of that huge country.

‘Spectacular! That one word sums up the Iguazú waterfalls. I make sure to arrive early and catch the first train up to the Devil’s Throat. Black capuchin monkeys scurry alongside and I glimpse a toucan flying overhead. Gazing in awe at the immensity of the waters that have travelled thousands of kilometres through Amazonia to reach this very spot, I watch as they thunder down the narrow gorge.

‘Back in town, I visit the Hummingbird Garden run by Leandro and his mum. The hummers, a rainbow of dazzling colours, flit by my ears. Then it’s off for a walk in the jungle. My favourite spot is the Surucua Reserve, where I hike along forest trails surrounded by blue morpho butterflies, shrieking parrots and exotic orchids.’

Michael Webster is a conservationist, birdwatcher, filmmaker and author of  ‘The Condor’s Feather ’ ,  a wildlife-inspired travel memoir about a drama-packed journey along the spine of the Andes.

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She Saves She Travels

34 Best Countries to Visit in January (Perfect for Relaxation & Adventure)

Posted on Published: September 3, 2022  - Last updated: January 5, 2024

Dreaming of a January getaway? From amazing beach vacations to exploring winter wonderlands, the winter is a fantastic time to travel! So if you’ve ever wondered what are the best countries to visit in January – here’s your list.

best countries to visit in January view of longboats in Thailand on beach

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, see my  disclosures .

Whether your idea of the best place to visit in January is to escape the cold and look for sun or the beach, or you’re wishing for snowy adventures like skiing and ice castles, this list has a little bit of everything.

Some of these destinations are in the shoulder season, so you’ll find affordable pricing, which is always a bonus, too! From experiencing destinations with tons of culture to cities with amazing food scenes, you’ll find the perfect spot for your vacation in January.

Covering countries from all over the world, this list is going to inspire you to start searching for flights! Let’s dive in!

Save money on travel with points: Check out the best credit card offers to save big money by using rewards points for flights and hotels. They’re so good; I regularly have 2-3 in my wallet and book most of my travel with points!

Map of the best countries to visit in January

From the Alps to the Caribbean and some underrated spots you haven’t thought of, this list covers a lot! Use this map as a visual to help you plan your vacation in January.

Pinch and zoom in to narrow down on a region that you’re considering, then check out the descriptions below.

Oh, and by the way, since I’m continually checking places off my travel bucket list but haven’t been everywhere yet, I’ve asked some of my fellow travel writers to help with this list. I think you’re gonna love it.😉

Best countries to visit in January

January is a fabulous time to travel! Whether you’re looking to escape the winter cold and hit the beach, you’re up for adventure in a new city, or you’re wishing for a winter wonderland to enjoy, here’s some amazing destinations.

1. Costa Rica (one of the best places to visit in January for sun)

view from above beach in Costa Rica teal water white beaches trees

Average temp:  high 78, low 64 (varied by region) Fly into:  Juan Santamaria International Airport, San Jose

If you’re looking for the best countries to visit in January, then Costa Rica absolutely needs to be on your radar! Zipline through cloud forests, watch monkeys and toucans dance around in the trees, dip your toes into luxurious sandy beaches and enjoy great food, Costa Rica has so much to offer visitors.

December through April is dry season, as it’s when you’ll see the best weather in Costa Rica. Although the temperatures vary based on which region you travel to, it’s still a great getaway than being stuck in the cold back home.

Visit the famous Arenal Volcano and enjoy the hot springs in La Fortuna. Still in the mountainous region, there are plenty of things to do in Monteverde , including ziplining and walking the suspension bridges through the cloud forests.

For a perfect beach getaway, head west to Tamarindo, where you can hit the water surfing, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. With hotels and restaurants sprinkled throughout the beach, it’s a great spot to spend a few days.

If you’re looking for more adventure, head to Manuel Antonio National Park, where you can witness monkeys and sloths hanging about!

Be sure to spend some time at the best beaches in Manuel Antonio , including my favorite, Playa Espadilla Sur. There’s so many things to do in Manuel Antonio , you could spend an entire vacation just in this area.

Costa Rica is definitely one of the best places to visit in January for sun, and a destination you’ll love!

Recommended by me – Nikki of She Saves She Travels

Best countries to visit in January view of ski slopes and snowy mountains

Average temp:  high 37, low 27 (varies by region) Fly into:  Vienna International Airport, Schwechat

Austria is a landlocked country between Germany and Italy, located in Central Europe. The alps extend from the west to the east and create a perfect winter wonderland every year.

People come from all over the world to enjoy the warm and fun ski resort experience in the Austrian mountains. There is something for everyone, from skiing, ski touring, snowboarding, ice skating, snow walking, sledging to country cross skiing.

A mulled wine or a Jagertee warm up every cold heart! Villages and cities are decorated with wonderful lights, creating a magical dreamy environment, the perfect place for a vacation in January. This is the best time to relax body and soul in some of the most remarkable thermal baths and sauna villages in Central Europe.

Old traditions make Austria a unique place to be in January. They can still be experienced at the beginning of January, the Perchten run in the Tyrol region and the Glöckler run in Styria. The capital city Vienna, as well as other well-known cities such as Salzburg and Innsbruck, are for all those looking for classic inspiration and the vibes of a long gone empire.

Curious travelers can discover more  top places in Austria . Definitely check out Vorarlberg, a mountainous state in the west, including the charming Bregenzerwald, Austria .

The weather in Austria in January is usually between 0 and 50 Fahrenheit. The higher one travels, the colder it gets.

The best way to get to Austria is via the Vienna airport, located in the east. Other options include the Salzburg airport, Innsbruck airport or even the much larger Munich airport in Germany.

The Austria Trend Hotels provide the most comfortable and memorable stays in Austria. Budget-travelers will want to look out for homely vacation rental properties. Things can be a bit expensive in Austria in January, but your journey will be less costly than a stay in neighboring Switzerland.

Recommended by Paul of Paulmarina

3. Colombia

view of multicolored Colombia street buildings best places to visit in January

Average temp:  high 66, low 45 Fly into:  El Dorado International Airport, Bogota

The South American country of Colombia is a great destination in January – in fact, it’s one of the best weather times to visit of the entire year! In January, the sun is shining, the weather is warm (though there is a huge variety of average temperatures throughout the country), and the rain is low. 

In general, Colombia is a great place to visit, no matter the time of year. It’s a very inexpensive country to travel to, and there’s a wide variety of things to see and do. The capital city of Bogota has an old town filled with colonial architecture, cobblestoned streets, and a wide variety of historical buildings and world class museums. 

Or, you can visit the Coffee Region of Colombia, such as the little, colorful town of Salento. Here, you can visit the coffee farms of Colombia or go hiking in the Cocora Valley, a magical hike into the mountains, where you can see the famous wax palms of Colombia – the tallest palms in the world that grow up to 200 feet high!

Finally, a must visit spot in Colombia is the coastal city of Cartagena, a photogenic, absolutely gorgeous colonial walled city with colorful buildings covered in plants and flowers. 

As you travel throughout Colombia, you’ll likely take a quick plane ride between the different cities. Many people choose to start their Colombia adventure by flying into the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, and staying in Bogota at the Magdalena Guest House is a perfectly located spot to start your exploration of this gorgeous and varied country in South America. 

Colombia is one of the best places to visit in January for sun, culture and history!

Recommended by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast

4. Aruba (a favorite on this list of best countries to visit in January)

best place to vacation in January pic of white beach, rocky shore and catamaran in distance

Average temp:  high 86, low 76 Fly into:  Queen Beatrix International Airport, Oranjestad

If you’re looking for a beachy escape from the clutches of old man winter, look no further than gorgeous Aruba! January is a fantastic time to visit not only to enjoy sunny skies and 80-degree weather, but it’s also a unique place to ring in the New Year .

Typically, New Year’s Eve is kicked off with loads of fireworks throughout the city (if you were planning to sleep – good luck 😉), from large displays over the water to traditional Pagara (long strings of Chinese firecrackers) throughout the streets; there’s no end to colorful and fiery displays.

After that, the party doesn’t stop! Throughout January and into February, there are countless parades like the nighttime Torch Light Parade and other festivities in honor of Carnival . The official start of Carnival is in November, but most of the festivities happen in January and February.

Because of these fun festivities, you should expect to pay a little more for accommodations. To get the best deal, book early!

Aside from a colorful party scene, Aruba is also known for mesmerizing white sand beaches like Palm and Eagle Beach. These are 2 great spots to kick back and relax with a fruity cocktail. They’re some of the best beaches in Aruba !

After relaxing, you’ll have an endless selection of dining options, including Dutch, Asian, African and it’s even one of the most  vegan-friendly Caribbean Islands!

Aruba is one of the best beach vacations in January, and a destination you’ll love.

Recommended by Rebecca of Veggies Abroad

rocky shore of Iceland ocean on sunny day best countries to visit in January

Average temp:  high 37, low 26 (varies by region) Fly into:  Keflavík International Airport, Keflavik

If you’re looking for an epic winter adventure, consider visiting Iceland in January. 

While the days may be short here, you’ll get to enjoy Iceland’s spectacular scenery to yourself, given that the summer crowds have long departed. Better yet, you’ll likely get to see Iceland covered with glistening snow. This is a fantastic time to explore the country’s ice caves or go on a glacier hike!

People travel from all over the world to Iceland in January, given that it’s one of the absolute best months to see the spectacular Northern Lights, thanks to the long, dark nights.

You can either book a guided tour to try to find the lights or drive outside of major cities, away from light pollution, to spot them yourself. Patience is key- seeing the lights depends on whether there’s solar activity, as well as whether there’s clouds obscuring the night sky. 

Another excellent winter activity here is taking advantage of any of the geothermal hot springs you’ll find scattered throughout the country. The springs may be more natural, like the Hellulaug Hot Pool, which is just an organically-formed pool overlooking the ocean, or can be straight up swanky, like the recently opened Sky Lagoon, with an infinity pool and sauna with stunning views of Kársnes Harbour.

The easiest way to reach this tiny island country is to fly into Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport.  Iceland’s weather in January is cold, but not as chilly as its Northern location might suggest, thanks to the relatively warm water from the gulf stream- you can expect temperatures to generally range from 26 to 37 degrees Fahrenheit. 

So be sure to include lots of warm layers on your Iceland packing list , like a base layer, parka, and gloves so you can actually enjoy exploring Iceland’s incredible landscape.

You’ll love visiting Iceland – perhaps absolute best place to vacation in January for adventure!

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

6. Thailand

Average temp:  high 89, low 73 Fly into:  Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok / Phuket International Airport, Phuket

Thailand is an incredible place, and one of the best countries to visit in January. With a large variety of destinations to see within Thailand, you’ll need to decide what kind of experience you want to have, and plan your vacation accordingly.

If you’re looking for beautiful temples, rich in historic architecture loaded with history, then Bangkok or Chiang Mai might be the right spot for you. Stay in the city a few days to soak in the sights. Be sure to take a food tour, and if your’e in Bangkok, visit the floating markets.

If a beach getaway is what you’re after, you have a variety of choices as well. The Phi Phi Islands offer some of the most pristine beaches in all of Thailand. Or, you can opt for Krabi, where there’s a mix of beaches and historical sights to explore.

Phuket is one of the most popular destinations in Thailand, and for good reason. With beautiful white sand beaches and plenty of amenities and accommodations, there’s something for everyone.

Take a snorkeling tour or day trip to Coral Island Phuket to see the area. And with an international airport, it’s easier to get to Phuket than some of the other islands in Thailand.

January is a fabulous time to visit Thailand because it’s the dry season. With plenty of sunshine, culture, food and activities, you’re sure to have a great time in Thailand!

7. France (one of the best places to visit in January Europe)

French Riviera in January view of flowers overlooking bay with buildings in distance

Average temp:  high 56, low 37 (varies by region) Fly into:  Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur, Nice

The month of January is a  great time to visit France because it is less crowded. Since it’s part of the low season, hotel and flight prices are more affordable.

Outside of the capital, Strasbourg in the north is a fantastic alternative. The Cathedral, art galleries, and taverns serving hearty plates of sauerkraut and local wines await visitors to this peaceful and unhurried city.

However, the French Riviera may be the best choice for people who prefer a warmer vacation in January. Also known as La Côte d’Azur (Azure Coast), it is accessible via the Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur which is the second busiest international airport in France next to Paris. The French Riviera is a good option for those who prefer milder temperatures. 

Visiting the French Riviera in January will show you a more laid-back side of France, free of curious tourists and offering more affordable rates. Fewer visitors mean you get a good deal in even the more expensive hotel rooms, as well as cheaper meals in the area’s top restaurants.

A highly recommended place to stay in the  Royal Antibes , a stylish modern hotel with a prime location on the beach. The price of a room with huge glass windows and great views starts at slightly over €100.

You can spend your days touring the Côte d’Azur in between taking in the breathtaking vistas of the sea and basking in the mild Mediterranean weather . Enjoy the crisp winter days hiking the French Riviera’s beautiful trails, including the spectacular route over Èze-village or the Baou above St. Jeannet, with superb views over the Var Valley.

You might also find mimosas in the village of Tanneron, which is also home to Europe’s largest mimosa forest, the Massif de Tanneron.

The town of Menton, meanwhile, is known for its beautiful gardens and well-preserved old town center. The ancient walled city of Antibes is also well worth exploring. And if you want to experience a winter vacation like celebrities, you can also explore Cannes. 

Recommended by Christine of Journey To France

Book a photo shoot: The best souvenir, booking a photo shoot while traveling preserves memories of your vacation! I love Flytographer because the photo sessions are fun, easy and affordable. you can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code SSST.

antigua warm vacation in January white sand beach teal water blue sky

Average temp:  high 82, low 71 Fly into:  

Situated in the middle of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles, in the American West Indies,  Antigua is arguably one of the prettiest Caribbean islands.  

Although it is a favorite destination for honeymoons and romantic escapes, it makes a perfect vacation for any kind of traveler that is not on a budget. 

It is in fact quite an expensive destination, especially if you choose to stay at one of the beautiful Antigua all inclusive resorts on the pristine Caribbean coast, which is very much recommended if you want to enjoy the island at its best. 

Antigua and Barbuda is actually made of the 2 namesake islands and many small islets, some of which are great snorkeling spots that you can visit by joining one of the boat tours available. 

Antigua is one of the best countries to visit in January because it’s dry season with less risk of rain. So expect a lot of sunshine and blue sky. But also it’s the most expensive time of the year to travel to Antigua, for the same reason, which is something to keep in mind as well.

Antigua is renowned for its incredible beaches (they say there are 365, one for each day of the year) and spectacular landscapes. Its home to gorgeous scenery with lush hills tumbling over the white sand beaches and the turquoise Caribbean sea.

Among the things you shouldn’t miss in Antigua, besides getting pampered in your gorgeous luxury hotel, are:

  • Rent a car to explore all the spectacular beaches, including Darkwood beach, Dickenson bay and Half Moon Bay
  • Dance at the sound of calypso music at Shirley Heights on a Sunday while watching the sun going down
  • Try the local cuisine in one of the delicious restaurants on the beach
  • Take a walk around the historical site of Nelson Dockyard at English Harbour and join one of the boat tours around the island. 

If you’re traveling on a budget you can also find more modest accommodations but keep in mind that the overall cost of living in the island is high. 

Recommended by Isabella of Boundless Roads

Best place to vacation in January

Can you believe this list? And we’re just getting started! Let’s keep exploring all the amazing winter getaways!

Mexico beach with boats and palm trees

Average temp:  high 72, low 41 (varies by region) Fly into:  Benito Juárez International Airport, Mexico City

If you’re looking for a sunny getaway this January, take a trip adventuring around Mexico. As a massive country, enjoy everything from the vibrant Mexico City to the stunning cenotes of the Riviera Maya to colonial cultural towns and ancient ruins.

With its close proximity to the equator, Mexico enjoys year-round warm weather, making it the perfect place to escape the cold. One of the best months to visit the country, January is in the midst of Mexico’s dry season when temperatures are excellent and rain levels are low.

Average daytime temperature hovers between 75°F-85°F, but differs from region to region. At this time, colder winds and temperatures hit northern Mexico compared to the higher humidity in the south.

Everyone celebrates Christmas in Mexico, and even though January is a bit late for the festivities, enjoy strolling around every town decorated to the brim with holiday decor. January also signals the start of amazing festivals like Merida Fest, Fiesta Grande de Chiapa de Corzo, and Carnaval Jiutepec in Cuernavaca.

Most international flights will land you in the capital Mexico City or other popular tourist hotspots like Cancun or Cabo San Lucas. From there, a  fantastic public transportation system  can bring you to any neighboring cities and tourist attractions.

For those landing in Mexico City, book a stay in Hotel MX Centro as a starting point for your Mexico adventure!

Recommended by Catherine of Nomadicated

view of malaga Spain from above city buildings with blue sky best countries to visit in January

Average temp:  high 62, low 46 (varies by region) Fly into:  Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport, Malaga

If you are looking for a warm winter destination, the south of Spain and the Spanish islands are excellent options. Enjoy the mild temperatures and sunny days, discover beautiful landmarks and landscapes and immerse yourself in the food culture.

Travelling to the south of Spain or the Spanish islands in January is a smart choice to avoid crowds, extreme heat and high prices on flights and accommodation.

There are many incredible destinations in these parts of Spain, but a popular choice in the south of Spain is Malaga, the best destination for anyone that wants to escape the cold and rainy winter.

Many people believe that Malaga is a summer getaway, however, there are many reasons to visit Malaga in winter .

One of the reasons is the weather. Temperatures are mild and most days are sunny. The average maximum temperature in January is 16.8°C (62.24°F) which is ideal to do outdoor activities.

This time of the year is fantastic for sightseeing and exploring as the heat and humidity in the summer months don’t allow you to do so.  When visiting Malaga, you can’t miss attractions like the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress palace, the cathedral and Picasso Museum.  

However, if you love nature, you can also enjoy going on beautiful hiking trails. One of the best places to go hiking is Montes de Malaga Nature Park. 

Another good reason to visit Malaga in January is to experience the festive period as Christmas ends on the 6th of January. If you are in the city on the 5th, don’t miss the Three Kings Parade. 

Last but not least, January is the cheapest month to visit Malaga. If you travel from a European country, you will find amazing and budget-friendly flight fares and good accommodation rates too.

The nearest airport to travel to Malaga is Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP) which is 15 minutes from the city centre, and if you are looking for a hotel, Room Mate Valeria offers beautiful and comfortable rooms at reasonable prices.

Southern Spain is a lovely winter getaway, and Spain is one of the best countries to visit in Europe in January.

Recommended by Cristina of The Little World of Travelling

Want more Spain travel inspiration? Check out a week in Mallorca – stunning!

11. Belize (another favorite for best beach vacations in January)

belize in January view of boat on the beach with colorful buildings

Average temp:  high 83, low 68 Fly into:  Goldson International Airport, Belize City

The small Central American country of Belize is a dream to visit if you’re looking for a sunny vacation in January. Offering a variety of things to do in Belize from picturesque islands to fun beach towns and ancient ruins to explore, there’s so much to experience!

January is a great time to travel to Belize because many of the holiday tourists are gone and it’s the dry season, so you’ll have gorgeous weather for exploring.

For a beach vacation, head to Ambergris Caye or Placencia. You’ll find beautiful beaches that aren’t overcrowded like they can be in Florida or other spots in the Caribbean.

If you’re looking for history and culture, head inland to San Ignacio and visit the Xunantunich Mayan Ruins . Learn the fascinating history of how the Mayans lived and operated their stone structures while climbing atop the largest in the complex, El Castillo.

Whether you’re looking for a vacation where golf cart is the preferred method to get around or you’re up for chasing waterfalls and seeing monkeys roam through the jungles, Belize has a destination perfect for you!

12. Maldives

Maldives in January beautiful beach palm tree and pier in distance over ocean

Average temp:  high 80, low 77 Fly into:  Velana International Airport, Male

If you’re thinking of starting the New Year with a bang, what better way to do this than laying on a dreamy beach, with white powdered sand and sone of the clearest water in the world? A trip to the Maldives should be on everyone’s bucket list , and January is the perfect time to do it. 

Although it’s right in the middle of the season, January is perfect for a trip to the Maldives as it’s right after the holidays and just before Valentine’s Day, so the prices are really great during these times. You can even find some  affordable water villas  if you dig enough, and you can maybe score a nice room at  this resort that I’m sure you’ve seen on Instagram already.

Getting there is easy, as there’s one main airport used as a hub, located next to the Capital city of Male. From here, you reach your resort island by either speed boat, seaplane, or a combination of the two, but this is handled by the accommodation itself so you really don’t have to worry about anything while on your trip.

And if you usually have a long list of activities to do while on vacation, you’ll have to adjust when in the Maldives: here, you can only lay on a beach or float in the water.

Of course, you can do various water activities like snorkeling, diving, or going on sunset cruises, or you can lay on a sunbed, hammock, or on a massage table, but you get the point. There’s really no better place in the world to relax than this tropical paradise!

Maldives easily earns a spot on this list of the best countries to visit in January!

Recommended by Cristina of Honest Travel Stories

13. Singapore

view of two towers lush foliage with buildings in distance best countries to visit in January Singapore

Average temp:  high 87, low 75 Fly into:  Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore

Singapore is one of the best countries to visit in January for those looking for a warm and sunny getaway. The weather is hot and humid year round but January is one of the cooler months making it a great time to visit.

The temperature will still be hot so it is best to see indoor attractions during midday and early afternoon. The evening is a great time to walk around and explore as Singapore is considered one of the safest countries in the world.

One of the top and most unique  Singapore attractions  is Gardens by the Bay, a large nature park with both outdoor and indoor gardens and conservatories. Don’t miss Supertree Grove, made up of huge tree-shaped vertical gardens, that puts on free light and music shows every night.

Another must do is to walk along the waterfront promenade while enjoying skyline views and passing by landmarks including the ArtScience Museum, Helix Bridge and the Merlion statue . Explore and dine at one of the many interesting city neighborhoods such as Kampong Glam, Little India, and Chinatown.

The beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens is also worth visiting. R ide the cable car to Sentosa Island for family friendly attractions and beaches.

Singapore is very easy to reach by air as it is home to Changi Airport, which is considered an attraction itself. Consider staying at a hotel with a rooftop pool such as the Marina Bay Sands , the iconic hotel known for its long rooftop infinity pool.

Recommended by Matilda of The Travel Sisters

14. Switzerland

best places to visit in January Europe view of Switzerland snow with mountains in distance

Average temp:  high 38, low 28 Fly into:  Zurich International Airport, Zurich

Switzerland is definitely one of the best places to visit in Europe in January if you like snow! 

Since 60% of the country consists of the Alps, it’s designed for winter sport activities. Switzerland has an incredible number of famous ski resorts with a high amount of lifts and gondolas to take you into the beautiful winter wonderland. 

Impressive landscapes, exemplary service and snow reliability, you can expect great skiing and snowboarding in Switzerland. The Alpine country has a lot to offer when it comes to winter sports.

The mountain village of Zermatt, for example, impresses with a total of 360 kilometers (223+ miles) of slopes and over 60 lifts. It’s the largest ski area in Switzerland and one of the best ski resorts in the world.

Enjoy a little less hustle and bustle, a smaller but just as beautiful is Flumserberg  in central Switzerland or Samnaun in the east. No matter which of Switzerland’s many standout spots you choose, t raditional cheese fondue is available almost everywhere , often served in small, beautiful chalets or under open starry skies. 

South of the Alps, in Ticino, snow may not be guaranteed in January, but this region scores with the sunniest days in the country. So, if it’s raining or snowing elsewhere in the country in January, you can take a beautiful walk along Lake Lugano and enjoy the snow-covered Alpine peaks through your sunglasses in the bright and warm sun. 

Pro tip: come to Switzerland in January and bypass the school winter vacations, the country’s slopes are a little less busy. 

The biggest airport in Switzerland is Zurich and thanks to a great developed railroad network, you can reach almost any place in the country from Zurich in 3 hours. 

Recommended by Linda of Hiking the Alps

15. Guatemala (perfect for a low-key January getaway)

Best countries to visit in January- Guatemala street art murals colorful buildings with mountain in background

Average temp:  high 75, low 54 Fly into:  La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City

Guatemala is a great vacation in January as it’s the peak dry season. Enjoy warm weather, great culture and amazing adventures.

It’s a budget destination, so your money will stretch further here than in nearby countries such as Costa Rica and Panama.

Top travel destinations in Guatemala include Antigua and Lake Atitlan. Antigua is a beautiful Spanish colonial city with many things to do. In fact, it’s one of the best tropical Christmas destinations in the Americas.

The #1 attraction near Antigua is climbing Acatenango Volcano and witnessing its’ neighbour, Fuego (Fire) Volcano, erupting every 30-40 minutes. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed!

A 3 hour drive from Antigua will take you to the central highlands and  Lake Atitlan . The lake is a magical place with a near-perfect mid-20s temperature (mid-70’s in Fahrenheit) all year round. Surrounded by 3 volcanoes, the views from Lake Atitlan are something special!

There are 12 towns surrounding Lake Atitlan, each offering something a little different and unique. San Pedro is a favorite for backpackers and San Marcos is a favorite for the hippy crowd. Wherever you end up visiting, travel between towns is quick and easy.

Travel between towns across the lake on little boats , known locally as Lanchas. The longest journey will be about 30 minutes and the cost less than $2.  

Free Cerveza in Santa Cruz La Laguna is an interesting place to stay. A glamping site with private eco-lodges and tee-pee style tents, there is always something going on.

Enjoy complimentary use of the facilities, such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Santa Cruz is one of the best places on the lake to swim and offers fantastic views of the volcanoes in the distance.    

Go for something a little different on your next holiday, go to Guatemala!

Recommended by Wes of Walk About Wes

ice castle sitting on snow in front of snowy trees in Canada

Average temp:  high 30, low 13 (varies by region) Fly into:  Calgary International Airport, Alberta

So many destinations in Canada turn into the most magical winter wonderland during the month of January, and are sure to cure anyone’s post-holiday blues.

One of the most exciting places to visit is the Canadian Rockies region and Banff National Park. At Lake Louise, you’ll have the chance to skate across the frozen lake with a backdrop of the snow-capped mountains.

This outdoor ice rink has even been named the world’s best by CNN ! During the month of January, the entrance to the lake is surrounded by a beautiful ice castle , which will have you feeling like you’re in a snow globe in no time.

Through most of January, Canyon Lights puts on an amazing display at the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. This bridge is one of the most scenic places to visit in Canada year-round, but when the bridge and surrounding park are aglow with thousands of twinkling lights, it’s even more amazing to experience. 

Heading over to the East Coast side of Canada, the best place to vacation in January is Old Quebec, a historic section of Quebec city. This area has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site , and will have you feeling you’ve been transported to Europe.

Many of the picturesque streets will still have their holiday decor and lights up through most of January, and are especially magical after a snowfall. Visitors can enjoy rides down a toboggan chute, which has been operating for the last 135 years. 

To visit Banff National Park and Lake Louise, you’ll want to fly into Calgary, and from there, you’ll need to rent a car to get around. If you want to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge’s Canyon Lights display, you can fly right into Vancouver, and rely on public transportation and ride share services to get around. Then to visit Old Quebec, the best airport to fly into is Quebec City Airport.

Canada offers a variety of experiences, and it’s definitely one of the best countries to visit in January.

Recommended by Sam of New England Wanderlust

More of the best countries to visit in January

Not even half done with the list. Do you have your January getaway picked out yet? Here’s more fabulous ideas ahead…

17. Australia

Sydney skyline view of harbor bridge and buildings in distance with blue sky one of the best countries to visit in January

Average temp:  high 79, low 66 (varies by region) Fly into:  Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport, Sydney

One of the best countries to visit in January for sun is Australia . On the other side of the hemisphere, January is one of the warmest summer months.

Australia is an enormous country which means that temperatures can vary depending on where you go. From as warm as 89 F(32 C) degrees in Perth to as “cold” as 79 F (26 C) in Melbourne. 

Besides the sunny weather, Australia has a lot more to offer. With a 21,126 miles (34,000 KM) long coastline, you can find beautiful beaches and cliffs all around the country. This makes beach hopping and surfing 2 of the most popular things to do in the country.

Nature lovers will have no shortage of green scenery as Australia is the number one country when it comes to the most national parks worldwide (over 650). 

A good place to start your Australian vacation is Sydney. It’s home to the largest airport that has the most international flight connections. On top of that, Sydney is also just a beautiful and lively city with amazing beaches.

For outdoor lovers, its close proximity to the Blue Mountains National Park is perfect . And wine lovers will enjoy a day trip to the Hunter Valley to try some Australian wine and bring home a unique  Australian souvenir . 

For solo travelers, The Wake-Up Bondi hostel is a great place to stay. If you’re looking for a hotel, the Travelodge Hotel Sydney Martin Place is a good option too. 

Recommended by Lara of The Best Travel Gifts

best places to visit in January for sun view of the desert with pillow sand at sunset

Average temp:  high 75, low 59 Fly into:  Dubai International Airport, Dubai / Abu Dhabi International Airport, Abu Dhabi

If you’re looking to soak in the warm winter sun, then the UAE makes for an amazing destination. This Middle Eastern country is home to 7 Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi being the most popular ones.

Both these glamorous Emirates have their own international airport and an array of hotels to choose from. From ultra-luxurious to boutique properties, from business hotels to glamping sites and from desert retreats to oceanfront suites, the accommodation offer is downright dazzling.

With daytime temperatures averaging 24°C or 75°F and nighttime temperatures averaging 15°C or 59°F, January is an excellent month to spend your vacation days outdoors without suffering from the scorching heat that affects the UAE most of the year .

You could choose to spend your days relaxing at a soft white sand beach, admire the view from the observation deck at the world’s tallest building, take an  adventurous desert safari from Dubai , soak up the atmosphere of the souks, visit the mesmerizing Abu Dhabi mosque , cruise the Arabian Gulf by speedboat, kayak through the mangroves or zipline between the most spectacular mountainscapes.

And fashionistas will certainly appreciate the Dubai Shopping Festival that takes place in January. So, when an action-packed winter vacation with a touch of glamour is what you’re looking for, then the UAE will not disappoint!

The UAE is one of the best places to visit in January for sun and adventure!

Recommended by Sarah of CosmopoliClan

19. Portugal

vacation in January to Portugal view of bridge pier boats street vendors

Average temp:  high 59, low 47 (varies by region) Fly into:  Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport, Porto

Portugal is a charming winter destination and is one of the top warm European places to visit in January. Portugal’s temperate climate is perfect for a wonderful vacation across the country.

Start your Portuguese adventure with the second-largest city in Portugal, Porto. It’s a city famous for its association with port wine.

From boat trips on the Douro River to discovering hidden architectural gems, there are plenty of  places to visit in Porto . The old Historic Centre of Porto, alongside the nearby Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar, are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Rumoured to be the inspiration behind the Harry Potter books, Livraria Lello is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world and one of the must-visit attractions in Porto.

Next, climb the Clerigos Tower for a stunning view over the city skyline. No visit to Porto is complete without taking a tour of its famous port wine cellars. You’ll find many of them in Gaia, on the other side of the Douro River.

Finally, head down to Matosinhos beach and Foz do Douro promenade for a day out by the beach. The closest airport to the city is the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, which is well-connected to the city by public transport.

You can also add the vibrant capital city of Lisbon to your holiday itinerary. Lisbon is one of Europe’s sunniest cities, having received more days of sunshine than any other European capital.

When visiting Lisbon, be sure to check out the best things to do in Almada , too. You’ll love visiting Portugal. It’s deserving of a spot on this list of best places to visit in January (Europe).

Recommended by Moumita & Sankha of Chasing the Long Road

20. USA (so many can’t miss destinations for a vacation in January)

best place to vacation in January view of bay with pier palm trees and mountains surrounding

Average temp:  high 68, low 46 (in the southern region – varies greatly throughout) Fly into:  Denver International Airport, Denver / Kahului Airport, Maui / Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, San Juan

Similar to Canada, Mexico and Australia, the USA has a variety of climates and destinations perfect for January. And although it’s impossible to choose just one, these popular January destinations in the USA are all great for wintertime travel.

Vail or Breckenridge , Colorado offer some of the best ski resorts in the world! If you’re looking for a perfect winter getaway with fluffy white snow, consider the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Hawaii is an obvious choice if you’re looking for warm vacations in January in the US, since it’s average high temperatures hover around 80 degrees throughout the islands.

