The 20 best winter wonderland holidays
1. Aurora addicts in Norway
The Nation family have spent their past seven summers hunting the aurora borealis around Scandinavia. Now experts, the Nations – including a 12-year-old girl named Aurora – help fellow visitors to pursue the northern lights each evening from their base in northern Norway. Days can be spent touring reindeer farms and trying out the Andoya Space Centre’s spaceship simulator.
Details Four-night trips cost from 1,615pp, including flights to Narvik, transfers, most meals and activities (01670 785077, theaurorazone.com)
2. See-through igloo in Finland
Imagine the scene: you’re lying down on a reclining bed in a cosy thermal-glass igloo, staring up at starry skies and, assuming those capricious meteorological gods play ball, the northern lights. Not bad, eh? The igloos in question are in Kakslauttanen, a quiet resort in northern Finland. All around is snow-covered forest, dotted with log cabins in which you’ll spend a night either side, so beautiful, many people end up Choosing to invest in a cabin for their own garden! Each has its own fire and sauna; ideal for warming up after your reindeer sleigh ride or snowmobile safari.
DetailsThree nights’ half-board, with one night in a glass igloo, costs from 1,195pp, including flights to Ivalo, transfers and activities (01793 752532, arcticdirect.co.uk)
3. Live like a Laplander in Finland
Do your best Sami impression on Artisan Travel’s trip to Finnish Lapland. During this trip, visitors will learn to identify animal tracks in the snow, make fires, ice-fish for arctic trout and feed herders’ reindeer. Time with mitten-makers and dinner in a kota (wooden tepee) are also included, as are husky trips, snowshoe walks and – after the sun sets – vigils for those mystical lights.
Details Five nights’ full-board costs from 1,665pp, including flights to Ivalo, transfers and activities (01670 785085, artisantravel.co.uk)
4. Into Iceland’s wilderness
Modified superjeeps are the chief mode of transport on a new aurora-seeking small-group tour of Iceland from Discover the World. After ticking off the Golden Circle’s enormous geysers and waterfalls, and seeing incredible sights like the elephant rock iceland, head off-road towards the glacier-filled southern highlands. Once there, hike to the volcanoes Magni and Modi, inspect the impact of Eyjafjallajokull’s 2010 eruption and sleep in volcano huts whose remote location increases the chance of aurora sightings.
Details Four nights’ full board costs from 1,457pp, including flights to Keflavik, transfers and activities (01737 214291, discover-the-world.co.uk)
5. Aurora Festival in Sweden
To be a real borealis geek, attend the brand-new Aurora Festival (theaurorafestival.com) in Bjorkliden, at the top of Sweden, from January 15-17. The bill includes experiments to re-create the lights indoors, evening hunts for the real thing, photography demos and talks by space physicists and specialist guides. All profits go to the Swedish Mountain Rescue team.
Details Three nights’ full board costs from 899pp, including transfers but not flights (0800 5668901, offthemaptravel.co.uk). Festival tickets are free, although 35 donations are recommended. Return flights to Kiruna cost from 260pp (flysas.com)
6. Sleep on Finnish Ice
Up in northern Finland, the mobile Aurora Cabin can be attached to a snowmobile and piloted out on to the ice of frozen, vast Lake Inari for overnight stays. Far from any light pollution, guests can relax in an adjacent hot tub and sauna before bedding down for the night and (hopefully) watching the borealis through a transparent roof. Back on land, arctic activities, from dog-sledding to sleigh rides, are available.
Details Three nights’ full board, including a night in the Aurora Cabin, costs from 845pp including flights to Ivalo and transfers (0845 5195242, magneticnorthtravel.com)
7. Adrenaline in Iceland
Thrill-seekers should try Black Tomato’s six-night Iceland activity adventure, which packs in quad-biking or snowmobiling around thermal pools and geysers, snorkelling between tectonic plates and trips into the giant Vatnajokull glacier’s blue-hued ice caves. Guests can also go ice climbing or delve into a volcanic crater. Rather more sedate are dips in the famous Blue Lagoon.
