Summer ending is never a reason to pack away your inner explorer. Quite the opposite: because away from summer’s heaving crowds, you can find the authentic heart of a destination. Uninterrupted. And we haven’t even mentioned winter’s unique charms. From frosty winter walks to watching white snow pile on mountains through the window of your cosy log-fire cabin… to a warm winter escape – many find winter a wonderful time to travel. To get an idea of the excitement, we asked our Trafalgar guests to reveal their winter travel bucket list. And here’s what they had to say.
Trafalgar guests reveal what’s on their winter bucket list
GET INSPIRED BY: All winter holidays with Trafalgar
Bruges, Belgium – as voted by Trafalgar guest, Amelia
Snow-sprinkled buildings, winding canals, gingerbread-style houses and bubbling hot chocolates greet you in Bruges, northwest Belgium. This 12th century medieval city’s old market square has achieved UNESCO World Heritage status because of its gorgeous towers, churches, medieval façades and cobbled streets leading to the centre. Making it bucket-list worthy.
Travellers can roam a quiet paradise here. As Bruges holds a modest 120,000 local population, instead of booming noise, the gentle trot of horse-drawn carriages caresses your ears and throws you into the heart of a wintery fairytale.
Make sure to stop into the 13th century Church of Our Lady: the second tallest brickwork tower in the world at 379 feet. Or climb the Belfry Tower’s 366 steps for a majestic 360° view of the city from the top.
Before you leave, Belgian frites, fluffy waffles, Gluhwein (mulled wine) and the local chocolate are all guaranteed to tingle your taste buds.
Lapland – as voted by Trafalgar guest, Anne
Yes, this is a real place. Finland’s Lapland is an otherworldly destination full of snow-blanked forests and Christmas spirit. For example, Trafalgar guests can visit Rovaniemi (Santa Claus’ hometown) – cutting through the arctic circle – to soak in the Christmas spirit. And then head further north to the glowing white resort village of Saariselkä, where your enchanting reindeer ride through white forest awaits. And whisper it quietly… but you have a good chance of seeing the northern lights here.
Interestingly, the indigenous Sámi people live in Lapland (or as they like to call it: Sápmi), and have done for over 5000 years. Surviving by hunting and fishing for food in extreme conditions, and reindeer herding to make a living. To delve deeper, we’ll visit the Siida Sámi Museum (by Lake Inari) and explore their artefact collections and understand the spirit and history of Sámi culture, plus the evolution of the Sámi languages.
Drink in the world’s cleanest air. Try dog sledding, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. Take a dip in a sauna. Add Lapland to your winer travel bucket list and lose yourself in this wonderland.
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Honolulu – as voted by Trafalgar guest, Lorraine
There’s something liberating about taking a warm winter adventure, while your friends remain at home. And Honolulu (Hawaii’s capital) stands out as a wonderful destination to get some well-deserved headspace and escape it all.
Hospitable locals, spotless white beaches, botanical gardens, Chinese Buddhist temples, and mood-boosting temperatures (between 20-27°C in December) mixed with cool sea air tingles your senses on arrival.
Travellers can discover Hawaiian history and cultural heritage at the Bishop Museum and Museum of Art. Before pulling on their hiking boots and walking to within touching distance of the 150-foot tall Manao waterfall. To cool off – a dip in the crystal-clear sea is a rite of passage here. As are the many water spots like snorkelling, surfing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, scuba diving and more.
The refreshing taste of a Mai Tai cocktail and colourful poke bowl further immerses you in a blissful state. And before long – you’ll forget the last time you touched your phone.
GET INSPIRED BY: Hawaii Four Island Adventure tour
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Edinburgh – as voted by Trafalgar guest, George
Don’t let tales of rainy weather put you off. Edinburgh’s charms thrive in winter (with lesser crowds) and more room on its wide streets, charming side allies and green spacces to explore.
There aren’t many more uplifting experiences than climbing Arthur’s seat and its a panoramic view over the Scottish capital, caked in winter frost. Or venturing just 3 miles to the nearby sea for a dog walk. Elsewhere, Edinburgh Castle is an intriguing sight – sat on a dormant volcano and a survivor of countless sieges over time – which begs for exploration.
You must also stroll down the Royal Mile in Old Town, stopping off for whisky tasting or popping into vintage clothes stores and cosy coffee shops (where J.K Rowling first wrote Harry Potter). Crisp, sea air fills this green city (home to 112 parks). And for that reason, it’s difficult to think of a better spot for a mental health retreat.
You can also throw yourself into theatre, lively pubs and taste Scottish regulars like haggis and even deep-fried mars bars! You’d be a fool not to embrace Edinburgh.
GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Scotland tour
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Christmas Markets in Europe – as voted by Trafalgar guest, Jan
The magic of Christmas comes alive at European Christmas markets. Imagine your hands cupped around steaming hot mulled wine. Laughter fills the crisp air. Festive lights twinkle. Live music erupts. And local vendors offer you hot comfort food, as well as charming Christmas gifts (many made using age-old craftsman techniques).
All with enchanting backdrops, Christmas markets in Germany, Switzerland and Austria warrant a spot on any winter travel bucket list. And if you hop on a Trafalgar tour, you’ll explore Christkindlmarkt market (just outside Vienna’s City Hall) – where you can listen to local music, browse handcrafted toys and taste crunchy gingerbread or stollen (German fruit and nut loaf).
As well as Munich Christmas market – famous for its carols and 98-foot-tall Christmas tree. And finally, enter the blissful snowy setting at Switzerland’s Lucerne; where you can explore the Franziskanerplatz Christmas market to your heart’s content and gaze at the bright lights display.
Feeling festive, yet?
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What’s on your winter travel bucket list? Tell us in the comments below