Watch the sunset on Haleakala in Maui , take a helicopter ride over the NaPali Coast in Kauai, visit the impressive Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, or hike to the top of Diamond Head to overlook Waikiki Beach in Oahu. Hawaii is full of adventure!

Another hot spot for a best place to vacation in January is Puerto Rico . There’s so many things to do in Old San Juan , including visiting the 500+ year old fort, El Morro. And if you’re looking for a perfect beach, head to Flamenco Beach Puerto Rico on the nearby island of Culebra.

Without a doubt, the USA offers some spectacular January getaways!

21. El Salvador

beach in El Salvador with black sand palm trees and buildings with reflection in waves

Average temp:  high 85, low 64 Fly into:  San Salvador Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport, San Luis Talpa

El Salvador is an underrated destination in Central America, and one of the best countries to visit in January. A great spot to visit in El Salvador is the town of El Tunco.

Located on the Pacific coast, El Tunco, El Salvador , is a great getaway in the middle of winter. The weather is hot and sunny, with temperatures averaging in the high 80s. January is one of the best times to visit El Tunco because it’s the middle of the dry season, so the chance of a downpour is minimal.

The best things to see and do in El Tunco involve enjoying its beautiful beaches, which are perfect for swimming and surfing. You can also sunbathe but some of the beach areas are a bit pebbly, especially right after high tide.

If you want a chill vibe, you can take some yoga classes and relax in a beach hammock. Or if you’re up for some adventure, you can explore the beach caves (low tide only) or go waterfall hiking.

There are also a number of restaurants and bars in the town. The best thing to eat in El Tunco is pupusas, the national food of El Salvador! These thick corn tortillas are filled with meat, cheese, and/or beans.

If you want to party 24/7, there are a number of party-focused hostels in town. If you want to get a good night’s sleep after going out but still be close to the action, stay at Eco del Mar Hotel .

El Tunco is easy to get to from the San Salvador airport. It’s just a short drive to the coast on well-paved highways. You can hire a driver in advance, rent a car, or just call an Uber at the airport.

If you’re looking for a fun, affordable vacation destination in January, El Tunco is definitely worth considering.

Recommended by Brodi of Our Offbeat Life

visiting belgrade serbia in the winter view of large church with snow on ground and white clouds

Average temp:  high 39, low 28 Fly into:  Nikola Tesla International Airport, Belgrade

Serbia is the best place to vacation in January if you love Christmas and lengthened holiday seasons. As a country with Christian Orthodox as its major population, Serbia celebrates Christmas on January 7th. And on top of that, in addition to the New Year on January 1st, they also celebrate Serbian New Year based on the Julian calendar on the 15th. 

The best way to visit Serbia is to fly to Nikola Tesla International Airport in Belgrade, or you can easily travel by car from  the neighboring countries in Balkan . 

Serbia is quite small, so you can easily travel from the north to the south of the country for a week or two. Depending on the location, there are many things to do in Serbia in January. From enjoying the nightlife scene in Belgrade to spending your winter wonderland in popular ski resorts like Zlatibor or Kopaonik, there is always something for everyone!

For accommodation, you can easily find budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals in each city. If you have a little extra budget for your accommodation, take a chance to stay at the Moskva Hotel in the heart of Belgrade. One of the most important landmarks in Serbia, the hotel has become a cultural heritage in the capital city since 1968. 

Recommended by Marya of The BeauTraveler

23. Philippines

view of best places to visit in January for sun Philippines boat on blue water with rocky cliffs nearby

Average temp:   high 86, low 74 Fly into:  El Nido Lio Airport, Palawan / Puerto Princesa International Airport, Puerto Princesa

With the dry season in full swing, the Philippines is one of the best places to visit in January for sun . You can expect the weather to be hot and humid, yet there will always be a beach nearby when you feel the need to cool off.

One of the best places to visit is the island of Palawan, which has been voted to be “the most beautiful island in the world” multiple times by Travel + Leisure’s Best of Awards . 

Once you’re there, it’s easy to see why. In the northern part of the Palawan near El Nido you’ll find beautiful islands, turquoise-blue lagoons, and jagged limestone cliffs. Thus, island hopping is one of  the best things to do in Palawan !

If you don’t want to take the detour through Puerto Princesa – the capital of Palawan – you can fly to El Nido directly via Airswift from Manila. Some of the best places to stay in El Nido are Frendz Hostel and Blue Mango . 

If you’re adventurous, you can also venture out to other places on the island, like San Vicente and Port Barton. San Vicente is known for its 14-kilometer-long beach, whereas Port Barton is a small, laid-back town attracting travelers from all over the world. From here, you can hike through the jungle to get to low-key beaches and even a picturesque waterfall, kayak around the bay, or go snorkeling for sea turtles.  

As you can see, no matter where you go in Palawan, you can’t go wrong! You’ll have a wonderful vacation, perfect for a January getaway!

Recommended by Lena of Not Another Backpacker

24. Jamaica (another favorite on this list of best countries to visit in January)

jamaica shoreline view of turquoise water rocks and cliffs best countries to visit in January

Average temp:  high 83, low 74 Fly into:  Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay

One of the best beach vacations in January is Jamaica. In the middle of the Caribbean Sea, the hurricane season is over and the rush of holiday travelers is gone. However, January is one of the busiest months for visitors to the island, as many are trying to escape the winter back home.

Relax and rest in luxury at an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Negril or Ocho Rios. From family friendly options to adults-only resorts, there’s something for everyone. Although, make sure to save up for it in advance, as January has some of the highest prices.

Venture off the resort on a day trip to Dunn’s River Falls, ziplining, bamboo rafting, take a sunset cruise or Blue Hole, Negril , amongst many others.

Or, rent a car and explore for yourself. Just be sure to ask your hotel which nearby areas to avoid, as there is some gang crime in Jamaica. And definitely get back before dark.

By the way, Jamaica is a great stop on some of the best young adult cruises , since it’s a destination with so much action and culture.

Whether you’re looking to sit on the beach for a week or soak in the amazing Jamaican food and culture, you’ll love a trip to this tropical paradise!

25. Morocco

Morocco best countries to visit in January view of buildings with green mossy water in foreground

Average temp:  high 66, low 45 Fly into:  Marrakesh Menara Airport, Marrakesh

January might just be the best time of year for a trip to Morocco. Avoid the hot sticky summer, avoid the busy season and make the most of the moderate temperatures in Morocco during winter. 

Marrakech, Essaouira and the Sahara Desert are just some of the destinations you’ll want to add to your Morocco itinerary.  

The beautiful chaos synonymous with Morocco is found right in the heart of the medinas of Marrakech.  And you can start your journey here with a flight into Marrakech Menara Airport.

Book the Riad Tizwa in Marrakech for a stay to remember, wander Jemaa el-Fna Square in the early evening, shop in the labyrinth of souks and stroll through the Jardin Majorelle. And be sure to dine at all the best restaurants in Marrakech while you’re in town.

But don’t forget to see what else Morocco has to offer in winter. Marrakech is the perfect base to arrange a Sahara Desert tour or a beach adventure to Essaouira. 

Book a visit to Merzouga or M’hamid, to see the rolling sand dunes of the Sahara. And on your way include a visit to Ouarzazate to admire the incredible kasbahs of this region.  The Kasbah Aït Benhaddou is possibly the most magnificent, made famous by the many movies filmed here.  

And finally, don’t miss a couple of days stay in Essaouira to finish your Moroccan adventure. This beach destination is a great little medina town that impresses all.  Book a beautiful riad  for a true Moroccan experience, ride horses on the beach, walk the ramparts and book a surf.  

Morocco vacation in January is always a good idea! 

Recommended by Sharon of My Free Range Family

Best countries to visit in January – continued

In the final stretch of this epic list! A few more fun cities and some of the best beach vacations in January yet, let’s wrap up this list with a bang!💥

reflective buildings in pond in Stockholm Sweden

Average temp:  high 33, low 26 Fly into:  Stockholm Arlanda Airport, Stockholm-Arlanda

If you’re looking for a vacation in January, then the beautiful country of Sweden is a fantastic option! With spectacular cities, unspoiled forests, and breathtaking lakes, it’s no surprise that over 7.5 million people visit every year. 

Sweden will take your breath away no matter what time of year you visit, but there’s something special about visiting in January! 

During this time of year, the ground is often covered in snow and temperatures will be well below freezing, although that’s the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a hot chocolate and a Fika!

Sweden is one of the best places to visit in January to extend that ‘festive feeling’ as many of the winter palaces might still be running, especially earlier in the month. 

Sweden’s largest airport is Stockholm Arlanda which is just 39 km (24 miles) from the capital city. This often means Stockholm is the first port of call, and you’ll find tons of fascinating things to do here – especially in January! 

First of all, you’ll have plenty of ice skating opportunities but the main spot to visit is Kungsträdgården ! Then, you can head to Hammarbybacken if you’re looking to ski or head out on a winter cruise of the archipelago! 

If you’re staying in the capital, there’s no shortage of accommodation options but one of the best hotels in the city is Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel .

Other fantastic places to visit in Sweden during January include Swedish Lapland, Abisko National Park, Gothenburg, and Salen. 

Just keep in mind that if you’re traveling through Sweden during this time of year, you’ll need plenty of layers . You’ll also want to indulge in a warm drink at every opportunity and fill your belly with delicious Swedish meatballs!

Recommended by Jack & Abbie of A Couples Calling

27. Grenada (another awesome contender for best place to vacation in January)

best countries to visit in January beach with palm trees blue ocean white sand

Average temp:  high 86, low 74 Fly into:  Maurice Bishop International Airport, Grenada

The island of Grenada in the Caribbean is one of the best islands to visit in January. Located at the southern end of the chain of Caribbean islands, Grenada is still rooted deeply in culture and nature to experience, without a whole lot of big chain influences.

January is an amazing time to visit, as the temperature is roughly 86 degrees year round during the day, and the water stays nice and warm too! It’s the perfect getaway from the winter cold to enjoy warm water, beautiful beaches, waterfalls, a tropical climate and Caribbean culture.

The easiest way to get to Grenada is by flying into Maurice Bishop International Airport. Once you arrive, you can either grab a taxi (they look like small buses) or make your way to a shuttle if your accommodation offers transportation.

There’s a huge range of accommodation options, including many homestay options, more casual resorts, all the way to luxury all inclusives. My recommendation for an eco-friendly boutique hotel is the True Blue Bay Resort , while if you’re looking for something all inclusive, Spice Island Beach Resort .

January does fall within Grenada’s high season, so be prepared for more crowds than if you went during the rainy season (summer months).

Definitely visit one of Grenada’s Best Beaches while there, and try to take an island wide guided tour to experience waterfalls, sulphur springs, cocoa farms, local distilleries or more! Plus, the world-famous underwater attraction, snorkeling the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park is a must-do while visiting the island.

You’ll want to stay in Grenada at least a week to experience all there is to see and do! Grenada is one of the best countries to visit in January. It’s an amazing destination with the welcoming and vibrant Caribbean culture that you don’t want to miss!

Recommended by Taylor of Tea N’ Sea Travel

28. South Africa

view of mountain ridge with town near coast perfect vacation in january

Average temp:  high 83, low 63 Fly into:  Cape Town International Airport, Cape Town

South Africa is one of the best countries in the world for a January vacation. It’s the ideal spot to take a breath and enjoy life.

January in South Africa sees the weather at its best, particularly in the western regions. Summer below the equator is in full swing, and the air is warm and dry.

However you dream of spending your time, this sizable country is teeming with great adventures and awe-inspiring beauty just for you!  Come to South Africa to see the iconic wildlife, enjoy the most picturesque road trips of your life, or explore its astounding urban highlights. 

Or try a shark-cage dive off the coast! Whichever activity you choose, your options are countless. 

If this abundance of activities doesn’t earn South Africa a vote for the best countries to visit in January, maybe this will: all of these remarkable activities are accessible from the spectacular city of Cape Town. It’s the ultimate base for your South African vacation.

January in Cape Town provides you with the opportunity to attend the Kaapse Klopse . This colorful January 2nd street festival will give you stories to tell! You can also visit famous local treasures such as Table Mountain, the V & A Waterfront, and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, right in Cape Town . 

The Cape Town International Airport is just 20 km from the city centre, and services airlines that connect with all parts of the world. 

Finding the best home away from home for you is as easy as amazing vacation rental options. How does a seaview apartment or a country cottage sound? It’s all waiting for you!

Recommended by DJ of Introvert with Itchy Feet

29. England

view of England stone bridge over water fountain and building on sunny day

Average temp:  high 45, low 35 (varies by region) Fly into:  London Heathrow Airport, London

England  is an underrated country to visit in January. It’s the perfect mix of winter wonderland and mild temperatures, depending on where you visit.

For example, Oxford and Birmingham typically see dustings of snow throughout January. You may even find enough snow a few days a year to build a small snowman!

But places like Brighton Beach will remain snow-less. There are even days London will be as sunny as in summer!

The mild temperatures attract visitors who are looking to escape the freezing cold of Canada or Scandinavia, but don’t want to pay the inflated prices of a beach vacation. Temperatures average 5C (41F).

Don’t forget to pack a light coat and some waterproof boots , as it can drizzle throughout January.

Luckily, the best things to do in the UK aren’t summer-based.

Having high tea in Covent Garden, touring Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford upon Avon, listening to live music at a pub, and enjoying British stand-up at local comedy houses are all great indoor activities to take advantage of.

There are plenty of ways to save money while still enjoying everything the country has to offer. For starters, take advantage of the many free museums and galleries.

You can also find cheap eats by avoiding tourist traps and sticking to local pubs. And finally, take advantage of the many cheap or free walking tours available in most cities.

The UK is easily accessible from anywhere in the world.

Major airports include London Heathrow (LHR) and London Gatwick (LGW). Stanstead is another option, but then you’ll need to take a long train journey. 

To get around, take trains for cheap day trips from London to places like Bath and Oxford.

Recommended by Nina of Nina Out and About

30. India (an underrated one on this guide for warm vacations in January)

bangalore palace brick and green palace with formal gardens in front India best countries to visit in January

Average temp:  high 83, low 60 (varies by region) Fly into:  Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi / Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru, Bengaluru

While India may be on your travel bucket list , January is also a great time to cross it off!

January in India means it’s dry season, so you don’t need to worry about rain like you do during monsoon season. While India is a large country, narrowing down what you want to see and do will help determine what weather you’ll face and where to fly into .

The northern part of India is home to the famous Taj Mahal. Located in Agra, the Taj Mahal can be visited via day trip from Delhi. One of the new 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal’s grand and impressive architecture is stunning in real life!

In southern India, the popular towns of Bengaluru (aka Bangalore) is a busy city with so many things to do. Bangalore is famous for the Lalbagh Botanical Garden, the Bengaluru Palace, Bull Temple and Cuban Park. Nearby Mysuru (aka Mysore) is a great day trip or weekend getaway from Bangalore. Be sure to watch the lighting of the Mysore Palace – stunning!

If you’re looking for a beach destination in India, Goa is the place to be. With gentle waves, swaying palm trees and beautiful, relaxing hotels, Goa is a great spot to relax and unwind in India. It’s truly a great destination, and one of the best countries to visit in January.

31. The Gambia

small boat on sandy beach in The Gambia

Average temp:  high 91, low 65 Fly into:  Banjul International Airport, Banjul

Perched on the west coast of Africa is a small but charming country known as The Gambia. The Gambia is renowned for its lengthy swathes of golden sand beaches, freshly caught fish and smiling locals.

The Gambia has 2 distinct seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. The dry season runs from November to May and is the best time to visit. The temperature at this time of year is pleasant – roughly 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) – and you can expect bright sunshine on most days.

January is also a great time of year to visit due to the country’s annual Banjul Demba Cultural Festival. Here, you’ll witness traditional music and dance performances in the country’s capital city.

The Gambia is a very small country and so only houses one international airport: Banjul International Airport.

Most visitors to The Gambia choose to base themselves in Serrekunda, a vibrant town set behind a glorious stretch of beach, fringed by lazy palm trees.

Serrekunda is a mere 30 minute drive from the airport. It’s easy to grab a taxi from the airport, or you can pre-arrange a taxi with your hotel or via a taxi company beforehand.

Alternatively, you can hire a car in The Gambia . I’d personally recommend pre-booking a taxi from a reputable company as some taxis at the airport are in questionable condition.

There are numerous hotels in Serrekunda for you to choose from but a personal favourite of mine is Luigi’s Complex. It has a very friendly and laid-back vibe and is only a short walk from the beach.

Recommended by Ella of Ella McKendrick

32. New Zealand (by far one of the best countries to visit in January)

New Zealand best countries to visit in January view of landscape with people repelling down cliff with valley in distance

Average temp:  high 77, low 53 (varies by region) Fly into:  Auckland International Airport, Auckland

A bucket-list destination for many, New Zealand is at the top of its game in January. This summer month brings some of the warmest temperatures in the country, delighting visitors that enjoy sunny days at the beach.

New Zealand is a surprisingly large country – a fact that many people underestimate when planning a vacation. The amount of time you have will affect the places you are able to visit, however, these are some amazing summer spots in Aotearoa.

If you’re able to include them in your itinerary, you’ll be sure to come away happy. After all, New Zealand is one of the best countries to visit in January!

Paihia is located in the Bay of Islands, and though it is beautiful at any time of year, it’s particularly vibrant during the summer season. Known for its stunning beaches, uninhabited islands, settled weather and marine life, this is a must-see in January. Kerikeri is the closest airport to Paihia, but many choose to fly into Auckland and drive up.

Moving down the North Island, the Coromandel Peninsula is another summer-time favourite for locals and visitors alike . Significant highlights include Hot Water Beach (where you can dig your own natural hot pool in the sand), Cathedral Cove and New Chums Beach, all of which are best enjoyed in the warmth of the summer season. Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga airports all service this region.

Finally, a summertime trip to Fiordland should be on your radar. Though this area experiences a lot of rain right throughout the year, this will be your best chance at seeing it on a nice day.

When the weather is still, the mirror reflection of  Milford Sound on the water really is incomparable. Queenstown is the closest airport to Milford Sound, though many choose to stay in Te Anau.

Haere mai and welcome to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Recommended by Sarah of New Zealand Travel Tips

Malta buildings with flags concrete plaza

Average temp:  high 60, low 49 Fly into:  Malta International Airport, Malta

One of the best places to visit in January for sun is the European island of Malta . Actually, Malta is made up of 3 islands, Malta, Gozo, and Comino.

Compared to other European countries,  Malta in winter  is usually very sunny and in January temperatures can go up to 20 degrees Celsius which on a sunny day feels very pleasant.

One of the best things about going in January is that fewer tourists venture to the island which is mainly considered a summer destination. But what most people fail to realize is that it is the best time for going hiking and exploring the ancient towns.

Malta has a long history, and if you get rainy or windy days it’s perfect to explore underground where you can walk through the World War Two Shelters or discover the old catacombs in Rabat. On the other hand, if the weather is nice, you can easily go for a quick dip in the crystal-clear water.

There are numerous flights connecting Malta with the rest of Europe. In addition, you can take the boat directly from Sicily in Italy.

Getting around Malta by bus is easy, it costs 1.50 Euros for a ticket that lasts you for 2 hours (including bus changes.) On top of that, they have tap and pay so there is no need for cash.

Recommended by Linn of Brainy Backpackers

34. Turks and Caicos (another favorite on this list for best beach vacations in January)

turks and caicos white sand beach teal water blue sky best countries to visit in January

Average temp:  high 82, low 74 Fly into:  Providenciales International Airport, Turks & Caicos Islands

Last but certainly not least is the dreamy island chain of Turks and Caicos. Definitely worthy of a spot on this list of the best countries to visit in January, Turks and Caicos has unbelievable white sand beaches with the most turquoise water you’ll ever see.

A beach destination with the right mix of good food and water activities, Turks and Caicos is a laid-back island chain where the term ‘island time’ could have been created.

The whimsical nature of the island is perfect for a January getaway when all that matters is what time you should re-apply your sunblock . (By the way, be sure to use ocean-safe sunblock at all times to protect marine life.)

Staying on the main island of Providenciales doesn’t have to break the bank, either. It’s possible to do Turks and Caicos on a budget , without sacrificing a good time on the island chain.

While there, be sure to visit the best beaches on Turks and Caicos . Grace Bay Beach is the most popular, but moving away from the busy tourist spot will provide you with amazing views where you *might* just be the only one there.

Enjoy a dreamy island vacation in Turks and Caicos!

vacation in January view of palapa with chairs and beach in distance

Whew! What a list! From the best beach vacations in January to frozen winter wonderlands, this was a fun guide to put together. So….are you ready to book your flights yet?

Let’s review that list one more time, in a more succinct fashion….

Best places to vacation in January

  • Switzerland
  • El Salvador
  • Philippines
  • South Africa
  • New Zealand
  • Turks and Caicos

Related content to read next: 30 Incredible Warm Winter Vacations USA (Say Goodbye to the Cold) 30 Best Countries to Visit in February (Fun Spots You Haven’t Thought Of) 35 Cheapest Beach Vacations: Swoon-worthy Destinations You Need to See 28 Underrated Travel Destinations in the US You Need to See 32 Awe-Inspiring Adventurous Bucket List Ideas You Gotta See to Believe

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34 incredible vacation spots in January view of boats on beach palm trees and boat near cliffs

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

Fabulous post Nikki! It just shows how many fantastic places there are for holidays in January. When I was younger I would have been tempted by the tropical islands... but now I have learned to ski, places like Austria and Switzerland for would be the best part - those snowy mountain views are beeeautiful!

Tuesday 6th of September 2022

Aw I love your comment, Josy! So glad you'd do a Switzerland or Austria getaway. Both looks so stunning in wintertime!

What a fantastic list! I’m lucky to live in one of the places but I’ll keep this lost for sure for winter holidays!

Ah yes Marga, I agree you're very fortunate! Glad you found some inspiration for new destination ideas, though!

Chelsea Messina

This is such a great list of places to visit in January! I have been dying to visit Costa Rica, but I live in Michigan. So I'll be ready for the Maldives by then!

Ha love it! Either of those places sound perfect during a winter in Michigan!

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10 Best Warm Places to Travel to This Winter

Escape the chill in these warm-weather destinations.

best countries to visit for winter

Sure, the winter months have their perks – skiing, sledding, snowman building, and of course the holidays. But the cold! Oh, the cold. It digs deep under your skin, straight to your bones, chilling everything from your toes to your chattering teeth. Fortunately, several year-round, warm-weather destinations can offer a much-needed respite from the frigid air.

From island getaways to sizzling cities, here are 10 of the best warm places to visit this winter.

Ambergris Caye, Belize 

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

With direct flights from several U.S. cities (including New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami), getting to the Central American nation of Belize is easier than you think. The country's interior is filled with lush, verdant landscapes home to monkeys and even a few rare jaguars, but the real star is the coast. To experience the white-sand beaches at their best, make your way to Ambergris Caye. Belize's largest island is known for its water sports, including diving and snorkeling around the nearby Belize Barrier Reef. For a luxe visit, book a few nights at Alaia Belize , which not only provides easy access to the beach, but also has a swimming pool suspended six stories above the main access corridor, with portholes in the bottom that offer aerial views of the property.

Mexico City 

Jorge Castro/Travel + Leisure

Though winter in CDMX won't have the tropical heat you might expect from Mexico — temperatures tend to top out in the low 70s this time of year — it still provides a balmy alternative to snowy U.S. locales. The capital is flush with cultural attractions , including first-rate museums (like the stunning Museo Frida Kahlo ), incredible shopping at both high-end stores and local markets, and some of the best restaurants in the world (we're looking at you, Pujol ). Make Las Alcobas your home base. The luxury hotel offers lavish guest rooms and a tranquil spa in which to relax after a day of urban exploration.

Key West, Florida

Key West is a true delight in the winter months, as the average high temperature never really falls below 75 degrees. It's the perfect place for fruity cocktails on the sand, sunset strolls down lively shopping streets, and slice after slice of tangy Key lime pie. Make the most of your time here by booking a stay at the historic Casa Marina Key West , which recently underwent an extensive renovation. Through the hotel, you can book local food tours, golf outings, and sailboat cruises, or you can simply sit by the pool and soak in the Florida Keys sun.

Rangiroa, French Polynesia

Though more than a hundred islands comprise French Polynesia , just a handful (think Bora Bora and Moorea) get most of the attention. If you prefer somewhere a little less crowded, try the quiet, sparsely developed atoll of Rangiroa. Located about an hour's flight from Tahiti, it has pristine beaches and a massive lagoon brimming with sea life. Book the Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa , which boasts stunning overwater bungalows and villas with private plunge pools.

Panama Highlands

Panama is another destination with splendid coastlines, but its interior shouldn't be overlooked, especially for a winter vacation. Temperatures in the country's highlands sit in the 60s and 70s year round, creating ideal conditions for outdoor adventures. Visitor-favorite activities here include bird-watching and, for more adventurous types, criss-crossing the verdant mountains via the famous hanging bridges of Boquete. The region also has a stellar coffee scene worth exploring. Book a stay at The Haven , an adults-only wellness hotel that'll help you get on a coffee tour as soon as you land.

If you're seeking an African safari this winter without the crowds of a classic destination like Kenya, try the less-traveled terrain of Namibia . This nation on Africa's southwest coast offers seclusion, otherworldly landscapes, and near-guaranteed warm weather. It's also the perfect place to see animals like lions, elephants, leopards, and rhinos in their natural environment. There are several outfitters in the area, but Natural Selection is top-notch. It has numerous camps to choose from, including the famed Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

If you want to mix some time under the sun with some cultural enrichment, look no further than San Juan. The capital of Puerto Rico has long stretches of white-sand beaches, plus historical attractions like the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Visitors will also find lots of delicious spots to eat (make reservations at Cocina Abierta ). In San Juan, it's best to go boutique, so check into the O:LV Fifty Five hotel, which features a rooftop bar and pool offering the best views in town.

When the first cold snap hits, book your flight to Dubai. This desert oasis offers not just warm weather but a mind-boggling array of things to do, from swimming in the Persian Gulf to shopping at some of the world's most luxurious stores and dining at multiple Michelin-starred restaurants. (Don't forget to visit the tallest building in the world while you're here, via an elevator that travels at an ear-popping 30 feet per second.) Try Atlantis, The Palm for your overnight stays — it's a veritable playground for those looking to indulge in the finer things in life.

Winter happens to be the best time to visit Bangkok . The weather is balmy year-round thanks to Thailand's tropical location, but the winter months offer slightly more comfortable temperatures, with highs rarely exceeding 90 degrees.

To get the most out of this massive city, it's best to book a lengthy visit or get a guide — there are tons of tour options on sites like Airbnb Experiences that focus on food, culture, and photography. Don't miss out on the city's canals, either, which you can tour on a long-tail boat. Make your home base the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok , a long-running honoree in Travel + Leisure 's World's Best Awards.

The Bahamas

Sometimes, you just need to get away and not think about a single thing. And that's exactly what you can do in the Bahamas, an island chain that's just a three-hour flight from New York City. There are a number of beautiful destinations to see here, and many of the archipelago's inhabited islands are home to some of the best all-inclusive resorts that are ideal for families, couples, and even solo travelers.

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snowy hallstatt austria, one of the best places to visit in europe in winter

25 Wonderful Destinations for Winter in Europe (Sun, Snow, or Christmas!)

Whether you’re looking to warm up under the winter sun, make the most of peak season in the snowy Alps, marvel at a whimsical Christmas market, or simply escape the crowds and appreciate one of Europe’s iconic cities during the offseason, there are so many incredible winter destinations in Europe.

Sure, you’ll need to be prepared for lots of darkness (hello 4:30 PM sunsets!) and to make sure you really love whatever coat you pack (because it will feature in basically all of your photos), but visiting Europe in winter offers incredible charm and just as much variety as the more popular summer months!

We love traveling during winter in Europe, whether it’s to appreciate Rome in January without the crowds or to get a little February sunshine in Andalucia.

While December, January, and February are the heart of European winter travel, depending on what you’re looking for, you might be able to count parts of November and March in this guide, too.

Here are some of the best places to visit during winter in Europe, no matter what kind of trip you’re after.

Table of Contents

Festive Destinations for Winter in Europe

Warmest places in europe for winter sun, epic snow + northern lights winter destinations in europe, iconic destinations in europe to visit in winter, essential tips for visiting europe in winter.

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm at Cesky Krumlov

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Rounding up all of the excellent places for festive cheer during December in Europe is an enormous task!

For that reason, we have a full roundup of 31 Incredible Christmas Markets in Europe to check out in addition to this more general winter travel guide.

There’s no doubt that some destinations stand out above the rest, though, which is where this overview comes in.

Here are some of the absolute best Christmas destinations to visit in Europe!

Kate Storm holding a red mug out to the camera at a Cologne Christmas market, home to some of the best Christmas markets in Europe

While I’ve tried to keep this guide limited to specific regions or cities, rather than countries, it would be an enormous oversight to not include Germany as a whole.

The most classic destination for Christmas markets in Europe, Germany is one of the absolute best places to visit in Europe in December (and in some cases, November and January, too–not all Christmas markets close right after the holiday).

Some of the best cities for markets include Cologne, Nuremberg, and Dresden (home to the oldest Christmas market in the world!), though virtually all cities and towns have something to offer.

Looking for something smaller?

Check out Rothenberg ob de Tauber or Heidelberg!

Cologne German Christmas Market at night as seen from above with red roofs of stalls prominent. Cologne hosts one of the best european christmas markets

Alsace, France

Known for its delicious cuisine, wine, half-timbered houses, canal cities, and unique culture that blends many aspects of both French and German culture, Alsace is located in northeast France.

It also happens to be one of the most festive holiday destinations in Europe!

From popular cities like Strasbourg and Colmar to idyllic villages like Riquewihr, Obernai, Ribeauvillé, Eguisheim, and Kaysersberg, Alsace is an absolute dream of a destination.

While summer tourism centers around its wine trail, in winter, it’s the legendary Christmas markets that take center stage–and they more than live up to the hype.

Kate Storm spinning in front of a clock tower in Riquewihr, one of the best day trips in Alsace!

Like Germany, Austria is simply too festive in the winter to categorize anything but the country as a whole as one of the best winter destinations in Europe!

Luckily, thanks to its small size and excellent train system, you can cover quite a bit of ground on a winter trip to Austria.

The standout cities of Vienna (home to a whopping 12 distinct Christmas markets) and Salzburg (home to some of our favorite Christmas markets on the planet) are both must-sees.

Lesser-known but beautiful Linz, gorgeous Graz, and charming Innsbruck (known for its phenomenal winter sports as well as its markets) are also well worth a look.

And, of course, you can’t forget idyllic Hallstatt, one of the most beautiful small villages in Europe!

christmas in austria at night salzburg christmas market

Budapest, Hungary

Featuring gorgeous Christmas markets, an excellent setting on the Danube, and delicious traditional food that lends itself to being enjoyed during cold weather, Budapest is a standout destination in Europe in December.

From Budapest’s biggest (and oldest) market in Vorosmarty Square to other standouts like the Advent Feast of the Basilica, you’ll have plenty of festivities to choose from in Budapest.

Plus, the city itself is a delight in winter, from the magical views from Fisherman’s Bastion to the charm of Budapest’s regal cafe culture (order an Esterhazy Cake at Central Cafe for us!).

As a bonus, Budapest is an easy 2.5-hour direct train ride away from Vienna, making Budapest a fun addition to a winter getaway to Austria.

view of christmas market st stephens basilica budapest from above

Basel, Switzerland

Switzerland may be most famous for its mountains, but its cities are incredibly delightful too–and in the winter, none shines quite as bright as Basel!

Nestled in northwest Switzerland, the small city of Basel is situated on the Rhine River, not far from the Swiss border with Germany and France–giving it plenty of inspiration for its holiday festivities.

In addition to its gorgeous Christmas markets and overall beauty, you’ll find plenty of winter-friendly attractions in town, too.

Be sure to visit the Munster Cathedral (and climb to the top), meander through the fine arts museum, and check out the incredible City Hall.

And, if you’re feeling like a bit of a completionist, be sure to head to Dreiländereck, where you can walk through Switzerland, France, and Germany all in a matter of minutes!

basel switzerland christmas market next to the munster cathedral, one of the best winter destinations in europe winter getaways

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague has long been one of those particularly gorgeous European cities that captures the imagination when admiring it from its many angles–and that’s just as true in winter!

