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Where to go in winter, according to 8 travel writers

From the golden shores of Egypt to small-town Massachusetts, these are the best destinations to visit this winter – as chosen by globetrotting travel writers

Edited by
Grace Beard
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Baby, it’s cold outside! And inside, for that matter. Winter is settling in, but that doesn’t mean travel has to go on hold – in fact, this is one of the best times of the year to hit the road. And if you’re looking for some winter destination inspiration, look no further.

We went to some of our favourite travel writers who have published books this year, and asked them about the one place they love to visit in winter. The resulting list celebrates the destinations that shine in the colder months – whether they’re winter-sun spots offering an escape from the cold, or places to embrace the season’s chilly delights.

So don’t wait till summer to get out there. Grab your snow boots (or your swimsuit) and explore the best winter destinations on earth.

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🎁 The best places to go for Christmas
🎆 The best places to celebrate New Year

The world’s best winter destinations

West Bali, Indonesia
Photograph: markeveleigh.com

West Bali, Indonesia

Chosen by Mark Eveleigh

Overcrowded, overdeveloped and over-exploited, or the most beautiful island in the world? There’s a Balinese belief that everything – good and bad, life and death, beauty and ugliness – is in a state of perpetual balance. Sometimes two apparent opposites can be true at the same time.

‘In 25 years as a travel journalist I’ve lived in many parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa. But there’s a good reason why, these days, I choose to make the four-hour drive from Bali’s airport, leaving the crowds behind and heading out to the island’s “wild west”. Often, when I’m heading to my local pointbreak to surf with Balinese friends, I still gasp at the unbelievable beauty of dawn in West Bali. The bronze rays of the sun glinting on flooded terraces. The neon patchwork of young rice plants. Foamy waves rushing up a black volcanic beach. 

‘I was raised in England so it’s not surprising that I’d choose tropical climes for a winter destination. Things are changing rapidly here but, for the moment at least, I still believe that Bali deserves its reputation as the world’s most beautiful island.’

Mark Eveleigh is a novelist and travel writer. His book ‘Kopi Dulu: Caffeine-Fuelled Travels through Indonesia’ was published by Penguin Random House SEA in August 2022.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Photograph: Shutterstock

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Chosen by Shafik Meghji

‘The Salar de Uyuni – the world’s biggest salt flat – is an otherworldly landscape. Roughly the size of Jamaica, this ancient lake bed sits on a high Andean plateau in south-west Bolivia, more than 11,000 feet above sea level. It is a pancake-flat, dazzlingly white expanse dotted with islands of giant cacti, flanked by soaring mountains and volcanoes, and home to and rabbit-like vizcachas and vast reserves of valuable lithium.

‘Over the last 18 years, I’ve been drawn back repeatedly to this starkly beautiful wilderness. My favourite time to visit is during Bolivia’s rainy summer season, from November to April. That’s when large tracts of the Salar de Uyuni flood, creating a mind-bending mirror-like effect. Travelling here at this time of year can be a little challenging, but it’s an unforgettable experience.’

Shafik Meghji is a journalist, travel writer and author of ‘Crossed off the Map: Travels in Bolivia’.

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Capri and Sardinia, Italy
Photograph: Shutterstock

Capri and Sardinia, Italy

Chosen by Giancarlo Ascari and Pia Valentinis

Giancarlo Ascari:Winter is the best season to visit the island of Capri, in the Bay of Naples. The flow of tourists who flock to it during the rest of the year decreases and you can discover a place with an incredible history. Here Tiberius spent his last years, governing the Roman Empire with signals of light sent from his villa towards the continent. In Capri have lived hermits, theosophists, industrialists like Alfred Krupp, writers like Graham Greene and Pablo Neruda, famous doctors like Axel Munthe. It is easy and fascinating to find their traces, to recognise the places they have told. The nature is beautiful, the views are gorgeous, the taxis are old American open cars from the ’50s. And in winter, if you are lucky (or unlucky), the rough sea will block the navigation of the ferries for a few days – so you will stay in Capri longer than expected.’

Pia Valentinis: ‘I prefer the sea in winter, when the light is less dazzling, the water reflects dark clouds and there are no people around. In Sardinia, the beach of Cagliari – the Poetto – extends for seven miles: perfect for long walks. Looking up, you can see seabirds such as Eurasian plovers, black-winged stilts, red, white and grey herons. On the shoreline you can collect the objects that the sea brings in during storm surges, such as shells and bottles with messages inside. And you can always find a bar open for some prawn pasta or a glass of wine, best sipped gazing towards the horizon.’

‘Bridges of the World by Giancarlo Ascari and Pia Valentinis is published by OH Editions.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Photograph: Flickr

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Chosen by Mark Vanhoenacker

‘Winter is my favourite season. I love both the cold and all the delights – hot chocolate, roaring fires – of coming in from it. And I love how snow can silence and transform a place I thought I knew.

