WINTER TOURS TRAVEL GUIDE

Fed up with commercialised Christmas? So over Santa? Wondering when winter will be over at the start of November? We have a cure for the winter blues that will keep you feeling festive right through to spring. This is your chance to see a city’s sights almost totally free from tourists and stroll around traditional seasonal markets with a cup of glühwein in one hand and a homemade gingerbread man in the other.
Our winter tours travel guide is like a huge hug from a bearded Scandinavian wearing a chunky knit jumper.
Winter tours have minimal activities, but maximum guided sightseeing with a healthy balance of traveling and free time to explore so everyone keeps warm and cosy, inside and out. From a torch-lit sleigh ride in Poland’s Pieniny Mountains, to rail journeys in Russia and overnight ferry trips across the Baltic Sea, our winter tours are authentic experiences for anyone prepared to wrap up warm and make new friends along the way. Soon, you’ll be head over heels in love with winter, all over again.

WHAT DOES A WINTER TOUR ENTAIL?

Riding the rails in Russia from St Petersburg to Moscow or taking an overnight ferry across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm to Tallinn help to turn a winter tour into an exciting travel experience. Just don’t expect to be carving up snowy slopes on skis or visiting Santa in his grotto – that’s just not what these tours are about.

Our winter tours are mainly for small groups, interested in seeking out snowy scenery and traditional festivities rather than embarking on a raft of outdoor activities. Poland, Russia and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia all feature, alongside trips further afield to the Canadian Rockies and Japan. We also have tailor made winter tours across the frozen steppe landscapes of Mongolia as well as self-drive winter tours to the ice-covered castles and Saxon villages of Transylvania – deliciously dark and brooding.
On a winter tour, you won’t be staying in just one place, you’ll be touring from one city, town or mountain village to the next over a week or sometimes a little longer. This is not only a great way to see more of a country, or countries, during a notoriously quiet time of year for tourism, but you’ll also be supporting local businesses and accommodation hosts in remote areas.
These are more cultural sightseeing experiences than activity breaks. You’ll discover traditional Christmas markets in medieval town squares or shimmering castle ramparts rising above frozen rivers. There might be some active elements, some winter walking and snowshoeing, or perhaps a torch-lit horse drawn sleigh ride, but not a whole itinerary of activities. Bear this in mind when choosing a trip that’s right for you.

Accommodation and guides

Due to the size of a group – around 12 people – you can stay in small, locally owned hotels or rural guesthouses, and single room supplements are often available for solo travelers looking for their own space. Alternatively, you can share a room with another solo group member of the same sex, which is the more affordable option.

Small group winter tours include lots of eating out, too, on your own or as a group, in traditional taverns or locally owned restaurants, rather than larger homogenous hotels. You can also take advantage of public transport rather than trying to navigate tiny twisting streets onboard a massive mega coach. The idea is to mingle and meet rather than descend en masse.

Groups will be accompanied by a group leader throughout the tour and will also benefit from local tour guides. They will show you around on arrival before you head off to explore on your own. Group leaders are on hand to help you know where you’re going next and how you’re getting there. They also act as translators and will be well versed in local history and able to provide lots of invaluable information.

If you’re looking for trips that have lots of winter activities then check out our winter multi activity guide.

Is a winter tour super active?

You could go snowshoeing through the spruce and beech forests of Poland’s Pieniny National Park or horse riding across the steppe landscapes of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park in Mongolia but, in the main, our winter tours are more about experiencing an authentic side to local life that’s often missing in the summer. There’s just something about the winter months from November to March that make cities more atmospheric. Whether it’s the addition of coloured lights to brighten up the darkness or just the lack of tourists, there’s a reason why winters work well for travelers looking for real life without the crowds.

Our top Winter tours Vacation

Winter holiday in Stockholm & the Baltics

Winter vacation in Stockholm & the Baltics

Explore some of Europe's prettiest old towns

From US $1549 to US $1649 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Winter tours or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

BEST TIME TO GO ON A WINTER TOUR

The start of the New Year is the best time to go on a winter tour if you're seeking snow-capped scenery and a deep dark sky at night. Although snow fall can't always be guaranteed, especially earlier in the winter season, some destinations are more snow-sure than others, especially the higher you climb and the further north you travel. Late November and December are the best months to go on a winter tour for traditional Christmas markets in Northern Europe whereas Canada's Rocky Mountains in January to March are majestic. Winter wildlife tours in Japan are fantastic in February although the Northern Lights in Iceland are equally worthwhile for photographers. Just don't forget layers and a hip flask, no matter where you’re traveling.

Poland Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
-7
-1
27
FEB
-5
1
25
MAR
-1
6
27
APR
3
13
34
MAY
8
19
53
JUN
12
22
68
JUL
13
24
72
AUG
12
23
60
SEP
9
18
45
OCT
5
13
36
NOV
1
6
39
DEC
-4
1
36

WHEN TO GO ON A WINTER TOUR & WHEN NOT TO

The start of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is the best time to go on a winter tour. January and February promise plenty of snow in Poland, Russia and the Baltic states; however, festive markets will all have packed up and gone home by then, so don't expect too many twinkling lights other than in the night sky. Early March is a great time to go on a winter tour for practically guaranteed snow in northern Europe, although by April winter tours have stopped running, as the start of warmer temperatures signals the spring thaw. If you're looking for a winter tour in May, June, July, August and September then you'll be better off searching Down Under although as the darker evenings return in November and, definitely, December you'll find northerners dusting off their snowshoes ready to face the elements. Some winter tours, for example to the Baltics, Poland or the Canadian Rockies, correspond with Christmas, too. Coincide a trip to Stockholm with the winter solstice and you might be lucky enough to be offered a lussekatt – a freshly baked bun made with saffron – as well as a warming mug of glögg (spiced mulled wine with vodka). Traditionally served on 13th December to celebrate Saint Lucy's Day, but also sold at winter markets from as early as November, both bun and glögg are guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit.
Written by Chris Owen
Photo credits: [Page banner: Bengt Nyman] [What does it entail?: Ilya Orehov] [Are they super active?: Nikita Karimov] [Best time to go: Sanne Knoops]
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