Strolling over the Vltava River along the Charles Bridge, admiring the famous Astronomical Clock, and exploring Prague Castle are all absolutely wonderful activities in winter.

Add in the city’s incredible Christmas markets in December (featuring plenty of Czech beer, of course), and Prague becomes one of the top winter travel destinations in Europe.

Be sure to climb up to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower to admire one of the best views of Prague and to enjoy a jaw-dropping view of the Christmas market held in the Old Town Square!

Prage Christmas market in its central square as seen from above during blue hour. Prague has some of the best Christmas markets in Europe

While I wouldn’t necessarily categorize any of these places as “warm” in the summer sense of the word, if you’re looking for a bit of sunshine and fresh air, these (relatively) hot winter destinations in Europe are excellent options!

Sure, you’ll be photographing beaches instead of donning a bathing suit and jumping into the water–but with a little luck, you may even get to leave your coat behind when exploring.

… And, as a bonus, most of these sunny European destinations are much less crowded and much less expensive during the winter months (the Canary Islands, as the warmest place in Europe in winter, are an exception).

kate storm and ranger storm sitting along the seven hanging valleys trail, one of the best things to do in algarve portugal

Sicily, Italy

With its stunning architecture, complicated history, delicious food, and dramatic landscapes (hello, Mount Etna!), Sicily makes a fantastic getaway for travelers looking for winter sun in Europe.

Since visiting Sicily in, say, January or February rules out beach time, a winter trip is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of even more affordable prices than usual to appreciate the island’s incredible cultural sights.

Marvel at the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, get lost in Ortigia, taste the chocolate of Modica, admire the views from Taormina’s Greek Theater, and tour Palermo’s impressive cathedral.

We also loved this food and history tour in Palermo, and highly recommend it!

Hoping to visit Mount Etna?

You absolutely can–and in winter, you may even get to see it covered in snow.

Kate Storm in a blue skirt overlooking Ragusa Ilba from Ragusa Superiore, one of the best views on this 10 days in Sicily itinerary

During the summer, popular parts of Malta are often overwhelmed with cruise ship passengers–but by visiting Malta in winter, you can skip the crowds and keep the sunshine!

The country’s capital, Valletta, is the sunniest city on the continent, making it the perfect place to seek out the winter sun in Europe.

Other fun things to do include exploring the Silent City of Mdina, the charming fishing village of Marsaxlokk, and exploring the rocky and beautiful coastline of the island of Gozo (you’ll just need to skip the swimming).

With its arid landscape and intense heat, Malta can be quite brutal during the summer.

But, on the flipside, it can be equally as mild in the winter, with Valletta reaching an average high of 60°F/15°C in January and February.

colorful fishing boat in harbor of Marsaxlokk malta, one of the best places to visit in europe winter sun

Sometimes called the “Hawaii of Europe” (though a few other winter sun destinations compete for that title!), Madeira is located off the northwest coast of Africa.

As an autonomous region of Portugal , Madeira is easy to access from mainland Europe but often feels worlds apart, with incredible landscapes and a food and wine scene all its own (if you’re familiar with Madeira wine–this is where it comes from!).

Some of the best things to do in Madeira include visiting the Valley of the Nuns, admiring Cabo Girao, and tasting the famous Madeira wine.

Be sure to also make time to hike the levadas–unique channels that were built into the side of Madeira’s mountains.

And, for travelers planning a trip over the New Year, Madeira’s capital city of Funchal puts on a fantastic firework display each December 31!

waterfall into the ocean on madeira portugal road trip view

The Canary Islands, Spain

Arguably the most classic winter sun destination in Europe, the Canary Islands are–like Madeira–located off the northwest coast of Africa (though even further south than Madeira).

Without a doubt, the Canary Islands are among the warmest places in Europe in winter!

With average high temperatures hovering around 68°F/20°C, there is no better place to enjoy a bit of heat and sunshine in Europe over the winter.

The archipelago that makes up the Canary Islands boasts something for everyone, with some of the most popular islands being Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and Tenerife.

Tenerife is the busiest island, with adorable villages, sandy beaches, and plenty of activities to keep you busy from day to night.

Meanwhile, Lanzarote is known for its dramatic volcanic landscapes.

white village perched on a dramatic cliff in tenerife, one of the best winter sun destinations in europe

The Algarve, Portugal

With its sunny weather, mild temperatures, and excellent hiking, Portugal’s Algarve is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter!

From exploring charming towns like Lagos , Carvoeiro, Sagres, and Tavira to hiking gorgeous trails like the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, you’ll find plenty to do during winter in the Algarve.

And, quite honestly–the water in the Algarve stays so cold during the summer that if you come from a hot climate like us, you may not want to swim during the summer anyway (making winter the perfect time to visit).

Not swimming seems like a small price to pay for having iconic beaches all to yourself!

We loved our January trip to the Algarve and would love to visit in the winter again.

kate storm at ponta da piedade , one of the best lagos attractions

Andalucia, Spain

Whitewashed villages, sandy beaches, vibrant cities, and some of the most stunning architecture in the world (hello, Alhambra!), Andalucia is one of the absolute best places to visit during winter in Europe if you’re looking for warm weather and a bit of sunshine.

Sure, you won’t want to swim when visiting the beaches of the famous Costa del Sol, but they’re still worth strolling along.

And, cities along the coast, like Malaga, are much more pleasant to explore in winter than during notoriously the hot and humid summer.

While visiting Andalucia, be sure to tour the Alhambra in Granada , check out the Plaza de Espana in Seville , admire the stunning views from Ronda , and tour the incredible Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba .

And, if you can’t decide what kind of winter vacation in Europe you’re looking for, don’t worry: in Andalucia, you can truly do it all.

The mountains surrounding Granada are home to the only ski resort in Europe where you can enjoy downhill skiing with a view of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance!

kate storm and ranger storm at the mirador san nicholas in granada spain, one of the best places to visit in andalucia

Crete, Greece

As Greece’s largest and almost southernmost island (Gavdos has it beat there), visiting Crete in winter may not be the typical Greek vacation, but it can be a delightful one!

From restaurant-hopping in Heraklion to enjoying the charming Venetian harbors of popular towns like Chania and Rethymnon without the crowds you’ll experience during the summer, visiting Crete in winter has plenty to offer!

While it will be too cold to swim (expect temperatures around 60°F/15°C), the beaches are still beautiful and well worth admiring from the shore.

And, let’s be real: a centerpiece of any well-planned trip to Greece is its food!

The Greek coffee, local food, and local wine are all ready and waiting to be enjoyed during a winter trip to Crete.

view of crete greece in winter from above with beach in foreground and mountains in background

As one of the warmest places in Europe during winter and boasting around 340 days a year of sunshine, it’s safe to say that Cyprus is a fantastic winter sun destination!

If your dream trip to Cyprus includes getting away from the beaches to hike in the Troodos or Kyrenia Mountains, soaking up deeply interesting history in Nicosia, and enjoying a bit of European winter sun, you’ll have a great time.

While sunsets are still fairly early and the closest you’ll get to the sea is looking at it, Cyprus in winter is a special–and uncrowded–experience.

And, while Cyprus is known to foreigners primarily as a winter sun destination, head high enough into the mountains and you can ski there, as well!

view of a cyprus beach on overcast day in winter in europe

If your idea of the perfect European winter vacation includes lots of snow and/or plenty of opportunities to chase the northern lights, these epic adventure destinations have you covered!

Rovaniemi, Finland

Located in Finnish Lapland and home to the famous Santa Clause Village each holiday season, Rovaniemi is the perfect winter destination in Europe for travelers looking to combine outdoor adventure with festive cheer!

With its child-centered Santa Claus Village, it also ranks among the absolute best places to visit in winter for families.

Reindeer sleigh rides, snowmobiles, dog sledding , and–of course–night-time expeditions to try to spot the magnificent northern lights–are all among the top things to do in Rovaniemi in winter.

Back in the Santa Claus Village, you’ll find kid-centered versions of many of these classic Lapland activities, too.

Don’t forget to send a letter home from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office while you’re there, either!

siberian huskies getting ready for dog sledding in finnish lapland, one of the best places to visit winter europe

Tromso, Norway

As one of the world’s most cherished destinations for chasing the northern lights, Tromso, Norway is absolutely one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter!

While–and I cannot repeat this enough in this article–viewing the lights is never guaranteed, professional night tours like this give you the best odds of spotting them in Tromso.

And, beyond the lights, a full array of winter adventures await in Tromso.

Consider signing up for a dog-sledding experience , visiting a Sámi reindeer farm, and even going whale-watching!

Taking the cable car up for sweeping views of a very snowy, beautiful Tromso in winter is another must!

northern lights over fjord in tromso, one of the best snowy places to go in europe winter

Chamonix, France

Nestled in the French Alps, not far from the border between France, Switzerland, and Germany, you’ll find the (rightfully) famous European winter travel destination of Chamonix situated in the shadow of Mont Blanc.

Most famous for skiing, Chamonix rose to prominence a century ago when it hosted the first-ever Winter Olympic Games in 1924.

Today, it is known for its incredible skiing and winter sports, and its access to some of the absolute best views of Mont Blanc.

You can also step inside the Mer de Glace–the largest glacier in France–during a winter trip here.

While Chamonix’s comparatively high prices mean that it will mostly appeal to skiers, you don’t need to be a skier to appreciate the beauty of this Alpine town in winter!

view of the french alps from a ski resort in chamonix, one of the best european winter places to visit

Abisko, Sweden

Located north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, Abisko is known for its sheer amount of darkness over the winter, including periods of “polar night” where the sun never rises!

This is an enormous asset, however, for its biggest tourism draw: spotting the northern lights .

After all, there’s nothing like 24/7 darkness to give you the biggest odds possible to admiring the Aurora Borealis.

Like other Arctic destinations in Europe, you’ll also be able to enjoy activities like reindeer camps, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, and more during your winter getaway.

That being said, in Abisko, there’s no doubt that catching sight of the northern lights is the star of the show!

northern lights above the trees in abisko, one of the best places in europe in winter

The South Coast, Iceland

The South Coast of Iceland is downright magical during any time of the year, but to experience a side that most visitors don’t see, head there in winter!

Many of Iceland’s top attractions, including the famous Skogafoss Waterfall, Jokusarlon Glacier Lagoon, and the town of Vik, can be found here.

This is also where you’ll find Vatnajokull Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe and one of the most popular ones to hike on.

One of the biggest draws of Iceland’s South Coast in winter, though, is something you can only do during the cold months: hiking inside the ice caves !

You can also spot the northern lights here–fingers crossed–but of course, it’s never a guarantee.

person standing inside an ice cave, bucket list iceland travel experience

Visiting Europe in winter is incredible for once-in-a-lifetime epic experiences like the northern lights and festive events like Christmas markets, sure… but there’s another (less crowded) side to visiting Europe between November and March, too.

During these dark and admittedly sometimes dreary months, many of Europe’s most iconic cities–places known to be described with adjectives like “overtouristed” during the summer–receive a mere fraction of the tourists that they do during the high season.

The result is pleasant, beautiful cities, views of stunning architecture that you have enough elbow room to enjoy, and museums that can be sampled at a leisurely pace.

If you’re looking to take advantage of the off-season lack of crowds and lower prices, here are some of the best cities to add to your list!

kate storm on the spanish steps at dawn, during a 4 day rome itinerary

Venice, Italy

Ethereal, beautiful Venice, with its gondolas , canals, opulent architecture, and downright implausible existence, is one of those places that people seem to either love or hate.

… and if you want to love it, you’ll be much more likely to do so by visiting in winter!

Sure, you’ll need to bundle up and expect gray weather–but honestly, Venice looks gorgeous under clouds.

It’s an excellent trade in order to experience St. Mark’s Square when it’s not literally covered by tourists (the exception: during Carnival).

Winter is when Venice is most prone to its “ acqua alta “, or high water–in other words, flooding–but the vast majority of the time, this won’t disrupt your trip at all.

kate storm and jeremy storm in front of a canal in venice in winter, one of the best things to see in italy

Paris, France

Years ago, when planning our first-ever trip to Europe, we decided to spend a week in Paris during winter!

We loved it enough that we’ve happily returned to Paris in the winter several times since (and in all the other seasons as well–after all, “Paris is always a good idea.”).

Yes, the skies will typically stay gray, and you should absolutely pack a travel umbrella , but the moody weather suits Paris just fine!

Enjoy the Louvre with a fraction of the crowds, ice skate in view of the Eiffel Tower, and enjoy a daily bowl of delicious French onion soup, and you’ll quickly forget the weather.

If you happen to visit in December or early January, be sure not to miss the Christmas markets and decor, either–the Galeries Lafayette Christmas tree alone is worth going out of your way for.

2019 galeries lafayette christmas tree, one of the best things to do in paris in winter

Rome, Italy

Without a doubt, the biggest reason to visit Rome in winter is the lack of crowds.

We’ve spent time in Rome during almost every month of the year, and the difference in crowd levels during December, January, and February are downright astonishing compared even to the shoulder seasons!

And, while the days are shorter, Rome’s attractions are arguably better appreciated during winter.

This is not only due to the lack of crowds, but to the lack of heat (did you know that most of the Vatican Museums aren’t air-conditioned? Just saying.).

Rome is quite possibly our favorite city in the world, and from touring the Colosseum to marveling at the Pantheon to devouring delicious pasta daily, a winter trip to Rome is an excellent experience.

One reason not to visit Rome during the winter though? Christmas markets.

They exist–technically–but if that’s what you’re after, head to Central Europe instead.

kate storm and jeremy storm standing in from of Colosseum, One Day in Rome -- Rome in a Day

Dubrovnik, Croatia

There’s no doubt that many of the best things to do in Dubrovnik , from swimming in the Adriatic Sea to kayaking around Lopud Island, are only available in the summer.

If you’re in the mood for something a bit unorthodox, though, let me say: winter in Dubrovnik has its charms!

We spent 2 weeks enjoying Dubrovnik in February, and the experiences of walking the city walls almost completely alone, strolling through the city without fighting the crowds, and enjoying winter sunsets was an absolute delight.

And, even better: no cruise ship crowds.

Dubrovnik doesn’t get particularly cold (average highs in February reach 56°F/10°C), making it a mild way to experience some winter sun, too.

We snapped this photo on the city walls in in February, where we only passed about 5 other people during the entire experience!

kate storm looking over city walls dubrovnik

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona may be on the Mediterranean, and it may feature beaches… but really, at its heart, Barcelona is not a beach town.

And, as a result, it makes for a fantastic winter trip in Europe!

Skip the overwhelming heat and intense crowds of the summer, and instead opt to marvel at masterpieces like La Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo in the winter (and, as a bonus, the facade of Casa Batllo is more visible in the winter, too).

From browsing Mercado La Boqueria to strolling around Las Ramblas to soaking up the views at Park Guell, virtually all of the best things to do in Barcelona are improved but visiting in the offseason.

view of park guell in barcelona spain, a top europe bucket list travel destination

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

During the summer months, Amsterdam is known as one of the most crowded and touristic cities in Europe… but in the winter, that all melts away!

Yes, you will be cold (the humid, damp cold of Amsterdam is not to be underestimated), and the days are short, but in exchange, you can explore the canals, peruse the cheese shops, and marvel at the museums with far fewer crowds!

Hearty, cozy Dutch snack foods, such as oliebollen, pancakes, stroopwafel, and even Chocomel, are also a delicious addition to your time in Amsterdam in winter.

And, while you probably won’t experience snow or frozen canals (sadly not a common experience), the charms of Amsterdam’s architecture, history, and culture are more than enough to make a winter visit worth the effort.

Kate Storm in a brown coat looking over a foggy canal in Amsterdam in December

Plan your days based on the available daylight.

While gray clouds, rain, and possible snow are all pretty much expected by travelers visiting Europe in winter, the incredibly short days can be harder to adjust to (at least, they were for us).

For example, in mid-December, the sun sets around 4:55 PM in Paris, around 4:00 PM in Vienna, around 3:30 in Reykjavik, and 1:30 PM in Rovaniemi.

Depending on where you go and what you plan to do, the amount of daylight available can greatly impact your plans!

jeremy storm at christmas market in cologne germany

Book epic excursions toward the beginning of your trip (and be flexible).

This is especially important for extremely weather-dependent activities, like spotting the northern lights in Iceland or dog-sledding in Tromso .

As magical as these experiences are, a snowstorm or poor lighting conditions can derail them.

By booking your most sought-after activities at the beginning of your trip, you can leave yourself room to reschedule and try again later.

dog sledding from perspective of sled driver during winter europe

Don’t assume winter is offseason everywhere.

When it comes to popular European winter destinations like Lapland for the Northern Lights or Vienna for Christmas markets, the sooner you can book your hotels and tours, the better.

Hotels and tours both fill up, and we have had to stay further out of the center than we would like more than once due to procrastinating on deciding where to stay!

We book our hotels and rental apartments through Booking.com , and our tours primarily through Get Your Guide or (in certain destinations) Take Walks .

travelers exploring the decorated streets of antwerp belgium at night decorated with christmas belgium in winter lights

Make sure you love your coat, hat, and gloves!

… because they will be in just about every picture you take!

Unlike during the summer, visiting winter destinations in Europe often means ending up with photos where you look like you wear the same thing every day.

That’s not a bad thing, but make sure you love what you bring!

Bringing a second coat can be a heavy inconvenience, but mixing things up with different hats and scarves is much easier.

Winter in Salzburg: Kate Storm at Christmas Market

Bring a travel umbrella with you!

This is especially important for cities– Lisbon may be known for its sun, for example, but it gets plenty of rain in December and January!

You can purchase an umbrella when you arrive, too, but as someone who has had to throw away one too many cheap umbrellas while traveling, it’s better to be prepared and bring your own .

kate storm with a pink umbrella in front of the opera house in paris in the rain

Warm, comfortable boots are an absolute must.

Bonus points if they’re waterproof!

Cold feet make everything less pleasant when sightseeing.

I love my Ugg Kesey Motorcycle Boots and have been wearing them when exploring Europe in winter for years now.

Kate Storm in a brown coat standing with a white Christmas tree in Colmar. A decorated pink house is in the background--this is a classic photo spot in Colmar in winter!

Which month you travel will influence your winter trip to Europe.

January through March, for example, are most popular for hunting for the northern lights (though of course, there’s never any guarantee of seeing them and you can see them outside these months!).

January and February are popular for winter sun getaways in southern Europe, and the days will (slowly) be getting longer as winter wears on.

And, it should go without saying, December is the most popular month for Christmas market trips, but with careful planning, you can visit some markets during a November or January Europe trip, too.

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2 photos of european winter, sled dogs and snowy hallstatt. black and red text reads "25 epic europe trips for winter"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

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15 Best Places To Visit in Europe in Winter: Warmest Spots and Winter Wonderlands

Home » Destinations » Europe » 15 Best Places To Visit in Europe in Winter: Warmest Spots and Winter Wonderlands

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Updated: 8th January 2023

Travelling Europe in winter can mean many things; Christmas markets, New Year celebrations, Valentine’s Day escapes, chasing the winter sun, and, of course, snow and ski trips. Thus, choosing the best places to visit in Europe in winter will very much depend on what you’re seeking.

If you’re fed up with wrapping up, then it’s best to head south, where you’ll find the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter. If you’re chasing the aurora borealis or pistes, northern  Europe  is the place to be. If you’re seeking some culture, then time your winter travels with a carnival or event.

Of course, there’s also the bonus of heading to some of Europe’s most popular places in the winter and the off-season; fewer crowds and lower prices. It’s also easy to pair a couple of spots together thanks to Europe’s easy and quick overland connections. Just use an app like  Omio  to search and book trains and buses to plan your winter adventure.

Here are my picks of the best places to visit in Europe in winter, from the warmest destinations to winter wonderlands.

In this article...

Madeira, Portugal

Best for sunny winter hikes and spring-time feels

Floating out in the Atlantic Ocean, the Portuguese island of Madeira is closer to Africa than its mainland. This climate creates one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter, with daytime temperatures throughout the season hovering around 20°C.

In reality, Madeira’s temperature stays pretty constant year-round, leading one of the most beautiful islands in the world to basically exsists in eternal spring. 

Dan in Madeira Quinta da Saraiva discount code

With sun-kissed days aplenty and flowers and verdant scenery a constant feature, it’s a great winter escape, with more reliable weather than Portugal’s second archipelago, The Azores .

It’s also a place that ticks many boxes. There are beaches, ranging from typically golden to dramatic and volcanic dark bays – neighbouring Porto Santo boasts a vast stretch of heavenly sands. Then there are the mountains, where lofty jagged peaks reach above the clouds. Linking it all together are the  leavada  hiking trails, following the island’s traditional irrigation system. In Funchal, the capital, museums, wine tasting, and aged-Architecture tell their own story. Madeira is legendary – and when it came time to return to my life in Lisbon after a winter month on the archipelago, you can bet I cried a tear or two. 

The traditional thatched houses of Santana, a pointed triangle shaped house with colourful blue and red windows and flowers outside

Read more: Photo guide to Madeira

Ponta do Sol Madeira

Sicily, Italy

Best for warmer winters, served with culture and off-season bargains

Italy’s ‘in the moment’ island – thanks to The White Lotus – is a surefire European winter destination, though it’s not just the sun that make’s Sicily worth visiting .

The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily doesn’t fail to entertain. From beautiful beaches, like Cefalu, to characterful cities, such as boisterous Palermo, you’ve got everything under the sun – often quite literally – here. 

As one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter, you can expect daytime temperatures to peak around 14°C in February. Still, showers can be common in the winter months, so don’t expect the weather to be like that of, say, the Canary Islands. 

Sicily's Valley of the Temples one of the best places to visit in Europe

Luckily, there is plenty to entertain on a rainy day. From Byzantine churches to impressive Roman Villas with nearly perfectly-restored mosaics, the island’s rich culture is more than just a distraction from the beaches. Even the Valley of Temples, a strip of grand Greek architecture outside, is worth braving the showers for. Having just spent November rocking around Sicily’s four corners, it’s a big thumbs up from me.

A king penguin colony at Volunteer Point

Read more: Best islands to visit

Christmas lights and a church in Seiffen ore Mountains

Dresden and Saxony, Germany

Best for winter wonderlands, traditions, and Christmas villages

Germany is renowned for its Christmas Markets, and the capital city of the Saxony region, Dresden , is no different. In fact, the city boasts eleven different themed Christmas markets.

Beyond the festivities, it also makes a great city break in general. The city is compact enough to explore on foot, and the grand Baroque architecture makes this a worthy rival to some of the other great cities in central Europe, but Dresden at Christmas is when the city truly shines.

However, what makes Saxony one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter is other places to visit in Saxony, Germany , and not just the uber-cool city of Leipzig . This is a land full of traditions – especially at Christmas – and it’s well worth hiring a car to experience them.

In the Ore Mountains, you’ll find the village of Seiffen – an almost year-round Christmasy Eden. Here, workshops create toys, candles, decorations and other festive-related items no matter the month. Come December, it feels like a proper snowy wonderland. Then you have the mountain town’s miner traditions. From deep underground carol concerts in decommissioned mines to parades and traditional feasts, a Christmas trip to Saxony goes far beyond the markets and  glühwein.

best countries to visit for winter

Read more: Christmas in Saxony

The view of old town Bansko and the snowy mountains

Bansko, Bulgaria

Best for skiing or snowboarding without breaking the bank

Bansko in winter is an ideal place for Skiers of all abilities, whether you want to learn or just head off with groups of mates to hit the slopes.

What makes it one of the best ski places to visit in Europe in winter, though, is just how affordable it is. This is particularly ideal if you’re a first-timer and want to try the sport before shelling out a fortune to some fancy French resort.

With half-board chalet rooms coming in at around £300 and great value lessons, it really is one of the cheapest places to Ski in Europe during winter. Another bonus is the lift passes that can be arranged by the day for those not wanting to commit to an entire week skiing, and even non-skiers can use the chairs to reach the higher  après-ski  points. This also helps make it a good choice for a family holiday in Europe without breaking the bank.

Before the skiing, which takes place a 30-minute gondola ride from the resort town, you’ll find all you need with restaurants, bars, rental shops and other activities like ice skating. Bansko’s Old Town is beautiful, with traditional buildings, museums, and a small but stunning Orthodox church. You also have some hot springs nearby to explore, and after Bansko, you could head to the cultured city of Plovdiv to visit the ancient attractions crowd free.

The bottom of a run in Bansko Bulgaria

Read more: Skiing in Bansko

Algarve west coast

The Algarve, Portugal

Best for off-season deals and (usually) sunny days

If your budget doesn’t stretch to a luxury island escape in far-flung lands, then you’ll be looking for your sun a little closer to home.

The Algarve , Portugal’s southernmost region, is one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter, and being the off-season, there are usually plenty of deals to be had. Especially if you consider some of the Algarve’s more unusual places stay in inland.

Renowned for its 300 days of annual sunshine, it isn’t a guaranteed sunshine destination, though it’s undoubtedly going to be much warmer than in England – in fact, I’m here writing now (January) and writing this on my balcony in a T-shirt.

Having lived here for quite a few years now, generally, I’ve found December to have pretty good days – Christmas is often outside – and then showers start coming a bit later in winter. That said, it’s unpredictable, so pack an umbrella and plan for some emergency Algarve rainy-day activities . Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, also makes for a good winter city break, with the weather usually just a little less warm than in the south.

Lagoas beach village of Carvoeiro

Read more: Things to do in the Algarve

The start of the torchlight procession in Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland

Best for Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is a treat any time of year. What makes it one of the places to visit in Europe in winter, though, is the Scottish Hogmanay celebrations which take over the city.

Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the final day of the year, and boy, do they know how to party. This will be no big surprise for anyone who knows about Edinburgh’s 11 festivals throughout the year.

Over these days, huge concerts, a torch-baring parade, artistic events, firework displays, and even a chilly AF swim take place. The city is packed, the energy levels are high, and it’s an epic way to see in the New Year. The lead-up to Christmas is also great in Edinburgh. Whether you’re sipping mulled wine at the Christmas Markets, warming yourself by a pub fireplace, or escaping the rain in the city’s excellent museums, a winter trip to Edinburgh is a winner.  

Calton Hill

Read more: Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Best winter destinations in Europe

Venice, Italy

Best for off-season visits, carnival and Valentine’s Day getaways 

While it’s not one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter – you’ll need to head further south in Italy for a few more degrees – it is certainly one of the most romantic, making Venice a firm Valentine’s Day favourite.

But that’s not even the best reason to visit the canal-lined city during the second month of the year.

No, it’s Venice Carnival , a tradition since 1162 which makes this masterpiece of a city one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter.

ItalyVeniceLookdownSML

While you’ll always find crowds in Venice, I was actually pretty surprised how it wasn’t busier when I visited the carnival. Perhaps the less favourable weather and the off-season does put some people off. Whatever the reason, you’ll likely find Venice shrouded in most, adding to the spectacle of the masked faces and costumed bodies strolling around the city like Saint Mark’s Square is a grand ball. If you prefer your grand balls inside, there are also plenty of those, too – though you’ll likely need to dig deep to secure a ticket. 

ItalyVeniceMuranoNightSML

Read more: Why I love Venice

Boats in the Maltese harbour

Best for winter sun and an island escape

With highs of 14°C in February, Malta is one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter.

While it might not be the best time to dive into the sea – trust me, I did my advance PADI course here during winter – the often sunny days are a welcome change to the bleak winters in Northern Europe.

Luckily, the ocean still sparkles even if it’s not calling your name, and afternoons topping up your tan aren’t impossible. With plenty of cultural attractions to entertain, too, even rainy days aren’t wasted.

Wander the historic streets of Valletta – a grand, UNESO-listed city dating back to 1566. Older still is Mdina, an ancient fortified city and the nation’s founding capital. Taking it back even further is the mind-blowing archaeological site of Ghar Dalam. With some of the prehistoric wonders dated thousands of years BCE, you can rest assured that Malta has heritage aplenty alongside her breathtaking bays. 

Best places to visit in Europe

Leogang, Austria

Best for winter sports and skiing with a side of culture

Full disclosure, I haven’t made it to Leogang in winter. Instead, I ventured here in summer – which might sound strange for an awarded ski destination, but I love exploring Austria in the summer months. Even Innsbruck in summer is a world away from its winter personality.

The primary calling in Leogang is The Asitz Mountain , which is transformed in the summer into a cultural hub with concerts, art displays, and plenty more going on.

Come winter, when the thick covering of snow arrives, it’s very much a different story. With some 270km of pistes, it draws in crowds. Snowboarders are also well-catered for at the Nitro Snowpark .

Down from the mountains and easily reached by train, Salzburg is also a delight in winter. So, adding on a visit after the slopes is never a bad idea. Seeing the city’s spires coated in snow and the UNESCO-listed Old Town decked out in festive cheer is an absolute delight. Being a musically-charged city, it won’t be a surprise that the song Silent Night hails from Salzburg, and there’s even a church dedicated to the carol on the city’s fringes. Personally, though, I find Austria in summer is when the country really shines, and if you’re not a ski or snow fan, you might just agree.

best countries to visit for winter

Read more: Saalfelden Leogang guide

Dubrovnik is still one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Best for some sunny days and a cruise-free city

While showers can come, and temperatures only peak around 13°C, Dubrovnik is still one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter, and you’ve got all the other best places to visit in Croatia just a bus or boat away.

However, warmth isn’t the main reason to head to Croatia’s separated and most southern city in the winter months. 

The best reason to visit Dubrovnik in winter is to avoid crowds. In season, the day trippers and multiple cruise ships can make the heaving streets unbearable. In winter, sailings are rare, and you’ll find this European gem in a much more ‘authentic’ state.

Walk the imposing city walls without jostling for space. People watch – in an enjoyable way – on Stradun. Marvel at the Assumption Cathedral without feeling rushed. Then, head up into the hills by cable car to survey the surroundings. If you’re lucky, you might get your towel down for a few hours on the beach. If not, you’ll have witnessed Dubrovnik how I remember it from 10 years back – blissful. While it’s not the best time for island hopping, this 7-day Croatia itinerary linking Dubrovnik to Split mainly focuses on destinations with some year-round activity.

Best places to visit in Europe

Tallinn, Estonia

Best for a Christmas market or Valentine’s Day city break

When it comes to Christmas markets, gorgeous Tallinn does not disappoint.

During the rest of the cold season, I wouldn’t count it as one of the places to visit in Europe in winter – it’s a summer hit for me – however, the festive season is a winner. 

Taking over the whole of Town Hall Square, the market, which runs from late November until early January , is a dream. With snow-capped spires all around, warm mulled wine flowing freely, and window cabins decorated in twinkling lights dishing out local treats, this is the literal definition of a winter wonderland. 

Away from the festive cheer, Tallinn delivers enough to entertain. Whether you’d prefer to hang out in the hipster-cool neighbourhood of Kalamaja shopping independent handicrafts and sipping craft beers or explore the well-preserved medieval core’s museums, you’ll find a winter city break to Tallinn is basically a gift from Santa himself. 

Tallin Old Town Square

Read more: A day in Tallinn

Plaza de Espana Seville

Seville, Spain 

Best for a winter city break in Spain’s hottest city

Andalusia’s heart-thumping, feet-stomping, and castanet-clapping capital of Seville is a city of fiery passion. It also has the warmest year-round average temperature of any Spanish city .

While this means the heat can almost be unbearable to sightsee in summer, its claim as one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter – temperatures can reach 18°C in February – make a winter trip much more pleasant.

Be sure to watch a  Flamenco show . Visit the hulking Gothic Cathedral and climb the La Giralda tower. Relax amongst the leafy gardens and green spaces. Find time to admire the tilework of Plaza de España and tour the Seville Museum of Fine Arts. Then, devour all the tapas before sipping beers into the early hours. The city’s student-heavy population keeps the nights long during term time.

Metropol Parasol

Read more: A weekend in Seville

Bergen Norway

Bergen, Norway

Best for a snowy city break and northern lights gateway

Bergen is one of my favourite places to visit in Europe in winter. Even the train to arrive from Oslo – battering through snow storms – was a treat.

The second–largest city in Norway, it gets into the festive spirit with a decent-sized Christmas market. With the wooden huts in Bryggen, the reconstructed medieval wharf, twinkling and snow decorating the entrances to museums, it’s a wrap-up warm and snuggle-by-the-hearth kind of place.

