Sunday, March 3, 2024

A different winter experience, from ice climbing in Italy to camping in Finland

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This article was created by National Geographic Traveler (UK).

Unique and memorable ways to make the most of European winter, whether it’s crossing the snow-covered Alps by train, relaxing in a wooden cabin in the Scottish Highlands or watching the Northern Lights streak across the sky. There are many ways. frozen lake.

1. Snowshoeing in Romania

There’s no better time to explore Transylvania than in winter. One of Europe’s wildest regions becomes a bit of a wilderness during the colder months. Meadows are buried in snowdrifts, bears snooze in forest dens, and church towers and castle battlements are lined with icicles. Exodus offers winter hiking tours in the Romanian region using boots or snowshoes depending on the snow depth. Participants will stick their noses into bat caves, search highlands for wolf tracks, stop at traditional villages and farms, and sip plum brandy. The tour concludes with a visit to Bran Castle, traditionally, if not accurately, known as the home of Dracula. From £1,299 per person for 8 days.

2. See wildlife in Scotland

The Isle of Mull is one of the most stately of the Hebrides, with a rugged coastline cut by coves and a hinterland crowned by the brooding Ben More. It’s equally mesmerizing up close, especially when peering through binoculars at its animal inhabitants. Join NatureTrek on her week-long winter wildlife safari and see the mals during this most majestic of seasons. Snow falls on the hills, thinning the vegetation and making it easier to spot red deer herds. Birds of prey are very busy this time of year. Keep an eye out for golden and white-tailed eagles riding thermals and otters swimming in the lake below. 7 days from £1,795 per person.

3. Ride a train through the Alps

While Britain’s railway network is brought to a standstill by the slightest fluff of snow, the Swiss are training their soldiers to be unflinching in snowdrifts, raging blizzards and conditions that would daunt even polar explorers. Perhaps the most daring train to run in the Alps is the Bernina Express. Crossing the mountain pass that separates Switzerland from Italy, you enter glacial territory and reach an ear-popping height of 2,253 meters. His sublime four-hour journey leaves skiers in St. Moritz, with each train screeching skyward towards the frozen Lago Bianco, the railway’s highest point, before looping downhill to Tirano. I’ll go. Look out for the snowplow trains clearing the line. This train is affectionately known as the “Monster”. From CHF 61 (£63) per person one way.

4. Ride a bobsled in Latvia

The closest many people get to bobsledding is watching 90s movies while listening to reggae soundtracks. But Sigulda bobsled Andruju’s truck, about 50 minutes by train from Riga, the beautiful Latvian capital, is helping to change all that. The course is 1,500 meters long, has 16 curves, and was built in 1986 primarily for use by Soviet athletes in the latter years of the Soviet Union. Since then, history has taken many twists and turns, and the track now serves as a training ground for the Latvian Winter Olympic team. However, an exception is made for paying visitors. During each session, a skilled bobsled pilot takes control while a civilian hunkers down in the back and hangs on for dear life until speeds reach 80 mph. From £40.

5. Estonian ice fish

There’s no winter activity more meditative than ice fishing. Participants wrapped in warm clothing, trudged across the frozen lake, cut a disc-sized hole in the surface of the lake, and spent a moment of quiet silence staring into the hollow below, waiting for their line to hook. I’m letting my mind wander. It is particularly popular in Estonia, where the fishing village of Sauga near the town of Pärnu in the south offers classes for beginners. An expert fisherman will guide you on a walk through the forest, along a sled loaded with supplies to a secluded lake. Tea and soup will be provided while you wait for your catch. If you need a full de-frost of your body afterwards, you’ll have the chance to end the day in a sauna set up inside an old fishing boat. 4 hours of fishing instruction for 2 people from €425 (£372).

6. Skate in Sweden

In winter, ice rinks take hold in market squares across Europe, and stollen and mulled wine are abundant. But nothing compares to the experience of skating on Sweden’s natural ice. If temperatures drop enough, thousands of miles of possible routes open up for anyone with skates and a brave location. On Nature Travels’ guided tours, skaters traverse remote lakes and glide through boreal forests, listening to the creaks and roars of moving ice and exploring the depths of crystals beneath metal blades. You can see it looking into the. If conditions permit, participants will also be able to skate on the salty ice of the Stockholm archipelago. The frozen sea is dotted with thousands of islets and rocks. From £748 per person for 4 days.

