Image credit: Canadian Tourism Commission
When the flakes fall it's time for travellers to play, says Joanna Booth
Remember that rush of excitement you experienced as a child when you threw back the curtains and saw snow? The desire to rush outside, plant your footprints into the pristine white carpet and catch snowflakes on your tongue? The chance to feel this buzz in Britain is rare, but send your clients to colder climes and they can be guaranteed a winter holiday filled with childlike snow-wonder.
The traditional ski market is just part of the equation. Snowy holidays with a multi-activity focus are growing in popularity, and with another bumper season predicted for the northern lights, there’s an additional impetus to head for winter snow rather than winter sun this year.
LAPLAND: PLAYFUL STAYS
The Lapland area of northern Scandinavia spreads across Finland, Norway and Sweden, and is the perfect bet for those who want to have a go at some classic snowy pursuits – think dog-sledding, reindeer sleighs, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
Alongside the daytime activities, the highlight for many is the chance to see the northern lights, which – with a bit of luck – clients could spot dancing in the skies between September and April. Scandinavia specialists and adventure-focused operators have a range of options from short breaks – you can even get above the Arctic Circle and back in a day with Transun – to full weeks, with many of these activities included in the package price.
Inghams’ seven-night Winter Wonderland holidays in Finnish Lapland run from December to April, fly from three airports, include a range of excursions and start from £669 for a seven nights’ half-board in the Crazy Reindeer Hotel, Levi.Activities are the big draw, but operators and hoteliers are raising their game and getting creative when it comes to accommodation. Taber Holidays has an Arctic glamping experience in Sweden, staying in the wilderness in a comfy bed in a fire-heated ‘lavvu’ – a traditional tent used by Sami reindeer herders.
Simply Sweden offers stays in the Icehotel in Jukkasjarvi and at Treehotel, an hour from Lulea, where rooms are suspended five metres above the ground in the canopy. Transun offers an optional add-on to stay in an igloo in the grounds of Davvi Arctic Lodge, one of its accommodation options in Finland. Inghams can include stays in glass igloos or the Lainio SnowHotel to its Finnish holidays. Also in Finland, Nellim Wilderness Lodge has just launched Aurora Bubbles – heated pods with a transparent north-facing window over the bed, so guests can potentially see the lights without having to go out in the cold.
ICELAND: LOVE THE LAVA
Iceland rocks – quite literally. The destination’s rather active geology is behind many of the standout sights and activities; from driving across lava fields in a giant ‘super jeep’ to swimming in the geothermally-warmed springs of the famous Blue Lagoon.
Regent Holidays has a vast programme of Icelandic options, from organised tours to tailor-made trips. Wintertime adventures include snowmobiling on a glacier – an add-on to the classic Golden Circle sightseeing itinerary around south Iceland’s natural wonders – coach excursions and horseback tours to see the northern lights, lava caving and whale-watching – another rather unique feature to Iceland.
Exodus offers Iceland: Whales and Northern Lights, a five-day trip that splits time between the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to see orcas and Reykjavik’s old harbour for minke and humpback whales, with evenings spent searching for the aurora. The trip starts from £1,399 including flights, accommodation, excursions and most meals.
Image credit: Paul Goldstein
CANADA: BEAR IT ALL
Northern Europe may be nearer, but Canada has plenty of wintry charm. Immense stretches of wilderness, reliable conditions and plenty of daylight have ensured the destination’s reputation for winter activity holidays, and Exodus’s Canada Wilderness Adventure really makes the most of these benefits, with snowshoeing, ice-fishing, cross-country skiing and skating on the frozen Rideau Canal in the Lac Simon region, after kicking off in Montreal with the chance to enjoy the city’s Winter Festival. Departures start on January 25 and the eight-day trip starts from £1,999 including flights, accommodation, activities and most meals.
Prestige Holidays has a new option for winter on Canada’s other coast, in the Rockies. The six-day Mountain Adventure is based in Banff and activities include dog-sledding, snowmobiling and a ride on the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. It also includes an ice-walk through Johnston Canyon on steel walkways built into the canyon walls with views of the frozen waterfalls. Land-only, the holiday starts from £920 and runs from December 19 to April 11.
Churchill in Manitoba isn’t called the Polar Bear Capital of the World for nothing. Every winter hundreds of bears move from their summer habitat on the tundra back to seal-hunting territory, on the pack ice that forms over the Hudson Bay. G Adventures offers a two-day trip out of Winnipeg including tundra-buggy trips to see the bears, accommodation, a local flight and transfers, from £1,049.
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