Once you’ve had your fix of this striking city, it’s time for the Northern Lights. Bergen, sadly, isn’t the best place to spot them. Heading north is the way to go, though you could be looking at a full days drive to reach the best views. This, although not environmentally friendly, a domestic flight may be needed – especially if you want to visit the Lofoten archipelago, home to some of the best islands to see in the world. 

Best places to visit in winter

Trentino, Italy

Best for winter sports against a stunning backdrop 

There really is no wrong time of year to visit Trentino , Italy’s northern region that feels almost Austrian in its appearance and vibes.

Most famous for the Dolomites, Europe’s poster-child mountains, it’s no surprise all those jagged peaks lead to plenty of nearby snow activities.

One of the best places to visit in Europe in winter for skiing is Madonna di Campiglio . For mid-level skiers, I’ve been told it’s a dream. Excellent snow, varied pistes, and all those breathtaking peaks as a backdrop. Add Italy’s infamous cuisine – often with a mountain twist here – and Aperol-fuelled après-ski sessions into the mix, and really, what could be better? For a bit of culture, plan a night or two in Trento , the region’s verdant and welcoming capital city. 

A boat sits by the edge of Lake Tovel in Trentino

Read more: Reasons to visit Trentino

IcelandNYE

Best for a wild New Year’s Eve and a land of snow and ice

A lot of people warned me against travelling to Iceland in winter, and although it didn’t go perfectly, the money saved and the snowy-covered experiences were worth it.

The main reason I wanted to visit Iceland at this time of year was for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Here, it’s a free for all. There’s no official event, and everyone just goes crazy for a few days. Bonfires burn into the night, fireworks go off in all directions, and revelry takes over the street. An actual land of fire and ice.

While visiting in winter was cool, especially seeing such deep snow everywhere, it isn’t without its difficulties when planning a one week itirneary for Iceland . Roads may be shut, the Northern Lights may be hidden behind heavy cloud cover, and tours could be cancelled. Still, I loved it. I even managed to go snorkelling between the tectonic plates – baltic! 

Just do your research before visiting Iceland in the dark depths of limited daylight in December. This isn’t going to be everyone’s favourite place to visit in Europe in winter.

Iceland Winter Caving

Read more: Iceland in winter

Discover more of the best places to visit in Europe by season and month:

  • Best places to visit in Europe in winter
  • Best places to visit in January in Europe
  • Best places to visit in February in Europe
  • Best places to visit in April in Europe
  • Best beach destinations in Europe

Related Posts:

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  • 15 of the Best Places To Visit in January in Europe: Skiing, Snow, Sun…
  • 15 of the Best Places To Visit in February in Europe: Sun, Skiing,…
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  • 12 of the best places to visit in April in Europe: beaches, Easter,…
  • Things to Do in Saalfelden Leogang, Austria's Magnificent Mountain Getaway

This is a really awesome and helpful article for me. I really appreciate your work for providing such useful information, thank you so much!

What a great list! If I could pick only place from this list to visit, I’d be at a complete loss. Many of them are amazing. Having said that, I’d be tempted to choose Dresden or Edinburgh. For me, those seem to be ultimate autumn, winter destinations. Architecture, culture, and Vikings all combine to give them a win!

I love to travel these places and thanks for share

You are right it’s amazing to visit Europe.

Now I’ve planned for my next trip to Europe…

So glad I found this post, Dan! What a great read! Most of the places are on my bucket list, especially Salzburg, Austria. Thanks for the great tips!

Extremely a wonderful article! Thanks for sharing and hoping for more this kind of blogs.

I have been to Salzburg In Austria and The old town is breathtaking , Thanks Dan for this great tips ! Greetings from Morocco

Okay wow! Literally so much of my bucket list is on this list! Iceland and Stockholm and Bath and Germany. The phrase ‘if travel was free, you’d never see me again’, has just sprung to mind… :)

Haha yes, money is the downfall of alot of my great travel plans ;)

Some of the places you talked about brings back so much good memories! Especially love Kotor, and it’s nearby towns like Tivat and Perast. Thanks for sharing!

Kotor is very magical, and Perast a gem in itself!

Thank you for the great content

Well, nice read and probably I will save plenty Sunday to explore Iceland. And to inform you who this is my first visit and hope to visit your blog.

You have some fantastic articles Dan. 😉 Such an inspiring website for travel lovers.

Everyone knows that the most beautiful Golden Autumn is just in Poland, especially in Krakow and Zakopane! These are two must-see destinations that you simply must see! In Zakopane, I can additionally recommend a fantastic place to stay in an atmospheric wooden villa with a view of Giewont – Willa Motylek

Beautiful photography! Such a good read 😊

Europe is my best place i have visit lot of places but this place is really best for me even the winter dressing of this place is looking really cool.

Europe is gorgeous – in winter and summer, all year long. The trick is to know where to visit. We are Europeans and we’ve visited the big cities and hidden gems at different times of year.

Beautiful collection. I sure love the architecture of Luxembourg….Its amazing!!

Travelling to Europe is heavenly experience. You have provided a proper guide for those who are willig to travel to Europe during the winters.

Great list! I love Europe in the winter because of all the Christmas markets!

Same! Such festive vibes and the mulled wind :)

I love this list :-D I’ve been to several of this places and I totally agree with your recommendation. And thank you for the tips about the other places :D

Thank you :)

Beautiful places to visit, so many of them still on my bucket list! Love the post xxx

Hey Dan, felt like sharing my thoughts so came down here. I read your blog and am amazed to say this but your write ups are really relatable with me as I am a true travel enthusiast. I have a lot of interest in writing travel blogs myself and I have a small blog of my own. I would love to get some useful tips from you on this subject. Thanks for this blog Dan.

Great choices! I loved Luxembourg! I think it is a country more people should stop by when touring western Europe.

I love this list! Barcelona, Spain is also a great destination during autumn and winter! It never gets really cold, and there are not as many tourists around as other times of the year! Barcelona is so much more than just the beach, and in winter it’s a great opportunity to see everything that’s beautiful and interesting about it.

Hi Dan! Nice photos you have here actually, really makes me wonder and daydream going there. Anyways, have you tried traveling in Asia? I would love to hear how are you gonna enjoy it.

Nice post:) We’ve visited some of cities and places you mentioned and some of them we are planning to visit this year:)

All beautiful places across the Europe to plan and visit in winter, especially most useful information for someone who plan the vacation and the travelers to add these places in to checklist. A stupendous photography. Thanks for sharing!

A very good collection of places and holiday spots throughout the Europe. A best travel and destination guide for the visitor around the world. Thanks for sharing!

Some awesome looking places, Dan! Totally agree with Montenegro. Some offbeat places like Armenia, Georgia and Belgiium are a great addition if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. I even cycled in Belgium towards Netherlands and saw a different side of Europe. I go in detail over here: https://www.thegonegoat.com/inspiration-and-tips/2018/11/29/the-best-places-to-travel-december-january

Super suggestions! Autumn and winter in Europe is looking beautiful this year and with so many Christmas markets this is great for shortlisting some of the best ones. I hear that Germany especially is famous for the Christmas markets so it’s great that you included it here. Let’s just hope winter isn’t as cold as summer was hot because otherwise we’ll all need a lot more layers!

Reading about your suggestions for Europe in the winter makes me long for the open road. Every snapshot on this post is supremely beautiful, inspiring the imagination. Great job!

I’m a college student, drowning in homework and even more debt, so I’ve had to make the most of places I can visit nearby. I actually started a blog recently about my local adventures and memories made (and in the making.)

I hope to one day add a section on travel to Japan, (My drean destination since I was a kid) and I was wondering if you had any tips for writing while abroad?

I’m a scatterbrain so I carry a small journal in my bag, but a lot of times I get so swept up in excitement I forget to write important things down (and take pictures!). How do you keep up?

Thanks from a friend in adventure!

The photography is stunning! I have been to a few of those places but never in autumn/winter. It looks beautiful and I would love to go.

Love this, nice spots for me to go to, nice photos also :)

Couldn’t agree more. Traveling during the off-season is so underrated. Like you, my wife and I visited the Cinque Terre in the fall (October) and enjoyed beautiful weather and practically no crowds. Your photo of Manarola is stunning by the way!

Thank you so much. Visiting Amalfi next week and hoping for the same crowd free luck :)

Great idea traveling to Europe in the off season! Don’t know why something so obvious never came to my mind before. Thanks for the great information.

Thanks for this very informative post, Dan! We always wanted to visit Europe but have not decided on which season to travel. After reading through your article, we may just come and visit Europe in the winter and see the wonderful places you mentioend here. We just hope it won’t get too cold by then!

Awesome places to explore. I would like to suggest it to my friends so that we can plan a trip and take a time for ourselves in this busy schedule. Keep posting such wonderful places.

Very well written post it is! I’ve been looking into going for a one weeks trip to Europe in coming December with family and in this regard you gave me lots of thought for travel destinations in Europe. Many of the destinations I like to visit. Thanks for great sharing with us.

Thanks, have an amazing time in Europe!

I would return to Cinque Terre anytime. I loved it so much here! A little more up north Camogli was an amazing surprise and to this day one of my favorite places!

Yo Dan, there are some epic places around Europe.

Great write up..

Europe is a wonderful place filled with lots of adventure, I have taken your suggestions into consideration and will plan my earliest visit to them.

really amazing….

I would stick to the South of Europe for winter, but that’s just my preference :D I once spent a New Year’s in Florence and had a time of my life! Such a cool vibe that time of year, not too crowded at all and it didn’t feel touristy. Europe is actually pretty awesome anytime of year and it’s great we can choose based on the weather and the tourist season :) I’m based in Prague and it’s just so easy to travel around Europe from here <3

Travelling off season is always a way to go ! Everything is cheaper and there’s no big crowd… but on the flipside it’s less sunny and warm.

Such a beautiful places!! What is changed in your life after the long travel??

The santa’s as so cool, they had them projected all over the city jumping around which was amazing. The bone church was very creepy but fascinating to learn the hstory of. Potsdam is a new one for me, will hopefully get visit one day :)

I loved all these cities, and all the ones I said to bump (I much preferred many of those during winter) – It’s funny how the sun can make such a difference, but for me it’s really the crowds that can make or break a place! :)

We do agree that Europe is a great place to visit during winter, but we do think that Sapporo, Japan is also one of the perfect winter destinations.The mountains around Sapporo, Japan has the lightest, fluffiest powder snow you will ever experience. If you are into ski sports, you definitely must ski in Japan!

Korcula is in the Adriatic Sea, not “the Med”.

Good spot. Thanks :)

Love this blog post. Gave me some great ideas for our next trip. Also the photography is stunning

Thank you so much Angela. Wheres next for you in Europe?

danflyingsolo 11th August 2016, 2:10 pm the French Riviera is so stunning. I really want to just get a car and explore it all one Spring really slowly and with lots of amazing food so thanks for the tips 🙂 do you plan on visiting again sometime soon?

Hi Dan, I was planning on visiting the French Riviera again on my way to Italy, specifically Cinque Terre ;-) either spring of 2017 or summer. It truly is stunning has has so many AMAZING medieval villages on top of the hills facing the French Riviera and only about 20min from it!

Ahhh amazing! Cinque Terre is so beautiful and 100% go away from the main season! I’m hoping to get out France again for Spring too :)

Love this! There is still so many places in Europe that I haven’t seen, especially in winter. I’ve just been to Iceland and it has absolutely blown my mind. I definitely want to return and explore this stunning place in the winter though.

isn’t Iceland amazing! I would love to get back and see it in Summer as well :) Europe is one continent that is always full of surprises! Safe travels

I may be late to the party, but I just spent Dec 2015 through May in the south of France, Côté d’Azur and fell in-love with the area, specifically the village of Saint Paul de Vence with its many art galleries, restaurants, magical forest and gorgeous views of the French Riviera, not to mention the stunning blue sky. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sky so blue, as when I was there and I live in Hawaii. It’s no wonder it was one of Piccaso’s favorite places to frequent. You may have visited already, but it’s only 20min from Nice, up in the mountains. Winter was beautiful there, but Spring is probably the best time to go. They even have a restaurant Picasso use to frequent, that has been passed down generations within the same family who’s original owners were friends of Picasso and the restaurant has some of his original paintings hanging from their walls. I’m looking to go back to visit next year. Made a lot of friends in that area and it now feels like another home for me.

the French Riviera is so stunning. I really want to just get a car and explore it all one Spring really slowly and with lots of amazing food so thanks for the tips :) do you plan on visiting again sometime soon?

I have to disagree in regards to Korcula. We were there in the off season (September) and while it was stunning, everything was closed. EVERYTHING. Korcula city was a ghost town and we ran out of things to do after our first day. Dubrovnik in the fall on the other hand, was amazing.

Oh wow! I was there in October the 2nd time and it wasn’t so bad, but it might have been school holidays so maybe that was why. And yeah, I just drove past Dubrovnik a few days ago and remember just how beautiful it was :)

Great suggestions – definitely agree with Iceland! I’ve been twice and still don’t think I’ve seen enough of it. Such a magical place!

I imagine the same, I would love to get back and see it in the opposite around summer time :)

Interesting picks! I did love Budapest, though I visited in July. :-) Visiting Krakow and Amsterdam in a few weeks, so will let you know on them!

I think I need to give Budapest another shot as everyone thinks I am crazy for not loving it… Have a great time in those two citities, they are awesome city trips too :)

Try Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. About an hour southish on the train from Prague. Small medieval town with an unusual bridge.

It is somewhere I really want to go and was meant to on my last visit but ended up visiting Karlov Vary instead… next time :)

This post was awesome. Just what I was looking for. My wife and I are wanting to plan a trip to EU, but we would like to do it while avoiding the crowds/tourists.

I’m so excited for you. I would always recommend missing summer and doing Spring/Autumn – less people and I find it much more beautiful!

Pretty great freaking post with some sweet alternatives man. Amazing pics as well!

Cheers dude! Safe travels :)

You should try Bergen, Norway! Maybe next year?

I loved Bergen, but I went on the 2nd January and all the things I wanted to do was impossible and it was freezing haha. Need to go back and give it a chance in better climates I think :)

Some great suggestions here, except Belgrade for Budapest. Belgrade has a long way to go before it gets anywhere close to being as interesting as Budapest. Love your photos, btw.

Thank you so much. I think I need to give Budapest another chance, I found it seriously boring but the weather was really poor… That said, in Belgrade I met some awesome locals on the flight over who showed me a great time so that might have helped sway my decision. Safe travels!

I think you visited a lot of cities in the wrong season-winter! I’ve done the same though, been to a place and thought “not all that” bc it was cold and wintry but when the sun came out the next day….!

I loved all these cities, and all the ones I said to bump (I much preferred many of those during winter) – It’s funny how the sun can make such a difference, but for me it’s really the crowds that can make or break a place! :)

Iceland was the most magical place I’ve been to, did you know they have 12 santa’s? One for each day leading to Christmas! I loved Ljubljana too and Kutna Hora, the bone church was the most creepy but cool structure i’ve seen, I kept thinking if there was a lot ghosts around when I went in! I went to Berlin one year for xmas, and it was fairly quiet, and if you take a trip to Potsdam just outside of it, its beautiful too.

The santa’s as so cool, they had them projected all over the city jumping around which was amazing. The bone church was very creepy but fascinating to learn the hstory of. Potsdam is a new one for me, will hopefully get visit one day :)

Safe travels! Dan

Yes please with a side of yes! Totally agree on Kutna Hora, Korčula, Belgrade and Ljubljana… And sure I would on the others on the list if I’d been to them!

I like your style! Serbia is somewhere I would love to spend a lot of time exploring, sadly only had a city break there.

I taught Study Abroad in Florence for six weeks in 2014. I traveled around Italy every weekend and then for two weeks after it was over. We took several trips outside of Florence with the students as well. I was told over and over to not bother with Milan. I did visit Lake Como and loved it but it was very crowded. Enjoying your blog.

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34 epic places to visit in europe in winter.

Famous and luxury place of Val d'Isere at sunset, Tarentaise, Alps, France

From sun-soaked Spanish islands to the snowy Arctic circle, there are so many unforgettable places to visit in winter in Europe. 

Whether you want to brave the freezing temperatures and staggeringly beautiful snow-covered scenes of Northern Europe, head to warmer destinations like the Canary Islands for some winter sun or check out popular Christmas markets in Europe’s best cities, there’s something for everyone in Europe in the winter. 

I’ve included some of my favourite European winter destinations in this article, but I’ve also asked a few other travel bloggers for their contributions. 

So here we have a thorough list of places to visit in eastern and western Europe in the cooler months! 

So whether you are looking for somewhere to visit in the middle of winter or a great shoulder season destination, this blog post is here to help! 

Best European City Breaks

Istanbul, turkey.

best countries to visit for winter

Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, landmarked by the beautiful Bosphorous River and its many mosques, Istanbul is fantastic in any season. But there are some reasons why Istanbul in winter is especially appealing.

Istanbul doesn’t usually see snow, but it can be chilly during the winter months. However, you can still get a lot of lovely brisk sunny days – perfect for sightseeing and taking some photos of the gorgeous city.

Many of Istanbul’s attractions are also indoors, so they are wonderful in all seasons. And one definite plus is that you won’t need to queue anywhere near as much in the winter months – I waited 90 minutes to go up the Galata Tower one August but walked straight in another time I visited in February! 

You’ll also be able to get much cheaper deals on hotels. Turkey has lots of wonderful places to stay, but the prices go up significantly in the summer. You’ll be able to enjoy luxury on a budget in Istanbul in winter.  Here’s my blog post on where to stay in Istanbul.

Finally – Turkish food is one of the most underrated cuisines. It’s tasty, hearty, warm and flavoursome. This makes it the perfect warming cuisine for a cold winter’s day. Try  gözleme  and  pide , and don’t miss out on a full Turkish breakfast! 

All in all, Istanbul is an excellent place for a winter city break! 

Lisbon, Portugal

best countries to visit for winter

Sunny Lisbon is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and a fantastic place to visit in winter, with plenty of attractions, places to drink Portuguese wine and gorgeous blue skies.

In fact, Lisbon is one of the warmest winter destinations on the continent. As soon as you step off the plane you’ll be graced with mild temperatures, and some days might even be t-shirt weather. I was there in January and had a good few sunny days.

Plus, there is plenty to do. Lisbon’s best attractions, such as the Basilica, the Miradoures and the Alfama neighbourhood, are just as good in winter – maybe even better than in the summer, because it’s not scorching hot! Of course, you can also do a day trip to Belem or the famous palaces at Sintra. 

You’ll find that Lisbon in winter is not quite as busy as the summer months, but this is a good thing – you’ll have plenty of room to explore!

Madrid, Spain

best countries to visit for winter

With destinations like the Canary Islands offering year-round warm weather, Spain is one of the most popular European countries for winter sun. However, Madrid can be as cold as other European cities in the thick of winter – it does even snow here sometimes. 

Nonetheless, Spain’s capital can also have milder temperatures – it really depends on the year! I flew from London to Madrid one February and it felt a lot more comfortable weather-wise in Madrid – it was easy to explore even during the evening. 

The best way to learn about Madrid’s history and culture is to do a walking tour, and these frequently run throughout the winter months. You can also do a specialised Spanish inquisition tour!

Other attractions, like the various museums and Retiro Park, are lovely during the cooler months.

You can also easily do some day trips from Madrid in the winter , including to Toledo and Segovia. 

best countries to visit for winter

Although British weather is unpredictable, its capital city is an amazing place to visit during the colder months – especially around Christmas time.

London does Christmas like no other. The British capital has fun-filled attractions like Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, plenty of Christmas markets, some of the world’s best decorations in Harrods and the pantomime on West End. There’s loads to enjoy here!

London isn’t one of the coldest European cities – it rarely gets snow – but it can be chilly, and the fun festive atmosphere will make you feel like it’s a real winter wonderland. 

It does get dark quite early in London in December (around 4:00 pm), so do factor this in when you’re making plans! 

If you are visiting London in January and February, you might get snow (it typically snows once per year) – and I’d recommend heading out to the nearby countryside if you do! 

If the weather is rainy or windy (which can and does happen), most of London’s biggest museums are free to explore, and you could also enjoy the diverse food and drink scene of the capital.

Copenhagen, Denmark

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The home of hygge, Copenhagen knows how to make you feel all sorts of cosy in winter. Charming cafes put on their outdoor heating, provide woollen blankets and throw out sheepskin rugs to keep you snug, while steaming mugs of coffee or hot chocolate will warm you up for a day’s exploring. 

There’s plenty to do in winter in Copenhagen too, so rug up warm and hit the streets. Shoppers will be delighted with the range of stylish stores and trendy boutiques, those who are entertaining kids will adore the fun and festive Tivoli Gardens, and culture lovers can explore the city’s many museums, castles and galleries. 

Ice skating rinks pepper the city streets, and spas and saunas await to warm you up afterwards. If you’re visiting  Copenhagen at Christmas , you’re in for even more of a treat as the city is adorned with twinkling lights, giant Christmas trees, and many seasonal markets selling all sorts of festive food and homemade trinkets. 

It’s usual for Copenhagen to experience snowfall from December through to early March, so you may well be fortunate enough to encounter the city’s streets under a blanket of white, making the trip even more magical!

By Nadine from Le Long Weekend

Budapest, Hungary

Chain Bridge and  Royal Palace  in Budapest at winter day Hungary

Unwind in Budapest, Central Europe’s historic spa city known. The capital of Hungary is known for its striking bathhouses, hearty cuisine and gorgeous architecture. The photogenic city sits on the Danube River and has many impressive buildings with old-world charm.

Winter is one of the best times to visit Budapest. The weather may be chilly, but it’s the most satisfying time to soak in the city’s warm, mineral-rich waters. Budapest has over 100 thermal springs and a spa culture that goes all the way back to Roman times.

There are many relaxing things to add to your  Budapest itinerary  in winter. And top of the list is spa-hopping to discover the city’s opulent bathhouses. Here are some of the best spas in Budapest:

  • Széchenyi is the largest and most famous bathhouse in Budapest. The neo-baroque palace has 18 pools with natural hot spring waters and 10 sauna/steam rooms. 
  • Rudas Baths is a popular Turkish bath featuring a modern rooftop pool overlooking the city. 
  • Another magnificent bathhouse is the art-nouveau style Gellert Bath with its beautiful mosaic and tile work.

Afterwards, walk up to Buda Hill (also known as Castle Hill) and browse the winter market. Grab a cup of hot apple cider and admire the views over the Danube River.

Then, fill your stomach with some heartwarming Hungarian cuisine. For authentic, high-quality cooking, make a reservation (far in advance) for Hungarikum Bistro. Another delicious spot is Százéves Étterem. The restaurant dates back to 1831 and plays live traditional music. The Hungarian capital is a wonderful place in winter!

By Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes

Prague, Czechia

best countries to visit for winter

Prague is a beautiful destination at any season, but add pure white snow and the magic of Christmas, and it turns from beautiful to otherworldly. Prague’s spires all covered in a perfect white blanket is a sight you won’t forget for the rest of your life.

Of course, you have to be lucky to see fresh snow. It might happen any time between the end of November to the beginning of March, you never know!

If you’re really lucky, you’ll catch a fresh snowfall in the evening. Once it gets dark, Prague’s sights empty – especially in the dead of winter. The Old Town and the Lesser Quarter are full of tiny streets where you barely meet anyone. It’s also worth hiking up to Prague Castle – the view is magnificent. 

If you visit Prague at Christmas time, you’ll be able to soak in the unique Christmas atmosphere. Prague boasts several charming Christmas markets. The biggest and the most traditional market at the Old Town Square often gets too crowded but is still worth checking out. For a more intimate atmosphere, head to the Prague Castle Christmas market, which revels in festive atmosphere and old-world charm.

Any traveller who loves romantic destinations or fairy tales is guaranteed to be enchanted by  Prague in winter .

By Veronika from Travel Geekery

Tallinn, Estonia

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Tallinn is the perfect European winter destination. With its medieval Old Town, the city looks beautiful at any time of the year, but it is especially pretty when covered with fresh snow.

Plus, you will run into far fewer tourists in the narrow alleys of the Old Town in winter.

One of the  best things to do in Tallinn  in winter is to walk up to Toompea Hill. From here, you can enjoy the view of Tallinn’s red roofs and chimneys contrasting with the white snow.

Plus, you can head to Kiek in de Kök, a piece of the city wall that remains intact and from where you also have a great view of the Old Town.

If you need to warm up from the cold, you should head to one of the many cafes and restaurants. Maiasmokk Cafe is the oldest operating cafe in Estonia, and it’s a great place to try traditional Estonian food.

If you visit in December, you can also get a hot drink at the Christmas market. Pay attention to the Christmas tree. Tallinn and Riga were the first cities in the world to set up Christmas trees.

By Daniel and Ilona from Top Travel Sites

Paris, France

Notre Dame de Paris at dusk, France.

Paris in winter  is a great place to be. Sure, days are shorter and the weather is cold and often rainy, but it is difficult not to have fun in the City of Light!

Wintertime in Paris starts with the Christmas markets and decorations. Places not to miss in Paris in December are the Tuileries Christmas Market, the Eiffel Tower Christmas Market, and the giant ice skating rink under the dome of the Grand Palais.

December is also the time of food festivals and festivals for children. Events like the Light Festival at Jardin des Plantes, the Festival du Merveilleux at the Musée des Arts Forains, or the Disney Christmas Festival are always delightful.

The end of the holidays is the perfect time for visiting new exhibitions and art galleries or to revive your wardrobe for cheap at the winter sales.

January and February are the low season in Paris, which means that the tourist attractions’ lines are shorter and places less crowded. Also, flight or train tickets to Paris are cheaper than usual, and there’s a wider choice of accommodation for better prices.

The quiet days end by mid-February when couples invade the French capital to celebrate love and life on Saint Valentine’s day!

By Elisa from World in Paris

Munich, Germany

Munich in Germany, christmas market

Munich, the capital city of Bavaria, is an urban masterpiece. Historic, vibrant, and culture-rich, this city attracts droves of tourists throughout the year. But there’s just something about this cosy city that lends itself to winter brilliance.

During the chilly days, travel from museum to museum, exploring halls decked out in Da Vinci and Monet. There is also excellent shopping in Munich. With interior heating making them comfortable, browsing the stores is a great way to spend a few happy hours. 

If you’re not in the mood to meander, visit a public swimming pool. This might seem like an odd idea for winter, but Bavarian heated indoor pools are incredible, with saunas, fun slides, and more. It’s a great way to get warmth back into your toes!

In the evenings, head to a traditional beer hall, one of Bavaria’s most popular attractions among tourists and locals alike. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to the beers on offer, which will warm you from the inside out. Be sure to ask for a Maß. This one-litre jug of beer is the standard in Munich, and indulging in a glass or two is a cultural experience to remember.

By Katja from  WanderCapeTown

Luxembourg, Luxembourg

Luxembourg city

Luxembourg is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe in the winter season. The city feels very wintery from December to March, and December and January are the coldest months. 

Sometimes covered in snow during these months, the temperature in winter in Luxembourg is between -1° and 8°C. This wintery landscape is just one of the many reasons why visiting this place in winter is a must.

Adventurers can enjoy popular winter sports like bike tours or hikes with scenic views. Ice skating is another activity that most visitors love during winter.

One reason why Luxembourg is so popular during the winter is that it really celebrates the season! As soon as winter arrives, the city is bedecked in Christmas lights. Travellers can explore Luxembourg City Christmas Market and enjoy the celebrations of Candlemas Day.

It is also the season of wine and cheese in Luxembourg – and you can relish this with incredible views of the country’s castles. Complete your stay at one of the best hotels in Luxembourg  which are luxurious and comfortable.

By Paulina from Paulina on the Road

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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One of the best places to visit in Europe in winter is the city of Amsterdam. The capital of the Netherlands is great to visit throughout the year but during the winter, it becomes even more magical!

One of the best things to do in  Amsterdam during winter   is a canal cruise. During this, you’ll go through the canals of Amsterdam and learn about the city. During winter this is a lovely activity, especially when it’s snowing, as the canals of Amsterdam and their houses look even more picturesque! 

Another one of the best winter activities in Amsterdam is going to Amsterdam Winter Paradise. This is a winter festival where you can do all sorts of indoor and outdoor winter activities, such as ice skating.

Furthermore, when it’s icy during winter, the canals of Amsterdam might freeze and you can ice skate on the canals. This is a unique winter experience that you have to try out when you can! 

Also, you should definitely try out oliebollen , a traditional winter Dutch treat. They are ball-shaped doughnuts that you top with powdered sugar.

By Dymphe from Dymabroad

Bratislava, Slovakia

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Bratislava is a wonderful destination to experience Europe in winter! Especially during the Christmas season, the capital of Slovakia is amazing.

During this time, the old town shines with beautiful lights, and there are many fabulous Christmas markets to discover.

Throughout Christmas time, the city is full of local specialities, delicious food, and charming crafts. People come together for mulled wine and to enjoy the unique atmosphere of the local Christmas Market. 

Don’t miss trying loksa , a salty pancake or traditional strudl , a crisp cake filled with apple and raisins. This is best accompanied by mulled wine made from the region’s red!

There are plenty of other amazing things to do in Bratislava in the winter too. For instance, take a walk along the Danube and enjoy the seasonal beauty.

For the best view, take the lift up to the UFO – the town’s best viewing platform. Also lovely is the old town, where you will find the famous statues of Bratislava. And don’t miss the Castle of Bratislava, a wonderful white historical castle with a charming garden and amazing city views.

By Martina from  PlacesofJuma

Berlin, Germany

best countries to visit for winter

Berlin doesn’t usually get a lot of snow, but it’s a wonderful city to visit in the winter for its Christmas markets. Berlin is unique in that there are dozens of Christmas markets spread out all over the city, each one different from the next. This gives you a great opportunity to do some sightseeing along the way.

Some of the most popular  Christmas markets in Berlin  include Gendarmenmarkt and Charlottenburg Palace. Gendarmenmarkt is one of the prettiest squares in the city, and the Christmas market there is framed by three gorgeous historical buildings. The vendors tend to be a bit more upscale than at most other markets, and there’s a 1 euro entrance fee, but it’s worth it.

The Charlottenburg Palace Christmas market is wonderful due to its setting in front of the palace. You’ll find traditional vendors offering chocolates, wood carvings, decorations and ornaments, and lots of other gift items. Entrance is free, and it’s one of the few markets that’s open on Christmas Day.

Berlin is magical during the Christmas season. Christmas markets start towards the end of November and run until right before Christmas Day, though some do run for a few days to a week after Christmas. Dress warm, grab a mug of mulled wine, and relish the holiday spirit!

By Ali from Berlin Travel Tips

Edinburgh, Scotland

best countries to visit for winter

Scotland is a magical place to visit in winter. From late November, the autumn foliage gives way to snow-capped peaks and frosty glens.  Scotland  also has some of the darkest skies in Europe, making it the perfect destination for stargazers. You might even see the Northern Lights if you’re lucky!

If a winter city escape is what you’re after, head to Edinburgh. In the run-up to Christmas, festivities in the city centre are in full swing. Twinkling lights dazzle in the crisp air, and you can shop for presents at the Christmas Market on East Princes Street. There are also plenty of food stands with delights such as mulled wine and raclette. 

Across the city, you’ll find silent discos, light shows and themed pub crawls. Attractions have festive touches too, including giant Christmas trees in Edinburgh castle. Of course, you also have plenty of snug bars to nip into for a dram of Scotch or two. 

However, the best time to visit Edinburgh is the turn of the New Year when the city plays host to Hogmanay. Your New Year’s Eve celebrations will never be the same again once you take part in the annual three-day festival of street parties, torchlit processions and live concerts. 

By Francesca from Little Lost Travel

Snowy Winter Destinations

Cappadocia, turkey.

Cappadocia in Winter Uchasair Castle

This one isn’t technically in Europe, but it’s close enough – and Cappadocia is a winter wonderland , so I couldn’t not include it! 

This area is famous for its stunning landscapes, intricate history and beautiful hot air balloons. In the winter, Cappadocia is covered by a dusting of snow, adding to its magical appearance!

You can do most of the attractions in Cappadocia even while it’s snowing. It’s a popular place for hiking (we did the Goreme to Uchisair walk through the beautiful valleys), touring around caves, learning about local culture and of course going up in the famous hot air balloons!

After exploring for a while, you can enjoy the delicious cuisine of Cappadocia, which includes warming lentil soup, pide which is Turkish pizza and, of course, local wine. 

