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The Ultimate Winter Bucket List: 23 Incredible Places to Experience a Magical Winter Wonderland

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We're typically trying to escape the cold, but the truth is that there's something seriously magical about visiting a winter wonderland, which is why we're starting to add more and more places to our winter bucket list.


Massive ice castles, cozy igloos, and hot springs surrounded by snow are just a few of the things that make winter special. So it's time we stop escaping the winter, and start to find places to enjoy it instead!


We're here to help you grow your winter bucket list with all of the magical winter wonderlands out there across the globe. So let's make a snow angel and begin!


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Winter Wonderland Bucket List Destination #1: Lapland, Finland

Lapland may just be the most magical winter wonderland in the world. Imagine blankets of snowier massive forests, reindeer, god sledding, and the northern lights.


In Lapland you can stay cozy in glass igloos to watch the sky dance with colors, relax in saunas, soak in hot tubs, and even visit Santa Clause's town!


Here are of the main things to add to your winter bucket list in Lapland:

  • Stay at one of the Northern Lights Villages (Saariselka, Levi, & Pyha)
  • Stay at the Kakslautten Arctic Resort (massive igloo village)
  • Dine in the Kemi Igloo Village (reservations recommended)
  • Go dog sledding or Reindeer sleigh riding (Levi or Rovaniemi)
  • Visit Rovaniemi (aka Santa's village)


Best airports to fly into: Rovaniemi or Kemi

Finland, winter bucket list destinations

Photo by Judith Prins on Unsplash 

Finland, winter bucket list

Photo by Simon Smith on Unsplash 

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #2: Jukkasjarvi, Sweden 

Another incredible place in Scandinavia to add to your winter bucket list is Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, which is home to the most famous ice hotel in the world. Running since 1989, it is actually the first one that was ever built, and is built each winter before the springtime where they let it melt right back into nature.


Each year there is a unique design, featuring 80 rooms, a chapel, and an Absolut Ice Bar. There are also exhibitions, activities, and even 5-course dinners to be enjoyed.



Best airport to fly into: Kiruna, Sweden

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #3: Lofoten Islands, Norway

The Lofoten Islands are magical year-round! We were floored by the breathtaking beauty all around, and can't even imagine the beauty with a blanket of snow over it. A large archipelago covered in snow, vibrant turquoise waters, and brightly red painted cabins are just some of the features to look forward to while visiting this special area of Norway, and why you should add the Lofoten Islands to your winter bucket list.


Keep in mind that it is best to visit early winter or the end of winter. January is a very dark month, with little going on, while the end of February the ski resorts will start to fill up.



Best airports to fly into: Leknes, Svolvaer, or Tromso

Lofoten Islands, winter bucket list

Photo by John O'Nolan on Unsplash 


Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #4: Iceland

As you can see, Scandinavia really is the place to be to tick off things on your winter bucket list, and Iceland is no exception. With the northern lights, unique accommodation options, and all of the natural hot springs, it's no wonder why people love to visit Iceland in the winter.


Here are a few things to add to your winter bucket list in Iceland:

  • Watch the Northern Lights (you can even do a Northern Lights tour for the locals to take you to the best spots)
  • Soak in the hot springs (the Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, and Sky Lagoon to name a few)
  • Go glacier trekking 
  • Experience Glamping (Bubble Iceland & Panorama Glass Lodge)
  • Visit an Ice Cave (Katla)


Best airport to fly into: Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland, winter bucket list destinations

Photo by Landon Arnold on Unsplash 

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #5: Hokkaido, Japan

Now let's head for a moment over to the east-end of the world: Japan. This country is known for its gorgeous cherry blossoms in spring, but the winter there is also simply magical.


The number one place to make sure you don't miss out on is the prefecture of Hokkaido in the north. Not only does it become a true winter wonderland, but it's where you can find one of the biggest ice villages in the world.


Each year Hoshino Resorts opens it's ice resort for the winter. Some of the things it includes are a frozen church, bar, cafe, candy store, a skating rink and an ice slide.


Other Things to Do in Hokkaido

Hokkaido is not just great to visit for its Ice village, but it is also home to some great hot springs, as well as wildlife. We suggest the baths of Shikaribetsu Kohan Onsen, and visiting the village of Tsurui for admiring the wildlife.


Best airports to fly into: Obihiro, Asahikawa, or Sapporo Okadama

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #6: Nagano, Japan

Another incredible place in Japan to add to your winter bucket list is the prefecture of Nagano, which is home to hundreds of natural hot springs surrounded by snow. But the best part isn't just the hot springs themselves- it's being able to visit the adorable snow monkeys bathing in them to keep warm!


Here are a few of the onsens (hot springs) to add to your bucket list:

  • Kumanoyu Onsen, Nagano
  • Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen
  • Kamisuya Onsen
  • Shirahone Onsen
  • Bessho Onsen
  • Hirugami Onsen
  • Hakuba Happo Onsen
  • Nozawa Onsen
  • Asama Onsen
  • Togura Kamiyamada Onsen
  • Jigokudani Onsen (which has a monkey park!)


