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It was as though the earth had been wrapped in an insulation blanket. The snow cover reached to my chest, and every branch in every pine tree was so cloaked in powder that the trees more resembled snowmen.
The sun would be up only long enough to send the day straight from beautiful dawn light to gorgeous dusk then back into long night. Muffled by snow, the world was almost silent.
Through this dream winter scene in northern Finland's Oulanka National Park, six huskies towed my wooden sled towards the top of a low hill. A frozen lake glistened below in the pale sunlight. I was supposed to be steering and braking, controlling this canine juggernaut, but I was too distracted by the fantasy landscape.
I'd been to Oulanka National Park – to near this exact spot – in summer years before, and been underwhelmed. Yet here, in the middle of winter, mushing through a minus-15-degree day, it was one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen.
It was more than a moment; it was a realisation that winter can so often trump summer for pure beauty and exhilaration of experience.
For travellers, winter needn't be about hibernation, escaping to the tropics, or just that annual ski holiday. Increasingly, winter itself is becoming part of the travel attraction.
Adventure-travel companies, in particular, are embracing winter, with the likes of Exodus Travels now creating dedicated winter programs and brochures.
It's a time of year when the northern skies dance with celestial lights, festivals across the world celebrate darkness and the chill, and snow cover transforms landscapes into living Christmas cards. So dig out the mittens, the goose down and the faux fur trim, and embrace winter travel with this selection of 50 of the finest cold-climate experiences across the world.
1. VISIT THE KHOVSGOL ICE FESTIVAL, MONGOLIA
The only way to survive Mongolia's notoriously brutal winter is to celebrate it, which is what happens at remote Lake Khovsgol, up near the Russian border, each March. The mercury regularly dips below minus 30 degrees, but locals still gather on the metre-thick ice for horse races, tug-o-war matches, ice-skating and sculpture displays. The Khovsgol Festival is held on the first weekend of March. See discovermongolia.mn.
2. WITNESS THE NORTHERN LIGHTS FROM HOTEL BUDIR, ICELAND
Spending a few winter nights at remote Hotel Budir on the spectacular Snaefellsnes Peninsula might be experience enough, but here you also need never worry about missing the northern lights – Budir staff provide wake-up calls if the heavens switch on the lights. The Hotel Budir is about a two-hour drive north from Reykjavik; rooms from about $440. See hotelbudir.is.
3. TRAIN IT TO LAKE BAIKAL, RUSSIA
The 9000-kilometre Trans-Siberian Railway takes on a fairytale appearance in winter, as the line pushes through snow and bare birch forest. Disembark at Irkutsk and head for the village of Listvyanka on the shores of Lake Baikal. A skin of ice covers the world's deepest lake in winter, providing opportunities to walk on water – it might feel precarious, but only until you notice the trucks driving around on the ice. See discoveryrussia.com.au.
4. VISIT ICEBERG ALLEY, CANADA
Watch an armada of icebergs floating through Newfoundland's so-called Iceberg Alley, where ocean currents carry tens of thousands of icebergs calved from Greenland glaciers. View them from the short Iceberg Alley Trail in St Anthony, or by tour boat or kayak. Icebergs typically reach Iceberg Alley around late spring and early summer (May to June). See newfoundlandlabrador.com.
5. VIEW THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN TROMSO, NORWAY
The city of Tromso is about as far north – 70 degrees north – as it's easy to reach to experience the dynamic dance of the northern lights. Fly in from Oslo and simply settle back with your eye on the sky, or join one of the many aurora-borealis-themed tours that operate from the city. Complete the winter experience with a visit to Tromso's Polar Museum. See visittromso.no.
6. TAKE A GLACIER FLIGHT-SEEING TOUR OVER KLUANE NATIONAL PARK, CANADA
Explore one of the Yukon's most celebrated national parks from the confines of a lightweight Cessna aircraft where you can look down on Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak, the country's largest icefield and North America's most diverse grizzly bear population. Some of the region's best treks are here also, and what better way to get your bearings than from the air? See greatriverair.com.
