Winter is coming!
For the past five years, I’ve successfully avoided the intense cold that comes with winter, skipping over to Johannesburg to soak up the heat and a little bit of rain every so often, or even just a puddle skip to Los Angeles where I can wear shorts with my sweatshirt because it really isn’t that cold. This year, however, after spending a few April days in Denmark and surviving on hot soup, hot chocolate, electric blankets, and a stranger’s body heat, I’m thinking of grabbing my passport, finding a few beautiful wintery wonderlands, and doing some very hot things!
After all, travel is usually cheaper to cold destinations, and deep, inexplicable love and unfathomable creativity are born in winter. Why miss out on that?
1. Tallin, Estonia: A beautiful coastal town in spring, summer, and autumn, this capital city is one of the most beautiful in the world during the winter when the snow has fallen and the homemade soups begin to boil. In the winter, tourist life slows a bit and you’re able to stroll around to gaze at the snow-cover architecture, the lights fighting their way through the snowy mist, and smell the burning wood that reminds us all of better moments.
Things to do: Write the next great novel; Read your favorite writer’s entire catalogue; Kick-sledge hike with a group; Sweat away the day in a sauna.
Food To eat: Lamb Soup with Cabbage.
2. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada: I didn’t make it in the summer as I hoped to take a dip in Moraine Lake, but I’m sure beauty like that doesn’t die with the season. In fact, the mountains reflecting in the water will look even more majestic while snow-capped.
Things to do: Hike a frozen waterfall; Catch an early sunset; Attend one of the many festivals Canada is known for.
Food to eat: Alberta-raised steak (my recommendation is the Wagyu beef if you have a few extra coins in your pocket)
3. Hallstatt, Austria: Often ranking as one of the most beautiful villages in the world, this small village looks like a place in which I’d like to close out every chapter of my life. It’s impossible to not be amazing when you have a mountain, a lake, and a forest to boast about and this this place knows that. Hop on a heated boat or simply stand at the base of the mountain and be grateful for the gorgeous view.
Things to do: Ice diving in the lake; Thermal spas; Enjoy the markets.
Food to eat: Käsekrainer with Pumpkin Soup
4. Bern, Switzerland: When Tina Turner relinquished her American citizenship for Switzerland, I knew this country awesome, and after seeing it flourish in winter via social media, I don’t believe “awesome” is big enough a word. The world’s most Instagrammed city in winter, this Swiss town is full of eye-gasmic charm and style.
Things to do: Stay overnight in an igloo; Snowshoe tour.
Food to eat: Älplermagronen
5. Bethel, Maine: For those artists, dreamers, magic bean buyers, intellectuals, and slope lovers. It’s small enough to walk the entire town, but big enough to return repeatedly to discover newness. Come, meet the locals and the visitors, the artists and philosophers, and discuss the meaning of life. Also, it’s Maine! Not many can say they’ve come!
Things to do: Host a dinner with amazing folks; Ice fishing; Outdoor swimming in a heated pool
Food to eat: Bibimbap from ChoSun
Find a travel partner with a loud laugh, good jokes, and great taste in music and with whom you wouldn’t mind being trapped in a cabin. Check your favorite bookstores for the books that’ll keep your emotions properly tuned. Grab a thick coat, a scarf, gloves, thick socks, and insulated shoes and go enjoy.
Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.