Tromso, Norway

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One of the best places to visit in Europe during the winter is Tromso, Norway – the gateway to the Arctic! This is Norway’s largest Arctic city, and it is one of the top winter destinations on the entire continent as it is a premier place for the northern lights, whale watching, dog-sledging and more!

Tromso is the perfect place to visit for families, couples, or solo travellers. You can fly there directly from a few places in Europe; however, most travellers will have a connection in Oslo beforehand. You can also take the Hurtigruten up the Norwegian coast and arrive by boat.

Once in Tromso, your options are aplenty! There are several dog-sledging tours available as well as whale watching tours. The whales are usually up Skjervøy so the trip can take up an entire day, but they are worth it – if you get to see the orcas, it is absolutely magical!

Another popular thing to do in Tromso is to see the northern lights. You can take one of the  Tromso northern lights tours  so you have an experienced guide and a better chance of seeing the elusive phenomenon!

Many of the tours combine other activities, such as a Sami cultural tour where you will learn about the indigenous Sami people. In this part of the tour, you will have a chance to hear their joik (chants/songs), eat their traditional stew, and feed the reindeer.

If you are in Tromso during Christmas, you will have the opportunity to taste a typical Norwegian Christmas meal which usually consists of pinnekjøtt, tynneribbe, or lutefisk (all regional offerings), tyttebær sauce (lingonberry), kålrabistappe (mashed rutabaga), pickled cabbage, and boiled potatoes.

Tromso is a wonderful place to enjoy the winter season and it is easily one of the best places to visit in Europe during the colder months!

By Megan from Megan Starr

Hallstatt, Austria

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Hallstatt, the fairytale village of Austria, is another beautiful destination to visit in Europe in winter. Being a charming lakeside town surrounded by gigantic mountains and baroque architecture, Hallstatt looks even more magical when covered in fresh white snow. 

Visitors can reach Hallstatt by train, bus, or driving from nearby cities like Vienna, Salzburg, or Munich. The views are particularly incredible by road, and the paths are nicely maintained and often cleared of snow. For trains, Hallstatt station is across the lake, so you can take a ferry to get to the town.

Once there, get your bearings by taking a stroll around the Marketplatz and getting lost in its quaint alleys. Since Hallstatt is home to the world’s first salt mine, you may come across many cute souvenir shops selling various kinds of salts there. You can also go on a tour of the Salzwelten Altausse, which remains open in the winter, and learn about the history of salt production.

Hallstatt is also home to several viewpoints that are ideal for pictures. For example, Aussichtspunkt Hallstatt, the postcard-perfect viewpoint of the village with its wooden houses dotted along the Hallstatter lake and snowy mountains at the back, is a  must-see spot to visit in Hallstatt .

By Charu from Travel with CG

Chamonix, France

Chamonix Mont Blanc, France, facade of train station, French Alps and snow mountain peaks

Chamonix in France is a great European destination to visit in the winter. Located in the heart of the French Alps, Chamonix is close to the border of Switzerland and Italy. The tallest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc, is located in the area, making this town a popular destination for skiing and winter sports.

In addition to skiing, there are plenty of activities and attractions in the area to keep you busy. One popular attraction is “Mer de Glace, ” a huge glacier with ice caves and trails, accessible via the bright red Montenvers Train. Another popular activity is to drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel, which cuts through the mountain of Mont Blanc to connect France and Italy. 

If you visit Chamonix, be sure also to visit Aiguille du Midi, which is a mountain peak accessible via cable car. Here you can experience the Aiguille du Midi Skywalk, “Step Into the Void”, an entirely glass room/terrace jutting out from the mountain. 

Be sure to leave some time for exploring Chamonix Centre, a quaint village with plenty of restaurants, bakeries and shops. Here you will find the Park Hotel Suisse & Spa, which offers day passes and a rooftop hot tub overlooking the alps. 

By Shannon from Traveling Teacher Girl

Transylvania, Romania

Winter panorama of downtown Brasov, Romania

As if Romania’s Transylvania region could get any more spectacular, its medieval castles and Saxon cities look even better wrapped in a blanket of snow. 

This is the perfect winter destination in Europe for any type of traveller – whether you’re looking for an ambling railway journey through majestic mountains, a city break, or a winter sports escape.

A road trip through wintry Transylvania is a great way to experience the region’s charming old towns and Carpathian landscapes. Starting from the capital city, Bucharest, make your way north to Brasov to visit several impressive castles including Peleș, a contender for one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, and the mythical Bran Castle.

The heart of Romania is home to half a dozen fortified cities, including Sibiu, Alba Iulia and Sighișoara. Each offers a picturesque town square, old walls and towers, and at least one bell tower that you can climb for a view. One of the best  things to do in Sighisoara  in winter is walk up the Covered Stairway and wander the ice-crusted grounds of Cimitirul Bisericii, a beautiful old ivy-covered cemetery.

At day’s end, banish the evening chill with a glass of local wine and a spread of hearty Romanian food, including  sarmale  (cabbage rolls),  mamaliga  buttery polenta and  papanasi , the country’s signature dessert of cheesy sweet donuts with cherry jam and sour cream.

By Emily from Wander Lush

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik the capital city of iceland in winter view from above

Iceland is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter. With astonishing sights and experiences that are only available in this season, it’s the perfect time to visit Iceland.

Most visitors to Iceland start their trip in Reykjavik. The world’s most northerly capital city is a magical place in the colder, darker months. The central Tjörnin lake freezes over, the buildings are dusted with snow (pavements are kept blissfully clear, thanks to underground heating), and the city’s Christmas lights stay on until early spring, giving everywhere a fairytale feel.

Outside the city, the magical winter experiences continue. Visit the famous Blue Lagoon thermal baths and relax in the warm, mineral-rich water while you take in the frozen, moon-like surroundings. On the Golden Circle tour (a must for any  trip to Iceland ), you may be lucky enough to see the mighty Gullfoss waterfall almost stopped in its tracks by ice.

Plus, you can even do outdoor activities like whale watching in Iceland in the winter!

The long winter nights in Iceland are also the best time to see the Northern Lights. The sun sets at between 3:00 and 4:00 pm in December, and only rises at 11:00 am, giving visitors lots of time to witness the magical lights dancing in the night sky. 

By Helen from Helen on her Holidays

Kazbegi, Georgia

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Kazbegi is a hill-top town in the Caucasus mountain region in Georgia, near its border with Russia. One of the most beautiful towns in the Caucasus mountain region, this place is covered in snow in winter and looks like a festive wonderland. Due to heavy snow in this region, there are many ski resorts near Kazbegi.

The Gudauri region of Georgia, which is 30 km from Kazbegi, is popular amongst skiers. Georgia is a very affordable country for travellers, so skiing near Kazbegi is a favourite winter activity. For this reason, Kazbegi usually features in a  Georgia winter itinerary . 

Not only it is famous for winter sports but it also has religious connections due to the ancient hilltop monastery. During winters, this ancient monastery looks stunning as it is surrounded by snowy peaks.

Also check out the luxury Rooms Hotel, which is the best place to get snowy photos – and they have a spa to warm up in afterwards! 

The ideal way to reach Kazbegi from Tbilisi (and the International Airport of Georgia) is by taking a road trip. The road trip from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is also a very scenic drive, and there are many stops or attractions on the way. 

So for wonderful views of snow-clad Caucasus peaks, pine trees, monasteries, and affordable skiing, Kazbegi is an incredible winter destination in Eastern Europe!

By Yukti from Travel With Me 247 Blog

Abisko, Sweden

Northern lights in Abisko, Sweden at the lake Torneträsk

While most people flock to Iceland or  Tromso in winter , there is an abundance of wonderful Arctic destinations in Europe that you can visit without the crowds. One such gem is Abisko, Sweden. Located north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, Abisko is a small mountain town adjacent to Abisko National Park, about a one hour train from Kiruna.

In Abisko, you can tick all the things off your Arctic winter bucket list: go dog-sledging with a team of friendly huskies, meet Sami reindeer herders and their reindeer, and of course, marvel at the majestic Northern lights which roar to life overhead nearly every single night! 

In fact, Abisko is the best place to see the Northern lights in Sweden and perhaps all of Europe, as the weather in Abisko is more stable than in coastal locations like Tromso and Reykjavik, which often are marred with cloud cover.

Besides aurora chasing and dog sledging, you can go snowshoeing and winter hiking, try your hand at cross country skiing, walk around frozen waterfalls in Abisko National Park, or spend the day in a cosy lodge in front of the fire admiring the snow outside!

And if you want to stay in an ice hotel, there’s one not far from Abisko in nearby Jukkasjärvi, just outside Kiruna.

By Alison from Eternal Arrival

Lipno nad Vltavou, Czechia

Lipno nad Vltavou - KarsTravels COLLAB ONLY

One of the best European winter destinations is Lipno nad Vltavou. It has snow, winter sun, nature and great activities. It’s the ideal place to be outside all day long.

Lipno nad Vltavou is a town situated along the Lipno lake. During the winter, the lake freezes over and is ideal for ice skating. Nothing beats exploring a frozen lake surrounded by snow-covered mountains!

There are plenty more  fun things to do in Lipno nad Vltavou too. On the snow-covered mountains is Snowpark Lipno Lyžařsky areál, which has 13.5 kilometres of ski slope and four ski lifts. As well as skiing, you can go sledging on the mountain.

There are two other attractions on the mountain, one being the treetop walkway. This is on top of the mountain and is 40 metres high. The top of the walkway gives spectacular views. The second attraction is Slideland Bobova Draha Lipno, a bobsled that goes up and down the mountain on a rail.

By Cosette from KarsTravels.

Places to visit for winter sun in Europe

Sardinia, italy.

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While Sardinia has a reputation for being a perfect summer holiday destination thanks to its gorgeous beaches, it’s actually an incredible place to visit throughout the year. One thing worth noting is that there isn’t just one  Sardinia in the winter , but many. The island is quite big and there are a variety of climates – so while the coast can be mild even in the coldest winter months, the central mountain regions get a fair amount of snow and even have their own ski slopes!

Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for some winter sun. The city is jam-packed with interesting archaeological sites – don’t miss the Roman Amphitheater and Tuvixeddu Necropolis, gorgeous churches such as the Santa Maria Cathedral and the thriving food and nightlife scene. 

If you are looking for nature, you will find it right within the city. Poetto beach is a quick bus ride from the centre of town. It’s perfect for a walk, even in the winter. From there, you can access Molentargius Nature Reserve, a lagoon where pink flamingoes live. And if you fancy a hike, just head to Calamosca beach and find the trail to the Sella del Diavolo for impressive views of the gulf. 

Another city that is a popular tourist hot-spot in the summer but lesser-visited in the winter is Alghero, a lovely Catalan enclave in the northwest of Sardinia. Make sure to enjoy a sunset walk along the bastions, and don’t miss a visit to Neptune’s Caves, Capo Caccia (perfect for a walk) and Palmavera Nuraghe, a unique archaeological site. From Alghero, you can also reach the picturesque Bosa. 

Finally, winter is just about the best time of year to enjoy the earthy dishes of the local cuisine, accompanied by the delicious Sardinian wine.

By Claudia Tavani from Strictly Sardinia

Algarve, Portugal

Algarve - Brainy Backpackers

If you’re looking for winter sun, outdoor activities, incredible nature, cute towns, and friendly locals,  Algarve in winter  is the perfect place for your trip.

The beautiful southern region in Portugal has it all. In a time of year where there are fewer tourists, you can really take in the beauty of the impressive cliff formations at Ponta da Piedade or walk along the Sagres Cliffs.

With some of the country’s most incredible beaches, the good news is that daytime temperatures can reach 25 degrees on a nice, sunny day. But it can rain too, so make sure you bring a wind and waterproof jacket in case. Luckily, there are plenty of museums and cute cafes you can visit if you’re unlucky with the weather.

Make sure you don’t miss out on Tavira and Olhão in the Eastern Algarve where you can go on boat trips over to the impressive islands of Ria Formosa Natural Park. Spend a fews days in Albufeira or Lagos. In between, you should not miss out on a boat trip to Benagil Cave, one of the most famous sea caves in Europe. The cave has a mesmerising beach lit up from a huge pothole in the cave ceiling. 

By Linn Haglund from Brainy Backpackers

Malaga, Spain

Malaga from el Palo in Winter

Malaga, the capital of Spain’s Costa del Sol, is one of the warmest winter destinations in Europe with typical daytime winter temperatures of around 17 °C. At just three hours’ flight time from the UK, it is perfect for a long weekend break when you need some winter sun!

While it may be too cold to swim in the sea from one of the city’s many beaches, it’s the ideal weather for a stroll along the Senda Litoral de Malaga – the coastal path which runs almost the length of the Costa del Sol from Nerja to Manilva.

For culture vultures, Malaga has a vast choice of museums, including the Picasso Museum dedicated to the works of the city’s most famous son, as well as a thriving street art scene. 

The real draw during the winter months, however, is the festive lights. Calle Larios is home to the main display where you can watch the spectacular sound and light show each evening. The show takes place three times a night so make sure you get to Plaza de la Constitución in plenty of time to get the best view. Even better, turn up early and head to Café Central for a plate of churros con chocolate while you wait

Alison Nicholson from Alison in Andalucia

Palermo, Italy

Veggiewayfarer- Palermo Edit

The Mediterranean island of Sicily is one of the sunniest places in Europe during the winter. With an average temperature of 20°C, it is the perfect place to escape colder climates and get in some much-needed vitamin D.

Aside from the wonderful weather, the island is also known for its incredible food scene.  Street food in Palermo  will be one of the highlights of your trip! Try Pasta a la Norma or go adventurous and order some pasta with fresh sardines (delicious). Just make sure to leave some room for an arancina (fried rice ball with ragu) or a brioche containing a giant scoop of Gelato.  

Walk off all this deliciousness while visiting the highlights of Palermo: Norman Palace, Church of Gesu and Church of San Cataldo. Then, if you have a bit of time, catch a bus and visit Monreale or the nearby fishing village of Cefalè to dig into some of the region’s best seafood.

Weather permitting you could even venture out to the beach at Mondello, a fancy suburb of Palermo which is all but deserted during wintertime.

Locals prefer the beach during the summer when temperatures soar above 40°C. Walk around the suburb, take in all opulent  liberty  villas, and enjoy the tranquillity away from the bustling historical centre of Palermo.

By Caroline from Veggie Wayfarer

Tarifa, Spain

TarifaTGD COLLAB ONLY

The most southerly town in Spain, Tarifa is just 24 miles across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco. Tarifa has a foot in both the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, giving the town an exciting blend of cultures, perfect for a stop on a Spanish road trip.

In winter, the weather is mild, creating ideal conditions for hiking, mountain biking and wind sports.

Known as the windiest place in Europe, Tarifa is a great spot to get into kitesurfing or wind sailing. 

If you prefer dry land, hike into the surrounding mountains for stunning views of the landscape, seas and Northern Africa, hire a mountain bike and enjoy the local downhill tracks or just head for one of the many stunning beaches nearby.

To really appreciate the unique location, cross the bridge from the mainland to Isla de Tarifa, where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet.

You can’t quite get to the bottom of Spain as the island is closed to visitors, but you’re as close as anyone can get!

By Izzy from The Gap Decaders

Santorini, Greece

amoudi bay-santorini -monique skidmore- trip anthropologist COLLAB ONLY

The advantage of southern Europe in winter is the lack of crowds and most especially, the lack of cruise ships!

One of the most beautiful, sought after and crowded bucket list experiences is a holiday to Greece’s supermodel island, Santorini. In winter, the average maximum temperatures on land and sea drop and conditions can be windy.

However, sailing around Santorini, hiking along the caldera edge from Fira to Oia, snorkelling, diving, tasting wine in wineries and discovering the ancient city of Akrotiri are all still possible on Santorini in winter, despite the cooler weather.

There are certainly fewer summer-time facilities open, but still plenty to enjoy. For example, the beach huts along Kamari and Perissa beaches are closed, but the seaside tavernas with their fresh just-off-the-boat seafood in places like Amoudi Bay and Akrotiri Beach are open, and it should be possible to get a table right beside the water.

Some restaurants and hotels, especially small hotels, are closed from November or December until about Easter. However, many are international brands that stay open all year. Some  Santorini hotels with private pools  and hot tubs or jacuzzis are available with cheaper rates over this period, meaning you can watch the world-famous sunset over the caldera, volcano, and the Aegean Sea while sipping champagne in the pool from your own terrace!

If you’ve always dreamed of Santorini with its blue-domed churches and white houses set against the brilliant deep blue of the Aegean Sea, winter is your chance to get high-quality food and accommodation at reasonable prices and without the crowds.

By Monique at Trip Anthropologist

Dubrovnik, Croatia

View over the roofs of old town Dubrovnik with church towers, ocean and island in winter, Croatia

Gorgeous Dubrovnik is a famous European holiday destination in summer, but Dubrovnik is one of the sunniest winter destinations in Europe as well. 

Dubrovnik in winter  is one of the best Mediterranean cities to escape the cold in other parts of the continent! 

In addition, if you would like to visit Dubrovnik without infamous summer crowds and heat, think of visiting Dubrovnik in winter. In winter, ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’ grants the ultimate relaxation and serenity accompanied by lots of sunshine. Moreover, exploring marvellous Dubrovnik Baroque and Renaissance churches, monasteries, and palaces without crowds in winter is a special treat. 

Again, roaming ancient marble-cobbled streets of Dubrovnik and walking Dubrovnik City Walls relaxed and unrushed in winter is true bliss. While you might not swim in the cold Adriatic Sea in winter, you will most certainly enjoy sitting in the sun next to to it!

On the 3rd February, Dubrovnik celebrates St. Blaise Day, the feast day of the saint patron of the city. The feast is listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Join the celebration of St. Blaise Day in February and you will see Dubrovnik in a special light. 

Dubrovnik is also one of the most romantic cities in the world, so if you are travelling with your partner, you’ll love spending St. Valentine’s Day here!

By Milijana Gabrić from World Travel Connector 

Other charming places to visit in Europe in winter

Lake bled, slovenia.

Panoramic view of famous Bled Island (Blejski otok) at scenic Lake Bled with Bled Castle (Blejski grad) and Julian Alps in the background on a beautiful sunny day in winter, Slovenia

Imagine a mesmerising blue frozen lake surrounded by high mountain peaks, covered in a white blanket of fresh snow. Then there is a tiny island in the middle of the lake, and a shiny white church on top. Finally, on the shores, perched atop a tall cliff, there is a medieval castle with striking red roofs overlooking it all.

This is Lake Bled, and while Bled is a fairy-tale-like destination any time of the year, it is even more remarkable in winter when it turns into a proper wonderland.

In winter, Bled is much less crowded and cheaper than during the high season in summer. On top of that, you get to choose from an array of winter activities to make your lake Bled holidays even better. There’s plenty of winter sports, spas and excursions for you to choose from, making  Lake Bled in winter  an ideal tourist destination!

December is particularly magical because of the Christmas decorations, Christmas markets and a selection of festive events and traditions. If you’re feeling brave try the locals’ favourite, a very refreshing cold dip in the freezing lake on January 1st.

By Zi from Craving Adventure

Colmar, France

best countries to visit for winter

Colmar, with its population of 60,000 people, is one of the most popular destinations in the Alsace in North East France. 

Colmar is easily reached from Paris  in around 3 hours by high-speed train and the nearby Strasbourg, which is 64 kilometres away. This picturesque town borrows heavily from both France and Germany, with the German Border only 20 minutes away.

In Winter the town comes alive, with visitors from all over the world descending on its famous Christmas market. Starting in late November, Colmar comes into its own when over 300 market stalls seem to populate any spare areas in the town. 

Colmar France embraces the Christmas market spirit better than most towns across Europe. The market in Colmar is not just in one place, it is dotted all over the old town area. Colmar can and does receive a light dusting of snow in the winter, while many days are crisp with blue skies.

The famous little Venice area of towns draws visitors in the see the traditional coloured Alsace houses and ride a gondola.

While the Alsace region of France can see snow, it can also be very mild. This allows tourists to visit surrounding sites such as wineries, châteaus and more!

By Mark from Wyld Family Travel​

Cornwall, UK

best countries to visit for winter

Cornwall is the UK’s most popular staycation destination – the beaches here are out of this world! 

The region is an incredibly popular summer destination, but go to Cornwall for a winter break, and you’ll feel like you’ve got the coastline to yourself! 

It certainly won’t be sunbathing or wild swimming weather, but you might be lucky and get some lovely crisp sunny days, perfect for walking the South West Coast Path and enjoying epic coastal views! Just be aware that it will start getting dark at around 4:00 pm. 

There are also plenty of indoor Cornwall attractions to enjoy if the weather isn’t so kind, like the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro , the TATE in St Ives and the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth. 

Visiting Cornwall in winter is a rare chance to see this popular region with very few other tourists! 

Winter in Europe FAQs

What are the winter months in europe .

The winter months in Europe officially run from December to February, although many cultures date their winter from December 21st to March 21st. 

However, the wintery atmosphere of Europe often starts in November, with destinations installing Christmas markets and the weather getting colder!

Often it can feel springlike by the end of February, with warmer days and milder weather. However, in some destinations – particularly in the mountains – the cold can continue into April. 

What is the weather like in Europe in winter? 

It depends! You can get weather of -20 degrees or 25 degrees, depending on where you are. 

Does Europe get snow in winter?

Yes, lots of it! For the snowiest destinations, head to Scandanavia, particularly northern Sweden, Norway and Finland, to the mountains (the Alps are the most famous, but there are lots of mountains across Eastern Europe too!), or countries like Czechia, Poland and Slovakia. 

Which part of Europe is warmest in winter? 

Head south for warm weather in winter – in fact, your best bet is probably the Canary Islands, which are Spanish islands off the coast of Africa. However, you can also find sun in southern Spain, Italy, Greece, or any of the islands in the Mediterranean. 

What is the snowiest country in Europe? 

Scandinavian countries, due to their proximity to the north pole. 

What is the coldest country in Europe? 

Norway takes that crown, due to its high latitude. The average temperature is -6.8 degrees celsius, but bear in mind that the country is quite long – so it is much milder in the south than in the Arctic north!

Amazing Europe winter travel destinations!

I hope that this Europe in winter post has inspired you to find some winter magic on the continent!

best countries to visit for winter

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scenic picture postcard view of famous hallstatt mountain village in the austrian alps

40 Vacation Places to Visit This Winter to Embrace the Chill

Ski spots, chalet towns, and igloos abound!

Bolu, Turkey

a house with a snowy landscape

Located approximately halfway between Istanbul and Ankara, the mountainous Bolu Province of northern Turkey boasts some of the nation’s best sporting opportunities and cold-weather getaways. Visitors can explore the region’s historic mosques, museums, and national parks with Kaya Palazzo Ski & Mountain resort as their home base, ideally located in the ski hub of Kartalkaya.

South Tyrol, Italy

a wooden deck overlooking a mountain range

The Amalfi Coast, this is not! Tucked away at the border of Austria and Switzerland sits the northern Italian province of South Tyrol, a mountainous region that includes part of the Dolomites range. The best vantage point onto all of that wilderness has to be Forestis, a five-star hotel that's almost 6,000 feet above sea level. At that altitude, the crisp winter air actually restores energy by improving oxygen transportation throughout the body. Breathe deep!

Andermatt, Switzerland

a ski lift is parked at the top of a mountain

While many visitors flock to the region for its famed Andermatt-Sedrun-Disentis ski route, which spans more than 111 miles across mountains that climb up to almost 10,000 feet, Andermatt has more to offer than just its world-class slopes. Following a multibillion-dollar redevelopment over the past 15 years, the Alpine village is also home to multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, an 18-hole golf course, and five-star accommodations .

Burlington, Vermont

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The holiday season is the most magical time of year in Vermont. Holiday lights sparkle along the open-air markets, snow-capped mountains beckon visitors to some of the state's best ski resorts, and small-town cheer fills the air. If you remain unconvinced, Burlington just so happens to sit on Lake Champlain, offering exceptional views, ice skating, and even ice hockey.

Hallstatt, Austria

scenic picture postcard view of famous hallstatt mountain village in the austrian alps

Maybe most famous for allegedly inspiring the settings in Disney’s Frozen movies, Hallstatt, Austria, is a tiny Alpine village between Salzburg and Vienna. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s also a popular day trip destination thanks to its scenic lake views and charming Old Town.

arctic village tasiilaq greenland

What Greenland lacks in major urban centers, it more than makes up for in remote arctic villages, if that’s your thing! From dogsledding to hiking—and make sure you catch the northern lights!—Greenland is bound to whet the appetite of the most adventurous among us.

St. Louis, Missouri

a view of the gateway arch and st louis missouri

Foodies will flock to STL for its diverse and budget-friendly restaurant scene, but there’s something for everyone in this Midwestern metropolis. Whether that’s simply selfies in front of the Gateway Arch or a night spent rink-side watching the local hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, is your call.

The Scottish Highlands

cold weather winter destinations

Whether you’re keen on a pilgrimage to Loch Ness or want to hike through Cairngorms National Park , the U.K.’s largest, the Scottish Highlands is a picturesque wintry destination. Make an itinerary of the local castles, or stay at the Fife Arms , a former Victorian coaching inn in the town of Braemar, where they host the Highland Games in September. LEARN MORE

Seoul, South Korea

landmark of seoul korea

The popularity of South Korean TV has surged in recent years thanks to Netflix— Squid Game, anyone? But even if you haven’t been making a bucket list of iconic locations to visit from your favorite shows, Seoul in the winter is a great place to cozy up with a spicy bowl of budae jjigae and drop in on a local palace museum to live out your Joseon-era fantasy. LEARN MORE

Dublin, Ireland

christchurch cathedral in the snow in dublin city ireland

From its Gothic cathedrals to its contemporary art galleries, Dublin is steeped in culture. Plan a day trip to the blustery Atlantic coast to take in the view from the Cliffs of Moher, then make your way back to the city to unwind with a pint and a guided tour at the Guinness Storehouse.

Copenhagen, Denmark

copenhagen cold weather winter destinations

This picturesque port city is famously home to a very well known mermaid, alongside some of the world’s best restaurants and museums—including stylist Colin King ’s personal favorite haunt, the Thorvaldsens Museum. Raise a glass to toast the chill, then check out some of the best in Nordic design .

Kennebunkport, Maine

Winter sunset at a Kennebunkport dock

There’s a reason why Kennebunkport is so popular regardless of the season. From the quaint coastline to the charming downtown shops, the picturesque town’s appeal lasts far beyond lobster rolls and beachcombing season.

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Switzerland, St. Moritz, Landscape

This luxury alpine resort town is more than just a ski destination. It's long history (it was the birthplace of Alpine tourism) gives the area its old-world charm, while the constantly evolving town is the perfect landing spot for a dream-like vacation. Think polo on the frozen lakes, skiing all the way into the night (2 a.m. ski-sesh, anyone?) and apres-ski amenities like no other.

Lyon, France

Lyon. France. Festival of Lights. art works called Lantern Of Zigong in De La Republique street

Lyon’s famous Festival of Lights is enough to make the trip to this lively French city, located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Every winter, France celebrates Mother Mary with the Lyonnaise tradition where every house places candles on the outsides of their windows to create a unified glow across the city. Visitors can also expect light shows at Basilica of Fourvière and the Place des Terreaux , a worthy spectacle for travelers and natives alike.

Big Bear Lake, California

USA - Travel - Big Bear Lake in California

The small city of Big Bear Lake has largely become a popular travel destination during the winter, with the beloved Bear Mountain ski resort and family-friendly Snow Summit ski resort. Big Bear Lake Village—the commercial area of the ski town—is lined with local shops, boutiques, and restaurants, making it the perfect place to enjoy the snowy season and escape the cold in town’s cozy spots.

Condon, Montana

best cold weather vacations

Condon, Montana is a worthwhile trip even if it starts and ends at Holland Peak Ranch . The dreamy retreat—comprised of three luxury residences and over 1,000 acres of scenic prairies—is an all-star spot, no matter the season. The quiet, unincorporated community of Condon is the perfect place to escape bustling life and take a moment to indulge in a cool, cozy respite.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Triglav National Park, Julian Alps

Situated within Slovenia’s Julian Alps is Lake Bled, an idyllic body of water that surrounds the Bled Island. While picturesque year-round, it’s during the winter that the lake becomes a true spectacle, with skiing and other attractions include the Vintgar gorge, waterfalls, and caves.

Harbin City, China

PREPARATION OF THE ICE FESTIVAL IN CHINA

Nicknamed the “Ice City,” Harbin, China is known for its long and cold winters (snow season can last almost half a year); a time when the city truly shines. Because of the prolonged colder weather, there are plenty of chilly activities to enjoy, from skiing at their famous Yabuli Ski Resort to attending the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival , which lasts for an entire month.

Bergen, Norway

Hanseatic houses in Bryggen at winter.

Stock up on Norwegian sweaters at the Oleana textile factory , fly up the Fløibanen funicular bullet railway for the best views of the city, then ski down one of the seven famous mountains. Or stay at sea level—or fjord level—and Instagram the adorable fishing town to your heart’s content.

Lake Tahoe, California

Winter at Lake Tahoe

It’s a pretty trippy experience to land in sunny San Francisco, grab an In ’n Out burger, soak in the sun—and then drive headlong into a blizzard. But that’s what’s so magical about this spot, which is just under four hours from SFO. There’s something decidedly low-key about Tahoe—likely, the giant alpine namesake lake sends out soothing, unsnooty vibes.

Headshot of Sean Santiago

Sean Santiago is ELLE Decor 's Deputy Editor, covering news, trends and talents in interior design, hospitality, travel, and luxury. He writes the So Courant! column for the magazine and elledecor.com.

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best countries to visit for winter

To many, winter is the best time of the year to take a vacation. Not just because of the festivity that comes with it, but also because of the temperature. However, taking a vacation in winter will require you to have a considerable understanding of where to go and what to do. There are places with beautiful sites and temperature during winter, and they are the best countries to visit.

The beauty of Finland is what makes it quite incredible. It has a massive number of places that can be visited by tourists during winter. There are places like Rovaniemi and Lake Saimaa. The beautiful rivers and sizeable natural area in Rovaniemi make it a spot for canoeing, swimming, and fishing. In winter, it is a home for skiers and those who love snow. You can ride on a dogsled safari, learn to drive reindeer sled, cross-country skiing for miles and watch the amazing and stunning northern lights. Finland for children is the best. During winter, Rovaniemi is said to be the home of Santa Clause. The thrilling atmosphere of Christmas, coupled with the beauty of Rovaniemis’ winter makes this best tourist destination.

Lake Saimaa is a beautiful site to visit. It is a dominant lake to visit in the country. Due to enormous width, it is known as the lake of a thousand islands with an area of about 1350 square kilometers.

best countries to visit for winter

Red Ponies of Iceland

As the name suggests, Iceland is the home of ice and the abode of beautifully vast and high seas, rivers, and streams. There are several beautiful sites and places that one can call the best places to travel. There are places like Svinafellsjokull Glacier waterfall with its lovely color. It is spectacular to watch during winter because of the beautiful snowbanks around and within it. It will also be great to visit the DC-3 plane wreck site at Solheimasandur Beach. Ever since the plane crash, people visit the site in winter to see the astonishing manner in which the snow and the plane make a beautiful and colorful combination. Another place to visit is Svinafellsjokull Glacier, which is one of the most beautiful and large glacier tongues in Europe. You can also visit Kirkju Fell and Gullfoss . Many tourists also visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula due to its beauty and an excellent spot for taking pictures and videos. Iceland is a very safe place to travel to, and there are several hotels available, where you can be comfortable.

Many tourists visit Russia for to the beauty, uniqueness, and history. However, there is another side of Russia that is equally as important, the winter side of Russia. When visiting Russia, one must have in mind that several places will keep us marveled. As the saying goes, there is no Russia without Moscow . In winter, Moscow is a beautiful sight to see. The cold is astonishing, and there are sparrow hills that will leave you surprised.

Another place to consider is the famous Lake Baikal, which for so many, is the world's freshwater lake. It is a huge tourist attraction. It is about 1600 meters in size and becomes solid in winter. It gives the appearance of clarity, just like glass.

The third vacation destination in Russia should be St. Petersburg . In winter, it can be described as a world of its own. Some claim visiting it in winter is like traveling into a Russian novel.

