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The Best Places for Winter Travel, According to AFAR Staffers

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Photo by LeeAnn Murphy

We’re gonna say it: Winter might just be the best time to travel. Plane tickets can be cheaper, crowds are (much) thinner, and you can really get a sense of a place when the weather isn’t perfect. We asked our staff for their favorite winter trips, and from Istanbul to the Bahamas, their answers couldn’t be more varied. Whether you’re a sunbird or a ski bunny, we’ve got an idea for your next winter travel.

The Sun Seekers

“My favorite winter trip was the time we took a new year’s eve train to a bus to a boat from Bangkok to Koh Samui. You know it’s going to be a good year when you spend the first day of it under a thatched roof next to powdery sand and Windex-colored water.” —Jeremy Saum, executive editor

“In the winter of 2012, my wife, Robin, and I cozied up in a hand-built stucco-wood-and tile casita at Casa Carmelita on the outskirts of Tlaxcala, Mexico. Only three of us were staying there and taking morning classes from Estela Salas Silva and Jon Jarvis in their Mexican Home Cooking School, learning how to make the traditional dishes of Puebla. Eating those dishes for lunch and dinner, downing margaritas and beer in the 70-degree weather, and exploring the region added up to our best and tastiest winter trip ever.” —Derk Richardson, senior editor

New Years Eve in Cuba was an all time favorite. The government didn’t allow Cubans into The Tropicana, so we got in a taxi at 11:30 p.m. and ended up at a bar called Dos Gardenias. We were only English-speaking people there, and the locals could not have been more fun and engaging! So glad things are changing.” —Barry Brown, executive director of sales

Definitely The Bahamas! Not only do you get a chance to get away from the cold, but in Exuma—where I stayed—you can see amazing wildlife like sting-rays, nurse sharks, iguanas, and swimming pigs. It’s an island that’s full of adventure and beautiful beaches with amazingly clear waters. It’s also peaceful, if you’re looking for that kind of thing.” —Denise Hoo, Digital Ad Operations Manager

“I’m dreaming of anywhere in the southern hemisphere…I spent a blissful few weeks one January in Argentine Patagonia, Buenos Aires, and Rio. It was the perfect mix of beach, city, and wild, wild countryside.” —Davina Baum, director of digital content

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Ile des Saintes off of Guadeloupe is a low-key, barefoot version of St. Bart’s. On this speck of a Caribbean island, there’s not much to do, which is the point. It’s a casual island where doors are left unlocked and you quickly know everyone: I found myself sitting out the midday sun one day by helping a young local with her English homework at her parents’ pizza restaurant.” —John Newton, sponsored content editor

My favorite winter trip this year was to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I spent the week of New Year’s Eve there, and the weather was a glorious 90+ degrees. Staying in Santa Teresa neighborhood by night, and enjoying fresh açai and watermelon on Ipanema Beach by day, was an appreciated and needed break from the New York winter.” —Michaela Trimble, sales manager

The Snow Seekers

Istanbul, January 2012: Sultanahmet is dusted with snow, which crunches beneath our feet as Cheri and I wander hand-in-hand among the Byzantine and Ottoman monuments of the old city, drinking sweetened salep and munching on simit. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace…romantic and enduring monuments that form the perfect backdrop to these fleeting moments we’ve conjured together in our long-distance relationship. Later on we’ll explore the Grand Bazaar, or buy freshly grilled fish sandwiches under Galata Bridge, or cozy up with a glass of çay in a Beyoğlu cafe, or take a ferry ride to the Princes’ Islands. Istanbul is an enchanting city, and we must have taken this magic away with us: We got married six months later!”—Nick Rowlands, guides editor

At Powder Mountain, tucked away near Eden, Utah, every local I shared a lift chair with apologized profusely for the lack of snow. This on a string of the best powder days I’d ever skied in my life.”—Lisa Trottier, contributing editor

“One of my most memorable winter trips was taking the Blue Train from Vienna to Budapest.  Riding in the luxury vintage railcar felt like traveling in a moving snow globe.” —Claudia Santino, event marketing manager

I went to the Anchorage/Alyeska area for New Years a few years back. We had a ton of fun doing stuff in the 3 or so hours of ‘daylight’ that we had. Dogsledding, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowmobiling, hockey on a lake, airtour looking at glaciers and moose, snowshoeing. And then in the dark, mostly being social in bars and restaurants, as well as lots of board games.” —Greg Sullivan, co-founder and CEO

“My favorite winter trips are those where I simply embrace winter full on and don’t try to hide from it. Growing up, my family and I would go to a farm resort in New Hampshire where we would ice fish, ice skate in a flooded barn (awesome!), take winter hay rides, snow shoe, cross-country ski, build snow men, and scout out the coolest icicles. We also gathered our own eggs in the morning and had them prepared for our morning breakfast.” —Kate Hornsby, luxury director

“Home to one chair and thousands of acres of amazing terrain—accessed by helicopter or on foot—Silverton offers a true snow adventure. A day trip from Telluride, it’s well worth the hour drive. Avalanche gear/training or guides required, but a perfect spot to take off the training wells and try a true experience in the San Juan mountains.”—Bryan Kinkade, associate publisher

I love going to the beach here in New York when it’s cold. A long weekend in Montauk with the dog, a giant sweater, wooly socks, and a fireplace is really the perfect getaway. The beach has this flat, gray quality to it that’s so nice to look at, and it’s a great excuse to drink lots of red wine and eat hot things with melted cheese, and not talk to too many people.” —Lily Soysal, marketing and special projects director

“My most memorable winter trip was this year—to Montreal, where I attended Igloofest, an outdoor electronic dance party in the Old Port area of the city. It was minus 25 degrees Celsius, but that didn’t stop 2,000 people from donning their down-filled parkas and snow boots to groove to the awesome light show and DJ performances. A shot of Jagermeister and dancing amongst the crowd kept up warm!” —Jill Greenwood, director of events

“For the past six years I do an annual Europe ski trip with a crew of 15 people from the US, Croatia, England, Germany, and Switzerland. This year might take the cake: we’re in Lech, Austria. We ski and snowboard untouched powder all day long, then break for lunch at restaurants that have spiral slides that take you to a wine cellar with one of the largest collections of Bordeaux magnums in the world. We ski some more, and then dance on tables to euro pop and do heisse wietwe (hot widow) shots at Mooserwirt, the best aprés bar in the world in my opinion. But really, the best part is being with so many great friends from around the world!” —Jen Murphy, hotels editor

I love exploring Lake Tahoe in the winter (and summer). The white snow against the rich blue color of the lake is truly a sight to see.” —Samantha Juda, audience marketing specialist

“In January 2004, I took a train from Frankfurt to Paris, through Barcelona, and over to Lisbon by myself to meet some friends. I started off all bundled up in my peacoat, but a couple of days later, I was in trunks on an (albeit not exactly sizzling) beach. The most transformative part was being alone. For a solid two days, I didn’t speak to anyone; it was just me, sitting with my thoughts and some killer views of the Spanish coastline.” —Andrew Richdale, senior editor

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Skiing British Columbia!  Love to get off the grid with our family at Red Mountain Resort in the West Kootenay region of BC, a super low-key and under-the-radar mountain, with the most incredible powder and terrain.” —Onnalee MacDonald, west coast sales director

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