While chillier temperatures seem like a novelty now, in a few months we’ll be ready for a change in scenery, making this the perfect time to start planning a winter getaway. To help us get inspired to book a trip, we reached out to Lee McCarthy of Naples, Florida-based MAD Travel for advice on the current must-visit winter destinations. Whether you’re seeking an adventure in a far-off locale, dreaming of hitting the slopes, or looking for a luxurious spa experience, these recommendations will have you ready to pack your bags for the ultimate winter escape.
Check “visit the end of the world” off your list. Whether you’re seeking an urban getaway or a rugged adventure, this diverse region offers it all, thanks to bustling locales like Santiago and Buenos Aires and the Torres del Paine National Park. “Opportunities for customization abound,” McCarthy says. “So you can have both a lovely city experience, enjoying a curator-led tour of the Pre-Columbian Art Museum and fine cuisine, and also stand amid a lively, raucous colony of Magellanic penguins, all on the same vacation.” Some of McCarthy’s must-do activities include sailing through the Beagle Channel (a beautiful passageway separating islands of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago), visiting a working Patagonian ranch, touring some of Chile’s most renowned private wineries, and setting out for Easter Island to discover its remote beauty and mysterious moai statues. McCarthy recommends booking lodging at The Singular Patagonia, Puerto Bories Hotel, historic hotel that was declared a national heritage site in 1996 and delivers a luxurious experience in what is known as the “end of the world route.” The unique location affords a wider variety of excursions, from hiking and fly-fishing to taking in historic sights.
Enjoy a peaceful retreat amongst desert splendor. If you anticipate needing a place to rest and recharge pre- or post-holiday season, consider booking a trip to sunny Arizona and treating yourself to a stay at The Boulders Resort and Spa. Not only does this resort deliver top-notch service, a world-class spa, and a challenging golf course, but its landscape makes it utterly unique. “The Boulders provides its guests with a breathtaking location amid a moonscape of giant granite boulders and ethereal rock formations,” McCarthy says. “The setting is more in line with Cappadocia in Turkey than the golf-course-laden resorts in Scottsdale.” The calling cards for this ambitious, gated community of 1,300 acres are the surrealistic rock garden and the pueblo-inspired architecture. Guests are content to stay on site, where there’s plenty to offer whether you’re looking for relaxation or a bit of adventuring. For the former, there are three pools perfect for lounging and a spa designed with Native American and Asian influences that offers services ranging from underwater treatments to adobe clay wraps. For more vigorous activities, guests can enjoy two championship golf courses, tennis facilities, rock climbing, mountain biking, nature trails with guided hikes, and even a nighttime hiking excursion.
Relish natural wonders—and award-winning wine and cuisine—in Land of the Kiwis. “New Zealand is blessed with perhaps the world’s largest concentration of stunning natural wonders, including bubbling geothermal pools, brooding volcanoes, majestic peaks, dense forests, deep fjords, and sunny beaches,” McCarthy says. With their summer season taking place during North America’s winter, it’s the perfect destination for those looking to escape the cold. Some of McCarthy’s top recommendations include the otherworldly experience of gazing into the turquoise-blue waters of Rotorua’s geothermal pools, viewing postcard-perfect Milford Sound by air, taking a jet boat safari on the Dart River, hiking the shores of the flowing ice river of Fraz Josef Glacier, and heading to Queenstown and Auckland to enjoy award-winning restaurants and wineries. For luxe accommodations, stay at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay. From stunning landscapes, to golf, horseback riding, countless excursions, and amazing cuisine, this resort has it all.
Discover ground zero for the Northern Lights. If you’re on the quest for a true winter wonderland, look no further than Finnish Lapland. “This is the spot to be if you’re in search of the Northern Lights—one of nature’s most compelling spectacles,” McCarthy says. “In Lapland, you’ll also be treated to a first-hand experience of their rich culture,” McCarthy adds, noting that this includes opportunities for dog sledding, snowshoeing, and even staying in a hotel made of ice. McCarthy also suggests cruising in a genuine icebreaker, taking a dip in the frigid waters of the Gulf of Bothnia, and snowmobiling through the Finnish wilds while there. The time to visit for optimal Northern Lights viewing is from December through March, and two of McCarthy’s top picks for lodging are the Arctic Snow Hotel, built new each year, and the Northern Lights Village, which boasts glass-domed “igloos” where you can enjoy the light show from the warmth and privacy of your own room.
Get your ski fix at a luxe location. If hitting the slopes is on your agenda this year, McCarthy suggests that you consider heading to the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley for a winter retreat. Nestled amidst the alpine serenity of Utah’s Deer Valley, Stein Eriksen Lodge is positioned perfectly to take in gorgeous panoramic mountain views and is situated just steps from the ski lifts. The ski-in-ski-out location is complemented by valets who work out of the scenic two-story ski-locker room, who are happy to share insider knowledge—along with hot beverages. Off the slopes, guest can enjoy the recent $14 million addition that includes a new restaurant, movie theater, game rooms and lounge, and pool. The award-winning Glitretind is the hotel’s culinary pulse, showcasing seasonal, stellar cuisine against a backdrop of gorgeous vistas. Ease tired muscles at the Alpine Serenity spa, where 16 treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpool tubs, a fitness room, and a year-round outdoor pool make it hard to resist daily visits. Keeping things family-friendly, the resort offers activities for children and teens that guarantee their stay will be just as rewarding.