7. VISIT THE NEW ICE VILLAGE IN TOMAMU, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN
Open between December and March, when temperatures are sufficiently frigid, the man-made Ice Village at Japan's Tomamu ski resort is a family's delight. A cluster of illuminated igloos all serve a different purpose. There's an ice-shop peddling environmental-themed trinkets, a florist, a cafe, even an ice bar where adults can sample Japanese whisky or a cocktail from a glass carved from, you guessed it, ice. And the next-door ice skating rink is simply the … icing on the cake. See snowtomamu.jp.
8. ATTEND AN ICE HOCKEY GAME IN MONTREAL, CANADA
It's an odd sensation joining a crowd of some of the world's most polite, friendly people to watch one of the world's most brutal, violent sports. Canadians, eh? Lovely people obsessed with one hardcore and highly entertaining sport. The country's most rabid ice hockey fans are Montreal Canadiens supporters, and there's nothing like watching the game with them to appreciate its beauty and brutality. The NHL season begins in October. For Canadiens tickets see stubhub.com.
9. SLEEP IN A SNOW CAVE, SCOTLAND
Embrace the snow by sleeping inside it! After a day of winter skills training, you'll spend two more days walking through the winter coat of the Cairngorms mountains, digging out a large ''snow hole" as your home for the night (other nights are spent in a nearby lodge). Decent fitness required – walking days are about four to five hours, and it takes about four hours to dig the snow hole. See scotmountainholidays.com.
10. SOAK IN THE BLUE LAGOON, ICELAND
In the depths of winter, the average temperature in Iceland's capital, Reykjavik, is around zero degrees, which makes slipping into the 38-degree geothermal waters of the famed Blue Lagoon a more-than-enticing prospect. If your luck's in, the northern lights may even be performing a neon show overhead. Entry tickets into the Blue Lagoon must be pre-purchased through bluelagoon.com.
11. EAT SEASONAL WINTER FOOD IN HOKKAIDO, JAPAN
Winter is an exciting time in Hokkaido: not only do ski resorts such as Niseko throw open their doors, but the island's restaurants begin serving seasonal, cold-weather delicacies. Highlights of Hokkaido winter cuisine include Ishikari nabe, a hotpot of rice and salmon, and snow crab, which is only available from November to March. See jnto.org.au.
12. PARTY AT THE MOOSERWIRT IN ST ANTON, AUSTRIA
Europe's best apres-ski venue starts filling up around lunchtime each day, and by mid-afternoon it's a riot of beer skolling, table-top dancing, pop song singing and debauchery, all conducted in the open air. The Mooserwirt is justifiably famous the world over – the only problem many revellers have is making their way home, via a ski slope, once the festivities have come to a close. The Mooserwirt is open daily during ski season. See mooserwirt.at.
13. DRINK GLUHWEIN AT NUREMBURG CHRISTMAS MARKETS, GERMANY
Some would say hot chocolate is the traditional drink of the cooler months – but they clearly haven't tried gluhwein. This delicious concoction of red wine, cinnamon, sugar and cloves warms the cockles of your heart, and its best drunk while strolling through the Nuremburg Christmas Markets in Germany. Nuremburg markets are open during December. See germany.travel.
14. VISIT AN OPEN-AIR ONSEN IN HAKUBA, JAPAN
Weary skiers needing to ease aching limbs have long known the best solution: a hot bath. And that bath takes on a special beauty when it's an open-air onsen in the Japanese ski town of Hakuba, which has plenty of outdoor hot-pools in which to soak away the day's mishaps while enjoying the alpine scenery. The Hakuba ski season runs from December to April. See jnto.org.au.
15. ENJOY FONDUE AT GASTHAUS AELPELE, AUSTRIA
When the weather is cold outside, when the snow is building up in deep drifts and the wind is howling through the eaves, there are few things better to do than tuck into a traditional alpine cheese fondue at Gasthaus Aelpele in Austria. Set in a 300-year-old wooden hut accessible by snowcat from the town of Lech, this restaurant serves up the ultimate in ski-country comfort food. Gasthaus Aelpele is open Tuesday to Sunday during winter. See aelpele-lech.at.
16. SAVOUR PRAGUE HAM IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Wander around the Czech capital on a cold winter's day and it won't be long before you pick up the scent of smoked pork products: that'll be Old Prague ham, a type of brined, smoked meat that's cooked on rotisseries by street vendors before being carved and served with a giant pile of potatoes. Old Prague ham is best sampled from street vendors. See czechtourism.com.
