Winter Wonderlands Across The World

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

Far too many people associate winter with miserable weather and days spent in bed with the flu, but the winter season is one of the most poetic and one of the prettiest — even though it often gets overlooked. So forget about skiing as the only way to embrace the snow, and seek out these enchanting wintery destinations for that once a year wardrobe of deep blue lakes, mountains and fairytale castles all covered in beautiful white snow.

Lapland, Finland

With its intensely romantic sub-arctic landscapes, summer’s white nights and winter’s Northern Lights, Lapland’s vast wintery wilderness is perhaps the most enchanting of all these snow-capped destinations. Rovaniemi — the capital of Lapland and the “official home town of Santa Claus”… — enjoys somewhere in the region of six months of snow a year and offers a perfect union of seasonal tranquillity, astounding beauty and just a hint of winter playfulness. Head north from Rovaniemi to hike the glorious fells, wide open and covered in deep powdery snow that reflects the dancing pinks and greens of the Aurora Borealis, and watch as packs of Siberian Huskies pull sleds deep into the night. Hike across the Arctic Circle, go snowmobiling or reindeer sledging and sleep under the stars in Saariselkä’s Kakslauttanen Glass Igloo Resort — custom-built to watch the Aurora.

Credit: Vincent Guth

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled is breathtaking all year round. But drop the mercury to freezing, cover the mountains, the treetops and the church on the pupil-like island in the lake in snow, and it becomes one of the most captivating, most deliriously pretty places in the world. A real-life fairytale to get lost in. The island and the church are surrounded by emerald coloured waters that have frozen on occasion, but it’s so much more beautiful when they don’t. The Julian Alps that surround the lake are white, covered in trees weighed down by crowns of thick frozen snow, and the terracotta roof of Bled Castle jutting from the mountainside becomes one with the scenery with its perfectly white winter robes, and provides a perfect spot from which to watch the water of the lake as it reflects the entire scene like the retelling of a winter fable.
Lake Bled

Credit: Neven Krcmarek

Blue Pond, Hokkaido, Japan

Hokkaido Island is Japan’s showpiece for natural beauty, with its national parks, and its twenty volcanoes and five lakes, each becoming even more breathtaking when the snow falls. But the star attraction is the man-made (to stop damage from mudflows from Mt. Tokachi) Blue Pond, whose bare trees poke up like skeletal arms from the surreal waters that change colour depending on the weather — from deep cobalt blues in the summer to faded turquoises in the winter and a glowing azure most evenings. The Blue Pond was famously used as an OSX Mountain Lion screensaver and is slowly turning into something of a spiritual destination, but the water’s colour that draws all the attention is caused by nothing more magical than aluminium hydroxide, a naturally occurring mineral whose particles reflect shorter-wavelength blue light.
Blue Pond

Credit: Jarret Kow

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

Straight from the imaginations of the Brothers Grimm, Neuschwanstein Castle feels lost somewhere between an enchanted fairytale castle and the backdrop of a Hammer Horror movie (at night from afar the Romanesque exteriors transition into a startlingly attractive gothic silhouette that would feel more than at home in any Poe novel). And in the winter the effect is doubled. The mountains, covered in trees and snow surge across the landscape down into the Alpsee lake, and back up to the gate of the castle that’s met by a winding road on one side and the glorious turrets of the castle on the other. Everyone who sees the castle falls in love — including Walt Disney who modelled Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle on Neuschwanstein.

Credit: Nico Benedickt

Crater Lake, Oregon

The vivid blue ink drop lake in south-central Oregon is the stuff of legend. In fact, the collapse of the Mount Mazama volcano is detailed in the history of the Klamath tribe of Native Americans — it tells the story of a great battle between the sky god Skell and the God of the underworld Llao that eventually led to the collapse of the volcano and the formation of the otherworldly Crater Lake. So when I say that Crater Lake is the stuff of legend, it really is. One can feel it in the stunning vistas of fir and pine forests, in the jagged peaks of the mountains that descend into the cobalt blue waters of the deepest lake in the USA, as it mirrors the landscape so perfectly. There are thousands of years of history here, buried beneath layers of volcanic sediment and in the wintertime, thick carpets of whitest snow.
Crater Lake

Credit: Vlad Shapochnikov

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