Best airport to fly into: Matsumoto, Japan

Other Cool Japan Spots for Your Winter Bucket List

  • Kita Onsen Ryokan & Omaru Onsen Ryokan (hot spring hotels in Nasu, Tochigi)
  • Shirakawa-go (a charming village)
  • Ashinomaki Onsen (hot spring in Fukushima)

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #7: Harbin Ice Festival, China

China has some wild creations, so it's no wonder they also have one of the most impressive locations built from just ice. The Harbin Ice Festival is actually a massive theme park of ice sculptures, rides, food, and a whole lot of fun. Each year has a different them, making it a place you can keep looking forward to go back to.


Best airport to fly into: Harbin, China

China Ice Festival, winter bucket list destinations

Photo by Erica Li on Unsplash

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Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #8: Quebec, Canada

Quebec is absolutely one of the best places in the world to add to your winter bucket list, and has many reasons for visiting. For one, the cities are simply magical, and due to the low temperatures and location, it becomes a winter wonderland for several months. Not only that though, Quebec is so popular as a winter destination because it simply has so many cool things to offer.


One of the attractions that is super unique to Quebec is that you can go sledding right in the middle of town! There is also an ice hotel that has an ice bar, and each year there is also the Quebec Winter Festival, which has rides, ice sculptures, games, food, parades, and an iconic 7-foot snowman called Bonhomme.


Best airport to fly into: Quebec, Canada

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #9: Edmonton, Canada

Edmonton is full of fun winter bucket list activities, and has plenty of reasons to visit. The city works hard each year to implement fun competitions and even free activities for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.


Winterscapes is a photo contest for people decorating their properties in lights, snowmen, and ice sculptures to get people involved. There is also free hot chocolate, warming fires, and a variety of activities such as snowshoeing, kick sledding, ice skating, and snow fort building.


Another super iconic thing that Edmonton is typically known for is their incredible ice castles. The past three winters actually haven't been cold enough, so had to be cancelled unfortunately. However, if the weather permits, they will certainly be back!


Best airport to fly into: Edmonton International Airport

Edmonton, winter bucket list destinations

Photo by Ugip on Unsplash 

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #10: Lake Louise, Canada

Canada makes our list quite a few times because it is definitely one of the countries in the world that embraces the winter the most. 


Most people flock to Banff for the summer, but it is also extremely beautiful in the winter! Lake Louise in particular is special to visit because not only does it become a winter wonderland, but you can skate on it, and it's where you find the Ice Magic Festival. This festival happens for a few weeks in January each year, and hosts a massive ice sculpting competition.


Best airport to fly into: Calgary International Airport

Lake Louise, winter bucket list destinations

Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash (Lake Louise)

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #11: Zermatt, Switzerland

Switzerland is a pretty magical place to visit year round, but throw some snow into the mix, and you have one of the most beautiful winter destinations in the world.


The charming town of Zermatt in particular is extremely captivating when it's covered with a blanket of snow. The Matterhorn becomes that much more prominent, and taking the train is a true feast for the eyes.


Not only is the town simply beautiful to see as a winter wonderland, but it is car-free, making it much less stressful, and pleasant to explore. Zermatt has quite a few ski resorts, and has great skiing for beginning. It is also easily connected with ski resorts in Italy, meaning you can actually hop from one country to the other!


Best airport to fly into: Geneva or Zurich

Zermatt, winter bucket list destinations

Photo by Kevin Schmid on Unsplash 

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #12: The Dolomites, Italy

We visited the Dolomites in the summertime, and were blown away by its beautiful landscapes. However, we just saw some pictures from the Italian mountains covered in snow, and it really is something else! With charming towns built on hills you can really appreciate the snow that much more.


Take advantage of the ski resorts, and make sure to book a hotel with a spa or heated pool for the cherry on top.


Things you can do in the winter in the Dolomites:

  • Visit Lago di Carezza and Lago di Braies
  • Enjoy the town of Cortina d'Ampezzo
  • Try some winter sports
  • Relax at the spas


Best airport to fly into: Bolzano or Venice

Lago di Braies in the Dolomites


Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #13: Slovenia

I've visited Slovenia twice- once in the winter and once in the summer. While the summer is beautiful, this country truly took my breath away much more in the wintertime. Ljubljana is extra charming with its heated outdoor seating at restaurants, busy markets, and delicious hot chocolate, and the lakes such as Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled look straight out of a fairytale with snow around them.


Best airport to fly into: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenia, winter bucket list destinations


Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #14: Andorra

The tiny country of Andorra is known for its ski resorts, making it one of the top winter destinations in western Europe. With charming villages draped in a blanket of snow and massive ski resorts, it's no wonder people flock here for the winter season. Not only that, but it's the best time to enjoy Caldea spa, one of our favorite spas in the world.



