Whether you want to escape—or embrace—the cold, it’s time to start mapping out your winter adventure. From Cape Town to Swedish Lapland, here are our picks for this year’s top warm-and cold-weather winter getaways.
Cape Town, South Africa
Why we love it: From December to March, South Africa’s safari circuit takes a back seat to Africa’s most cosmopolitan city, thanks to prime weather conditions. During the southern hemisphere’s summer, Cape Town’s restaurant, hotel, and nightlife scenes—which rival major European and American metropolises—are at their best. Plus, it’s growing season in South Africa’s winelands, from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek to Swartland, all of which are just a short road trip away. If you’re still craving wildlife, try a marine safari to see the great white sharks or blue sharks off the coast; hang out with beach-bumming penguins; or explore the lush environs of the Cape Peninsula.
Why we love it: Icebergs, mountains, fjords, granite spires, temperate rainforest, pumas, and guanacos, llamas’ wild cousins. Welcome to summer in Chilean Patagonia, at the southernmost tip of South America, where the natural scenery is some of Earth’s finest. While you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad angle, the crown jewels of all Patagonia are a trio of high-rising peaks, the Cuernos del Paine or “Horns of Paine,” located in the heart of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. Luxury, adventure lodge Explora Patagonia faces the snow-capped mountains and immerses travelers in the region’s best with daily excursions, including the rigorous ascent to the base of the famed torres del paine. The all-inclusive lodge requires a minimum of four nights to allow ample time to experience some of the more than 50 different guided hikes and horseback ride excursions, which cover all levels of difficulty.
Why we love it: Want an exotic tropical location that’s Zika-free? Take note: Unlike many of the Caribbean and Pacific islands that haven’t been so lucky, as of this writing, French Polynesia’s 118 islands have still evaded the Zika epidemic. Here, you can pick from five diverse archipelagos that cover a surface area larger than the European continent, or keep things simple by heading to Bora Bora, the treasured island of Tahitian archipelago. Check in to one of the island’s picturesque overwater bungalows, like those at the St. Regis Bora Bora. And since it’s technically rainy season during winter (don’t worry, there’s still plenty of sunshine), prices are far lower than during bank-breaking high season. For an even moreeconomical trip to French Polynesia, head to Bora Bora’s sister island, Moorea, which has its own crystal clear lagoons, mountains, and, yes, overwater bungalows.
Why we love it: Each winter, the original ICEHOTEL in remote Jukkasjärvi, Sweden is reborn as artists from around the globe use nearly 10 million gallons of snow and ice to create frozen guest rooms. New, surreal “art suites” are designed and etched into ice, and an entire high-design hotel is erected in frozen form (think: a lobby with stylish ice couches and chandeliers made of 1,000 hand- cut ice crystals). The temperature is about 23°F inside the hotel and even colder outside, where you might see the Northern Lights on a clear night, so expect to don a snowsuit most the time. When you can’t handle the chill, sneak over to the heated complex next door (that’s also where the bathrooms are, if you were wondering). And if you just want to see what the buzz is about without sleeping in the deep freeze, you can stay in a toasty luxury suite at the new, permanent ICEHOTEL 365, which runs on solar power and is soon opening for the 2016-2017 season.
Why we love it: Venice is one of Europe’s most iconic destinations, thanks to its more than 100 bridge-linked isles covered with a combination of Renaissance-era palazzos, Byzantine domes, and Gothic and Baroque buildings. During high season, the crowds in the capital of Italy’s Veneto region are borderline unbearable; so winter is definitely the time to enjoy one of the world’s most romantic cities. Temperatures are mild, the canals calm, and locals finally come out of hiding to enjoy their city’s restaurants and clandestine lounges, and to embrace the art and architecture that make Venice so special. For the ultimate Venice experience, consider splurging on a canal-facing suite at the Aman Venice, a 24-suite hotel conversion of the 16th-century Palazzo Papadopoli along Venice’s Grand Canal.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Why we love it: This picture-perfect valley and its resort town, Jackson, are what winter dreams are made of. Here, you can find excellent downhill skiing (with easy access) and plenty of après-ski fun—try your hand at other pursuits like snowshoeing, ice-skating, dogsledding, sleigh rides, or even heli-skiing. Looking for a break from the slopes? Venture outside of the town on a winter wildlife safari through Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, to spot elk and buffalo trekking through the snow-covered terrain. Retreat to the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole in Teton Village; or, if traveling with the entire family, consider a stay in one of the rustic condos or villas at the 1000-acre Spring Creek Ranch, whose higher elevation lends to some of the most incredible views of the Teton Mountain Range.