Cold weather vacations can be a real blast, especially if you live somewhere hot and sticky! A week or two in the wind, rain and/or snow can be gloriously refreshing and great for the body and mind. They also provide some of the most strikingly beautiful natural landscapes on Earth – from rugged, windswept Celtic hills to razor-sharp, craggy, snow-covered granite peaks.

Unfortunately, many of the most well-known cold weather vacation destinations tend to be a little crowded and clichéd; commodified and neutered of their original wild charms. On your search for the ultimate cold weather vacation destination, it pays to move off the beaten track. There are hidden gems galore if you are willing to venture off track.

With that in mind, here is our BUCKiTDREAM list of 6 awesome cold weather vacations you might not have heard of. Remember to take note of the shiver-inducing destinations that particularly excite you in your BUCKiTDREAM planner. 

Get Lashed by Atlantic Sea Spray in rugged Donegal in Ireland. Located high in the northwest area of Ireland, Donegal is a luscious, green and wild region that is especially exposed to Mother Nature’s temper tantrums. The Atlantic Ocean hurls wild winds and spectacular rains at Donegal for most of the year, and there is almost always a chill in the air. The region’s natural beauty is unsurpassable and the landscapes you will discover while hiking in her hills will take your breath away. Donegal is generously dotted with cozy pubs with roaring turf fires serving fresh fish, creamy Guinness and hot whiskey, so it’s always easy to find a place to warm your bones after a day of exploring this cold and wild wilderness.

Road Trip from Oslo and Bergen and Stop at Geilo for Some Snowy Sightseeing The roads between Oslo and Bergen are excellent for road tripping. Desolate snowy highlands, deep green coniferous forests, winding mountain roads only wide enough for one vehicle at a time, gushing waterfalls, and never-ending mountain tunnels (complete with daytime scenes projected onto the ceilings to keep you from nodding off) make this route one of the most spectacular in Europe. And halfway along the route, you’ll find Geilo, a lovely ski resort with slopes suitable for all levels. An awesome road trip with a nice break for some skiing halfway… what could be better?

Do Some Bargain Basement Skiing in Bansko, Bulgaria Located in the foothills of the Pirin Mountains in southwest Bulgaria, Bansko is a small town with numerous skiing and snowboarding slopes, many of which are rather challenging. As well as the quality snow and fun atmosphere in the town, Bansko is also notable for how cheap a vacation here is compared to most of the better known European ski resorts. 

Visit Galicia and Experience the Wild Side of Spanish Weather Spain is not known as a cold weather destination, but visit Galicia in the winter months and it’s hard to believe you are in the same country as baking Barcelona and scorching Seville! Galicia is the northwesternmost region of Spain and for almost half of the year, it is chilly, wet and windy. It faces the ferocious North Atlantic Ocean and bares its violent mood swings. Galicia has spectacular, rugged scenery, gorgeous windswept beaches, and some great little cities – especially Vigo, La Coruna and Santiago de Compostela. The seafood in Galicia is (arguably) the best in the world. There’s nothing quite like a hot, steaming plate of pulpo (octopus) to warm your belly after a long walk on a windy Atlantic beach! 

Spend a Week in Exclusive Portillo, High in the Chilean Andes Portillo has been a favorite haunt of the rich and famous for decades, but it still manages to keep its boutique, ‘best-kept secret’ vibe, as it has only very limited accommodation places and no ski town, chain restaurants or shops. There is great snow at Portillo and there are slopes suiting all skill levels, although the resort is most famous for its fast and steep advanced slopes.

See the Northern Lights in Tromsø, a Bustling Cultural Hub in Arctic Norway Tromsø is an oddly lively and bustling city considering its eye-watering lofty latitude. This small city is located 400 km north of the Arctic Circle at 69˚N and is predictably frigid, yet it is a cultural hub with an exciting nightlife scene. It’s populated by a mix of locals, adventurous travelers, and students attending the local university. As well as all the culture and high-jinx, Tromsø is also a great place from which to experience the spectacular Northern Lights. 

Hopefully, you found our list of awesome cold weather holidays you might not have heard of inspiring and are now eager to explore some of the world’s lesser known chilly bits. And whether you are sipping a hot whiskey in a cozy Donegal pub, filling your belly with a delicious, fresh octopus dinner in Galicia, or skiing for a pittance in Bulgaria, don’t forget to add these awesome cold weather vacation destinations to your future travel bucket lists!