‘For a reliably snowy break in a major metropolis, head to Montréal. For a smaller and less well-known destination, however, I recommend Pittsfield, my hometown in the Berkshire Hills of rural western Massachusetts. This small city plays an outsized role in “Imagine a City”, my memoir and travelogue in which I document my small-town dreams of becoming an airline pilot, and my journeys as an adult to some of the largest metropolises on Earth. No matter how far I fly, my heart remains in Pittsfield.

‘For visitors, Pittsfield and its environs offer friendly, inexpensive and nearly queue-free alpine skiing (indeed, several Olympians first learned on its slopes). The Berkshires also have dozens of ponds and lakes for skating and informal hockey matches, and endless fields and forest trails for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Stand still for a (chilly) moment or two, and perhaps you’ll spot the striking swoop of a blood-red cardinal over the snowbound world, a vision that embodied the beauty of North American winters to my Belgian-born father.

‘The Berkshires pair outdoor pursuits with world-class museums such as the Clark Art Institute and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. My favourite indoor destination, however, is Arrowhead, Herman Melville’s farm in Pittsfield. Stand by the hearth of the author of “Moby-Dick” and marvel at the harpoon repurposed as a poker, then gaze from the windows of Melville’s study up to Mount Greylock, the loftiest peak in Massachusetts, whose contours and midwinter complexion are said to have suggested a white whale. Then head to Dottie’s Coffee Lounge on North Street in downtown Pittsfield for some of the tastiest hot chocolate I know.’

Mark Vanhoenacker flies the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for British Airways. He is the author of ‘Imagine a City: A Pilot Sees the World’ and ‘Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot.

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Dahab, Egypt
Photograph: Shutterstock

Dahab, Egypt

Chosen by Rebecca Lowe

‘Dahab means “gold” in Arabic, although the precise origin of the name is unclear. Some believe it comes from the Bedouin phrase for “time is golden”, al waqt min thahab, while others say it derives from the ancient gold washed down the mountains by seasonal rains, or the drifts of sand deposited by floodwaters into the bay.

‘Having spent many a happy winter bathing in the turquoise waters of this deliciously mellow fishing-village-turned-diving-mecca, I wonder if there could be other interpretations too: the sizzling grouper and red snapper fish bronzed to perfection on beachside barbecues; the sparkling carafes of ‘Moon Blush’ scuppering your early-morning scuba dive; the distant peaks of the Arabian Peninsula gilded amber by the rising sun.

‘One kind of gold Dahab has long struggled to hold onto, however, is the kind you carry in your pocket. Since a violent insurgency emerged in northern Sinai a decade ago, foreign holidaymakers have largely stayed away, causing lasting damage to local trade. But Dahab lies in the south, two hundred miles from danger, and could not feel more sheltered or safe. It is a truly magical place – and it needs our custom to survive.’

Rebecca Lowe, author of ‘The Slow Road to Tehran, is a freelance journalist and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society who specialises in the Middle East.

Estonia
Photograph: Shutterstock

Estonia

Chosen by Richard Hammond

‘Back in 2010, I travelled from London by train to the German port of Rostock, and then by ferry up the Baltic Sea to Estonia, where Europe meets the east. Tourism to this beautiful, tech-savvy country has evolved much over the past decade. Food is the big draw: earlier this year Michelin published its first guide to the country, featuring over 30 restaurants. (Põhjaka Manor in Mäeküla and Fotografiska in Tallin were awarded the Michelin Green Star for sustainability.)

‘Winter is a great time to make the most of the country’s alternative winter sports among the clean air of its abundant forests, from snowshoeing and ice-skating to kick-sledding, bog swimming and canoeing: one-fifth of Estonian landscape is covered by bogs, some of which date back over 10,000 years. Brave a dip in icy water followed by the traditional smoke sauna of Old Võromaa at Moosa (recognised as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of the world) and don’t miss the Christmas Market in the Old Town Square of the medieval capital, Tallinn – the Green Capital of Europe in 2023.’

Richard Hammond is a writer, videographer and founder of GreenTraveller.co.uk. His book ‘The Green Traveller: Conscious adventure that doesn't cost the earth was published by Pavilion in 2022.

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Puerto Iguazú, Argentina
Photograph: Michael Webster

Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

Chosen by Micheal Webster

‘If it’s midwinter in the UK, it must be midsummer in Argentina. I dream of going back to Puerto Iguazú, right in the north of that huge country.

‘Spectacular! That one word sums up the Iguazú waterfalls. I make sure to arrive early and catch the first train up to the Devil’s Throat. Black capuchin monkeys scurry alongside and I glimpse a toucan flying overhead. Gazing in awe at the immensity of the waters that have travelled thousands of kilometres through Amazonia to reach this very spot, I watch as they thunder down the narrow gorge.

‘Back in town, I visit the Hummingbird Garden run by Leandro and his mum. The hummers, a rainbow of dazzling colours, flit by my ears. Then it’s off for a walk in the jungle. My favourite spot is the Surucua Reserve, where I hike along forest trails surrounded by blue morpho butterflies, shrieking parrots and exotic orchids.’

Michael Webster is a conservationist, birdwatcher, filmmaker and author of ‘The Condor’s Feather, a wildlife-inspired travel memoir about a drama-packed journey along the spine of the Andes.

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