Best airport to fly into: Barcelona, Spain or Toulouse, France


Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #15: Tallinn, Estonia

Visiting Tallinn truly makes it feel like you've stepped back into a fairytale. That with snow makes it even more magical! The winter vibe in Tallinn is something else, and is definitely one of our favorite places for our winter bucket list.


Best airport to fly into: Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, winter bucket list destinations

Photo by Ilya Orehov on Unsplash


Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #16: Moscow, Russia

When it comes to magical winter destinations, Moscow may just be one of the most incredible cities in the world. Full of lights and a blanket of snow, this really is a city that you need to add for your future winter bucket list.


While it isn't advised to visit Russia at the moment, we do encourage you to bookmark this article for when the country is a bit safer to visit!


Best airport to fly into: Moscow, Russia

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #17: New Hampshire, USA

New Hampshire gets a ton of snow. But it's not just a great place to experience a winter wonderland! Actually, it's home to some of the country's best ice castles. Located in Woodstock, there is so much to the ice castles tan just the castles themselves. Some of the activities you can find are tubing, sleigh rides, ice slides, a fairy light forest, and a polar pub!


Best airport to fly into: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #18: Minnesota, USA

Just like New Hampshire, you can also visit some incredible ice castles in Minnesota! (It's actually sponsored by the same company). Just 20 minutes from the capital city's airport is a winter wonderland full of fun activities. Some of the things you can experience are ice slides, caverns & archways, ice sculptures, crawl tunnels, tubing, a mystic light walk, and a polar pub.


Not only is Minnesota great for the ice castles though, it's actually one of the only spots in the US where you can witness the northern lights! 



Best airport to fly into: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #19: Idaho, USA

Idaho is a state often overlooked. But the truth is, that they have some of the coolest natural hot springs in the country! Mix that with a winter wonderland, and you've got yourself a pretty epic destination to visit while it's cold out.


Here are a few of the best hot springs that you'll want to check out:

  • Boat Box hot spring
  • Mountain Village Resort Hot Spring
  • Kirkham Hot Spring
  • Gold Bug Hot Springs


Best airport to fly into: Boise, Idaho

Idaho, winter bucket list

Photo by Ashe Walker on Unsplash 

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #20: Colorado, USA

Colorado is hands down one of the best areas of the US to experience in the winter. Full of gorgeous mountains, this state is known for its epic ski resorts, as well as the many hot springs scattered around it!


Here are some great hot springs in Colorado to add to your winter bucket list:

  • Strawberry Park Hot Springs (Steamboat Springs)
  • Ouray Hot Springs Pool
  • Glenwood Springs
  • Pagosa Springs
  • Creekside Hot Springs
  • Valley View Hot Springs
  • Penny Hot Springs


Best airport to fly into: Denver, Colorado

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #21: New Mexico, USA

New Mexico is a highly underrated state, and despite its southern location, it surprsingly does get snow! Head to Santa Fe National Forest and you'll discover a whole winter wonderland. Not only that, but it is also home to San Antonio Hot Springs, and if you head over to Jemez Canyon you'll find Spence Hot Springs to bathe in.



Best airports to fly into: Santa Fe, New Mexico or Albuquerque, New Mexico

Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #22: Utah, USA

Utah is one of the coolest states in the US, and it certainly needs to be added to everyone's winter bucket list.


Just ike the surrounding states, it also has a ton of cool hot springs. But not only that- the state has 5 national parks, and to say they look magical in the winter is an understatement.


Here are some places you need to see in the winter around Utah:

  • Bryce Canyon
  • Arches National Park
  • Homestead Crater
  • Diamond Fork Hot Springs
  • Mystic Hot Springs
  • Meadow Hot Springs
  • Saratoga Hot Springs
  • Crystal Hot Springs
  • Fifth Water Hot Springs
  • Baker Hot Springs


Best airport to fly into: Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah, winter bucket list destinations

Photo by Mike Newbry on Unsplash


Winter Wonderland Bucket List Place #23: Saranac Lake, NY, USA

As a New Yorker, I never even heard of this place, but it has just recently made it onto my winter bucket list! Saranac Lake in Upstate New York is a true winter wonderland dream: an entire ice festival! Not only is there an ice palace, but they have events all day every day from live music and parades to drag brunches.


Best airport to fly into: Adirondack Regional Airport, New York

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So are you ready to tick off something new from your winter bucket list? We're also looking to start embracing being in a winter wonderland than always looking for tropical getaways.


Want more travel inspiration for different times of the year? We have monthly destination guides that you can check out, as well as a special 2024 calendar we have created with over 80 holidays and festivals from around the world!


Looking to plan one of these winter bucket list destinations but don't want to spend a fortune? Let us help! With over 10 years of experience, we know all the tricks to help make your trip affordable. You can check out our travel planning services, or shoot us an email with any questions you may have. Happy travels!


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