17. DOWN PINT IN AN ENGLISH PUB BETWEEN OCTOBER AND FEBRUARY
As David Attenborough might say in one of his hushed tones, "It gets cold in England, come winter. Really, very cold". Happily, this country is also home to some of the world's best pubs so while the weather rages outside, order yourself some kind of unfathomable warm ale named after a speckled hen, a badger or an elf in a shoe and hunker down beside a sheepdog and a crackling fire. See visitbritain.com/au/en.
18. VISIT CALDEA THERMAL SPA WHILE SNOWBOARDING IN ANDORRA
If you're skiing or snowboarding any of Andorra's resorts, be sure to drop in at Caldea, the largest thermal spa centre in southern Europe. Housed inside what resembles a glass paneled spaceship, the 6000-square-metre facility is home to Roman baths, jacuzzis, whirlpools and even a steaming outdoor lagoon; heaven in winter after a day on the slopes. See caldea.com/es.
19. ENJOY THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN FRANKFURT, GERMANY
Frankfurt's centuries-old main market across old-town squares Romerberg and Paulsplatz is one of Germany's largest. Its wooden chalets are draped in fairy lights and a giant Christmas tree twinkles. Kids will love the carolling, regular sorties of jolly Saint Nick, whirling vintage carousel and local treats such as almond biscuits, warm nuts and gingerbread. The market runs November 27 to December 22 this year. See frankfurt-tourismus.de.
20. GO TO THE QUEENSTOWN WINTER FESTIVAL, NZ
Each year the Queenstown ski season is ushered in with a four-day festival of all the things this New Zealand resort town does so well: street parties, live music, comedy shows, apres ski, on-mountain events, and plenty of family-friendly activities on the side. It's a great time to be in a place that knows how to celebrate. This year's festival runs from June 22-25. See winterfestival.co.nz.
21. TAKE A SNOW MOBILING TOUR IN THE YUKON, CANADA
For a real action-packed day, squeeze in a snow mobiling tour near Haines Junction before boarding your glacier flight above Kluane Park's Tombstone Ranges. These powerful machines are the perfect way to experience the Yukon backcountry, taking in sprawling alpine plains, narrow forested paths, remote cabins and more. Expert guides will lead the way and provide training. See kanoepeople.com.
22. ICE SKATE AT CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK, US
Strap on your skates for a quintessential New York Xmas experience at the Rink at Rockefeller Centre. Situated just a few steps from the Theatre District and Times Square in the heart of Midtown, it's an iconic site that attracts hordes of visitors each year from October through winter. With only 150 people allowed on the ice at a time, lines can be long so it's worth considering an advanced booking VIP skate reservation. See therinkatrockcenter.com.
23. TRACK WOLVES WITH AN EXPERT THROUGH THE LAMAR VALLEY, YELLOWSTONE PARK, US
Up until the mid 1990s, wolves had been hunted to extinction in the world's first national park until one of the most ambitious biological projects of the last century saw them make an audacious comeback. Team up with a world-class naturalist to see these majestic creatures in the wild while learning the ins and outs of how these highly complex apex predators function. See grandamericanadventures.com.
24. TAKE AN ARCTIC OR ANTARCTIC CRUISE EXPEDITION
Head deep into the world's most remote and fascinating regions on a polar cruise. As you glide past icebergs, polar bears, penguins, whales and more, you'll learn from top biologists, historians and expedition leaders from a vantage point on a Baltic ice strengthened vessel. Off the ship, activities might include anything from kayaking and zodiac cruising to camping or snowshoeing. See oneoceanexpeditions.com.
25. SEE THE SIBERIAN ICE FLOES, HOKKAIDO, JAPAN
Join more than 100,000 travellers who head to the frigid shores of Hokkaido, Japan's second largest island and the country's final frontier, to see the magnificent ice floes drifting down from Siberia each year. It's the most southerly point in the northern hemisphere where you can see the graceful formations, between mid-January and the end of March. Walk Japan's Hokkaido Snow Tour takes in the ice floes, from $5707 a person; walkjapan.com.
