When it’s summer north of the equator, head to the other hemisphere to find relief in these seven winter wonderlands.
It’s funny that we wish for summer all winter long, but when it’s finally here, we spend so much time trying to escape its often extreme heat. For real relief, go bigger than movie theaters, swimming pools, and ice cream stands—head for the Southern Hemisphere. There, you can find winter respite and all the cold-weather activities you love (and the airfare is generally cheaper then too). Say good-bye to sandy beaches and palm trees and hello to snow-covered mountain peaks.
Three hours from Melbourne, Mount Buller is as quaint and bustling as any proper ski resort town should be, and except for the accents, you might even think you’re in an alpine village in Switzerland. Take a sled dog tour through the Victorian Alps and learn how to drive your own team of Siberian huskies, or enjoy an orienteering game called snowgaining along the crests and ridges of the mountain. Snowgaining is like a high-altitude scavenger hunt: You’re given clues to locations you must find and visit. Skiing is an obvious choice in the snow, but here you can also learn telemarking, a Norwegian subtype of skiing in which a specialized binding puts the skier in a kneeling position as he or she speeds down the slopes.
Nicknamed the “End of the World,” Ushuaia is a winter resort town on the tip of Argentina; it’s also the southernmost city in the world. If you’re feeling adventurous, board Adventure Life’s ship, Ocean Nova, in Ushuaia to sail across the Drake Passage to the coasts of Antarctica on itineraries lasting from six to 19 days. Book a 4x4 tour through the frozen forests of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park with the tour operator Tierra Turismo. After sloshing along the rough, unpaved roads in a Land Rover, you’ll take in panoramic views of Roca (Acigami) Lake and Lapataia Bay.
Located in one of the only reliably snowy parts of South Africa, the Tyume Valley has well-maintained hiking paths that bring you right up to gorgeous waterfalls, such as Swallowtail Falls and Kettlespout Falls; the nine most popular trails are each doable in an afternoon—even the snowy ones—or a long day, although you can book a horse to ride if you wear out your feet. A stay at King’s Lodge, a private country motel near the small mountain village of Hogsback, will really drive home the Tyume’s remoteness. Visitors love the remote and tranquil place; when the snow is thick, it can feel like living in the only home left on Earth.
Bonus for art lovers: In the nearby town of Alice, the Alice Art Gallery holds one of the largest private collections of art in Africa, which focuses particularly on South African artists.
Huayna Potosí, Bolivia
South America’s Kilimanjaro, Huayna Potosí, is 19,974 feet of glaciated mountain, but even a beginner can make the climb on a three-day guided tour. Enjoy cosmopolitan La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, before you meet up with Bolivian Mountain Guides; the organization’s guides are accredited by the strict International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA). Hit the coffee early on the third day for a 5 a.m. summit attempt, and then from the peak, look down on the famed Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real mountain range. You’ll see rain forest and jagged snowy peaks all in the same view.
The vast Patagonian wilderness is 20 times larger than the biggest national park in the United States. Joining a professional trek for an off-season tour with Swoop Patagonia through the area in winter means rarely, if ever, seeing another person in this popular summertime destination. Some trails become inaccessible under all the fresh snow, but a few of those that remain open lead into the Pingo Valley, a rarely visited nook of terrain. Hike in the shadow of Andean Mountains toward French Glacier, a dramatic hanging glacier that clings to the side of a cliff, and then step onto the 17-mile-long Grey Glacier and watch the icebergs lazily float along Lago Grey.
Hanmer Hot Springs, New Zealand
Dip into an oasis of hot springs that pokes through the snow-covered forests and hillsides around the small New Zealand alpine village of Hanmer. For 125 years, Hanmer Springs has drawn visitors eager to shake off the icy air by slipping into its many thermal pools, which range in temperature from 97 to 107.5 degrees. Today there are 15 open-air pools, three all-natural sulfur pools, three aqua therapy pools, six private pools, and a heated lazy river. Once you’re ready to venture into the cold again, head to the nearby Waiau River Estate—the highest-altitude vineyard in a country famous for its winemaking—where you can enjoy beautiful vistas over the Southern Alps and the Waiau River.
An island of snow 10,000 feet above a dry nation, this African alpine plateau is called the Roof of Africa. The area is famous for its off-road driving, so experience the Maluti Range by hopping behind the wheel for a guided, self-driving tour through Motheng Pass with Bhejane Adventures, glimpsing frozen waterfalls and woolly Angora goats along the way. Or you can simply rent an SUV and head for the corkscrewing Sani Pass, which is on the border with South Africa. In the winter, it’s particularly thrilling for off-road afficionados, but it can also be dangerous, so consider hiring a guide. (Also, the pass does close in adverse conditions; be sure to check before venturing out.) Stay at the Maliba Lodge, a five-star hotel inside Ts’ehlanyane National Park. Rates start at as little as $115 per night. The park is home to wild cats, jackals, baboons, otters, and antelope, many of which are endangered and scarce.