Best winter snow holidays around the world

Alba Regidor

written by
Alba Regidor

updated 05.06.2024

The pulse-quickening pleasures of world-class ski slopes. The soul-warming joy of seeing your kids enchanted by magical snowscapes and sleigh rides. The cosy contentment of glugging glühwein in a Christmas market. While winter sun has its undeniable allure, there’s a lot to be said for snow holidays. With that in mind, read on to discover the best winter snow holidays around the world.

Utah, USA — best winter snow holidays for skiers

Utah has “the greatest snow on Earth™”, shouts its licence plates (and mugs, t-shirts, fridge magnets – and yes, they’ve really trademarked it).

While we can’t confirm this bold claim, we can say that in winter the Wasatch mountains’ ski resorts are blanketed in the lightest, fluffiest snow imaginable – a skier’s and snowboarder’s dream.

Such is the regular dump of the soft stuff that if locals pulled a sickey every time there was a powder day, they’d be out of a job. 

There are 14 resorts, most of which are within an hour or so’s drive of Salt Lake City airport, and all of them offer beautiful mountain terrain and fine skiing.

Afterwards, head for the lively main street of Park City’s 1860s mining town for atmospheric après ski.

Interested in active winter snow holidays? Discover where to find adventure in northern Utah. While you're at it, you might want to read up on the best backcountry skiing trips in North America.

Where to stay in Utah

Explore more places to stay in Utah.

Teenager ski jumping in Alta, Utah © CSNafzger/Shutterstock

For active types, it's clear to see why Utah is one of the best places for snow holidays © Shutterstock

Lapland, Finland — best for outdoor lovers, and one of the best winter snow holidays around the world

You’d expect the home of Father Christmas to be winter wonderland-magical. And indeed, winter in Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, is the epitome of picture-book enchantment.

Cross-country ski through hushed white forests, or put on a pair of snowshoes and follow snowy woodland trails. Skate over ice-covered lakes and discover the wilderness on a husky- or reindeer- led sleigh.

Then cap it all off by thawing out in a sauna while sipping hot glogg (Finnish mulled wine).

It’s an ideal trip for lovers of the outdoors who embrace the cold, as well as for families — who doesn't love snow, sleigh rides and (of course) Santa?

In fact, if you're travelling with kids, Lapland might just be the peak of all snow holiday destinations — there's a reason it features in our run-down of magical places to visit with children before they grow up.

If you’re lucky, you can catch a nighttime display of the Northern Lights from a glass-domed igloo. Not fixed on Finland? If being awe-struck by these illuminations is top of your snow holiday wishlist, discover the best places to see the northern lights in Iceland,

Alternatively, if you're keen to enjoy the breadth of Finland's snow holiday wonders, take a look at our Magical Finland trip. The itinerary includes excursions to Helsinki and Porvoo, forest hiking, a midnight sun sauna boat cruise, and a visit to Santa in Lapland. It's fully customisable, too.

Planning a trip to Finland? Don't miss our guide to the best things to do in Finland.

Where to stay in Saariselka (Finland)

Discover more places to stay in Lapland.

Lapland, Finland © kriskit/Shutterstock

Head to Lapland for one of the best winter snow holidays around the world © kriskit/Shutterstock

Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China

Neon pagodas and palaces encircled by giant slides. Castles dazzling in all the colours of the rainbow. A tower as high as nine double-decker buses. Huge winged horses and a steam train. These are just some of the ice sculptures you might see at the Harbin Ice Snow Festival in Heilongjiang Province of China.

It’s a winter fairy tale of epic proportions. Held over a month each winter, usually in early January, it's also one of the biggest ice festivals in the world.

As well as spectacular installations and fireworks, the festival also offers activities, such as ice skating, skiing and ice hockey.

Feeling brave? Swimming competitions take place in the sub-zero water temperatures of the Songhua river, though you might prefer to watch these from the sidelines.

With five theme parks to explore, plus plenty of parades and shows, it's an enchanting one-stop shop for snow lovers.

For more inspiration, check out our suggested China itineraries. From family adventures in Sichuan (giant pandas!), to trips that blend culture with cruising the majestic Yangtze River, these take the hassle out of planning. What's more, the itineraries can be totally tailored to suit you.

Where to stay in Harbin (China)

Check out more places to stay in Harbin, China.

Ice snow world in Harbin, China © Haobo Wang/Shutterstock

Harbin's Ice Snow Festival makes it one of the best destinations for snow holidays © Haobo Wang/Shutterstock

Salzburg, Austria — best for charming snow holidays

Salzburg's three-fold fame comes courtesy of The Sound of Music, hosting Europe’s oldest Christmas market, and being the birthplace of Mozart.

Perhaps Wolfgang also enjoyed the spiced gingerbread biscuits, warm glühwein and handcrafted wooden gifts, sold each winter from stalls twinkling with lights.

