Europe in the winter is a traveler’s delight. With fewer crowds to battle than summer and lower rates on accommodations and activities, winter can be the prime time to take your honeymoon or big getaway of the year. From snuggling up at a cozy pub in the Cotswolds of England to sleeping in a glass igloo with the Northern Lights as your nightlight in Finland, Europe lends winter lovers some of the most unique getaways. Strap on your down jackets and mittens and head for these luxury winter destinations in Europe.
Located in a mountain valley right by the shores of Årejön Lake in northern Sweden, Åre presents the country’s most popular skiing resort. As Northern Europe’s largest and most advanced and diverse alpine sports resort, the town offers winter lovers a fine getaway in the cooler months. You can partake in a wide range of activities from snowmobile safaris to dogsledding and ice fall climbing. Åre provides not just great winter sports but also a rich après ski scene. Most winter fans can’t pass up the chance to ride up Kabinbanan, a gondola that heads to the top of Mt Åreskutan. The seven-minute ride heads to a viewing platform at 1,274 meters, lending commanding views of snow covered peaks.
Where To Stay
Åre offers one of those rare accommodations experiences at Igloo Åre. The cool and unique accommodations sit up on the mountain edge. Constructed every year in November and December, the igloos provide breathtaking views of the entire valley. You are warmed up with a hot drink upon arrival, dinner, and a hot spa bath before cozying up in your sleeping bag to spend the night in an igloo.
The Cotswolds, England
Most travelers know about the Cotswolds’ magic in the spring and summer when the gardens come alive with flowers, but many miss out on the chance to visit in the winter. Considered an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds run through five counties in west central England including Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. The area represents the quintessential rural England picture with plenty of quaint historic towns, low rolling hills and grand manor homes. In the winter, you can take advantage of fewer crowds walking the many trails in the area along with the many traditional pubs to cozy up at in front of a log fire. Other winter activities include visiting historic houses like Berkeley Castle and Sudeley Castle, resting up in a country inn or even going husky sledding with the company Artic Quest.
Where To Stay
With a nip in the air, the Cotswolds lend the perfect area to toss on a cozy sweater and curl up by a fire at a manor home. Foxhill Manor is just one of those venues, offering 10 rooms for overnight stays. Located near the famous Broadway Tower, the 1909 estate sits on more than 400 idyllic acres. Suites feature king size beds with modern amenities. The Arts and Crafts country home also boasts more than 3,000 miles of walking trails. You can roam on Foxhill’s own nature trails past deer, badgers and foxes. Other activities at Foxhill Manor include archery and clay shooting.
Composed of two communities that were joined together for the 1936 Winter Olympics, Garmisch-Partenkirchen lends a major Alpine resort for your European winter getaways. With pastel frescoes decorating building facades, the dual towns provide that classic German mountain feel. At the center of Werdenfelser Land, most winter lovers come to the Bavarian Alps of southern Germany for one reason and one reason only, to ski. Garmisch-Partenkirchen boasts more than 60 kilometers of downhill ski runs, 40 ski lifts and cable cars, and 180 kilometers of cross-country ski trails. You can even ascend the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, via cog railway and cable car. The area lends some of the best skiing in Germany, making it prime terrain for a European winter destination. Garmisch-Partenkirchen also makes for a good base for exploring Ludwig II’s grand castles like Schloss Linderhof and Neuschwanstein.
Where to Stay
In the town center of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Staudacherhof Hotel is a luxury spa hotel designed in a Bavarian style. One of Garmisch’s top luxury accommodations, the property offers Alpine-style rooms, suites and studios for your winter getaway in Germany. Perched at the foot of the Zugspitze Mountain, the Bavarian lifestyle hotel also boasts spa facilities like a sauna area, steam room and indoor pool, perfect for relaxing after a long day hitting the nearby slopes. What makes Staudacherhof Hotel truly unique is that you always have impressive views of the Zugspitze during your stay.
If you want to truly impressive your travel braggart friends, tell them you are heading to Stepantsminda, Georgia for the winter. The charming town on the fringes of Europe and Asia is also commonly referred to as Kazbegi. The valley town is known for its famous hilltop Tsminda Sameba church and towering Mt. Kazbek. Stepantsminda makes for a great launching point to Kazbegi National Park. Set on the northern slopes of the Caucasus range, the park covers 135 square miles of glacier, proving ideal for ice climbing and mountaineering. A visit to the national park also lends the opportunity to bask at the third highest mountain Georgia, Kazbegi Mountain. Georgia as a whole tends to surprise winter lovers with its wealth of ski resorts. The country is also rich in extensive cross-country skiing trails.
Where To Stay
Set in the stunning Caucasus Mountains, Rooms Hotel Kazbegi provides a luxury escape while in Stepantsminda. Boasting all the comforts and luxuries you might need, the boutique hotel offers that welcoming feel of a mountain lodge. Rooms come with amazing mountain views, satellite TV and Wi-Fi. Rooms Hotel Kazbegi also includes an on-site buffet, restaurant, casino, lounge and library. You can relax tired muscles at the heated indoor pool and sauna.
Finnish Lapland, Finland
Located above the Arctic Circle, Finnish Lapland identifies as Finland’s northernmost, largest and most sparsely populated province. Often referred to as the last wilderness in Europe, the area is still a land of bears, wolves, eagles and reindeer. While wild and untouched, Finnish Lapland is also a great winter wonderland. Usually boasting a meter or more of snow on its ski slopes, Lapland lends plenty of ski resorts offering it all from kids runs to black slopes and backcountry exploring. If you need more reasons to visit besides all the snow from November to May, you can also check off that bucket list item of seeing the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis.
Where To Stay
When it comes to unusual winter accommodations in Finnish Lapland, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort takes the cake. Set 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle and with the nearest international airport being Ivalo, the resort provides accommodations of the igloo variety. You can stay in glass igloos for unparalleled views of the Northern Lights or rest up in the less exposed log chalets on the property. Kakslauttanean Arctic Resort also boasts snow igloos for an unforgettable Finnish Lapland overnight stay. In addition to igloos with views to the heavens, Kakslauttanen also loads up your schedule in the winter. You can go on husky, reindeer and snowmobile safaris, ride around in a snow tank, take part in a sleigh ride, ski or even go ice fishing.
Mount Etna, Sicily
When most travelers conjure up images of Sicily, a warm sun, sea and bougainvillea-draped towns might come to mind. However, in the winter, Sicily offers one of the most unique experiences you can have in the winter in Europe. Looming over the coast of Eastern Sicily is Europe’s largest active volcano, Mount Etna. Aside from being an area of great natural beauty and near several stunning baroque towns and villages, Mount Etna also makes it possible to ski on its volcanic slopes come winter time. You can ski on a volcano with views of the sea at two main ski resorts on Mount Etna, Piano Provenzana and Nicolosi. Both offer alpine and downhill slopes. You can enjoy smooth trails thanks to the volcano’s settled lava and more affordable ski pass pricing compared to northern Italy. November showers Mount Etna with snow from late November until April.
Where To Stay
Settled right on the slopes of Mount Etna, Monaci delle Terre Nere provides the charm and luxury you would expect of a 19th-century Italian estate. With no TVs or phones in guest rooms, you can truly unplug on your winter getaway. An organic farm for two decades, many of the 19 rooms on site have private terraces with outdoor hot tubs. The country boutique hotel sits right near Mount Etna so you can ski during the day and unwind in its modern art draped spaces at the end of the day.
Have a favorite winter getaway in Europe you would add to the list? Share your unique find with us in the comments below.