These 10 Destinations Empty Out in Winter
These 10 Destinations Empty Out in Winter

If you think the “best time” is the only time to travel, think again. Winter is off-season for many destinations around the world, but traveling to a new place without hordes of other tourists has its benefits.

If you avoid peak season, you’ll likely be rewarded with lower airfare, cheaper accommodations, fewer crowds at museums and other popular attractions, and the opportunity to practice slow travel — taking time to truly enjoy the sights, smells, and scenery of a place without feeling the urge to pack as much as possible into your itinerary. What’s not to love? If you’re craving some alone time this winter, here are 10 destinations where you can leave the mob behind.


 Reykjavik in winterime.
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May through August is the sweet spot for most tourists headed to Iceland. After all, it’s puffin season, and the fjords and rolling hills are an especially spectacular shade of green. However, winter proves to be just as magical and you won’t experience long lines at the shops and seafood restaurants in Reykjavík or crowds at the Blue Lagoon.

The winter solstice is in full effect this time of year, which means you’ll experience shorter days with just five to six hours of sunlight a day — but don’t let this deter you. Winter is the best time to spot the northern lights, see the glaciers at Jökulsárlón in all their frozen glory, take an ice cave tour, eat a hearty bowl of plokkfiskur (Icelandic fish stew), and visit perhaps the best Christmas store ever — Christmas House, which is located in the small town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. Just be sure to bring a thick coat!


Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge connecting mainland and island.
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Most travelers try to visit Ireland in the summer with hopes of catching clear skies, emerald green rolling hills, and warm temperatures. Head over in winter, however, and you’ll find cheaper direct flights and far fewer tourists. Winter in Ireland is generally quite mild, which means you probably won’t need to worry about icy roads or getting snowed in, plus you’ll get to experience the breathtaking beauty of Carrick-a-Rede, the Cliffs of Moher, and Giant’s Causeway and many castle ruins all to yourself.

Popular destinations in Ireland, such as Dublin, Galway, and Cork, will be home to many lively pubs and local watering holes without throngs of other thirsty patrons, and during the holidays, you’ll also find small-scale Christmas markets that aren’t nearly as crowded as those in other major European cities.

Big Sur, California

Aerial Bixby Bridge and Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur, California.
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In the spring and summer, you’ll probably experience a little traffic driving Highway 1 through Big Sur — one of the most scenic drives in the country. Getting the perfect picture at Bixby Bridge this time of year is also a challenge; everybody wants the same shot! Visiting in winter is a different story, however, as many tourists making the road trip want to swim in the Pacific on the southern stretch of the drive and the water won’t be warm after September.

Head to Big Sur in winter for some serious one-on-one time with nature — hike through the redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, have a true Californian meal overlooking the coast at Nepenthe, and say hello to the cats at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, a cozy hideaway that supposedly inspired Taylor Swift’s album Folklore.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Nobska Point Lighthouse and beach in snow.
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You’ll save a serious buck if you visit Cape Cod in the winter — after all, bundling up on the beach isn’t for everyone, but the sand dunes covered in snow and frozen lighthouses are unbelievably stunning, which means you might want to consider a trip for the holidays or beginning of the new year. Stroll on the beach in your warmest sweater before window shopping in Provincetown. Order a piping hot bowl of clam chowder, and snuggle up with a good book at one of the many quaint bed-and-breakfasts and historic hotels.

Santorini, Greece

View of traditional greek house and windmill at blue hour.
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People from around the world flock to the sapphire blue waters of the Greek Isles during June, July, and August. Santorini, in particular, offers no solitude in summer, but you’ll have better luck if you visit in January or February. Save on airfare during the off-season and experience the breathtaking beaches, domed white Cycladic dwellings, cobblestone streets, romantic al fresco restaurants, and artisan shops without bumping elbows. Accommodations on the island also drop significantly and the crescent-shaped Caldera will still be the most vivid shade of blue. Note, however, that many shops and restaurants on the island are only open during peak season, so your selections may be limited, but the natural beauty is accessible all year long.

