2023's Best Winter Travel Destinations for Every Kind of Vacationer
Winter evokes different visions for everyone. After all, in one hemisphere, this time of the year is all about hitting the slopes, then cozying up by the fire with snow gently falling outside. On the other half of the globe, the summer season provides opportunities for sun-drenched escapes. Thanks to these seasonal shifts—and the bonus of having a little added time off around the holidays—winter is an ideal time to plan a big getaway, whether you're looking to embrace the cold or escape it. Here, we explore our favorite winter destinations in 2023, just in time to plan your next trip.
What Makes a Great Winter Travel Destination?
The essence of a “best” winter destination lies in the authenticity of a place, along with the unique experiences it promises. From secluded snowy retreats to sun-soaked coastal getaways, this year, it's all about destinations that resonate with equal parts adventure and rejuvenation. Places that energize, while still allowing ample opportunities to kick back and recharge ahead of the new year.
So where are the best winter vacation spots for 2023? Let’s dive into our top picks.
Banff, Alberta, Canada
In the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff transforms into a winter wonderland offering some of the finest skiing opportunities in the world. The snow-draped landscape is a haven for adventurers and those who find solace in the serenity of mountain vistas.
Must-Do: Take a ride up the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain for a panoramic look at the surrounding peaks, and dine at the summit restaurant for a meal with a breathtaking view.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany
This charming Alpine town boasts fairy-tale scenery and a rich cultural history, making it a perfect winter-weather European getaway. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a gateway to Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak, offering exhilarating winter sports.
Must-Try: Warm up with a traditional Bavarian meal of hearty "Schweinshaxe" (pork knuckle) after a long day on the slopes.
Queenstown, New Zealand
For those chasing eternal summer in the winter months, Queenstown is in full bloom with its stunning lakeside scenery and adrenaline-pumping activities around every turn. It's the Southern Hemisphere's answer to pulse-pounding winter escapism.
Must-See: Take a jet boat ride on the Shotover River for an exhilarating experience, or for the truly brave, try bungee jumping from the 141-foot Kawarau Bridge.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
St. Moritz is synonymous with glitzy, glamorous winter holidays, known for its world-class resorts and pristine ski runs. Beyond skiing, though, it also offers a slice of luxury with a number of high-end shops and elegant spas.
Must-Visit: Experience the thrill of the White Turf St. Moritz, an exclusive horse-racing event space set atop a frozen lake, complete with gourmet food and champagne toasts.
Kauai, Hawaii, USA
For an exotic island escape without the passport, Kauai's natural beauty is unmatched, from its dramatic cliffs to its emerald valleys. Indeed, the "Garden Isle" presents a tropical paradise with lush landscapes and warm temperatures ideal for a warm-weather getaway in the winter.
Must-Explore: Hike to the breathtaking vistas of the Napali Coast, accessible via the Kalalau Trail and offering both day hike and backpacking options.
Aspen, Colorado, USA
Aspen's allure lies not just in its world-renowned slopes, but also in its commitment to the arts and its vibrant après-ski scene. More than a picture-perfect ski resort, Aspen is a world class cultural hub wrapped in a ski town's cozy charm, making it an unparalleled winter getaway.
Must-Sip: Step into the Hotel Jerome's famous J-Bar, a favorite haunt of author Hunter S. Thompson, and enjoy a cocktail and an afternoon of celebrity spotting.
Iceland's capital is a quirky, cozy city that serves as the perfect base for exploring the country's otherworldly winter landscapes. From geothermal spas to dancing northern lights, Reykjavik is a gateway to unique earthly attractions.
Must-Do: Immerse yourself in the warm, mineral-rich waters of the Blue Lagoon, or for a luxury variation, spend a night at the neighboring and award-winning Retreat at the Blue Lagoon.
This archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean is a slice of heaven for beach lovers even in the winter months, when it hovers in the balmy 80s Fahrenheit most days. Seychelles is all about crystalline waters, white-sand beaches, and exotic wildlife, making it a destination that’s well worth the long flight.
Must-Visit: The Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to the unique Coco de Mer palm.
Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Niseko is famed for its powdery snow, making it a hotspot for skiers and snowboarders—and the Niseko United ski group accepts most Ikon passes. The area is also known for its onsens (hot springs), which offer a serene retreat after a day (or several) spent on the slopes.
Must-Taste: Sample the local Hokkaido cuisine with a warming bowl of Ramen in one of Niseko's many traditional eateries.
Packing for the Most Unforgettable Winter Vacation
When it comes to packing for a winter vacation, the key is to prepare for the elements while keeping versatility in mind.
Your Packing Essentials:
- Sunscreen: Regardless of your destination's temperature, the winter sun can be just as intense as it is in the summer months, especially when reflecting off snow. Panama Jack Broad Spectrum sunscreen is a must-have to protect your skin.
- Hats: A hat isn't just a stylish accessory—it's also a functional one. With packable hats perfect for every destination, we've got you covered.
- Sunglasses: Protect your eyes and up your style quotient with a pair of Panama Jack sunglasses. (Not sure which frames are best for your face? Be sure to check out our guide to the best sunglasses for every face shape.)
- Hoodies: Finally, for those cooler evenings or just for lounging around the lodge after a day out, a cozy hoodie can afford all the comforts of home while you’re wintering away.
Whether you're braving the crisp mountain air or soaking up the tropical sun, these items will ensure you're prepared for any adventure.