Details Six nights’ B&B costs from 3,325pp, including flights to Keflavik, transfers, most lunches and activities (020 7426 9888, blacktomato.com)
8. Vampires and brandy in Romania
Exodus has expanded its snowshoeing range into Romania with a new Transylvania tramp. Also including some hiking, the small-group tour intersperses powder-covered gorges, forests and the Carpathian Mountains with stops at a brown bear sanctuary, a village called Vulcan, a bat cave (not that kind) and Bran Castle, the fictional home of Count Dracula. If you can’t snowshoe in a straight line, it’ll probably be because you’ve drunk too much hot tuica (plum brandy) the night before.
Details Seven nights’ B&B, leaving on February 27, costs 999pp, including flights to Bucharest, transport, 12 other meals and snowshoe hire (0845 2877533, exodus.co.uk)
9. Husky expedition across Norway
The 8,500 square miles of Norway’s Finnmark mountain plateau host the world’s northernmost husky race, so it makes an appropriate locale for sled-based adventures. Journeying across this vast white wilderness, Simply Sweden’s immersive Husky Expedition has guests harnessing, mushing and feeding their own husky team and bedding down in simple mountain cabins. Rides are mostly silent, contemplative affairs, providing ample time to admire that milky arctic light.
Details Four nights’ B&B, leaving January 12 or 18, costs from 1,755pp, including flights to Alta, transfers, accommodation and four other meals (01427 700115, simplysweden.co.uk)
10. Polar bears in Svalbard
Although it’s filming in Wales, a key location for the BBC’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy will be Norway’s remote kingdom of Svalbard. Visit the real Svalbard this winter and look for polar bears, which, while rare, still outnumber humans. The northern lights appear much more frequently during the dark winter; come March, a golden glow appears on the horizon, the sky turns blue and the time of the midnight sun begins.
Details Four nights’ B&B costs from 1,045pp, including flights to Oslo but not transfers (020 8568 4499, sunvil.co.uk)
11. Ice-skating and gingerbread in Stockholm
A perfect winter day in Stockholm begins by adopting the fikatradition: good coffee and apple cake laced with cinnamon. Next, head to Kungstradgarden Park for ice-skating on the lake. Wolf down some spice-and-pistachio-baked reindeer for lunch at Bakfickan (operakallaren.se), then amble around cobbled Gamla Stan, admiring snow-capped rooftops and colourful medieval buildings. Back at the Ett Hem hotel, warm up with some home-baked gingerbread and hot cider in front of a log fire.
Details Two nights’ B&B at Ett Hem costs from 313pp (00 46 8 200590, etthem.se). Return flights cost from 26pp (ryanair.com)
12. Snowy St Petersburg
There are numerous reasons to brave St Petersburg’s chilly winter climes. Most handily, the Russian city’s main attractions – the Hermitage Museum, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood and St Isaac’s Cathedral – are far less crowded. Near by, its beautiful palaces and frozen-over canals look especially good when dusted in white. Romantic, horse-pulled troika rides are available in snowy Pavlovsk Park. The pond on Yelagin Island becomes an ice rink flanked by fairy lights. And the city’s cultural calendar is at its busiest, including regular Tchaikovsky ballets at the Mariinsky Theatre. Add on a trip to Moscow, just a 4.5 hour train ride away, for a snow-dusted view of St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, a visit to the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum and a look at the city’s spectacular Underground, complete with chandeliers.
Details Three nights’ B&B at the four-star superior, city-central Angleterre costs from 849pp, including flights and private transfers (020 7593 1899, kirkerholidays.com)
13. Winter waltz around Prague
Winter in Prague is all snow-topped spires, cobblestone streets and gas lamps. Equally fairytale-like are the lack of tourists, despite the Czech capital being at its most picturesque. Take advantage by visiting Prague Castle, then choose from more than a dozen hot chocolates in Choco Café. Later, join socialites at one of the city’s famous masked balls – Prague is the birthplace of the waltz, after all. Dancing is also guaranteed at the annual Carnevale Praha (January 29 to February 9), as are costumed parades, madcap races and acrobats.
Details Three nights’ B&B at the four-star Three Storks costs from 395pp, including flights and private transfers (020 3642 0861, coxandkings.co.uk)
14. Hygge-hunting in Copenhagen
The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced “hooga”) makes winter wonderful in the country’s capital, Copenhagen. Tricky to encapsulate, the word loosely relates to all things soothing: candlelight, groups of friends, good food, hot chocolate, bakeries and blankets qualify. To best experience hygge, sit in cosy cafés specialising in the art – Kompa’ 9, Bevars and The Living Room are exponents – as snow flurries outside. You could also time your visit during the Vinterjazz festival (jazz.dk), with shows in clubs across the city from February 5-28.