26. RIDE THE TRAIN TO RIGI, SWITZERLAND
The cog railway to the 1797-metre summit of Mount Rigi near Lucerne is Europe's oldest: since 1871 red trains have hauled visitors up the rocky ridge to one of the Alps' most staggering views, with lakes and mountains stretching for 200 kilometres. But this isn't just a cramped viewpoint: you can ski, cross-country ski, snowshoe and toboggan, too. Day tickets for train and cable car CHF72. See rigi.ch.
27. STORM WATCH IN TOFINO, CANADA
Tofino on Vancouver Island is a rare destination where holidaymakers hope for horrible weather. As black clouds surge, spray blows onto the rocks and giant fir trees shake, the day couldn't be more perfect. Great moody breakers roll in from the North Pacific and batter the coast, and happy visitors in boots and sturdy raincoats head to beaches. Storms rage November to February; stay at wind-lashed Wickaninnish Inn. See hellobc.com.
28. GO CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING IN GUDBRANDSDALEN, NORWAY
There's a simplistic splendour to the sport of cross-country skiing, and there's no better place to appreciate it than Gudbrandsdalen in Norway. At this peaceful and beautiful spot you'll find yourself gliding through alpine wilderness with not a soul around, and no other sound but the snow beneath your skis. Headwater has week-long ski packages in Gudbrandsdalen. See headwater.com.
29. SKI THE HAUTE ROUTE, FRANCE AND SWITZERLAND
This epic cross-country ski tour, which connects the Alpine resort towns of Chamonix and Zermatt, is a 140-kilometre journey through the high heartland of the European Alps. Along the way it crosses about 20 glaciers and a number of high passes, with the route lined with huts providing accommodation. The start and finish markers – Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn – are inspiration enough. The Haute Route takes around six to seven days, and is suitable only for experienced cross-country skiers. See adventureconsultants.com.
30. SPEND A WEEK IN THE WILDERNESS, FINLAND
It's a smorgasbord of daily winter activities – snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, ice climbing, northern lights hikes, snow-igloo building – on a Finnish Wilderness Week beside the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. Nights are spent log-cabin style at Basecamp Oulanka, with activities ranging out through the surrounding Oulanka National Park and beyond. Finnish Wilderness Week trips run from December to February, flying in and out of Kuusamo. See exodustravels.com/au.
31. SKI THE WHITE RING, AUSTRIA
The Austrian Alps provide superb skiing, especially exhilarating on the White Ring: 22 kilometres and 5500 metres of descent on linked, superbly groomed runs. It starts atop Rufikopf cable car (2360 metres) above the glamorous ski resort of Lech, and without ever taking the same lift twice you'll return to Lech by afternoon. The scenery is glorious. The White Ring links the ski resorts of Lech, Zurs and Zug. See lechzuers.com.
32. RIDE THE OLYMPIC BOBSLEIGH RUN IN WHISTLER, CANADA
It only takes 60 seconds of white-knuckle action to travel from the top of Whistler's Olympic bobsleigh track to the bottom, 60 seconds in which you'll reach speeds of up to 125km/h, hit 4G of force, swing through 10 corners, and maybe, just maybe, look up at some point to see what's happening. The bobsleigh experience is open to the public – with a professional pilot – and it's a serious thrill. Rides cost $CAD179, and are open from December. See whistlersportlegacies.com.
33. SWIM NUDE IN THE DERWENT RIVER, TASMANIA
Hobart's annual Dark Mofo festival is a true, and often subversive, celebration of darkness and winter, but as the sun rises on the winter solstice and final day of the festival on June 21, first light hits hundreds of naked bodies as they dash into the chilly waters of the Derwent in this very public skinny dip. The nude solstice swim is free, but you must register. See darkmofo.net.au.
34. GO ICE FISHING IN THE YUKON, CANADA
It almost doesn't matter if you catch anything when you're sitting out on a frozen lake in the middle of the Yukon wilderness, gathered with friends around a small hole in the ice, swapping tall tales as you drop a line into the water and hope to catch a rainbow trout, or a lake trout, or an Arctic grayling. Yep – it almost doesn't matter. See upnorthadventures.com.