7. Whale watching in Norway

In winter, large schools of herring migrate to the Lofoten Islands, seeking sanctuary in fjords warmed by the Gulf Stream. Hot on the tail of the fish, pods of killer whales flock here to devour mouthfuls of herring, their sleek black shapes tearing at the surface of the Norwegian Sea. The third group are tourists who come to see these whales on seasonal safaris. At Opbelsar in the Lofoten Islands, set out daily in a hard rubber boat to watch dorsal fins circling and clouds of spray erupting from blowholes. The backdrop of this seedy drama is just as distracting, with snow-capped mountains rising from the sea and villages of blood-red huts lining the coast. Four-hour safaris start from NOK 1,800 (£133) per person.

8. Ice climbing in Italy

For most of the year, the waterfalls of Italy’s Dolomites are the backdrop for holiday photos, but in the winter, ice climbing is the place for enthusiasts to equip themselves with axes and crampons and scale corners of the mountains that are usually off-limits. Provided as root. Local proprietor Mapotapo runs his 3-day guided ice climbing introductory course in the area. In the meantime, learn belaying techniques and how to use an ice screw, and if you can, take your eyes off the ice at your fingertips from time to time to admire the ice climbing. Beyond that are limestone mountains. From £290 per person for 2 nights.

9. Hiking in Slovakia

Most people looking for snowy landscapes instinctively head to Scandinavia or the Alps. Far fewer people set foot in the Tatra Mountains, an arching mountain range along the border between Slovakia and Poland. Match Better Adventures offers his 4-day hiking trip on the Slovak side of the mountain range. The group spends several days wandering through forests shaggy with fresh snow and climbing to highland lakes surrounded by frozen mountain peaks. After sunset, experience a Slovakian après (expect goulash instead of fondue), complete with hot springs to rejuvenate limbs tired from the trail. From £512 for 3 nights.

10. Cross-country skiing in Finland

Cross-country skiing is deeply rooted in Finnish culture. It was thanks to the agility and maneuverability of skis that the Finnish army outmaneuvered the Russian invaders during World War II. To this day, skis are used for a variety of tasks, including marathons, school runs, and quick trips to the shops. To learn how to ski for yourself, head out on his day-long cross-country ski trip from Saariselka, a resort surrounded by hills and forests in Finnish Lapland. Participants will traverse the highlands criss-crossed by more than 160 miles of trails and glide through snow-covered trails as they forge a deeper connection to the Arctic landscape. 82 euros (72 pounds).

11. French fat bikes

When the snow falls, the French Alps welcomes hordes of skiers, snowboarders, a few snowshoers, and a few ice climbers. Perhaps the most unusual of these tribes are the fat bikers. “Fat” in this case applies to extra-large knobby tires adapted for maximum shopping on snow and ice. Ride the Alps offers winter fat bike trips from Samoens, a Swiss border commune nestled in the shade of the Chablais Alps. Here, fat bikers can experience a different kind of Alpine descent. The ski lifts are off-limits, so riders hop into support vans to gain altitude, before making their way through the snow-covered forest before descending the slopes after skiers take an après break. From £349 per person for 2 days.

12. Horseback Riding in Iceland

Icelandic horses are small but hardy creatures descended from horses brought over on Viking longships. With their thick fur, they are used to being active all year round, so they can go on horseback riding trips even in the dead of winter. Íslandshestar offers itineraries for southern Iceland. On short days, you’ll trot alongside the glacial Cholsa River, pass beneath the gloomy Hekla volcano, and learn about the unique gait of horses, the telt (a gait somewhere between a canter and a gallop). You can also learn. There will also be a break to disembark the bus and explore the sights of the Golden Circle. From €1,299 (£1,136) per person for 4 days.

Published in January/February 2024 issue National Geographic Traveler (England).

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