Details Two nights’ B&B at the Kong Arthur, which has a spa, fireside lounge and daily “Cozy Hours”, when guests mingle over free wine, costs from 226pp (00 45 33 45 77 00, arthurhotels.dk). Return flights cost from 17pp (ryanair.com)
15. Igloo building in Andorra
Do your children know how to build an igloo? If not, sign up immediately to a Pyrenean jaunt with the Family Adventure Company. Available during the Christmas and Easter holidays, it combines igloo-building lessons in the Andorran peaks with dog-sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, plus some downtime in local thermal baths.
Details Seven nights’ half-board, leaving on December 19 and March 26, costs from 1,029pp (adults) or 926pp (children over five), including flights to Toulouse, transport and activities (0808 2507442, familyadventurecompany.co.uk)
16. Stylish Swedish treehouses
Suspended 20ft in the air amid a pine forest, the themed rooms at Treehotel in Sweden each sleeps four – perfect for families. Ever wondered what an alien spaceship was like inside? Then try The UFO. Hankering towards the avian life? Opt for The Bird’s Nest, camouflaged by branches. Back on the ground, take Segway tours, throw snowballs or ride reindeer sleighs. Spend evenings – in between checking for the northern lights – in a heated wilderness tent, perching on reindeer skins and gobbling down torch-lit dinners.
Details Four nights’ half-board costs from 1,815pp, including flights to Lulea and private transfers (020 3432 5821, scottdunn.com)
17. Slovakian sledging
A succession of curious pursuits litter Explore’s winter family adventure to Slovakia. Drive truck-sized snowcats, ride in dinghy-like snow tubes, try “funtools” – essentially bikes on skis – and head off on an avalanche hunt, seeking out objects under piles of powder. Positively mundane by comparison, night-time sledging and ice-skating also feature. The tour finishes in Poland, with time in pretty Krakow.
DetailsSeven nights’ B&B, leaving on February 13 and March 26, costs from 1,061pp (adult) or 993pp (child aged seven and above), including flights to Krakow, transport, three other meals and activities (01252 883569, explore.co.uk)
18. Swiss train trio
The Swiss Alps are home to three of earth’s most spectacular train rides. Take them all on one trip, beginning with the Jungfrau Express and its viewpoint-littered trip to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station. Next, board the narrow-gauge Glacier Express, which chugs along the Rhône Valley past hamlets, perfectly green meadows and giant ice blocks en route to the 6,670ft Oberalp Pass. Last is the Bernina Express, whose spiralling route takes in viaducts, ravines and rushing streams.
Details Seven nights’ B&B costs from 1,449pp, including Eurostar and TGV travel to Montreux and first-class rail tickets throughout (01347 811810, planetrail.co.uk)
19. Iceberg-watching in Greenland
Few activities are as peaceful as watching Greenland’s mighty, blue-coloured icebergs. Based in Ilulissat, Greenland’s third-largest city – a relative term here. Magnetic North Travel’s unusual trip features a short snowshoe hike out to the Unesco-protected Jakobshavn glacier. Forty miles long, this icy behemoth creates 10 per cent of Greenland’s icebergs, relentlessly calving them out into Disko Bay.
Details Three nights’ B&B costs from 1,890pp, including flights to Ilulissat, transfers and activities (0845 5195242, magneticnorthtravel.com). Iceland combinations are possible
20. Northern Lights retreat
Blending mindfulness with mind-blowing natural phenomena in Finnish Lapland, “Northern Lights for the Soul” is reckoned to be the first retreat devoted to the aurora. Its days feature restorative dips in hot tubs and ice holes, a healthy diet using local produce, expert-guided yoga classes and solemn meditation sessions. Just as calm-inducing will be the green, red, blue and purple streaks likely to fill each night’s sky.
Details Four nights’ full board, leaving on March 7, costs from 1,399pp, including transfers, activities and sessions (0800 5668901, offthemaptravel.co.uk). Return flights to Tromso are from 163pp (norwegian.com)