35. SNOWMOBILE IN ASPEN, US
Colorado's Rocky Mountains are gorgeous, and snowmobiling is a family-friendly sport that takes you into the scenery. There are nearly 5000 kilometres of dedicated snowmobile trails. Aspen not only has snowmobile experiences but overnight tours that stay in mountain huts, visiting the stunning Maroon Bells range, White River National Forest or the mining ghost town of Independence. See tlazy7.com.
36. ICE DIVE IN THE ALPS, FRANCE
Exchange skis for oxygen tank in Tignes and plunge into an alpine lake, accompanied by a professional dive instructor. Below are glacial boulders and hardy trout, while above are surreal views of translucent blue ice filled with wobbling pockets of air and pierced with sunlight. The dive lasts about 15 extraordinary minutes; any more and hypothermia might set in. See tignesplongee.com.
37. GO DOG SLEDDING IN THE YUKON, CANADA
As home to the Yukon Quest, billed as the world's toughest dog-sled race, Canada's Yukon Territory has great street-cred when it comes to trying your own hand at mushing. To get the most from the experience, book on for several days, giving you a chance to know the dogs and perhaps even camp out on an overnight expedition. Run by a family of Yukon Quest veteran competitors, Cathers Wilderness Adventures offers three to 10-day cabin-based sledding trips near Whitehorse. See cathersadventures.com.
38. TAKE A WINTER DIP IN FINLAND
More than most nations, Finland doesn't let winter get in the way of a good outdoors time. Exhibit A is the winter tradition of avantouinti – ice swimming – where patches of ice are cleared from lakes or the sea as swimming holes. A sauna session is almost compulsory afterwards. Saunas and the Avantouinti Society maintain swimming holes across the country. Helsinki has 14 winter swimming holes; see hel.fi.
39. RIDE A FAT BIKE AT CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, ITALY
Take a mountain bike and double the width of the tyres – now you have a fat bike, capable of riding through snow. Fat biking is becoming popular at winter resorts across the world, and has been particularly embraced in Cortina. Here, you can cycle on snowshoeing trails, take bikes on chairlifts, and roll down a couple of dedicated fat-biking slopes at Passo Falzarego. Guided fat-bike trips and hire are available from Fat Bike Dolomiti. See fatbikedolomiti.it.
40. FOLLOW THE YUKON QUEST, CANADA
Each February a 1600-kilometre dog sled race between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Quest, sees some of the world's hardiest dog mushers congregate to tackle "The Toughest Race on Earth''. Devised as a more backcountry alternative to the more famous Iditarod, the event draws spectators from all over. While watching, you can take time out to see the Northern Lights, visit the gold rush town of Dawson City, snow mobile, backcountry ski and much more. See yukonquest.com.
41. TAKE AN ICE-COLD DIP IN THE NETHERLANDS
There's nothing that clears a New Year's hangover as effectively as a plunge into the North Sea, which is surely what more than 10,000 Dutch people have in mind when they participate in the traditional New Year's Dive. There are plenty of locations to take this icy dip on January 1, but the most popular is Scheveningen beach, near the Hague. The New Year's Dive is free. See holland.com.
42. HIKE ON ICE, FOX GLACIER, NEW ZEALAND
This year-around activity is at its most spectacular in the thick of a winter snow cover. Choppers fly to Victoria Flats, about 800 metres above sea level, where you'll fit your crampons and follow guides as they chop steps through the ice for a three-hour walk atop the glacier, exploring the likes of ice caves and crevasses. Fox Glacier Guiding runs two heli-hike trips a day through winter. See foxguides.co.nz.
43. CLIMB A WATERFALL AT CANMORE, CANADA
When northern hemisphere waterfalls freeze, they become playgrounds for ice climbers. Learn the trade in Canmore, outside of Banff, where you'll use a pair of ice axes and front-point crampons to eventually haul yourself to the top of a solidified waterfall in a narrow canyon in Kananaskis Country. Canmore-based Yamnuska runs a range of ice climbing trips, starting with a two-day "Basic Ice" course. The season runs from mid-December to mid-March. See yamnuska.com.
44. DIVE BENEATH THE ICE, RUSSIA
Cutting into the northern Russian coast, the White Sea reliably freezes every winter, becoming the scene for literally one of the world's coolest adventures. Plunging through an ice hole, divers get to explore a submarine world of natural ice sculptures, soft corals and even beluga whales. The evening banya (steam bath) will warm things back up. Waterproof Expeditions runs week-long ice-diving trips. February and March are the best months. See waterproof-expeditions.com.
