Our On The Road Editor, Emily Stamp, shares her views on winter travelling.
Most people shudder at the thought of travelling anywhere over the winter holidays. If you stay close to Scotland it’s going to be cold and wintery, and why would you want to tour or be outside in the cold? If you head to warmer countries, then coming back is going to be a huge shock to the system. Yes, people do go skiing during the winter holidays but at least you are prepared for snow and cold weather, whereas touring around a new city isn’t quite as energetic and therefore considered much colder and much less desirable.
I disagree. Travelling in winter just requires a little preparation in terms of keeping warm. Just because it is winter it doesn’t mean you have to visit a country that has a lot of rain; crisp winter days are perfect for wandering around, wrapped up and cosy. This could be through thermals, extra layers or the use of a flask. Last Christmas I brought a flask and some tea while I was travelling just to save costs on buying coffee when I got cold and it was wonderful. Plus some countries have great street food that can keep you warm – I still dream of wandering round at 0 degrees eating steamed sweet potatoes.
Also if you miss the Christmas period then flights are generally cheaper than in summer months which are a bonus if you want to travel somewhere far away. Plus tourist sites are generally less busy as it is off season (and may be cheaper). If they are busy think how much worse it would be in the height of summer. I visited Beijing’s summer palace in winter, complete with iced over ponds and at -2 degrees and that was busy enough. Besides cold, crisp days are beautiful for photos and you won’t the millions of tourists swarming around you and getting in the way.
Moreover, if you are a museum person then hopping between museums isn’t too cold, they have heating and you can spend as long as you wish in them before moving on, prolonging exposure to the warm inside. Then, especially in bigger cities, you can usually head straight onto the underground or a bus instead of walking for miles in the cold. The only downside is being so wrapped up for the outside requires the removal of multiple layers once you get inside, so that you do not overheat.
If you are a sporty person try skiing or snowboarding. This seems to be the only well accepted winter holiday, where people don’t mind the cold but this mainly because wrapped up in ski jackets, thermals and the constant exercise keep you warm. Plus snow still holds a little magic and is fun to be in. Whilst snow is not best for generally touring around a city, going specifically for snow sports is enjoyable and an experience everyone should try. You don’t even have to be particularly sporty to give it ago.
People tend to think of wintery weather as something to be avoided while travelling, but in actuality it still provides good memories, and places have a different kind of beauty to the summer months. Plus there is very little you will be unable to do. Yes, some sites are not open in winter months (so be sure to check those before you head out) but on the whole, most sites will be and avoiding the cold is generally as easy as it would be in your own country. Ducking into shops or cafes is also good for warming up, as well as spending time in indoor tourist sites such as museums. You might not be able to go hiking, or want to spend a long time in big outdoor spaces but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. Besides, if you wrap up warm enough you will still be able to do it.
So, plan travels for the winter break, give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the semester and enjoy seeing a new, wintery, side to whether you’re headed. Alternately head somewhere warm and escape winter altogether!