Canada is a beautiful and peaceful place to go to in winter. There are places like Whistler , which is a popular place for skiers. Not only is it beautiful, but it is also a place for sports. The Niagara Falls in Ontario is remarkably charming, with the falling ice in winter and the beautiful colors it displays at night as a result of the light from the city. Another excellent place to visit in Canada during winter is Quebec , which is the birthplace of the famous Quebec winter carnival. The carnival is held every February and is a beautiful place to be for you to see the culture and life. There are several hotels with elegant environment and at affordable prices.

best countries to visit for winter

 When visiting Austria, the first place to go should be Vienna . It is known to be the home of Christmas. The beauty of Vienna is in the music and streets as they lay side by side with snow. When considering a vacation to the rural area, there is no better place to be than Oberaichwald. Its quietness makes it a place for those who want to stay out of the noise of the city. 

It can be said that one’s visit to Austria is not complete without music. The next place any tourist should go to is the Vienna philharmonic orchestra New Year concert. The city of Salzburg is another musical city that is both known for its music and its color. It is also the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart.

Estonia is a country with over 1500 islands and beautiful forests. The landscape, rivers, streams are the best in winter. The capital city of Tallinn can be said to have its top to bottom covered in snow. Apart from it being an ancient city and part of the UNESCO world heritage sites, it also has the best Christmas market. Another fantastic place to visit is Hiiumaa, with its beautiful beaches and lakes. The city in winter is like a paradise in white. The light that extends at night displays rainbows on the snow. It is a must-see for any tourist.

best countries to visit for winter

Jackson Hole, WY

The United States is not just a nation of power and economic progress, it is also a nation of exceptional beauty. Several places in the U.S. will wow even the most well-traveled tourist. One site is Whitefish, Montana . The city is filled with mountains that turn white in winter, giving the town a Hallmark Christmas movie feel. When considering a place with water, you may want to consider Lake Tahoe . The snow-covered trees can be breathtaking as they encompass the lake and mountain.

Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is also a beautiful site to visit in winter as one goes through the park's underground tunnels. The beautiful landscape is also something to check out. There are other places to visit, such as Midway, Utah , Jackson Hole, Wyoming , and Matanuska Glacier in Alaska.

Netherlands

The Netherlands is an excellent place anyone should visit. When visiting the Netherlands, one must first consider the festivals. One of which is the Dickens Festival, which is celebrated in memory of the writer Charles Dickens. There is a re-creation of 19th-century life on the street. People dress as characters in his books to show their appreciation of his work. Every year many tourists visit Deventer for this festival.

Another place to visit is Valkenburg and the beautiful Christmas market. The place is filled with love and tourists as they visit miniature villages, sand sculptures, and Christmas stalls. Another thing to look forward to is the fairytale Christmas parade in Valkenburg. When going through the street, you will see beautiful colors the city emit and will feel the love of winter.

Norway is a country with the best sites for tourism and adventure. The first place to consider is the city of Oslo , apart from it being the capital city, there are several ice ski jumping sites. While there, you can also visit the Oslo opera house.

A trip to Norway is not complete without a visit to Bergen . Many consider it to be the second capital of the country. There are several museums and architectural structures to view. There are traditional wooden buildings that cannot be found in any other country in the world.

One country any tourist should not miss is Slovenia. The first place to visit is Lake Bled. Many claim it is the most beautiful place in Slovenia. First, due to its mirror-like surface as it shows the forest and mountain. During winter, a lot of people use its picture for postcards.

Ljubljana is another beautiful place to visit. Besides being the capital of Slovenia, it is famous for the Christmas market along the Ljubljana River. 

Lake Bohinj is an excellent site for any tourist to visit. It is known to be the biggest lake in Slovenia. People visit this site during winter because it reflects people's image like a mirror. It is a haven for anybody that wishes to visit.

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Feeling the chill? Consider these 10 US warm winter-vacation destinations

Nov 16, 2023 • 6 min read

best countries to visit for winter

Sunset sails in Key West, Florida, are especially delightful as winter sets in further north © Ramunas Bruzas / Shutterstock

Travelers face two reasonable responses to the prospect of a long, cold winter: embrace the chill and seek out the most spectacular winter destinations , or follow the warmth – wherever you can find it.

If you’ve had your fill of icy sidewalks and overheated buildings, no one will blame you for choosing option two. And  US travelers don’t even need to leave the country to ditch the scarves and mittens.

Whether you’re after a beach escape, a wildlife adventure or a dose of big-city culture, here’s where to find fun in the sun this winter.

Santa Barbara, California

Just under two hours northwest of Los Angeles , Santa Barbara is a getaway destination perfect for beach strolls and canyon hikes. Celebrity sightings are common here (Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Jennifer Lopez and Oprah Winfrey are among the area’s most notable residents), yet the real attraction is its upscale yet relaxed beach-town energy. Stroll the State St Promenade for unique shops, artisan food and wine stores, plus plenty of outdoor dining options. Follow it all the way to West Beach , where the more adventurous can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards and those just out for a great view can stroll Stearns Wharf . 

A hummingbird with its beak inside a red flower at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Phoenix, Arizona

There’s a simple reason 15 Major League Baseball teams relocate to Arizona for training before the real season starts: the weather is simply phenomenal, with  Phoenix getting 299 days of sunshine every year on average. In the middle of summer, when temperatures regularly shoot past 100°F, you might wish for some relief – but the clear-blue-sky, mid-70s days of late winter are ideal for outdoor fun.

If you’re not there for the baseball, you can at least see why it’s called the “Cactus League” at the Desert Botanical Garden , where the succulents and spiny plants of the desert mingle with art exhibitions. Or hit the trail and explore the sandstone formations of Papago Park, or pedal through South Mountain Park, a favorite among trail riders.

A woman taking a photo from a kayak in the Everglades, Florida

The Everglades, Florida

Maybe those baseball teams are onto something: while half of the league is in Arizona, the rest are warming up in Florida . The Sunshine State has the warmest temperatures on the US mainland during the winter, and the warmest national park  (outside of Hawaii ) is the Everglades . Winter is the dry season here, making it one of the most popular times of year for visitors – as well as for spotting wildlife. The drying of the marshes makes animals congregate in smaller areas, and migratory birds are doing just what you’re doing: flying to Florida in search of warmer climes. Drive the Southern Everglades Hwy south until you run out of continent at Flamingo , a great place for spotting manatees.

South Padre Island, Texas

Get to South Padre Island before spring break and you can enjoy  Texas ’ popular seaside resort town at its quietest. With multiple blinds, a viewing tower, and boardwalks through the dunes, the 50-acre South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary  is an ideal spot for watching feathered friends who overwinter here, as well as alligators and sea turtles. Isla Blanca County Park ’s beach is the most popular, thanks to access to shops and restaurants – but you can be rewarded with a bit of tranquility by exploring the dunes of Edwin King Atwood County Park or the long stretches of sand of the North End .

Key West, Florida

At the furthest end of the Florida Keys , Key West  has a celebrated culture that attracts sun seekers from all over the USA. The 7-sq-mile oasis offers famed literary history, fresh seafood and plenty of hopping bars. Don’t pass up the chance to set sail during sunset, visit the Ernest Hemingway House and marvel at the many colors at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory . 

A woman rides a bicycle down a palm-lined street in Palm Springs, California, USA

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs has its own type of cool going on year-round – but it’s rarely the type that registers on the thermometer. Winter nights can have a bit of the dry cold of the desert, yet the average high temperature never dips below 70°F. Palm Springs as a winter oasis is hardly a well-kept secret, and though it’s high season around the Coachella Valley, the variety of old-school motor court motels and mid-century-modern rentals for private pool parties means there are always accommodations options. For those craving a bit more activity than poolside lounging, breathtaking  Joshua Tree National Park and the oddball charm of the Salton Sea (with sights like the International Banana Museum ) are less than an hour away.

St John, US Virgin Islands

Looking for warm weather and the feeling that you’re a long, long way from home? St John  in the US Virgin Islands  might fit the bill. Virgin Islands National Park covers two-thirds of the island, preserving many miles of shoreline as well as underwater reef habitats. Traveling with kids? Try Maho Bay , known for its shallow, calm waters popular among snorkelers and green sea turtles.

Kenneth Terry and his jazz band perform in Jackson Square, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

New Orleans, Louisiana

Winter in New Orleans isn’t exactly hot and sunny – January and February average in the mid-60s – but it’s certainly a welcome change from anywhere snowbound, and the crowds are at their lowest just before Mardi Gras swings into town. But since this New Orleans, there’s always a party going on, even in winter.

Bonfires are lit along the levees every Christmas Eve, a tradition that is supposed to help guide the arrival of Papa Noël, the Cajun Santa Claus. The annual Tet Fest thrown by the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year (in late January or early February) is an important day for New Orleans’ large Vietnamese population, and the festive fair is full of delicious eats for all comers. The mild days of winter also make for pleasant exploring of the backstreets on one of the Crescent City’s many bike tours.

Kihei, Maui

The Hawaiian Islands do get more rain in winter, and things do get a bit cooler, it’s true. But let’s be real: the “cooler” winter in Kihei  means an average high of 81°F instead of 87°F, with 276 days of sun a year. So a parka won’t be necessary. There are a few simple tips for visiting  Maui  in winter. Stick to the south and west coasts to maximize your chances of sunny days. Avoid stronger surf by heading to gentler beaches, like Kalepolepo Beach Park for kids or Ulua Beach for top-notch snorkeling. Skip the holiday crowds and seek out a deal in early winter, before spring break. Then sit back, and soak in the sun.

Fallen tree trunk on a beach at dawn - Jekyll Island, Georgia, United States; Best US destinations for winter sun

Coastal Georgia

Sun-seekers heading to Georgia  could do just fine by stopping in sensational  Savannah and never leaving. But head just a little further out to the coast and you’ll find a world of barrier islands and twisting waterways to explore. Tybee Island and its popular beaches are just a half-hour drive away – the start of a string of subtropical islands that hug the coast of the Peach State. All feature mild winter weather, and each has its own personality.

Sapelo Island is home to a small village of Geechee, descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the plantations on the island until the 19th century. Nature lovers can book wildlife tours of Sapelo’s estuaries through the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve Visitors Center . Historic, multicultural Brunswick serves as the gateway to Georgia’s Golden Isles, including resorty St Simons, and Jekyll Island, historically a playground for the wealthiest American families.

This article was first published Sep 13, 2019 and updated Nov 16, 2023.

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Best travel credit cards of June 2024

best countries to visit for winter

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Travel credit cards help you earn valuable points and miles on your purchases. For maximum value, some cards earn rewards not only on travel, but also everyday purchases like dining, groceries and gas. You can redeem these rewards for free or discounted flights, hotel stays or to cover other travel-related expenses.

The best travel cards also come with additional features. Even no-annual-fee travel cards are likely to offer perks like sign-up bonuses, intro APR offers and travel insurance. But for top-of-the-line benefits like airport lounge access, elite status and travel credits, expect to pay an annual fee.

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Bankrate's Best Travel Credit Cards of June 2024

  • Best starter travel card:  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Best for flat-rate rewards:  Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Best for luxury travel:  The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Best for no annual fee:  Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card  ( See Rates & Fees )
  • Best for foodies:  American Express® Gold Card
  • Best for everyday spending: Citi Strata Premier℠ Card
  • Best for intro APR:  Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
  • Best for point values:  Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Best for practical perks:  Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
  • Best for pairing:  Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  • Best for hotel bookings: Wells Fargo Autograph Journey℠ Card
  • Best no-annual-fee hotel card:  Hilton Honors American Express Card
  • Best for luxury hotel perks: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
  • Best for transfer partners:  Bilt Mastercard®
  • Best for gas:  Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
  • Best for companion tickets:  Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
  • Best starter airline card:  Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • Best for savers: Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
  • Best for first-year value:  Discover it® Miles
  • Best for fair credit:  Credit One Bank Wander® Card
  • What to know about travel credit cards
  • Tips for choosing the best travel card

Travel credit card perks

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Best starter travel card

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Bankrate score

Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards.

Intro offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

60,000 bonus points

We calculate this number by multiplying the card's intro offer by Bankrate's valuation of this issuer's rewards program , showing you how much your points or miles are worth in dollars.

Rewards rate

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠. 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries. 2x on all other travel purchases. 1x on all other purchases.

Regular APR

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

  • 5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠.
  • 3x 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries.
  • 2x 2x on all other travel purchases.
  • 1x 1x on all other purchases.

What we love: This popular card comes loaded with features that can make it easy even for occasional travelers to offset the modest $95 annual fee without eating into hard-earned rewards. Plus, its rewards program is one of the best, giving you some of the most valuable travel redemptions — through both Chase and transfer partners — and Chase card pairing opportunities if you want to build your card portfolio eventually. Learn more: Why expert Margaret Weck loves using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Alternatives:   If you’re looking for an even simpler travel card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a terrific option. Its flat rewards rate makes it easy to know exactly how much you’ll earn with every purchase and though it can’t match the Sapphire Preferred’s redemption flexibility, it offers more redemption options than the typical travel rewards card. 

  • You earn Ultimate Rewards points with this card — some of the most valuable and flexible rewards around, especially if you pair it with Chase’s cash back cards in the future.
  • The card touts significant long-term benefits like anniversary bonus points and travel credits, as well as travel protections like trip cancellation insurance and a car rental collision damage waiver.
  • Doesn’t offer airline- or hotel-specific perks like free checked bags, elite status or free night stays.
  • The sign-up bonus is decent, but the card has previously offered higher, chart-topping bonus points.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

Best for flat-rate rewards

Image of Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

New Venture cardholders can earn 75,000 miles once they spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Earn 75,000 miles

5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.

2 Miles - 5 Miles

19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)

  • 5 Miles 5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2 Miles 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

What we love: It’s a great option for travelers looking for a straightforward rewards program and flexible redemption options. You'll earn unlimited miles on all eligible spending and can redeem not only for travel bookings, but also as a statement credit to cover travel purchases made in the past 90 days. Learn more: Why expert Jacqueline DeMarco loves the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Alternatives: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a higher rewards rate in some everyday spending categories and potentially more valuable points. Chase points are worth 1.25 cents each if you redeem for travel through Chase, while Capital One miles are only worth 1 cent each when you redeem for travel. Plus, Chase rewards are more helpful for occasional travelers since you can redeem as cash back at 1-cent-per-point value.

  • Carries solid perks given its low annual fee, including expedited airport purchase security and hotel experience credits, lost luggage reimbursement and more.
  • Zero foreign transaction fees make this an excellent choice for international travelers.
  • You can’t offset the annual fee with annual travel credits or bonuses alone as you can with some rival cards.
  • The card’s sign-up bonus carries a high spending requirement, so it may be tough to earn if you don’t have large purchases on the horizon.
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Best for luxury travel

Image of The Platinum Card&#174; from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 80,000 points

Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

See Pay Over Time APR

  • 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

What we love: Luxury travelers and big spenders will appreciate the bevy of travel benefits, including annual statement credits worth around $1,700, elite hotel loyalty status and access to perhaps the most comprehensive airport lounge access available with a credit card. Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Platinum Card® from American Express Alternatives: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers a taste of luxury at a lower cost than many premium travel cards. You can unlock a generous rewards rate on both travel and general purchases, complimentary access to popular airport lounge memberships and valuable annual travel credits and anniversary miles.

  • Comes with a generous welcome offer and a longer time period to earn it compared to most rewards cards.
  • A robust line-up of airline and hotel partners and related perks make this card truly valuable for travelers.
  • The $695 annual fee may not be worth it if you don’t spend much on travel frequently or can’t take full advantage of the card’s luxury — and often niche — perks.
  • Redeeming and maximizing the card’s credit and benefits requires some legwork and can be a bit confusing.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market. As of 03/2023.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Save on eligible delivery fees, shipping, and more with a Walmart+ membership. Use your Platinum Card® to pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership and get up to $12.95 plus applicable taxes back on one membership (excluding Plus Ups) each month.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only. Terms Apply.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: CLEAR® Plus helps to get you to your gate faster at 50+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card. CLEARLanes are available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues.
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 year period for TSA PreCheck® application fee for a 5-year plan only (through a TSA PreCheck® official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Best for no annual fee

Image of Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel

20,000 miles

5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.

1.25 Miles - 5 Miles

  • 1.25 Miles 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

What we love: This card offers some of the same advantages as the Capital One Venture, without the burden of an annual fee. It gives you the chance to earn flat-rate miles on your everyday spending and the option to transfer miles to over 15 loyalty program partners to even cover travel purchases outside Capital One — a unique level of redemption flexibility for a starter travel card. Learn more: Reasons to get the VentureOne Rewards Card Alternatives: A general-purpose flat-rate credit card that offers 2X points or 2 percent cash back on all purchases may bring more value if you don’t travel often and aren’t ready to upgrade to a travel rewards credit card with an annual fee. However, the Discover it® Miles earns a flat-rate 1.5X miles that can also be redeemed for cash back at 1-cent per mile, which is unusual for travel rewards.

  • The welcome offer is generous for a no-annual-fee travel credit card.
  • Booking hotel stays and rental cars through Capital One Travel nets you an impressive 5X miles.
  • Unlike several no-annual-fee travel cards, redeeming for non-travel purchases waters down your rewards’ value.
  • Capital One has no major U.S. carrier in its line-up of travel partners.
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR after that; balance transfer fee applies

Best for foodies

Image of American Express&reg; Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points

Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

  • 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

What we love: Few credit cards are more rewarding for traveling foodies than the American Express Gold Card. Both the food-related annual credits and the rewards rates at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and on flights booked directly with airlines or via the Amex travel portal are some of the best on the market. In fact, the up to $240 in credits each year alone nearly make up for the annual fee. Learn more: Why the Amex Gold is worth the annual fee Alternatives: If the Amex Gold Card’s annual fee sounds high, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card . It carries key travel perks, high travel and dining rewards rates, and a much lower annual fee.

  • This card features one of the best rewards return rates available on dining, groceries and food deliveries.
  • There is no preset spending limit, so you can enjoy extended purchasing power, and you also have the option to pay off purchases with Pay Over Time if necessary.
  • Although the card touts a solid collection of travel perks, it doesn’t include popular premium card perks like airport lounge access or trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
  • Only eligible airfare earns more than 1X points, while rival cards often earn similar (or higher) reward rates on hotel stays and other travel purchases as well.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Get a $100 experience credit with a minimum two-night stay when you book The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel. Experience credit varies by property.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.

Best for everyday spending

Image of Citi Strata Premier&#8480; Card

Citi Strata Premier℠ Card

  • Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com

70,000 bonus points

Earn 10 points per $1 spent on Hotels, Car Rentals, and Attractions booked on CitiTravel.com. Earn 3 points per $1 on Air Travel and Other Hotel Purchases, at Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas and EV Charging Stations. Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

21.24% - 29.24% (Variable)

  • 10X Earn 10 points per $1 spent on Hotels, Car Rentals, and Attractions booked on CitiTravel.com.
  • 3X Earn 3 points per $1 on Air Travel and Other Hotel Purchases, at Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas and EV Charging Stations.
  • 1X Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

What we love: This card’s high rewards rate in everyday bonus categories makes it an especially good choice for occasional travelers and people looking for a standalone rewards card. Its practical bonus categories mean you can earn rewards quickly, even if you don’t actually spend a ton on travel. Alternatives:   As long as you don’t mind buying groceries online, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be an even more lucrative everyday rewards card. That’s thanks mostly to its high point redemption value (1.25 cents per point when you use points to book travel with Chase, versus just 1 cent per point when you book with Citi using the Strata Premier).

  • It’s one of the only travel cards that offers a high rewards rate on groceries, dining and gas, so it should work well whether it’s your standalone card or just one part of your card stack.
  • Its annual hotel benefit carries enough value to potentially offset the annual fee on its own.
  • The annual hotel benefit, though generous, isn’t very flexible: You’ll only get the $100 discount if you book a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) through CitiTravel.com.
  • Based on Bankrate’s latest point and mile valuations, Citi ThankYou rewards carry a lower average redemption value than Chase, Amex and Capital One rewards.
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent on Hotels, Car Rentals, and Attractions booked on CitiTravel.com.
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on Air Travel and Other Hotel Purchases, at Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas and EV Charging Stations.
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • $100 Annual Hotel Benefit: Once per calendar year, enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) when booked through CitiTravel.com. Benefit applied instantly at time of booking.
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Best for intro APR

Image of Bank of America&#174; Travel Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

25,000 points

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.

19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • 1.5X Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.

What we love: This entry-level travel card keeps things simple for occasional travelers. It offers simple flat-rate rewards and lets you redeem for a broad mix of travel options not typically available on many travel cards, such as cash back toward purchases with travel agencies,  zoos, art galleries and more. It’s even more valuable if you’re a Bank of America customer and can qualify for a rewards boost through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program. Learn more: Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card worth it? Alternatives: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is another great starter travel card, but, unlike many cards in this category, it lets you transfer your miles to airline and hotel partners, potentially for a higher redemption value.

  • Its easy-to-earn sign-up bonus and intro APR offers give this card good short-term value.
  • No annual fees or foreign transaction fees sweeten this offer.
  • It only offers 1.5X points on purchases, and you can’t transfer points can’t to airline partners for more rewards value, so it may not be as lucrative as competing cards.
  • The top tiers of the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program may be out of reach for many cardholders.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Best for point values

Image of Chase Sapphire Reserve&reg;

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠. Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Travel℠. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

22.49% - 29.49% Variable

  • 10x Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠.
  • 5x Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Travel℠.
  • 3x Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • 1x Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

What we love: Rewards-savvy travelers will be hard-pressed to find a card with better rewards potential than the Sapphire Reserve. Points are worth 50 percent more through Chase Travel, and potentially more with the right transfer partner. It’s a stellar partner for Chase’s cash back cards and stacks on even more value with enough perks to recoup the annual fee without relying on hard-earned rewards. Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Alternatives: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers some of the same key perks as the Sapphire Reserve at a much lower cost. Along with a generous rewards rate on both Capital One Travel and general purchases, the card boasts valuable, practical benefits like competitive airport lounge access , up to $300 in annual Capital One Travel credits and 10,000 bonus miles every year on your account anniversary.

  • You can kickstart your rewards bank with one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses on the market.
  • Its top-tier benefits include up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, Priority Pass airport lounge access, exhaustive travel protections and stand-out partner perks.
  • The card’s cost could be a deterrent for some new cardholders, especially if they plan on encountering adding multiple authorized users.
  • You won’t get as many luxury hotel and airport lounge perks with this card as you would with some of its rivals.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®

Best for practical perks

Image of Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

75,000 miles

10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel. 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.

2 Miles - 10 Miles

  • 10 Miles 10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5 Miles 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel

What we love: This is the perfect middleground for travelers who want the practical benefits from luxury travel cards without dealing with bloated features and an annual fee upwards of $500. It offers complimentary lounge access, high-earning bonus rewards categories, anniversary credits and bonus miles, which can easily make the card worth it for frequent travelers. Learn more: Capital One Venture X Benefits Guide Alternatives: If a higher annual fee is no issue, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express. It’s a top choice for frequent travelers thanks to its impressive welcome offer and luxury perks like annual travel credits, lounge access and hotel elite status. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® may be better if your luxury travel experience calls for racking up more rewards.

  • Offers anniversary bonus miles and a chance to earn credits worth hundreds of dollars starting at your first account anniversary.
  • Comes with complimentary lounge access at over 1,300 lounges for you and two guests per visit.
  • To earn the anniversary credit, travel must be booked through the Capital One Travel portal. That’s not as flexible as some other cards, which offer credits that cover any travel purchases, regardless of how you book.
  • Lacks some perks found on other premium travel cards like airline or hotel elite status, which can get you benefits like free checked bags or room upgrades.
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more

Best for pairing

Image of Chase Freedom Unlimited&#174;

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That’s 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

Up to $300 cash back

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more. 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service. 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

20.49% - 29.24% Variable

  • 5% Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more.
  • 3% 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service.
  • 1.5% 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

What we love: Not only does it earn 1.5 percent cash back on general spending, but it also has a bonus cash back rate for drugstores and dining at restaurants. And if you pair it with one or two premium Chase travel cards, you could pool your rewards for better travel redemption value.  Learn more: Why I love the Chase Freedom Unlimited Alternatives: If you want to take advantage of even more rewarding cash back categories and remain in the Chase family, consider the Chase Freedom Flex® .

  • You can pool rewards with other Chase cards to maximize your earnings.
  • The additional rewards rate offer can add even more cash back to your pocket for the first year.
  • The welcome offer isn’t as competitive as other cards’ offers.
  • Maximizing rewards with this and other Chase cards can get complicated for people who like simple rewards programs.
  • Intro Offer: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
  • No annual fee – You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, alerts, and more.

Best for hotel bookings

Image of Wells Fargo Autograph Journey&#8480; Card

Wells Fargo Autograph Journey℠ Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s $600 toward your next trip.

Earn unlimited 5X points on hotels. Earn unlimited 4X points on airlines. Earn unlimited 3X points on other travel and restaurants. Earn 1X points on other purchases.

21.24%, 26.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR

  • 5X Earn unlimited 5X points on hotels
  • 4X Earn unlimited 4X points on airlines
  • 3X Earn unlimited 3X points on other travel and restaurants
  • 1X Earn 1X points on other purchases

What we love: It offers a great rewards rate on hotel bookings and gives you a chance to earn a $50 annual statement credit with a $50 minimum airline purchase. Add in a solid rate on airline purchases, other travel and restaurants and this card carries great value as a standalone mid-tier card for occasional travelers. Alternatives: If you want to earn travel rewards but don’t actually spend much on hotels and airfare, the lower-tier Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card is also worth a look. Though it earns also rewards on travel, it boasts a great mix of other practical everyday categories (including gas stations).

  • You can transfer points to Wells Fargo’s new list of airline and hotel partners, including popular programs like British Airways Executive Club, Choice Privileges and more, which could boost the redemption value of your rewards.
  • The $50 annual statement credit offsets more than half the card’s $95 annual fee and should be a cinch to earn if you fly at least once per year.
  • Wells Fargo only offers one other card that earns travel rewards (the Autograph), and there is some category overlap between the two, so they may not be as lucrative as some competing card stacks.
  • The card doesn’t carry some popular travel perks available on other mid-tier travel cards, such as credits for expedited airport security screening or rideshares.
  • Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn unlimited 5X points on hotels, 4X points on airlines, 3X points on other travel and restaurants, and 1X points on other purchases.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Book your travel with the Autograph Journey Card and enjoy Travel Accident Insurance, Lost Baggage Reimbursement, Trip Cancellation and Interruption Protection and Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver.
  • Earn a $50 annual statement credit with $50 minimum airline purchase.
  • Up to $1,000 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
  • Find tickets to top sports and entertainment events, book travel, make dinner reservations and more with your complimentary 24/7 Visa Signature® Concierge.

Best no-annual-fee hotel card

Image of Hilton Honors American Express Card

Hilton Honors American Express Card

  • Earn 70,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 7/31/2024.

Earn 70,000 points

Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio. Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations. Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.

20.99%-29.99% Variable

  • 7X Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5X Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.

What we love: This card earns rewards in a terrific mix of everyday bonus categories, so it should be easy to rack up Hilton points even if you don’t spend a ton on hotel bookings. Since it charges no annual fee and provides a few Hilton Honors benefits like Silver status, it’s also a great fit if you’re new to hotel cards and want a single no-annual-fee option instead of juggling multiple rewards cards. Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Hilton Honors American Express Card Alternatives: The American Express® Green Card could be more flexible since it lets you earn and redeem rewards on a much wider variety of travel purchases, including airfare and bookings with several hotel brands, not just Hilton. You can transfer points to the Hilton Honors program as well, but the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card may be better if you prefer upgraded Hilton-specific rewards, loyalty status and other perks.

  • Comes with automatic Silver Elite status, which includes a free fifth award night when you book at least four consecutive nights with points.
  • Earns rewards in three of the average person’s biggest spending categories, making it a terrific standalone option for earning Hilton points.
  • A higher-tier Hilton card would earn more on Hilton bookings and could be more lucrative for frequent guests, even with an annual fee.
  • You can only redeem points with Hilton and its partners, which limits the rewards value you earn on the everyday categories compared to a general-purpose cards’ rewards.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors™ Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors™ Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • No Annual Fee.

Best for luxury hotel perks

Image of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant&reg; American Express&reg; Card

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

  • Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points

  • Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
  • 6X Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®
  • 3X 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2X 2X points on all other eligible purchases

What we love: Frequent Marriott guests looking for luxury card-level perks and elite status should be able to justify this premium card. Along with a terrific rewards rate on Marriott bookings and an annual free night award, you could enjoy generous annual credits for restaurant purchases and Marriott property stays, airport lounge access, elite night credits and more. Learn more: Best Marriott credit cards Alternatives: If you’re looking for top-tier travel perks but want the flexibility to earn and redeem rewards for stays at any hotel chain, consider an elite travel card from Chase or Amex, which can come with generous travel benefits, airport lounge access and the ability to transfer points to Marriott. The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is another lucrative alternative.

  • Outperforms other Marriott cards with its boosted rewards on travel-related categories and 21X points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, thanks to the automatic Platinum Elite status.
  • It’s one of the only hotel cards that includes complimentary Priority Pass lounge access, top travel protections and credits for expedited airport security screening.
  • Unlocking some of the card’s best perks — like Five Suite Night Awards — requires a $60,000 annual spend, which may be tough to reach even for frequent Marriott guests.
  • Unless luxury perks are at the top of your wishlist, the annual fee may not be worth it and a lower-tier hotel card may offer more value overall.
  • $300 Brilliant Dining Credit: Each calendar year, get up to $300 (up to $25 per month) in statement credits for eligible purchases made on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card at restaurants worldwide.
  • With Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status, you can receive room upgrades, including enhanced views or suites, when available at select properties and booked with a Qualifying Rate.
  • Free Night Award: Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Each calendar year after spending $60,000 on eligible purchases on your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, you will be eligible to select a Brilliant Earned Choice Award benefit. You can only earn one Earned Choice Award per calendar year. See https://www.choice-benefit.marriott.com/brilliant for Award options.
  • $100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit: Enjoy your stay. Receive up to a $100 property credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® when you book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay using your Card.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®: Receive either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership for TSA PreCheck® (up to $85 through a TSA PreCheck official enrollment provider) and pay the application fee with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Each calendar year with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card you can receive 25 Elite Night Credits toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy® Elite status. Limitations apply per Marriott Bonvoy member account. Benefit is not exclusive to Cards offered by American Express. Terms apply.
  • Enroll in Priority Pass™ Select, which offers unlimited airport lounge visits to over 1,200 lounges in over 130 countries, regardless of which carrier or class you are flying. This allows you to relax before or between flights. You can enjoy snacks, drinks, and internet access in a quiet, comfortable location.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • With Cell Phone Protection, you can be reimbursed, the lesser of, your repair or replacement costs following damage, such as a cracked screen, or theft for a maximum of $800 per claim when your cell phone line is listed on a wireless bill and the prior month's wireless bill was paid by an Eligible Card Account. A $50 deductible will apply to each approved claim with a limit of 2 approved claims per 12-month period. Additional terms and conditions apply. Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
  • $650 Annual Fee.

Best for transfer partners

Image of Bilt Mastercard&#174;

Bilt Mastercard®

Intro offer is not available for this Wells Fargo credit card.

3x points on dining. 2x points on travel. 1x points on other purchases. Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year. When you make at least 5 posted transactions in a statement period using your Bilt Mastercard, you'll earn points on rent and qualifying net purchases.

1X Points - 3X Points

  • 3X Points 3x points on dining
  • 2X Points 2x points on travel
  • 1X Points 1x points on other purchases
  • 1X Points Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year. When you make at least 5 posted transactions in a statement period using your Bilt Mastercard, you'll earn points on rent and qualifying net purchases.

What we love: Not only is this card is a terrific choice for renters since it earns rewards and waives transaction fees when using it to pay rent, it’s also great for rewards strategists considering the extremely robust travel rewards program. You can earn rewards on travel and dining and your points carry a high value whether you redeem through the Bilt travel portal or one of the many airline and hotel transfer partners. Alternatives: If you like the Bilt card’s travel rewards program but don’t see yourself renting long term, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It earns generously on both travel and dining and also boasts high-value points and transfer partners. If the way you pay rent doesn’t incur credit card payment fees, a flat-rate card may also be worth weighing. 