45. RIDE THE BIG PINTENFRITZ, SWITZERLAND
Europe's longest toboggan run glides for 15 kilometres from the summit of Faulhorn, a 2680-metre-high Alpine peak, all the way into Grindelwald, more than 1100 metres below. Be sure to look up as you go – the views of the Eiger's North Face are among the most dramatic in the Alps. Warm-ups are compulsory, in the form of the two to three-hour hike to Faulhorn's top from the gondola station at First. Toboggan hire is available in Grindelwald. See grindelwald.ch.
46. ICE WALK INTO MALIGNE CANYON, CANADA
At any time of year, narrow Maligne Canyon is one of the most popular natural attractions around Jasper, but guided winter walks will fit your boots with cleats and then lead you over the iced canyon floor to the foot of its 30-metre-high frozen falls. Maligne Adventures conducts ice walks into Maligne Canyon from Jasper; the trip involves around two hours of walking. See maligneadventures.com.
47. HIKE THE FROZEN ZANSKAR RIVER, INDIA
For centuries, the frozen Zanskar River through Ladakh has been a winter "road" connecting villages when all the usual roads and trails are impassable. Its modern incarnation is as a tourist trek, hiking about 75 kilometres along the river's iced surface, camping along the way. This trip is at the whim of ice conditions (and, increasingly, global warming), but February typically provides the best opportunity. See chadartrek.com.
48. ICE SKATE IN OTTAWA, CANADA
Ottawa's Rideau Canal is a World Heritage-listed site that just happens to double each winter as the world's largest natural skating rink. The skateway, which is used by about 20,0000 skaters a day, stretches for 7.8 kilometres from the centre of Ottawa to Dows Lake, and is lined with stalls selling winter warmers such as soup and hot chocolate. Skate hire is available at skateway entrances in the city centre. See ottawatourism.ca.
49. TACKLE THE OVERLAND TRACK, TASMANIA
There are many who have walked the Overland Track in winter (myself included) who claim the experience as better than a summer crossing. There's no permit system in winter, walker numbers are low, waterfalls run at full power and, with luck, snow sits like icing over the mountains. It's a week of the finest that winter can throw at you in Australia. The Cradle Mountain Huts Walk and Tasmanian Expeditions both run winter Overland Track hikes. See overlandtrack.com.au; taswalkingco.com.au/overland-track; tasmanianexpeditions.com.au.
50. ATTEMPT THE CRESTA RUN, SWITZERLAND
The world's most infamous toboggan run in ski resort St Moritz challenges you to lie on a 50-kilogram sheet-metal skeleton and whizz at 120km/h, face down and head first, down a chute of solid ice. It's a rollercoaster without the safety bar; injuries are common. Seventy seconds is a respectable but sensibly cautious time for novices. Beginners CHF600 for instruction, equipment and five rides. Men over 18 only. See cresta-run.com.
COOL SCHOOL: TOM WILKINSON, WINTER PROGRAM MANAGER, EXODUS TRAVELS
A TRAVELLER REALLY SHOULD EMBRACE THE COLD BECAUSE ... It sharpens your senses and heightens your experience. You literally feel every breath.
MY FAVOURITE COLD CORNER OF THE WORLD IS ... Finland, for some of the most remote, sparsely populated places you can imagine – think vast forests and lakes covered in snow. Winter brings a different quality of light, as the sun sits low on the horizon and reflects off the white blanket that covers everything. A tranquility and beauty you rarely experience, and hope that there are countries out there looking after their natural habitat.
MY BEST ADVICE FOR TRAVEL IN COLD PARTS OF THE WORLD IS… Lots of layers are much better than a few thick ones. You need to be able to take a few off when you're moving and put them back on when you stop.
WHEN I WANT TO WARM UP I GO TO... Sicily. Outside of the really hot months of July and August you can explore Roman ruins, head up Etna, then relax by the pool.
