The ultimate winter holiday wishlist for every type of traveller
Whether you want to cosy up and chill out, or wrap up and head out, you can make the most of the snow-covered scenery with these winter wonderland experiences. While seasoned skiers hit the slopes, go off-piste with our handpicked selection of alternative ways to enjoy the colder months from the comfort of luxury lodges and chic chalets.
1. Meet the reindeer at Arctic Bath, Swedish Lapland
This one-of-a-kind hotel immerses guests in the postcard-worthy scenery of Swedish Lapland: its frost-crowned forests, where moose and reindeer leave tracks in the snow. Glass walls, floating walkways and sky-gazing decks connect the inside with the great outdoors at Arctic Bath, with its striking over-water cabins frozen into the Luleå River. Wildlife enthusiasts can join a Sámi reindeer herder at an Arctic circle camp on the outskirts of Jokkmokk, where you will be invited into the lávvu (tent house) to sit around the fireplace and listen to stories and joik (traditional Sámi singing). Learn about the Arctic way of life as you feed the friendly reindeer and simply soak up the magic of Northern Europe’s last remaining wilderness. You can also get to know the hotel’s resident moose whisperer here.
2. Chase the Northern Lights at Hotel Rangá, Iceland
A cross between a hunting lodge and palatial log cabin, Hotel Rangá is just two hours south-east of Reykjavik and yet feels a world away in its Icelandic wilderness setting of volcano views and thermal springs. Boasting a state-of-the-art observatory with a pair of powerful telescopes and a roll-down roof, guests are offered a Northern Lights wake-up call along with Golden Circle-proof clothing and bespoke blankets to keep warm while the sky comes alive.
A local astronomer guides guests through a tour of the night sky, pointing out constellations, galaxies and distant planets, as well as offering photography advice on how to capture the aurora borealis. Wooden benches are located outside the hotel, handmade specifically for guests to sit back and watch the skies – or you might even be able to watch the Northern Lights in style as you soak in one of the geothermal hot tubs with a glass of bubbly.
3. Celtic yoga in the Dolomites at FORESTIS, Italy
Cool, calm and connected to its stunning setting, FORESTIS is a summit-level sanctuary in a South Tyrolean mountainscape. Water, air, sun and climate are the four elemental pillars that inspire everything at this perfectly poised spa hotel – including the experiences. For sun salutations in a striking setting, the Wyda Room is a modern space made for practising centuries-old Celtic yoga, overlooking frosted forests and snow-dusted peaks. Delve into the Druid history of the surrounding forests, who settled in this part of the world and developed their knowledge of the healing powers of woodland meditation.
4. Dog-sledding and ski-joëring at Le Coucou Méribel, France
Designed to be a part of the landscape, Le Coucou Méribel spans ten floors built into the mountainside – and this ski-in, ski-out lodge continually brings the outside in. When you’re not sinking into a chic Pierre Yovanovitch styled corner, or hitting the Belvédère piste which you can see from your suite, you can become a Musher with the hotel’s dog sledding experience. Take up the reins of your own pack in the one-hour initiation, then follow the guide by driving the dog team or simply sit in the sledge and watch the snow-dusted world go by. Or you can ditch the chair lifts and hitch a ride behind a horse, as it pulls more adventurous mountaineers along in a Scandinavian ski-joëring session.
5. Christmas baking and fondue nights at Severin’s – The Alpine Retreat, Austria
Véronique Witzigmann photographed by Volker Debus
From the design to the whatever-your-whim service, Severin’s The Alpine Retreat offers picture-perfect privacy while being just a short ski-lift ride from the world-class pistes of Lech and St Anton. This winter between the 3-5 December 2021, the luxury lodge is inviting guests into the kitchen for Christmas baking workshops with renowned author and dessert queen Véronique Witzigmann, including a signed copy of her popular book Véronique‘s Little Classics to take home with you as a souvenir of your stay. To get a more savoury taste of Austria, Severin’s also hosts fondue nights in the charming hut Älpele which you’ll reach by private snowmobile.
6. Cross-country skiing with Olympians at Grand Forest Metsovo, Greece
Deep in the rugged region of Epirus in north-western Greece, Grand Forest Metsovo is set on the fringe of a black pine forest cresting the top of a private mountain which becomes blanketed in thick snow during the winter. A strong back-to-nature ethos runs through the experiences at this mountaintop hideaway, one that is shared by Olympic medalists Viola Bauer and Lefteris Fafalis who take guests on a cross-country adventure through the Pindus National park. Return to a cosy nook beside a fireplace at Grand Forest Metsovo for some high altitude dining on seasonal, foraged dishes.
7. Horse-drawn sleigh rides at Riverview Ranch, USA
Perched above the banks of the Clark Fork River, Riverview Ranch is a slice of Montana at its finest. From the moment you arrive, you’ll be itching to get out into the great outdoors. Snow transforms this magical spot into a winter wonderland, with over 1,000 acres to explore. Enjoy a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride to take in the spectacular scenery, complete with cosy blankets and on-board hot cocoa.
8. Painting and pottery workshops at Le Refuge de la Traye, France
Hidden away in the Alps, Le Refuge de la Traye is the stuff of fairy tales. After a day on the famous slopes of Les 3 Vallées, you can warm up while getting creative during a painting and pottery workshop in a rustic cabin in the heart of the resort’s educational farm. Little ones will love playing with clay surrounded by sheep, goats, and donkeys, while grown-ups sit back with a glass of fine Savoyard wine in hand.
9. Luxuriate in Hokkaido hot springs at Chalet Ivy Jozankei, Japan
A ryokan that takes the concept of relaxation to new levels, Chalet Ivy Jozankei showcases Japanese culture in a soul-stirring natural setting. Situated in the lush forests of Hokkaido, Chalet Ivy Jozankei puts Japan’s northernmost island’s onsen centre-stage. This is a place to breathe pure mountain air, sink into warm, mineral-rich waters, and soak up Japanese hospitality. With private onsen in every room, and an expansive Yukimidai (snow viewing room) flooded with natural light and views of the surrounding snowscape, this is the perfect place to press pause and zen out.
10. South Tyrolean snow-shoe hiking at Alpin Royal Wellness Refugium, Italy
Set in breathtaking scenery of the Ahrntal in South Tyrol, Alpin Royal Wellness Refugium is an eye-catching alpine lodge that gently curves into the mountain landscape. Explore the Italian Alps step by step with Alpin Royal’s private snow-shoe hiking guides, followed by an organic herbal footbath and stamp massage to ease weary muscles. Your snow-shoes and telescopic Nordic walking poles are provided, along with transfers to your hike of choice.