  • It’s the only card that helps you avoid the fees typically associated with paying rent with a credit card.
  • Offers a solid collection of travel perks for a no-annual-fee card, including trip cancellation and interruption protection, trip delay reimbursement and other high-level travel protections.
  • You can only use rewards to cover rent, toward a future home down payment or for travel and shopping. Cash back isn’t an option.
  • There is no sign-up bonus. Most competing travel cards — even those with no annual fee — offer at least a $200 bonus.
  • $0 Annual Fee.
  • Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year.
  • 2x points on travel.
  • 3x points on dining.
  • 1x points on other purchases.
  • Earn points when you make 5 transactions that post each statement period.
  • When renting at a Bilt Alliance property, you can choose to have your rent payments automatically reported by Bilt to the three major credit bureaus each month; Experian™, TransUnion™, and Equifax™.

Best for gas

Image of Wells Fargo Autograph&#8480; Card

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value.

20,000 bonus points

Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans. Earn 1X points on other purchases.

20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR

  • 3X Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans.

What we love: The Wells Fargo Autograph card is a great option for occasional travelers and households on the go looking to earn rewards while avoiding an annual fee and reduced redemption value for cash rewards. It’s one of a few entry-level travel cards to offer high, year-round bonus rewards for gas, dining, transit and other key travel needs. Learn more: Is the Wells Fargo Autograph worth it? Alternatives: If you’re looking for ways to maximize the value of your rewards, you should consider a travel card that lets you transfer your points to airlines or hotels, like the Bilt Mastercard® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

  • While some issuers only reward travel purchases made directly with airlines or through issuer portals, this card lets you shop around for the best deal on third-party travel sites and still earn extra rewards.
  • Carries decent perks such as rental car collision damage waiver coverage, roadside assistance and Visa Signature® Concierge benefits, like access to Visa’s Luxury Hotel Collection (terms apply).
  • Unlike with traditional travel cards, you cannot transfer your points to airlines or hotels
  • The travel perks and intro APR are weak compared to competing travel-oriented cards’ offers.
  • Select "Apply Now" to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases.
  • $0 annual fee.
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR thereafter.
  • Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
  • Redeem your rewards points for travel, gift cards, or statement credits. Or shop at millions of online stores and redeem your rewards when you check out with PayPal.

Best for companion tickets

Image of Delta SkyMiles&reg; Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • Earn 85,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 85,000 miles

Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

  • 3X Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • 2X Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • 1X Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

What we love: The annual companion certificate on Main Cabin domestic flights (taxes and fees apply) comes with this card after the first year is valuable enough to justify the annual fee even if you’re just looking for great Delta perks to make travel smoother with a partner. Plus, the companion certificate is easier to obtain than other airline cards’ since it carries no spending requirement that must be met beyond the card’s annual fee. Alternatives: The American Express® Green Card could be a great alternative since it charges a lower $150 annual fee, lets you earn and redeem rewards on travel with any eligible airline (not just Delta) and offers credits for Loungebuddy lounge access and Clear Plus. You can even transfer points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

  • Boasts several valuable travel perks, including priority boarding, a free first checked bag and specialized annual credits for select rideshare services and reservations with Delta Stays and Resy.
  • Gets you closer to Medallion Status and discounts on in-flight purchases, complimentary upgrades, and more.
  • Its rewards rate on non-travel purchases is lacking — a general-purpose travel card could potentially offer better rewards value and flexibility for rewards travel outside Delta.
  • No longer offers complimentary Delta Sky Club lounge access as of this year, although airport lounge access is a staple perk for premium travel cards.
  • Receive a Companion Certificate on Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Receive $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year and get closer to Status with MQD Headstart.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • Earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $20 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card in a calendar year and get a boost toward achieving Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Receive Zone 5 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Receive either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership for TSA PreCheck® (up to $85 through a TSA PreCheck official enrollment provider) and pay the application fee with your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members and Reserve Card Members.
  • $350 Annual Fee.

Best starter airline card

Image of Southwest Rapid Rewards&#174; Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Earn 85,000 points

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

  • 2X Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners.
  • 1X Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

What we love: This card’s anniversary bonus offers enough value to nearly offset the annual fee on its own, so it should be a terrific low-stakes option whether you’re new to airline cards or a regular Southwest flyer looking for a low-maintenance card. Plus, its sign-up bonus value is on par with the value you’ll get with much pricier airline and travel cards. Learn more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus benefits guide Alternatives: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card could offer better value overall, despite its $149 annual fee. It carries an annual $75 Southwest travel credit and 7,500 bonus points each year on your account anniversary — more than enough value to justify the higher fee.

  • You’ll automatically earn 3,000 Rapid Rewards points each year after your account anniversary, which could offset much of the card’s already-low annual fee.
  • Delivers the same hefty sign-up bonus as higher-tier Southwest cards.
  • Unlike several travel cards, it doesn’t carry rewards categories for popular everyday purchases like gas or dining.
  • It may not be the best Southwest value for frequent flyers since it poses a 3 percent foreign transaction fee and doesn’t offer perks like upgraded boardings or elite status benefits.
  • 3,000 anniversary points each year.
  • Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • 2 EarlyBird Check-In® each year.
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Best for savers

Image of Bank of America&reg; Premium Rewards&reg; credit card

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

  • Receive 60,000 online bonus points - a $600 value - after you make at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

60,000 points

Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases. Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

21.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • 2X Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases.
  • 1.5X Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

What we love: If you do your banking with Bank of America and qualify for Preferred Rewards status, this card could provide an exclusive 25 percent to 75 percent rewards rate boost. The  rewards rates — 2X points on dining and travel, with 1.5X points on all other purchases — could increase to an incredible 3.5X on travel and dining with an unrivaled flat 2.62X points rate. Learn more: Why expert Sara Coleman loves the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card Alternatives: The similarly-priced Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best alternatives thanks to its stellar travel protections, yearly bonus rewards and stronger rewards program. However, flat-rate cards like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card or the Discover it® Miles card could be lucrative if you don’t think the $95 annual fee is worth it.

  • The $95 annual fee is relatively affordable for this card category thanks to the up to $100 in yearly airline incidental statement credits.
  • You can smooth out your travel experience with great benefits like credits toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Attaining the highest rewards rate is not an easy feat, since you’ll need to hold significant funds in Bank of America accounts.
  • This card does not offer a few popular premium travel perks like lounge access.
  • Low $95 annual fee.
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn 2.5-3.5 points on travel and dining purchases and 1.87 - 2.62 points on all other purchases, for every $1 you spend.
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill® accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center.
  • Get up to $100 in Airline Incidental Statement Credits annually and TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry Statement Credits of up to $100, every four years.
  • Travel Insurance protections to assist with trip delays, cancellations and interruptions, baggage delays and lost luggage.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Best for first-year value

Image of Discover it&#174; Miles

Discover it® Miles

  • Unlimited Bonus: Unlimited Mile-for-Mile match for all new cardmembers—only from Discover. Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. You could turn 35,000 Miles to 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.

Discover Match®

Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase.

18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR

  • 1.5X Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase.

What we love: In addition to the exceptionally valuable Discover Match® , this card combines solid flat-rate rewards with consumer-friendly terms, like minimal fees and an equal value for both travel and cash back redemptions. Travelers who value simplicity will appreciate this card’s straightforward rewards and adaptability — even when you aren’t traveling. Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Discover it® Miles Alternatives: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card carries a more straightforward and still easy-to-reach welcome bonus. The VentureOne card also gives you the option of transferring miles to more than a dozen airline and hotel partners, which could increase the redemption value of your rewards.

  • All miles earned in your first year will be matched at the end of the year, which could make it one of the most valuable first-year offers for no annual fee.
  • Miles don’t lose value when they’re redeemed for cash back, which gives it a leg up over many travel rewards programs for occasional travelers.
  • You’ll miss out on pretty standard travel perks like travel insurance, and car rental damage protection.
  • The rewards structure lacks flexibility; you won’t be able to transfer your miles or use them to book travel.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • Turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 18.24% - 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Terms and conditions apply.

Best for fair credit

Image of Credit One Bank Wander&reg; Card

Credit One Bank Wander® Card

Intro offer is not available for this Credit One Bank credit card.

Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site. Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas. Earn 1x points on all other purchases.

29.74% Variable

  • 10X Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
  • 5X Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • 1X Earn 1x points on all other purchases

What we love: The Credit One Bank Wander® Card is a solid option if you want to earn points on travel but have trouble qualifying for mainstream travel cards. Not only is this card accessible with only fair credit, but its rewards program boasts generously high rewards rates in key travel categories. Learn more: Best travel cards for people with bad or fair credit Alternatives: If you don’t mind putting down a refundable security deposit, consider a no-annual-fee secured card like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card *. It’s a unique secured card that lets you build credit while earning rewards in a category of your choice (with travel just one of many popular options) as well as grocery stores and wholesale clubs.

  • It’s one of the only travel rewards cards available with a fair credit score, making it a decent option if you want to earn travel rewards as you work on your score.
  • Provides 5X points in travel, dining and gas, plus 10X points on eligible hotel and rental car bookings through Credit One Bank — rare and impressive rates with only fair credit.
  • Its annual fee is high compared to other cards you can get with a fair credit score , so it may not be the best fit if you prioritize building credit over earning rewards.
  • Other travel cards may offer better perks, fewer redemption restrictions and more value, so it may be worth working on your score with a lower-cost card before committing to the costly annual fee.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees

Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit  AmericanExpress.com/benefitsguide  for more details. Underwritten by Amex assurance company.

The information about the American Express® Green Card and Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuers.

Compare Bankrate's best travel credit cards of 2024

What are travel credit cards.

Travel credit cards allow cardholders to earn points or miles on a variety of purchases (typically travel-related), which are redeemable for travel bookings, statement credits, gift cards and more.

The best travel credit cards do more than help you foot the bill for your next flight — travel cards also offer perks to upgrade your entire travel experience. Trip insurance , annual travel credits, concierge services and lounge access are all common benefits. Airline and hotel co-branded credit cards sometimes offer specific discounts and perks for loyalty program members.

Pros and cons of travel credit cards

Although a well-chosen travel card can pay huge dividends, it might not be the right move for every traveler. Before you apply, take time to weigh the benefits versus the drawbacks of travel credit cards .

Tips on choosing the best travel credit card for you

The right travel credit card for you will carry features and benefits that give you the best value. To help you narrow down your choices, here are the steps to choosing the best travel card.

How to choose a travel credit card

1. know how you prefer to travel.

Knowing whether your travel expenses lean toward airfare, hotel stays or a mix of other travel will help you decide whether you should get an airline card, hotel card or general-purpose travel card. A co-branded airline or hotel credit card may be a good fit if you mostly travel with a certain brand and want exclusive privileges to enhance your experience. A general-purpose travel card is better if you prefer to keep your travel options open.

2. Prioritize redemption value

You may have to pick between simplicity and maximum value when comparing cards and rewards programs. Many travel cards offer a standard point or mile redemption value of 1 cent when you redeem toward travel through the issuer portal, but some cards can get you a higher redemption value when you transfer rewards to airline or hotel partners. However, it's common for many travel reward programs to reduce the redemption value toward non-travel options or limit these redemption options altogether. If you prefer simplicity over maximizing rewards, you may want to consider cards that allow you to redeem points or miles at an equal 1-cent value toward general travel purchase credits, cash back or other non-travel options.

3. Match your card to your spending habits

Take a look at your typical spending and find which travel categories and non-travel categories you spend the most in to help you choose a card that offers a high rewards rate for your regular spending. Just make sure you factor in rewards spending caps.

4. Note what's worth the extra money

High rewards rates and valuable travel perks are the biggest reasons to get a travel card, but many of the best cards carry a high annual fee. You could stick with a no-annual-fee travel card (or at least one with around a $99 fee) if you're mainly focused on earning rewards, but you may have to pay up to $500 or more for luxurious perks like airport lounge access, comprehensive travel insurance and hundreds of dollars in annual travel credits .

5. Look toward your next trip abroad

If you travel overseas, check to see if the card you're considering charges a foreign transaction fee. And since some credit cards aren't as widely accepted as others, you'll also want to make sure your credit card will work when traveling overseas . For example, merchants may not accept Discover and American Express cards as widely as Visa and Mastercard. If a trip is coming up in the next three to six months, keep an eye out for the big sign-up bonuses travel cards are known for. As a rule of thumb, the higher the annual fee, the higher the sign-up bonus should be.

Co-branded travel cards vs. general travel cards

Experts typically divide travel credit cards into two categories: co-branded travel cards and general travel cards. Co-branded cards are linked to a particular airline or hotel, while general travel cards offer more flexible reward opportunities. Here’s why and when you might want one or the other.

  • Co-branded cards
  • General travel cards

Co-branded travel cards tend to offer higher rewards rates on eligible travel purchases in exchange for limiting your reward redemption options to just one airline or hotel program . These cards may also feature more specific perks associated with the respective hotel or airline, such as free award nights, complimentary airline elite status or priority boarding — which general-purpose travel cards don’t often carry).

However, you won’t be able to use your rewards with a wide variety of different hotels and airlines like general-purpose cards allow. Plus, despite co-branded travel cards’ typically higher rewards rates, many brand-specific rewards tend to be worth less than the potential value of general-purpose cards’ points and miles.

When to get a co-branded travel card : When you often fly or stay with a specific airline or hotel and want to maximize your benefits with that brand.

General travel cards earn rewards on various travel categories and aren’t limited to a particular airline or hotel. Such cards may lack some of the dedicated perks you’ll find on a co-branded travel card, such as in-flight discounts, but make up for it with rewards flexibility and broader perks like general travel credits, expedited security screening and wider airport lounge access. 

The top travel cards even let you transfer your points or miles to airline and hotel loyalty programs, often at a 1:1 rate. Redeeming with some airlines and hotels can even make your rewards more valuable than they would be if you redeemed with the card issuer.

When to get a general travel card : When you have no preferred airline or hotel and want the additional flexibility a general travel card offers. 

Who should get a travel credit card?

A travel credit card is almost always worth it for frequent travelers or anyone who wants to earn rewards toward their next vacation.

If you can save up airline miles, rack up points for free nights at hotels or get discounted travel through your credit card issuer, you’re on your way to significant travel savings. However, the right travel card for you will depend on your travel habits.

Frequent travelers

Naturally, the ideal candidate for a travel card is someone who travels a lot or plans to book several flights and hotel stays per year. However, in some cases, you don’t have to be a frequent traveler to reap the benefits of a travel rewards card. A number of cards offer good rewards rates on general purchases.

Travel beginners

If you’re new to travel rewards, a good place to start is with a travel card that makes it easy to earn and redeem points, without requiring you to navigate a complex rewards program or worry about tiered rewards rates or varying point redemption values. 

Brand loyalists

If you tend to book travel with the same brands frequently or already belong to an airline or hotel loyalty program, a co-branded travel card can offer terrific value.  Airline- and hotel-specific rewards cards often earn a top rate on bookings with the brand as well as exclusive perks like lounge access and automatic elite status. 

Business travelers

Some of the most valuable travel credit cards are business cards . Whether you're a freelancer on the go or the CEO of a Fortune 500, the right travel credit card can help you earn high rewards rates on everyday business purchases. 

International travelers

If you frequently travel abroad, a card with no foreign transaction fees is a great way to help you avoid extra costs on overseas purchases. Plus, if you hate waiting in line at airport security or customs, a lot of travel cards offer statement credits to reimburse you for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.

Luxury travelers

Luxury travel cards often charge a pretty penny but also offer a ton of value via perks like lounge access and annual travel credits. These perks not only make travel more comfortable, but also often carry enough value to offset the card’s cost on their own.

Still unsure if a travel credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool where you can get personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score, spending habits and daily needs.

Here’s how a Bankrate editor chose his travel card

Here’s how a bankrate editor chose his travel card.

With all of this advice in mind, let’s see how a credit card expert made their pick. Here’s Bankrate editor Nouri Zarrugh on how he chose his travel card:

When it comes to earning rewards, I’ve always stuck with cash back cards, preferring the simplicity of knowing exactly how much my rewards are worth and the ease of redeeming for statement credits. Recently, though, I decided I wanted to travel a bit more frequently, and I figured a new travel rewards card could be a great tool to help me earn free trips. When choosing the right card for me, a few major points of consideration stood out: Cost: I didn’t feel like I traveled enough to justify a huge annual fee. Simplicity : I wanted to stick with a single, streamlined travel card and not worry about juggling multiple rewards programs or rewards rates. Perks : While I didn’t need anything too fancy, I thought it might be nice to have a perk like TSA Precheck included, since I hate waiting in long airport security lines. To my surprise, the card that stood out most was the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Though it carried an intimidating annual fee of $395 ( See Rates & Fees ), I found this cost was more than worth it once I dug into the details. In fact, its benefits were so valuable, I barely needed to worry about offsetting the cost.  Two of its annual perks — a $300 Capital One travel credit and 10,000 bonus miles every year on my account anniversary — are valuable enough to offset the fee on their own. This means as long as I take one flight a year, I can basically break even on the card. Any rewards or perks I get beyond that feel like pure upside. It’s a huge bonus, then, that the card also includes practical benefits like Priority Pass lounge access and a credit of up to $100 toward the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. While I’ve never frequented airport lounges, I see these privileges as essentially free considering the value of the annual travel credit and bonus miles. So, I figure, why not take advantage?  For me, the Venture X strikes the perfect balance: A flat rewards rate that makes it easy to earn miles on everything I buy; flexible redemption through Capital One or via transfer to airlines and hotels, and practical perks I know I’ll use when I travel. I never imagined I’d have a $395 travel card in my wallet, but for me, it’s at worst a coupon for a flight every year, which can nudge me to take that next trip. — Nouri Zarrugh, Editor, Bankrate

Travel benefits may differ from card to card, but some of the most popular travel cards available often feature a few key perks. 

Travel insurance

Travel cards may offer various travel insurances , such as trip delay protection, trip cancellation insurance, lost baggage insurance or car rental insurance. These benefits aren’t worth anything until you need them, but you’ll be glad you have them when your flight is canceled or your luggage gets lost.

Travel credits

Credits toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry are a popular and common benefit on many travel cards. You can typically use this credit once every four years, which roughly corresponds to how long a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership lasts. Some cards may also provide an annual credit toward Clear Plus — another expedited security membership. Higher-end travel cards often offer annual statement credits toward travel purchases, and many of these credits nearly offset these cards’ annual fees. 

In-flight perks

Co-branded airline cards typically offer some airport and in-flight benefits on top of their reward-earning capabilities. These can include discounts on in-flight purchases (usually 25 percent back on refreshments and WiFi), free checked bags, flight seating upgrades or priority boarding. 

Free hotel award nights

Co-branded hotel cards may include free hotel award nights annually as part of their benefits. Some cards also add an extra complimentary awards night to your stay if you’ve booked a certain number of consecutive nights. These nights are typically capped at a certain value (sometimes based on the card or your elite status), and may be valuable enough to make up for some cards’ annual fees.

Airport lounge access

One of the most popular (and valuable) travel benefits featured on high-end and luxury travel cards is complimentary access to airport lounges. The lounges you gain access to depend on the card, though co-branded cards will often grant access to the lounge corresponding to the card’s airline. The Amex Platinum card currently offers the best airport lounge access .

If you want to add a credit card to your portfolio for your travel needs, knowing what cards are popular and why people like them can help steer your decision. We regularly stay abreast of these conversations online and noticed two travel cards come up regularly: the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card from American Express .

These cards shine because they offer some of the best rates on travel purchases and the most comprehensive set of benefits and perks . Despite their annual fees, what you get in return can far outweigh your costs. And the conversation around these two cards isn’t new: Is the effort of maximizing their perks worth it?

What people say about travel credit cards perks

The Sapphire Reserve is often referred to as the gold standard in travel benefits and protections, and the value of its trip insurance is a big part of that. A member of the Rick Steves Forum remarks on the value of the insurance: “It has pretty extensive coverage wherever I travel … my entire trip is covered as long as I charged any portion of the trip to my card.” This feature is unique to the Sapphire Reserve and sets it apart from other premium cards, which require you to charge your entire trip purchase to the card to have active coverage.

But using trip insurance isn’t always a simple process. As a user in the r/CreditCards forum on Reddit cautions: “Credit card travel insurance in general is very specific on what it covers, and people tend to overestimate just how useful the coverage actually is,” they write. “These are named peril policies, so unless you see your exact situation as a covered hazard the policies won't pay out.”

The Platinum Card from American Express gets a lot of buzz for reasons similar to the Sapphire Reserve. The card gives so many benefits, credits and additional perks that it’s often called a coupon book for luxury travel. But for many people, the value comes down to whether they’re willing to do the work to maximize its features. Another r/CreditCards member says they use the card’s Hilton and Marriott status boosters, rental car company loyalty program automatic status features, Centurion lounge access, hotel and airline incidental credits, membership credits and more. Using all these features helps them offset the annual fee.

While some people love maximizing the card’s features to extract  as much value as possible, others, like this Redditor, think it’s too much work:

“The only benefit the Platinum card really adds is Centurion but only to the [cardholder] … I believe the Platinum is worth [it] at least the first year for the [sign-up] bonus but then it doesn't get much use after that. Trust me the credits are really annoying to use.” — r/CreditCards user

These two premium cards stand out from the rest because they offer the most comprehensive features available to suit your travel needs and protect you from any issues that arise. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is an exceptional option to protect you from travel issues, but make sure you know the fine print. While the Amex Platinum may not be as ideal for travel protections, the credits offered more than offset its annual fee if you can put in the effort to fully maximize them.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned cardholder, your travel card should always work in your favor by offering the features and benefits you’ll actually use and that make your travels more enjoyable. But whether you’re willing to put in the effort to maximize a card’s value is something you’ll need to decide for yourself.

*The quotes and citations included on this page have been verified by our editorial team and are accurate as of the posting date. Be sure to check the issuer's website/terms and conditions for all up to date content. Outlinked content may contain views and opinions that do not reflect the views and opinions of Bankrate.

Credit card points and miles are two of the key types of credit card rewards , along with cash back. You’ll earn points and miles by making purchases with your credit card, but you can typically redeem these rewards for travel, gift cards and more — not just statement credits.

Points and miles tend to be more flexible than cash back, but since their value depends on how you redeem them — and, in the case of travel redemptions, where you’re going, when you book, your fare class and more — it may take a bit more effort to make the most of them.

What are your points and miles worth?

Since many airlines and hotels use dynamic pricing models that continually optimize airfare and room prices, it can be hard to know exactly how much your rewards are worth without doing a little math.

Luckily, you don’t need to be a travel hacker to get a sense of this idea. Before you redeem, you can check your reward redemption value by dividing the cost of a plane or hotel booking in cash by its cost in points or miles. This calculation will result in the cash value of your points or miles.

You can also compare this value to Bankrate’s latest points and miles valuations to determine if you’re getting a good deal on your redemptions. Bankrate collected data on hundreds of bookings across dozens of airline, hotel and credit card rewards programs and estimated how much each program’s rewards are worth on average .

  • Airline rewards values
  • Hotel rewards values
  • Credit card program rewards values

The table below shows Bankrate’s estimated reward redemption value for a variety of popular airline loyalty programs. You’ll notice how widely the value varies between airlines, with some offering close to 3 cents per point in average redemption value and others struggling to meet a 1-cent-per-point value.

Keep in mind, however, that these values are averages based on a variety of fare classes, destinations, booking periods and more. For example, while Bankrate estimates Delta SkyMiles carry an average redemption value of around 1.2 cents per mile, they could be worth more or less depending on the details of your booking. 

*Based on weighted average of median point/mile values across economy and first/business class fares.

Like airline miles, hotel points fluctuate in value. The table below shows Bankrate’s estimated point values for some of the most popular hotel brands. 

As you can see, hotel points tend to be worth less than airline and credit card rewards on average, often carrying less than 1 cent per point in redemption value. That said, hotel loyalty programs sometimes offer more favorable exchange rates when you transfer rewards from a credit card rewards program. For example, you may be able to turn 1,000 credit card points into 2,000 hotel points (a 2:1 transfer ratio). 

*Based on median point values across budget, mid-tier and luxury hotel bookings.

Unlike hotel and airline rewards programs, credit card reward programs typically earn points or miles that offer a consistent redemption value when you use them with the issuer. Though the redemption value of your rewards may vary based on how you redeem, each redemption method should offer a consistent baseline value. 

Some credit card rewards programs may also allow you to transfer your points or miles to airline and hotel loyalty programs, which could boost their value considerably. For each major credit card rewards program, we estimate a baseline redemption value (assuming you book for travel with the issuer) and a Bankrate’s Value, which averages the program’s best-value transfer partners.

*Based on an average of the issuer’s five highest-value transfer partners (if available).

When to use rewards vs. cash

To demonstrate when it’s best to use your reward miles versus paying in cash, we set up this example:

We estimate American Airlines AAdvantage miles are worth 1.0 cents. If you book a seat in the main cabin on a one-way flight from Boston to Miami, and it costs either $139 or 21,500 miles, your miles are only worth $0.006 ($139 / 21,500 miles = $0.006). Since your miles for this flight are worth less than 1.0 cents, you may want to save your miles and pay cash for this flight.

But if you book a first-class seat on the same flight for $433 or 31,500 miles, your miles are now worth $0.013 ($433 / 31,500 = $0.013). Since 1.3 cents is higher than our latest valuation, you’re coming out ahead if you use your miles to pay for this flight.

Bankrate experts share their advice on using travel credit cards

It’s important to know how to maximize your rewards and perks. Otherwise, a travel card could end up being a money pit. Here are a few pointers from our experts for making the most of your travel card: 

Combine cards to maximize rewards

Knowing how much you spend in different categories and which merchants are eligible for rewards will help you earn more and build an optimized stack of rewards cards. A flat-rate card is often a great starting point to earn the same rate on every purchase you make. As you build out a rewards strategy, you can incorporate a card with bonus categories to earn even more in your highest spending areas.

Expert Insight:

“For a long time, I’ve used a combination of Chase credit cards known as the Chase trifecta for all my family’s spending…. [I] don’t typically use my Sapphire Reserve for everyday spending and bills. Since it only offers 1X points on non-bonus category spending, I use my Freedom Unlimited to make sure I earn a minimum of 1.5 percent cash back on everything I buy.” “I use each card strategically to earn as much in rewards as possible, then I pool them in my Sapphire Reserve account to redeem them for airfare, excursions, hotels and more.” — Holly D. Johnson — Award-winning personal finance writer and Bankrate contributor: Why I love the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Maximize your rewards value with transfer partners and issuer travel

Save your rewards for the most valuable redemption options. Travel points and miles often lose value toward non-travel options like cash back, so you’ll want to redeem your rewards for travel through the issuer portal for at least 1 cent per point or mile. However, transferring your rewards to the right airline or hotel partner program is usually worth the extra effort since it could net you even more value.

Expert Insight

“When I redeem my points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the most I can get is 1.25 cents apiece, which is pretty good. However, if I transfer them to a partner airline’s loyalty program, I will often get much more. For example, I can transfer my points to United Airlines MileagePlus and use them to pay for flights. When I do, I generally get a value of 2 or more cents per point — in line with Bankrate estimates that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth around 2 cents apiece on average when used with the right transfer partner.” — Margaret Wack — Personal finance expert and Bankrate contributor: Why I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Make the most of your travel perks

Travel benefits are one of the main reasons to get a travel card, and are often key to making up a card’s annual fee. Be sure to read the fine print to make sure you can take full advantage of these offers . For example, one card’s travel credit may apply to any travel purchase, including airfare, while another card’s may only cover costs like baggage fees or in-flight purchases. 

“This is the year to take inventory of your credit cards and make sure they’re serving you well. If you’re paying an annual fee, look for a card with recurring benefits. Whether it’s annual award nights, waived luggage fees or elite status benefits, these perks can offset your annual fee and make your travels more pleasant … Despite putting minimal spending on my Hilton Honors Amex Aspire card, I keep renewing it every year. That’s because the card provides automatic Hilton Diamond elite status, which can easily offset the $550 annual fee. Recurring card benefits like [these] can save you a lot on travel and are worth considering when shopping for a new credit card.” — Ariana Arghandewal — Travel rewards expert and Bankrate contributor: Five benefits you need from a travel credit card

Plan for the sign-up bonus

The best travel cards come with generous welcome offers, but these bonuses may require a high spend in a short timeframe. That’s why it’s important to consider whether the spending requirement fits with your typical spending habits or whether you need to plan purchases to meet the requirement. Just be sure not to overextend yourself or take on debt you can’t pay back just to earn a bonus — interest and fees can easily eat through any value you’d get.

“Keep in mind that credit card sign-up offers change often. So if you’re interested in a particular card but not blown away by its current offer (there are some for 100,000 points or more that aren’t always worth the trouble), it could be worth your while to wait for a better one.” — Ariana Arghandewal — Travel rewards expert and Bankrate contributor: 6 ways to get bigger credit card bonuses

Look out for limited-time offers, partner perks and other benefits

Keeping an eye out for limited-time offers like extraordinarily high sign-up bonuses, perks with partner services (like rideshares or delivery services) and other reward-earning opportunities is a great way to squeeze the most value from your travel card. Issuers sometimes provide shopping and travel portals and card-linked reward programs for select purchases (like for pre-paid dining or participating merchant spending), which can help you bank extra rewards.

“Keep an eye on your email inbox and rewards portal for any limited-time promotions your issuer may be offering. Many American Express cards feature Amex Offers, which lets you access perks like statement credits for spending a certain amount on specific hotels and other retailers.  Other cards, like the Capital One Venture X, also have occasional promotional offers, such as a credit for 5 percent back on VRBO rentals.” — Lori Zaino — Travel expert and Bankrate contributor: How to maximize credit cards for cheaper accommodations this holiday season

Track your spending and rewards each account statement

Track your favorite stores’ and services’ merchant category codes (MCCs) to fine-tune your spending habits for maximum rewards. If you notice your expenses changing, this practice may also help you notice whether you need to change which rewards cards you carry.

“The first step to optimizing your spending is to take the time to collect the MCCs of stores you frequently shop at. During the process, you might find that some stores in the same chain may have different MCCs, depending on their primary inventory. Even different counters or sections in the same department store may carry different MCCs. You can use this to your advantage if you know one location near you will provide a better cash back rate than the other. These “loopholes” can provide great opportunities to reap cash back on purchases that typically wouldn’t earn rewards.” — Garrett Yarbrough — Writer and credit cards expert at Bankrate: Merchant category codes: How to earn more cash back

Our data: What credit score do you need for the best travel cards?

It’s no secret that your credit score heavily influences which cards you’re likely to get approval for. But how good does your credit need to be to get the best credit cards for travel? We analyzed our data of Bankrate readers who applied for credit cards on our pages in 2023 and compared the approval rates of readers’ different credit tiers.

We found that, on average, 61.9 percent of users with excellent credit were approved for travel cards on our site. Then, an average of 39.5 percent and 19.5 percent of users with good and fair credit, respectively, got approval for travel credit cards they applied to.

If you have fair or bad credit, you still have options for travel credit cards. For example, the Credit One Bank Wander Card caters to people with fair credit — 57 percent of people with fair credit who applied on our site in 2023 were approved for this card , according to our data.

Obviously, the better your credit, the more likely you are to get the card you apply for , but other factors can affect your application. Issuers may also consider your income, recent credit applications, homeownership status and monthly rental or mortgage payment. Keep these other factors in mind with your credit score when you apply for credit cards.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email , find us on Facebook , or Tweet us @Bankrate .

When evaluating the best travel cards, we consider a mix of factors, including how cards score in our proprietary card rating system and whether cards offer features that fit the priorities of a diverse group of cardholders, from earning rewards in popular categories to scoring a large sign-up bonus or high-value perks. Whenever possible, we also feature cards that are available at various credit levels and price points. 

We analyzed over 150 of the most popular cards and scored each based on its rewards rate, estimated annual earnings, welcome bonus value, APR, fees, perks and more to determine whether it belonged in this month’s roundup of the best travel cards.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the key factors in our rewards card scoring methodology — our primary scoring category for travel cards — and details we considered when putting together our list of the best travel cards.  

  • Flexibility 15%
  • Customer experience 5%

Great rewards value

The primary criteria for a rewards-earning card’s rating is its rewards value. This includes the card’s average rewards rate, estimated annual rewards earnings, sign-up bonus value and reward redemption value.

To estimate a card’s average annual rewards earnings, we first calculate its average rewards rate based on how much it earns in different bonus categories and how closely its categories align with the average person’s spending habits. In other words, we assess whether the card earns rewards at a high rate in the most popular spending categories. 

We use consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to get a reliable third-party measure of people’s spending habits. The most recent BLS data estimates average total spending in 2022 was $72,967 per consumer. We then narrow our focus to which purchases are likely to be put on a credit card and earn rewards, subtracting expenditures like housing, vehicle purchases and education. This gives us a total “chargeable” annual spend of around $25,500.  