COOL SCHOOL: SCOTTY O'LEARY, OPERATIONS MANAGER, TASMANIAN EXPEDITIONS
A TRAVELLER REALLY SHOULD EMBRACE THE COLD BECAUSE... The air is so clean and crisp that on a clear day everything is superbly defined. The slant of light as the earth turns on its winter axis makes perfect photos of even the most mundane subjects.
MY FAVOURITE COLD CORNER OF THE WORLD IS... It should be Tasmania – we have some of the best winter treks like the Overland Track and the Walls of Jerusalem – but I'd have to say New Zealand's South Island. The ranges in the Fiordland National Park are breathtaking and you feel humbled by the grandeur of the wilderness.
MY BEST ADVICE FOR TRAVEL IN COLD PARTS OF THE WORLD IS… Buy the best down jacket and sleeping bag you can afford. Treat all your wet weather gear and boots for water repellency. And it always pays to have back-up gloves and beanies.
WHEN I WANT TO WARM UP I GO TO... Queensland's Daintree region. The first time I took the barge across the river it was like entering another world – within two minutes I'd seen cassowaries crossing the road and was completely immersed by tropical vegetation. And snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef is one of life's must-dos.
COOL SCHOOL: SANDY ERSKINE, MARINE MANAGER AND EXPEDITION EXPERT, G ADVENTURES
A TRAVELLER REALLY SHOULD EMBRACE THE COLD BECAUSE... The frozen parts of our planet are among the most pristine, untouched wilderness areas we have left.
MY FAVOURITE COLD CORNER OF THE WORLD IS... Antarctica. The silence, solitude and stark beauty of Antarctica, once visited, is something you never forget. Sailing between giant floating ice sculptures or contemplating life surrounded by thousands of penguins lives long in the memory.
MY BEST ADVICE FOR TRAVEL IN COLD PARTS OF THE WORLD IS... Use an experienced tour operator so you can visit safely and in relative comfort, while benefiting from years of knowledge and experience of the region.
WHEN I WANT TO WARM UP I GO TO... Hong Kong during the Australian winter has 30-degree heat. Lots of action, wonderful cuisine and a hectic pace, you can't beat Hong Kong for thrills.
COOL SCHOOL: CHAD CAREY, CO-FOUNDER, CHIMU ADVENTURES
A TRAVELLER REALLY SHOULD EMBRACE THE COLD BECAUSE... Cold doesn't mean no sun. In fact, winter landscapes look especially breathtaking in the sunlight and there's nothing quite like seeing the glistening snow on a sunny winter day.
MY FAVOURITE COLD CORNER OF THE WORLD IS... The Spitsbergen area in the Norwegian Arctic. Commonly referred to as the Arctic's wildlife capital, Spitsbergen is home to more polar bears than people. In summer, you can cruise the Arctic waters and tackle heart-thumping expeditions by dog-sled. In winter, you can lie back and be blown away by the Northern Lights.
MY BEST ADVICE FOR TRAVEL IN COLD PARTS OF THE WORLD IS... Don't underestimate the sun; it's important to pack UV protected sunglasses to avoid snow blindness.
WHEN I WANT TO WARM UP I GO TO... The Galapagos Islands, the best warm weather alternative to polar trips. The great thing in the Galapagos is that you can so easily snorkel with the wildlife, too.
COOL SCHOOL: WENDY SMITH, POLAR BRAND AND PRODUCT MANAGER, INTREPID TRAVEL
A TRAVELLER REALLY SHOULD EMBRACE THE COLD BECAUSE... From a bay littered with icebergs in every shade of white and blue, to a mountain covered with snow, the polar regions are otherworldly in their beauty and have to be experienced first-hand.
MY FAVOURITE COLD CORNER OF THE WORLD IS... Antarctica. It provides incredible up close and personal wildlife experiences as the wildlife is completely unfazed by people. Whales surface right next to the zodiac; penguins are fearless and will curiously peck travellers' boots.
MY BEST ADVICE FOR TRAVEL IN COLD PARTS OF THE WORLD IS... Pack layers; the poles aren't always as cold as people think.
WHEN I WANT TO WARM UP I GO TO... Croatia in summer, doing a small-ship cruise along the Dalmatian Coast. You can jump into the Adriatic right off the back of the boat, and stop at small coastal villages to taste delicious food and drink wine with locals.
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