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- Posted:Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Five Places That Are Actually Better to Visit in Winter
No need to wait until the summer to take a holiday. Avoid the crowds and sweltering temperatures by choosing a trip in the winter months. Although you might have to pack some warmer clothes, there’s a handful of benefits for traveling at this time: you’ll either be rewarded with lower prices, clearer skies or festive entertainment.
Although the weather can drop below zero and be a bit unpredictable, nowhere beats the festive spirit of German Christmas markets. They’re cheerful, romantic and stunning in a blanket of snow. Walking around the beautifully decorated stalls with a warm glass of glüwein (mulled wine) is the perfect way to forget about the temperatures. The aroma of roasting chestnuts and grilled sausages just adds to the experience, so you must show up hungry.
You can visit markets all over Germany, but some of the biggest are in Cologne, Munich and Nuremberg. Most markets stick to tradition and mass produced goods are strictly prohibited. Pick up a few unique handicrafts that you wouldn’t otherwise see outside of Germany.
After traversing the country and hitting up the markets, head to Bavaria where you can visit fairytale castles coated in sparkling white snow.
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If winter temperatures aren’t your thing, there’s no better place to go this season than Thailand. The winter months bring the most pleasant temperatures of the year and rain is at a minimum. In certain regions an afternoon downpour might happen daily, but they rarely last more than an hour.
Due to the almost perfect weather, you’ll have to share your slice of paradise since the islands tend to get crowded around this time of year. Head to less touristy and more laid back Koh Lanta for uncrowded beaches and a relaxed vibe.
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Being in the southern hemisphere, winter in New Zealand spans June through August. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll spend your vacation cold though. The climate varies drastically depending on your location.
In winter, there are less crowds and more stunning natural beauty all for yourself. Of course, snow makes mountains even more picturesque, too. After some skiing or sledding, warm up in some of New Zealand’s geothermal pools. The ones in Tepako Springs make the hot soak even more special with views of the lake and snow-capped Southern Alps. Glaciers are at their biggest and best during winter and you also have a great chance of seeing whales since June and July is their peak migration period.
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Although California is beautiful year round, there are a few national parks that are even more scenic in winter. Taking a drive around crystal clear Lake Tahoe is better in winter while the thick forests are dusted with snow and the water glimmers in the sunshine. Yosemite is also beautiful in winter, whether you enjoy it from a cozy cabin or while doing winter sports.
Although the Pacific may be too cold to swim, most days on the coast will be clear and cool. You’ll need a light jacket, unless that is you get lucky and visit during a winter heat wave. Sometimes temperatures soar and a spur of the moment beach day is required.
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Winter coincides with the best time to visit this tropical Central American country. During this period, the skies are mostly dry and clear and the country is green and lush, fresh out of the rainy season. The Pacific side of the country and the central mountains remain the driest, all for perfect lounging on the beach, hiking up a volcano or zip-lining through the trees.
Many American tourists flock to Costa Rica during this period to escape the winter at home. For this reason, the country may be a bit more crowded and prices a bit higher. As long as you book in advance, you should be enjoying paradise while the rest of U.S. starts to shiver in their boots.
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Have you been anywhere else that looks incredible in the winter? Let us know about them in the comments...
Jessica Wray is a Californian, an over-thinker, a spicy-food lover and a serial expat. She has studied and lived in Latin America, taught English in South Korea, backpacked Asia and now lives in Madrid, Spain. Follow along with her on her blog, Curiosity Travels, as she tackles her mid-twenties all while calling different parts of the world home.
Thanks to Pedro Paulo Boaventura, Mikhail Koninin, Mazzali, Chase Lindberg and Arturo Sotillo for the most excellent photos. Please note, all were under creative commons license at time of publishing.