This includes the following spending by category:

  • Groceries: $5,700
  • Dining out: $3,600
  • Entertainment: $2,400
  • Gas: $3,100
  • Apparel and services: $1,900

Using this data, we assign a weighting to each of a card’s bonus categories. For example, a card’s grocery rewards rate receives a 22 percent weighting based on how much of the average person’s budget is spent on groceries.

We also estimate the redemption value of points or miles from various issuer, airline and hotel rewards programs.

This weighting and rewards valuation allows us to estimate a card’s average annual rewards earnings — how many points or miles you’d earn with a given card if your spending was about average and you used the card for all of your purchases — as well as what those points are worth. We also use point valuations to determine a card’s sign-up bonus value

With these calculations complete, we assign each card a score based on how its average rewards earnings, sign-up bonus value, rewards rate and redemption value stack up against other rewards cards.

The better these values, the higher its score will be, making it more worthy of inclusion in our list and increasing its potential ranking.

Reasonable rates and fees

We also score cards based on how much it costs to keep them in your wallet or carry a balance. 

To start, each card is scored based on whether it offers an intro APR and how its ongoing APR compares to the rates available on other rewards cards. However, the latter rating only has a slight influence on the card’s score and whether the card is included in our list, since rewards card users generally try to avoid carrying a balance.

More important to both a card’s score and its inclusion in our list is how its annual fee influences its overall value. We consider a card’s annual fee in two ways — how it ranks relative to the fees you’ll find on other cards in the category and how it impacts a card’s overall rewards value. 

Cards with an annual fee will always be at a slight disadvantage in our scoring system since annual fees inherently cut into your rewards value. However, if a card offers terrific value via its ongoing rewards and perks, it can earn a high score and a spot in our list even if it carries a high annual fee. After all, the highest rewards rates and most valuable perks are often found on cards with annual fees. 

With this in mind, we rate a card based primarily on how its ongoing rewards value and ongoing perk value (such as annual credits or bonuses) stack up against those of other cards in the category when you subtract annual fees.

That said, we strive to include as many no-annual-fee options in our list as possible since many people would rather not worry about offsetting fees, even if a card carries impressive rewards and perks.

Redemption flexibility

Rewards cards may make it easy to earn a lot of points, miles or cash back, but how easy is it to use those rewards? After all, if it takes a ton of effort to redeem rewards or you can only redeem rewards in a couple of ways, a card may be more trouble than it’s worth. 

As such, we rate each card’s flexibility based on the restrictions it imposes on earning and redeeming rewards. We factor this rating into a card’s overall score and consider it when deciding on a card’s inclusion in our list. 

Flexibility factors include whether a card only allows you to earn a high rewards rate on only a small amount of spending or requires you to meet a certain earning threshold before you can redeem rewards. We also examine whether your points are worth less when you opt for some redemption options over others and whether a card gives you the flexibility to transfer rewards to travel partners.

Valuable perks

We also score each card’s set of features – its perks and benefits — against five tiers of features to provide a rating. 

We break down these tiers as follows:

  • Tier 1 includes fewer features than even standard credit cards (for example, an ultra-streamlined card that offers basic utility and next to nothing in the way of ancillary benefits). 
  • Tier 2 includes the benefits you’d expect on standard Visa or Mastercard credit cards, such as free access to your credit score, car rental insurance and $0 liability for fraudulent charges. 
  • Tier 3 includes “prime card” or better-than-average card features like cellphone insurance, lost luggage insurance, concierge services and purchase protection. 
  • Tier 4 includes luxury features such as airport lounge access, elite status with an airline or hotel and credits for expedited security screening membership programs. 
  • Tier 5 includes the sort of exemplary benefits you’ll find on top-tier luxury cards, such as high-value travel credits, cardholder memberships and other unique and valuable perks.

In evaluating the best cards, we tend to favor cards that offer at least Tier 3 benefits, unless they include other unique features that could make up for less-impressive perks.

And since this list focuses on travel cards, we tend to favor cards that carry travel-centric features like travel insurance, airport lounge access and credits for expedited security screening, instead of more general perks like food delivery credits or shopping discounts.

More information on travel credit cards

Frequently asked questions about travel credit cards, are travel credit cards worth it.

Travel cards can be well worth it since they often have exclusive travel perks like credits for airfare, hotel stays, expedited airport security services and more, as well as complimentary airport lounge access and airline or hotel privileges. However, many of the best travel credit cards come with annual fees. It’s important to at least offset the cost of these cards by taking advantage of the various travel perks and features included on the card. 

What credit score do you need for a travel credit card?

It’s possible to get a travel credit card with bad or fair credit, but most travel rewards cards are geared toward people with good or excellent credit (a FICO score of at least 670, or a VantageScore of at least 661).

Do travel miles or points expire?

Even though many major credit cards earn rewards that don’t expire, you may lose your points and miles if your account closes or isn’t in good standing. However, some co-branded cards’ rewards may expire if you don’t earn or redeem rewards within a certain timeframe (typically 12 to 36 months after the rewards are earned).

Check out our guide to credit card rewards expiration for a thorough breakdown of several popular issuers’ policies.

Are points or miles better on a credit card?

Whether points or miles offer better value will depend on the specific rewards program and how you redeem rewards. One airline loyalty program may earn miles that offer less than 1 cent each in average redemption value while another program’s points may offer close to 3 cents each on average. Similarly, a hotel card’s points may be worth less than half of a credit card issuer’s rewards points. Some programs offer points with only average baseline redemption value but high value when transferred to a partner airline or hotel. 

Ask the experts: Is it a good idea to have multiple travel credit cards?

best countries to visit for winter

Thomas Nitzsche

best countries to visit for winter

Stephanie Zito

best countries to visit for winter

Erica Sandberg

best countries to visit for winter

Financial Educator, Debt and Credit

Whether you should have multiple travel credit cards depends on several factors, including your brand affinity, frequency of travel and ability to pay off your cards in full each month. As a credit counselor, I see many people carrying credit card debt at high interest rates while continuing to make charges to the account for the sake of earning rewards. They lose far more than they earn each month. Having more than one travel credit card could make sense for you if you’re able to maximize your earnings by strategizing spending across each card. Just take into account annual fees and actual interest paid.

Contributor, Personal Finance

If you’re up for managing multiple cards and their benefits, then there are definitely big reward payouts to be had. But if the thought of multiple cards is overwhelming, it’s also a good strategy to have one or two more flexible cards and focus on maximizing your earnings and redemptions until it becomes second nature.

best countries to visit for winter

Contributor, Credit Cards

Definitely! I currently have two travel credit cards. In addition to the Chase card that I use for my United Airlines purchases, I have the Capital One Venture card for all other airlines. I earn a solid amount of miles on everything I buy with it, so it's an easy go-to for non-travel related expenses.

Article sources

We use primary sources to support our work. Bankrate’s authors, reporters and editors are subject-matter experts who thoroughly fact-check editorial content to ensure the information you’re reading is accurate, timely and relevant.

Global entry: Trusted traveler enrollment program . U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Accessed on June 12, 2024.

Discover International acceptance . Discover. Accessed on June 5, 2024.

“ Consumer Expenditures 2022 ,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed on June 12, 2024.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.

Crazy weather week coming to the US: From searing heat to snow. Yes, snow.

best countries to visit for winter

The coming week will bring weather extremes of almost every stripe to the U.S.: From a baking heat wave in the Midwest and Northeast to an unseasonable chilly start in the Pacific Northwest.

And in the Rockies? Possibly snow − yes snow − in June.

Scorching temperatures into the 90s are expected through the beginning of the week over the East and into the Midwest and Great Lakes region, the National Weather Service warned Sunday.

It's going to be so hot in the middle and eastern part of the country that Tom Kines, a meteorologist with Accuweather, expects it will make headlines.

“The Midwest, the Ohio Valley, the Great Lakes, the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast – this will be the first 90-degree temperatures a lot of these places have gotten so far this year,” he said.

The blistering temperature will last through next weekend.

“Some of these areas will get temperatures up into the 90s and near 100. You throw in humidity, which makes it feel 9 or 10 degrees higher than that, and for a lot of people it’s not going to be the best of weeks,” Kines said.

The heat wave isn’t entirely anomalous for this time of year, but it is coming earlier than usual.

“Typically it’s July and August when we get this kind of heat,” he said. “It’s definitely early.”

The National Weather Service’s Heat Risk map for Monday shows a broad splash of red, indicating major heat, reaching from West Virginia to Kansas.

The heat danger was up to purple in parts of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

That means a “level of rare and/or long-duration extreme heat with little to no overnight relief affects anyone without effective cooling and/or adequate hydration. Impacts likely in most health systems, heat-sensitive industries and infrastructure,” according to the Weather Service.

By Tuesday the extreme heat area covered large parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan, and by Thursday had moved across into New York state and New Hampshire.

'It's June now and we're talking about snow'

While the middle and eastern part of the nation is baking, some areas of the northern Rocky Mountains will see much lower-than-average temperatures and even snow.

“They’re going to see some nights coming down into the 20s and low 30s, and up in the northern Rockies they’ll be getting some snow,” Kines said.

That snow will be falling at higher elevations, generally above 6,000 feet, so it won't impact that many populated areas. “But nevertheless, it’s June now and we’re talking about snow,” Kines said.

Temperatures there will gradually climb back to where they should be, in the 60s and near 70s, by the middle of the week, he said.

Want to flee the heat? Try the Pacific Northwest

In the Pacific Coast, Oregon and Washington state were looking at lower than normal temperatures. Cities such as Seattle will have a high of just 64 degrees on Monday and Portland, Oregon, will only reach 66 degrees.

For those looking to escape the heat, a quick trip to the Pacific Northwest might do the trick. While temperatures in the Seattle–Portland corridor would typically be in the lower to middle 70s at this time of year, they’re forecast to only reach as high as the mid-60s in the coming days.

“On Saturday, Seattle had a high of 60,” said Kines.

Houston soars in Forbes' top 10 best cities for summer travel

KTRK logo

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Looks like people from all over the country will be flocking to Houston this summer - at least according to a new report by Forbes Advisor.

The report listed the best and worst cities for summer travel and Houston fared surprisingly well, coming in as the No. 10 best summer travel destination in the nation.

The study, published June 1, compared 43 of the most populous U.S. cities across 16 metrics in three major categories: City experience, air travel experience, and driving experience.

To read the rest of this story, visit our partners at Houston CultureMap .

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Announcing The Washington Post’s 2024 Top Workplaces in the D.C. area

250 companies will be featured online and in a special Top Workplaces magazine in today’s Washington Post paper

The Washington Post today announced the best places to work in the Washington D.C. area as determined by its eleventh annual Top Workplaces survey. Conducted in partnership with employee engagement firm Energage, LLC, The Post’s survey asked employees about the companies they work for to identify 250 of the highest ranked workplaces in the region. This year’s honorees include technology companies, government contractors, real estate firms and financial service providers.

More than 8,800 area companies were invited to participate and 421 were surveyed. The top companies were selected based on survey responses from more than 137,000 employees on criteria ranging from employee development to innovation.

The Washington Post hosted an awards ceremony on Thursday, June 20 to recognize the 250 top-ranked companies. Today’s edition of The Washington Post will also include a special Top Workplaces magazine, which includes a cover story on cybersecurity boot camps , looking at who attends these and why there are so many jobs to fill and a leadership awards piece highlighting the efforts of four leaders whose company nominated them for the spotlight .

Here are the top three organizations within the largest, large, mid-size and small company categories:

Largest Companies:

  • Federal National Mortgage Association
  • Goodwin Living
  • Aledade, Inc.

Large Companies:

  • The Nakupuna Companies
  • Century 21 New Millennium

Mid-size companies:

  • Tekla Research
  • IntraFi Network LLC

Small companies:

  • Stratos Solutions
  • JRC Integrated Systems

The full list of honored companies can be found here .

best countries to visit for winter

All products and listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Best Places in Europe to Soak Up the Winter Sun

By David Annand and Connor Sturges

Image may contain Shoreline Water Outdoors Nature Ocean Sea Land Promontory Coast Scenery Beach and Sand

Brazil or Bali may be more synonymous with scorching-hot beaches in January, but there are alternatives for when you just want a quick blast of vitamin D to see you through to March. From golden islands that sizzle well into autumn and beyond, to European city break destinations bathed in elusive December sunshine, these winter-sun destinations in Europe mean escaping the blustery winter days is easily achievable. For some further-flung ideas, see our pick of the best winter-sun destinations.

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Best for nature lovers December temperature range 5066°F  Its easy to forget that Cyprus is only about 130 miles off the...

Best for: nature lovers December temperature range: 50-66°F

It’s easy to forget that Cyprus is only about 130 miles off the coast of Lebanon. And, unsurprisingly, its winter temperatures run closer to those of the Levant than much of continental Europe, which means T-shirt weather during the off-season. Winter is also a great time to go hiking in Cyprus’s dense forests, where you can stumble across fascinating Byzantine monasteries.

Where to stay: The seaside city of Paphos is a brilliant base for exploring the island and is home to many of the best hotels in Cyprus , including Almyra design hotel . In the north are some of the island’s prettiest beaches, where loggerhead and green turtles come to nest, along with the beachside Anassa hotel (closed 28 November to 31 March), located a short boat ride away from the Blue Lagoon.

Best for dyedinthewool sun seekers December temperature range 1121°C  In summer the breeze that hits Lanzarote and...

Canary Islands

Best for: dyed-in-the-wool sun seekers December temperature range: 11-21°C

In summer, the breeze that hits Lanzarote and Fuerteventura is a blessed relief from the intense heat and a major draw for windsurfers. In winter, said breeze brings with it a bit of a chill, so you’re better off heading to the other Canary Islands : Tenerife or Gran Canaria . The former has made great strides in repositioning itself as a cultural hub with an art gallery designed by Swiss firm Herzog and de Meuron and Santiago Calatrava’s concert hall in Santa Cruz. And the latter has plenty of charm beyond the overdeveloped tourist spots. The capital, Las Palmas, has a lively food scene and the landscape, particularly around the village of Artenara, is manna for hikers. Flights to both islands from London are under four and a half hours.

Where to stay: In Las Palmas, Bed and Chic is a cool 12-room hotel reminiscent of the Ace Hotel look, but without the pretension. On Tenerife, Hotel San Roque , is a pretty 18th-century manor house where dining and lounging take place around the turquoise courtyard pool.

Best for thrillseekers  December temperature range 5968°F  The longtime destination of choice for Britains bluerinse...

Best for: thrill-seekers (but still good for pensioners, too) December temperature range: 59-68°F

The long-time destination of choice for Britain’s blue-rinse brigade, staid old Madeira has been busy reinventing itself as a place for adrenaline-fueled adventure. And why not? The island is an outdoor Eden in miniature, with black-sand beaches, tumbling canyons, and epic rock faces. Which means great mountain biking and wonderful views for those who dare to go paragliding. The network of levadas (water-irrigation channels carved into the volcanic island) makes for thrilling trail running. It is also, as far as we know, the only place to offer year-round urban tobogganing in wicker sledges, which are steered downhill at great speed.

Where to stay: The island's most famous hotel is Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel —a pink cliffside palace with a Michelin-star and stunning ocean pool. If you're traveling in a group, Okulus sleeps eight, and thanks to its curated interiors, is easily the coolest villa in Madiera.

Best for getting away from it all December temperature range 4864°F  Continental Europes most southwestern region has...

The Algarve, Portugal

Best for: getting away from it all December temperature range: 48-64°F

Continental Europe’s most south-western region has its own sunny microclimate that makes it consistently warmer than the rest of Portugal. You won’t be in a bikini in winter, but the pleasant T-shirt temperatures mean that an increasing number of hotels and restaurants stay open year-round, and cities such as Albufeira retain a buzz. Away from the package tourist haunts, there are dramatic red-cliff coastlines and Moorish villages dotted among the hills to explore.

Where to stay: Enjoy a tranquil escape to Casas da Quinta de Cima , where a series of nine little cottages sit on a serene farm estate in rural eastern Algarve. For something more grand, reserve a room at Bel Vista , a turn-of-the-century villa hotel with a swimming pool framed by slender palm trees, a L’Occitance Spa and a one-star Michelin restaurant by Chef João Oliveira. See our pick of the best hotels in the Algarve for more options.

Best for culture seekers December temperature range 4959°F  Perhaps surprisingly the Greek capital stays much warmer...

Athens, Greece

Best for: culture seekers December temperature range: 49-59°F

Perhaps surprisingly, the Greek capital stays much warmer than many places on the country’s salty-aired coastline once winter rolls in. All the better for those who want a slice of sunshine without being marooned on a beach somewhere. Athens is a classic city-break destination, but an influx of artists, chefs and hoteliers over the past few years means the quirky neighborhoods and must-visit restaurants are now as much a draw as the big-hitting sites. Spend days exploring the many museums, libraries and galleries—we particularly like the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, which is home to the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera and a 42-acre park.

Where to stay: For a room with a view, some suites at xenodocheio Milos have huge terraces overlooking the old Parliament. If you're here for some sun and food, Ergon House is more than just a restaurant with rooms – the ground floor is a perpetually buzzy deli, roastery, bakery and dining room. See our pick of the best hotels in Athens for more.

Best for openwater swimmers December temperature range depending on which island you're on temperatures range from...

The Greek Islands

Best for: open-water swimmers December temperature range: depending on which island you're on, temperatures range from 54-63°F

The gorgeous Aegean is surely the loveliest of Europe’s seas, and the water of many of the Cyclades, such as Paros, Santorini , and Milos , is still tolerable in winter, making it a year-round destination for swimmers. In places like Santorini, visiting in the off-season means you can explore the picturesque vistas without the crowds, while Rhodes is known to have clear blue skies and warm temperatures well into winter.

Where to stay: Many Greek Island hotels close their doors between the end of October and the start of May, but there are a handful that continue to welcome guests. On Santorini, Opsis Cave Houses are one of the properties in Oia that still welcomes guests. Best of all, the views are entirely uninterrupted across the glittering blue sea.

Best for ecoconscious adventurers December temperature range 5564°F  You might think that including the Azores is...

Best for: eco-conscious adventurers December temperature range: 55-64°F

You might think that including the Azores is stretching the definition of Europe to breaking point, but the Atlantic archipelago is actually about five hours from London . And, in any case, they’re not your typical isolated island group. For starters, it’s never that hot here, even in summer. People don’t visit to laze on the beach Maldives-style. They come because it’s a natural nirvana, rich in wildlife, full of rugged, dramatic craters and caverns, hot springs and lush forests. All of which are being sustainably managed: only 5 per cent of the land is developed, and the islands are dotted with marine conservation parks.

Where to stay: Stay at Santa Barbara Eco-Beach or the similarly green-minded Sete Cidades Lake Lodge , both on São Miguel. See our Azores hotels guide for more.

Best for design buffs and hotel obsessives December temperature range 5263°F  Its frankly ridiculous 300 days of...

Best for: design buffs and hotel obsessives December temperature range: 52-63°F

Its frankly ridiculous 300 days of sunshine a year would be the standout selling point for most islands of Malta’s size, but the understated Mediterranean gem is also a history-soaked gastronomic hub, packed with first-class hotels and surrounded by some of the world’s best diving sites. Visit in winter for a weekend exploring striking Valletta, the ancient capital that’s had a bit of a revival of late, converting some of its gorgeous townhouses into excellent design hotels. The restaurant scene is thriving, too. Head to Panorama at the British Hotel in Valletta or Barracuda near the Sliema coast for a taste of traditional Mediterranean food.

Where to stay: Domus Zamittello in Valetta is a restored baroque masterpiece by the bombed-out opera house, with painted coffered ceilings. Iniala Harbour House offers a front-row seat to the Grand Harbour across its four smartly renovated townhouses.

Best for adventurous foodies December temperature range 5263°F  Italys southernmost island is closer to Tunis than Rome...

Best for: adventurous foodies December temperature range: 52-63°F

Italy’s southernmost island is closer to Tunis than Rome and has winter weather to match. Visiting at this time of year allows you to get up close to Sicily’s incredible historic spaces, such as the Temple of Concordia in Agrigento, which is reliably overrun in high season. With a distinct food culture, Sicily has gastronomic delights beyond summer’s glut of glorious fruit and veg – visit in February to experience the sea urchin season in full swing.

Where to stay: Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is Sicily's grand dame hotel, with opulent marble bathrooms and a pianist that cajoles couples to dance on the elegant balcony overlooking Amalfi-style Taormina. We also love Agriturismo trailblazer Monaci Delle Terre Nere , one of the region's smartest and most stylish country hotels. For more, see our pick of the best hotels in Sicily .

Best for stopandflop and families December temperature range 5061°F  Straddling two continents Turkeys enormous landmass...

Best for: stop-and-flop and families December temperature range: 50-61°F

Straddling two continents, Turkey’s enormous landmass is diverse enough to justify its nickname: the land of four seasons. For winter sun, the best part of the country to visit is, predictably, the south coast, particularly the area around Antalya. There’s a long stretch of fairly upmarket hotels to the west of the city, many of which are family-friendly entertainment retreats in their own right, with golf courses and adventure playgrounds beside the beach. On Turkey’s wilder southwest coast, there’s the pretty city of Bodrum and lovely Didyma with its astonishing ruined temple.

Where to stay: For an authentic low-season experience, check into one of the pansiyon guesthouses dotted across the city. Owners will enthusiastically share their recommendations for a city that dies down considerably compared to summer. For something more private, check into Kalkan's Villa Pairidaeza —where the sunsets need to be seen to be believed.

Seville Spain

Seville, Spain

Best for: Sun-soaked city exploration December temperature range: 46-63°F

Year-round direct flight routes and mild temperatures make Seville the perfect choice for travelers searching for some mid-winter vitamin D. Ditch the Michelin-man coats in favor of light jackets and utilise the sunny conditions for pictures of the magnificent Plaza de España, al fresco lunches along the winding alleyways that siphon off Plaza Pumarejo, and afternoon drinks under blue skies atop Hotel Doña María. Head to Seville between the last week of November and the end of December to pick up handmade crafts and sweet treats from the Christmas markets .

Where to stay: The hottest stay in the sunny city right now is Nobu Hotel and Restaurant Sevilla , having opened its doors in spring 2023. Set in the Plaza de San Francisco, the 25-room property is ideally located for experiencing all the city offers over a long weekend. Admire the cathedral and surrounding rooftops from the terrace, and sample fresh seafood sashimi dishes in the sleek signature restaurant.

view of Villefranche Sur Mer on Cote D Azur French Riviera in France

The French Riviera

Best for: Low-season glitz December temperature range: 43-61°F

Granted, you won’t be donning swimwear on Plage des Ponchettes or spotting A-listers in Nice 's beach clubs come December. However, with up to nine hours of sunshine a day, the winter months are ideal for exploring Nice and the surrounding French Riviera towns—without the crowds that flock here each summer. Check out the Christmas village at Place Massena in Nice, spot the pop-up nativity scenes around the city, or pop to glitzy Monaco for a lavish lunch and glide around the ice rink.

Where to stay: Anantara Plaza Nice is a luxe urban oasis centrally located for sightseeing and sunny lunches along the promenade. There’s a glamorous rooftop terrace for sea views and destination restaurants ideal for those occasional rainy nights.

A version of this article originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveller .

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9 Best Places to Live in Arizona, According to Local Real Estate Experts

If you’re considering a move to the Grand Canyon State, these vibrant communities should be at the top of your list.

With national parks, rich history, and a unique blend of cultures, Arizona draws many vacationers. However, it is also one of the fastest-growing states in the country , where 13 percent of the population was born abroad. 

So what makes the state so attractive to newcomers? While natural beauty and cultural diversity are certainly factors, the state's strong economy, ranked fifth best in the U.S., is a magnet for young professionals seeking well-paying jobs. Cities like Phoenix, Scottsdale, Chandler, and Tucson offer robust employment opportunities in many industries, such as technology, healthcare, education, and tourism. Of course, there's more to life than work, and small and big cities across Arizona offer abundant entertainment and outdoor recreation options that keep their residents active and happy.

Below, we’ve rounded up nine of the best places to live in Arizona.

Related: 10 Most Beautiful and Affordable Places to Live in the U.S.

"People used to think of Scottsdale as a place to retire, but that's simply not the case anymore," Colleen Olson, realtor at Arizona Best Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International and a Scottsdale resident of over 30 years, said. With vibrant arts and hospitality scenes , a robust job market (the unemployment rate was just 2.9 percent in April 2023), top-notch schools, plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities , and a major airport only a 20-minute drive from the city, Scottsdale is thriving.

According to Olson, the city's golf communities draw the most interest from buyers.

"Some of the most sought-after include Silverleaf, DC Ranch, Desert Mountain, and Mirabel. Gainey Ranch Golf Club is another community that people come here to buy within," she added. One of her top tips for house hunting is to take your time and visit a property both in the summer and the winter months. However, residences here do come with higher price tags — $764,073 is the median home value, according to Zillow, but Olson explained that roughly 30 percent of the available properties are currently priced over $2 million.

Arizona's capital and most populous city — with about 1.6 million people — checks all the marks of an excellent place to live, especially if you are in your 30s or 40s (the city's median age is 34.5 years) and are into golf and outdoor adventures. With over 200 golf courses spread out across the Valley of the Sun, 180 city parks, world-class sports teams and facilities, and some of the best museums in the country, Phoenix is a cosmopolitan city that attracts many young professionals seeking urban conveniences and relatively affordable real estate. Currently, the median home value here is $404,818, which is slightly down from last year. The market offers many options for potential homeowners — from newly built developments to older homes with plenty of character.

Amy Haight, a realtor with Arizona Best Real Estate, said working with a local broker is essential. "Do you want walkability? Do you need a variety of restaurants and entertainment within a short distance? How about public transportation or freeway access? What about the best schools?" she explained. "A local expert can really help you understand the lay of the land and get you exactly where you want to be with the amenities you desire."

Tucson is a nature enthusiast's haven, surrounded by five mountain ranges offering dramatic landscapes and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. And with over 50,000 college students living here (the city is home to the University of Arizona), there's definitely a young vibe, with many cultural and athletic opportunities for residents. The stable job market and the affordable real estate market (the median sale price is $367,300) are two factors that keep many of those young graduates in the city.

Unlike other large urban areas with hot real estate markets where properties go under contract in no time, buyers here have, on average, 38 days to choose a home. However, Nara Brown, an agent with Long Realty/Luxury Portfolio International, explained that the housing market is currently defined by low inventory, and she predicts that the situation will not change much in the next six months.

Related: 21 Beautiful Places to Visit in Arizona — From Stunning National Parks to an Underground Restaurant

Those who find Phoenix too big should consider moving to Chandler, a 30-minute drive southeast of Arizona's capital. The city offers plenty of urban amenities and good jobs, but as the home of about 280,000 residents, it has a more laid-back vibe. There's also plenty to do on your days off — 60 parks, a golf course, a performance venue, and many restaurants and shops certainly will keep you and your family busy exploring. 

Most buyers here prefer updated or new homes ready to move in. "Turnkey listings are selling extremely fast," Alanna Foudy, a realtor at Arizona Best Real Estate, said. "In general, the Ocotillo area of Chandler is very desirable because it's anchored by a beautiful golf course and it's very close to the Price Corridor tech hub. It's also an area marked by beautiful lakes, which run throughout the community."

If you are seeking luxury, resort-style amenities, Foudy recommended looking at homes in gated communities such as Stellar Airpark, Citrus Preserve, and Whitewing at Krueger.

This suburb of Phoenix in East Valley attracts many families thanks to its excellent school system, many parks, and a walkable downtown area, Heritage District, abuzz with new restaurants, boutiques, and bars. 

"It really is one of the best cities in the Valley! Many neighborhoods offer golf courses and lakeside living," Amy Frazier, an agent with Long Realty Old Town/Luxury Portfolio International, said, referring to Saguaro Lake. "Whether it be a new-construction home in Waterston or a quaint bungalow in Agritopia, there is something for everyone." 

Home prices in Gilbert have slightly decreased since last year, and the median home value is now $547,328, with more than 60 percent of listings selling below asking price. 

"The gated neighborhoods tend to offer larger lots and a more enclosed park-like setting, so they are highly desirable. These homes rarely go on the market, so having an agent that is networking and/or neighboring with active luxury agents in the area is critical," Kim Catalanotto, a realtor at Arizona Best Real Estate, added.

If real estate is all about location, then you really can't beat this city in East Valley. It borders Scottsdale and Phoenix, has access to four major freeways, and it’s a very short drive to Sky Harbor International Airport. 

There is, of course, more to the city that makes it one of the best places to live in Arizona — namely, its arts scene. The Tempe Center for the Arts opened in 2007 and stages many public events for free. And to get your Broadway show fix, head to Gammage Auditorium. Sports enthusiasts have Tempe Sports Complex at their disposal, a 60-acre athletic facility with softball and soccer fields and a skate park. 

Kristi Newman of Arizona Best Real Estate explained that families flock to South Tempe, drawn to the large homes in the area. "Northern Tempe is more popular among young professionals, singles, and those who like the activity of the university [Arizona State University]," she explained.

Flagstaff has something few cities in Arizona do — four seasons. Located in the mountains of Northern Arizona among the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world, Flagstaff is enveloped in stunning emerald-hued vistas that offer crisp breezes (average summer temperatures stay in the low 80s) and an endless list of outdoor activities. The city is also one of the top places for stargazing in the country and was designated the world's first International Dark Sky City in 2001.

"In the winter, you can enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and recreational snow parks. In the evening, sit in front of a fire and watch the quiet mountain snowfall," Kelly C. Walthour, an agent at Long Realty in The Pines/Luxury Portfolio International, said. However, the real estate market here is pretty competitive — properties stay on the market only nine days on average, and the median home value is $626,052.

The sun is always shining in Glendale. Located in Maricopa County next to Phoenix, Glendale is known for its sunny weather, idyllic neighborhoods with a focus on luxury homes, State Farm Stadium (which has hosted two Super Bowls), top-notch recreation, pet-friendly city policies, and antique vendors (the city prides itself as the Antique Capital of Arizona). The strong sense of community and diverse housing options have made it a top choice for families moving to the area. 

"The market is dynamic, and homes in Glendale tend to sell quickly, with an average time on the market of 36 days," Apryle Borst, a realtor at Arizona Best Real Estate, said, adding that buyers looking for luxury residences have plenty of choices here.

Paradise Valley

If luxury living, resort-style amenities (as well as plenty of actual five-star resorts), panoramic desert views, quality education, and proximity to big-town conveniences are at the top of your list, then Paradise Valley might be the best option for you. 

"The town boasts a tranquil and idyllic ambiance with its spacious, well-maintained estates and beautifully landscaped surroundings," Pete Torrez, a broker with Long Realty Old Town, said, adding that the town has implemented strict zoning regulations to preserve its natural landscape. 

"Paradise Valley offers several gated communities that cater to affluent buyers seeking exclusivity, security, and a luxurious lifestyle. Explore neighborhoods like Clearwater Hills, Judson, or Mountain Shadows Estates, among others, to find the right fit for your preferences," Torrez suggested.

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Read the original article on Travel & Leisure .

Jackson Vance/Travel + Leisure

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    When to go: November-March. Average winter temperature: 26°C. For year-round sunshine, spotless beaches and impeccable service a short hop away, Dubai is an obvious choice. The Palm, a manmade sweep of beach packed with superb hotels, each with its own immaculate patch of beach, is perfect for family holidays.

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    6. Hallstatt in Austria. The tiny lakeside village of Hallstatt in Austria is extra pretty in winter so you should visit to admire the sweet Alpine architecture and dramatic, snowy Salzburg Mountain.But don't rush away, fascinating World Heritage Hallstatt is also home to the world's oldest salt mines and has lots of charming places to stay, like Lakeview Apartments.

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    5. Bask in the sunshine in Andalucía, Spain. Some parts of Andalucía are further south than the African coast, so expect mild temperatures in winter. Accommodation is cheap and crowds are smaller at standout attractions like Granada's Alhambra and Seville's cathedral.

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    Dubrovnik, Croatia. Best for some sunny days and a cruise-free city. While showers can come, and temperatures only peak around 13°C, Dubrovnik is still one of the warmest places to visit in Europe in winter, and you've got all the other best places to visit in Croatia just a bus or boat away. However, warmth isn't the main reason to head ...

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