As crisp, colourful leaves tumble into a light dusting of floury snow, the world seems to transform before our eyes. The changing of seasons always brings me back to where I was last year, and makes me wonder where I’ll be spending next season. Although I still have so much to see, these are my top five picks for a winter getaway.
1. German Christmas Markets
Easily one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in Europe, the cluster of Weihnactsmarkts strewn around Germany’s smooth white winter open in mid-November and welcome tourists and locals alike until early January. Like something straight out of a fairy-tale, the Christmas markets sweep you up into an 800 year-old unbelievable backdrop, where a maze of wooden stalls offers easily-strolling xmas shoppers intricate crafts, homemade liquors, and tasty treats beneath a stream of live caroling and mistletoe. Grab a pipping hot mug of Gluhwein and a bratwurst smothered in sauerkraut to ingest while you admire the displays and snag a few samples. To get the most out of your experience, stick to the markets in the smaller cities and go with a local. If that’s impossible, Nurnberg has the world’s largest Christkindlesmarkt and is sure to grant an unforgettable experience.
2. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Nothing says “Canadian” like a mid-winter escape to a warm destination. Puerto Vallarta, my favourite city in Mexico, enjoys a mild climate year-round, with October – January temperatures dipping to 23 degrees Celsius (73 Fahrenheit). Despite my experience last year being soaked in constant rain, Puerto Vallarta usually receives at least 322 days of sunshine a year – enough to get a holiday tan that’ll make your co-workers at least a little jealous.
My advice – if you’re going to do the resort thing, opt out of all-inclusive. This will force you to get out of your relaxing resort and experience the vibrant Mexican culture first-hand – and try some spicy fish tacos while you’re at it!
3. Alps d’Huez, France
Although this incredible ski resort is still associated with the trauma of breaking my back, it only holds good memories for me. The snowed-in village up the hill from Grenoble is full of raging nightclubs, celebrity appearances, and (much to the detest of the French) English-speaking skiers. Nicknamed ‘i’le du soleil’ or the island of sun, this stunning mountain range receives a minimum of 300 days of sunshine a year, which I can attest to. During my time working at the French restaurant Rendez-Vous, I was snowboarding in a t-shirt and still sweating. Unfortunately, a lot of sunshine means a lack of snow, and the conditions were nothing like the powdery foam I was used to at home. The slopes are compact and icy, which was a great factor in my epic fall and broken bones. If you’re going to risk the gondola to take in the gorgeous view across the Alps, my best advice is to simply be careful.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
One of my favourite European cities anytime of the year, Copenhagen has a special place in my heart as I spent last Christmas with my Danish cousins celebrating in the countryside. Attending a church service completely in Danish, eating hoards of fresh seafood, and dancing around the Christmas tree whilst singing carols (again, completely in Danish) were only a few of the traditions I was lucky to experience. Outside our cozy community, iconic Nyhavn was much less crowded than usual, though still sprinkled with the most fashionable (and attractive) young adults. Instead of licking soft ice (as in the summer), small stalls were selling Glogg, a type of hot wine, to sip along the wet pier. Tivoli is especially stunning during the holidays; lit-up and buzzing with a crisp air of excitement. If you get the chance, check out Christiania, a small hippy community claiming to be its own country, where pictures and running are illegal, and pretty much everything else isn’t.
5. Power King, Canada
PK is a hidden gem for avid skiers and snowboarders. Located in the True North (northern BC) PK is perfectly situated to get the most snowfall anywhere in the world at least once a year. Combine this with little traffic due to the absence of nearby cities and the remote northern location, Powder King is a true powder heaven for those who dream of coasting across deep, untouched snow. Lift Tickets are only $55 a day, nearly half of the price to ski overcrowded Whistler. Powder King is too small to support night skiing, but daily buses run from Grande Prairie, Alberta leaving around 6am and returning by 5pm. After snowboarding throughout Europe and the Rockies, PK is easily the best and most affordable place to strap in to your board and ride.
No matter where this winter takes you, remember to absorb and appreciate this wonderful world we are blessed to explore! Happy travels 🙂