A dusting of snow adds to the sparkle and coziness. It also lends fairy-tale magic to Salzburg's Baroque architecture, turreted hilltop castle, domed cathedral, and lavish Residenz palace. And all this plays out against a backdrop of snow-shrouded mountains.

Then there are all those Mozart attractions. View one of his childhood violins in the bright yellow house on Getreidegasse where he was born, and take in a concert at the Mirabell Palace.

Salzburg is also close to some top ski resorts, such as Zell am See and Kitzbuhel, so you can combine exploring the city with slope-side action.

In fact, this is why Salzburg is one of the best cities in Austria to enjoy nature and culture at their most splendid. The city also features in our overview of the best travel experiences in Austria.

Planning a trip to Austria? Don't miss our guide to the best things to do in Austria.

Where to stay in Salzburg

  • Best for couples: Hotel Goldgasse. An atmospheric, intimate 14th-century building in the Old Town.
  • Best for budget breaks: YoHo. A comfy, chilled youth hostel in a top location.
  • Best for scenic strolls: Hotel Schöne Aussicht. Stunningly sited on the outskirts, and close to trails.

See more places to stay in Salzburg.

Salzburg cathedral in winter © Tourismus Salzburg/Breitegger Günter

Salzburg cathedral sets the scene for one of the world's best snow holidays © Tourismus Salzburg/Breitegger

Minnesota, USA — best for adventure seekers

Frozen lakes dotted with bright-colored tents. Smoke puffing from wood-burning stoves. Whizzing snowmobiles breaking the muffled quiet of the snowy landscape. Moose peering through snow-laden branches. There's no doubt that Minnesota sets a stunning scene for some of the world's best snow holidays.

Whether you snowshoe through glistening forests, or glide along woodland trails on skis, there's no question that the state offers some of the most scenic cross-country skiing in the US.

Cook County has an extensive system of trails, from Grand Marais on Lake Superior to the Gunflint trails in the Northwoods and Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Undulating hills cut through deep woods of spruce, aspen, and fir trees, with names like Big Pine and Lonely Lake telling it how it is. The only sound you'll hear is the swish of your skis on the soft snow.

Still need convincing? Discover why you should head to Minnesota and Wisconsin for winter thrills. From snow tubing and car racing on ice, to dog sledding and skiing, the opportunities are pretty much endless, and exhilarating with it.

Where to stay in Minnesota

  • Best for families: Poplar Creek Guesthouse. Cosy lodges with kitchen access, dining area and private deck.
  • Best for handsome home comforts: Mountain Inn at Lutsen. Rustic chic in an area of natural beauty.
  • Best for lake-lovers: Loon Lake Lodge. Located in Pequot Lakes, this boasts a dock, sauna and hot tub.

Discover more amazing places to stay in Minnesota.

Enjoying a dog sled ride in Minnesota © Nickie Rose/Shutterstock

Enjoying a sled ride in Minnesota © Nickie Rose/Shutterstock

The Dolomites, Italy — best for cross-country skiing

Looking to enjoy winter snow holidays with extra style? You'd do well to consider heading to the Dolomites.

The jagged rock walls of these ancient massifs — a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site — dominate the entire region of Trentino—Alto Adige. They''re dramatic, impactful and out-of-this-world beautiful — just like the San Cassiano mountain resort they play host to.

Located at the well-heeled foot of Mount Lavarela in the Alta Badia valley, San Cassiano shimmers with elegance and luxury. Think fancy restaurants, deluxe hotels and decadent spa treatments.

That said, be assured that San Cassiano is more than just a pretty face. Apres ski posing opportunities aside, it made it into our top skiing and snowboarding destinations around the world.

Beyond San Cassiano, the Dolomiti Superski region boasts 15 resorts, 450 lifts, and 1200 km of slopes that offer top-notch skiing for all abilities.

Looking for a lively European ski holiday? Find out about the best ski festivals in Europe.

Best places to stay in the Dolomites

Discover more amazing places to stay while skiing in the Dolomites and San Cassiano.

Sunset view of San Cassiano in the Dolomites - Italy © Davide Conticelli/Shutterstock

Sunset over San Cassiano in the Dolomites, Italy © Davide Conticelli/Shutterstock

Reindeer safari winter in Lapland, Finland © BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

Reindeer safari in Lapland, Finland © BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

Inspired by this overview of the best snow holidays around the world? You might also want to consider visiting the most beautiful winter destinations in the world. Or, if you're still not sure whether to go for winter snow or sun, read up on the best winter sun destinations around the world.

If, however, you'd prefer to leave planning to someone else, explore Rough Guides' tailor-made trips. They're 100% customisable, and created in consultation with a local expert who really knows their stuff.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Header image: Lapland, Finland © Smit/Shutterstock

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