10 Winter Adventures to Put on Your Bucket List
While the northern hemisphere makes its way to summer, winter adventures around the world are getting even cooler. Tourism to once-remote destinations is booming — Antarctica saw 38,478 visitors during the 2015-2016 season, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), and the total number of foreign overnight visitors to Iceland notched around 1.8 million in 2016. Boutique-style adventures that combine luxury with daredevil sports are also gaining traction among millennials.
For some, that means catching a speedy two-hour flight from Punta Arenas, in Chilean Patagonia, to King George Island to explore the glassy landscape on snowshoe. For others, it means swimming the Blue Lagoon, set in Iceland’s south west, away from the bustling crowds. Whether you crave a midnight dip, or powder skiing by water, the adventures gathered here are sure to get your pulse racing.
We've rounded up everything from private yacht charters that attempt the Northwest Passage — a 900-mile “shortcut” above North America that eluded seafarers for centuries — to the rare opportunity to explore a dormant volcano. Like your adventure glammed up? The Blue Lagoon’s first luxury hotel has you covered, with Lava Cove, a subterranean spa nestled deep in volcanic rock. Here are 10 chilly weather adventures you’ll want to put on your bucket list now.
Sea Kayaking in Antarctica
“Antarctic tourism” may sound like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what ANTARCTICA XXI offers: over 20 air-cruise departures each season that avoid the historically stormy Drake Passage. For an extra $895 per person, you can tack on sea kayaking to your excursion, which is “really peaceful,” says Brooke Garnett, the founder of MAYAMAYA travel agency in New York. “You’re off in the icebergs with penguins swimming by.”
Sailing the Northwest Passage
Attempting the Northwest Passage is not for the faint of heart. But if you fancy yourself a modern-day Sir Humphrey Gilbert, whose treatise on the passage inspired many other explorers, EYOS Expeditions, which specializes in super-yacht expeditions, offers private yacht charters. Time on the water is spent tracking polar bears and voyaging to rarely seen Inuit communities. On helicopter, you’ll get jaw-dropping views of the towering mountains below.
Exploring the Hjørenfjord
Tucked away in the ragged Sunnmøre Alps is the 21-mile-long Hjørenfjord, one of the longest fjords in Norway and a bit of a national secret. Garnett recommends booking a private boat tour through 62° Nord to see the glaciers and villages like Øye, where Hotel Union Øye, built in 1891, features 27 ravishing guest rooms and countless sites to explore — including the ancient Norangsdalen valley and the famously steep Slogen mountain.
Sailing Around Ålesund
62° Nord offers sailboat tours around Ålesund, a sea port known for its colorful Art Nouveau district, built after a fire around the turn of the century. Here you’ll find a higher level of accommodation and service than in touristy Bergen, notes Garnett, with clearer skies and spectacular views of the mountains and fjords. On land, fuel up on a bowl of fish soup, then wander downtown — it’s incredibly walkable — and pop into the one of the many record shops.
Kayaking at Tutka Bay Lodge
Set on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, across Kachemak Bay from Homer, chef Kirsten Dixon and her husband Carl offer meaningful ways to connect with the land — like digging for steam clams and picking mussels — as well as a boathouse with kayaks. “You get that big, wide-open spaces feeling,” says Garnett, speaking of the breathtaking scenery. Often, she’ll combine visits with stays at the couple’s other remote property, Winterlake Lodge, on the Iditarod Trail.
Heli-skiing in Iceland
Deplar Farm, a converted sheep farm in the Fljót Valley on the Troll Peninsula in northern Iceland, offers snowy, unspoiled runs for serious skiers. “The slopes are right on the coast,” says MAYAMAYA partner Matthew LaPolice, so you’ll be zig-zagging against the deep-blue of the North Atlantic Ocean. Legs feeling tired? Spend a day in the spa, bouncing from Deplar’s geothermal-heated indoor/outdoor pool (with a swim-up bar) to the outdoor Viking sauna and i-sopod flotation tanks.
Soaking in the Blue Lagoon
The five-star Retreat, which opened in April, offers private access to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spring in the Reykjanes Peninsula. “It’s easy to get to, but quite touristy,” warns LaPolice, but don’t let that deter you from the stunning views of the landscape — especially from the lounge — or an in-water massage.
Exploring the Thrihnukagigur Volcano
From mid-May through October, 3H Travel offers tours of this dormant volcano, whose nearly unpronounceable name translates to “Three Peaks Crater.” It’s been 4,000 years since it last erupted, so you’ll have ample time to marvel at its size — which is roughly equivalent to three basketball courts lined up. The difficulty level is moderate, as the walk uphill isn’t steep.
Snowmobiling in Jackson Hole
Minutes from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Tram in Teton Village, Caldera House offers iconic attractions — like Chef Paulie O’Connor’s Old Yellowstone Garage — as well as an alpine club with a private club lounge, spa and fitness studio. (Members also get access to Snake River Sporting Club.) Book one of the stylish two- or four-bedroom suites, then spend a day zooming around the backcountry.
Snowboarding in Gstaad
The village in southwestern Switzerland is a mecca for skiers, says Garnett: “The Alps are just stunning, and having that backdrop on a nice bluebird day is special.” Gstaad Palace boasts 100 well-appointed guest rooms and no shortage of winter activities — from ice skating by the promenade to snowboarding in the Bernese Oberland. For the truly adventurous, there is heliskiing, which entails a helicopter dropping you off in no man’s land.