Sedona, Arizona

Red rocks covered in layer of snow.
Credit: Michael Warwick/ Shutterstock

Arizona is an ideal winter destination, and many people often miss the magic waiting for the temperatures to get warmer in spring. The red rocks of Sedona are gorgeous when they’re capped in glistening frost — making the mountain town an ideal base for a wintery hike or Jeep tour. After a long day trailblazing, unwind at The Spa of Sedona, a wellness spa that specializes in massage therapy, energy healing, infrared sauna sessions, and other restorative treatments, and sip a hot cup of tea with just the right amount of spice at local favorite, the Chai House.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Pigeon Valley and Cave town in Goreme during winter time.
Credit: Zharov Pavel/ Shutterstock

The hoodoos and rock formations known as “fairy chimneys,” underground cities, and cliffside dwellings of Cappadocia date back to 1600 BCE and make this region of Turkey one of the most beautifully bizarre places to visit. The underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu are often buzzing with tourists in spring and summer, but in winter, you’ll get to wander the ancient communities without the crowds. And if you’re hoping to ride in a hot air balloon for the best aerial views, the cold weather and clear winter skies will ensure you witness a stunning sunrise.

Winter in central Turkey is still chilly, so be sure to pack layers. Expect snow, freezing temperatures, and half of the main town’s bars and restaurants to be closed for the season. However, being one of the few people there to appreciate the stillness of the snow-capped cliffs and valleys makes it all the more magnificent.

Lake Como, Italy

Town beside lake Como with snow covered mountains in distance.
Credit: Restuccia Giancarlo/ Shutterstock

Italy isn’t exactly an underrated European country, which means you’ll definitely be among other tourists if you visit Rome, Florence, Venice, or Milan — no matter what month you visit. Lake Como, on the other hand, experiences a lull when the water’s cold and many ferries have limited service thanks to a decrease in visitors.

Witness the splendor of the snow-capped Alps from the window of your five-star hotel room without the five-star price tag. Enjoy a warm plate of bucatini all'amatriciana at a cozy restaurant before popping in the art galleries and olive oil shops in the quaint lakeside village of Bellagio. If the frozen lake life gets sleepy, head to city of Lugano on the Swiss-Italian border to explore the local Christmas market, boutiques, and lively shopping centers or go skiing at nearby Monte Sighignola.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Woman on platform next to hot spring with snow covered landscape.
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One of America’s most popular national parks is a real treat in winter if you put in a little extra effort. Many roads throughout Yellowstone National Park are inaccessible due to snow starting in November, so visitors must rely on snowshoes, cross-country skis, snow mobiles, and snow coaches for transportation. Be one of the few skiers to cruise by Old Faithful, search for wolves on a guided snowshoe tour, or take a daring dip in the Boiling River. If you’re lucky, you might spot bison, wolves, mule deer, elk, and moose — these animals are just as active when the temperature drops and they’re more likely to make an appearance without the crowds around.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Winter sunset of Nyhavn area at Copenhagen, Denmark, decorated for Christmas.
Credit: SHansche/ iStock

Copenhagen is one of the coolest cities in Europe, so don’t expect the fun to stop once it gets chilly. All Scandinavians know how to make the most of winter, but visiting Denmark this time of year will allow you experience hygge, the Danish practice of feeling cozy and sharing time with close family and friends. The streets are much quieter and many people head indoors to read by candlelight, enjoy a warm meal, and cozy up by the fire.

It’ll probably be too cold to bike along the waterfront, but a trip to Copenhagen during the winter is complete with a reservation at one of the city’s top-tier restaurants; a fun day at Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second-oldest amusement park that comes alive during the holidays with light displays; and a Danish Carlsberg beer at Jernbanecafeen, a whimsical bar with Christmas ornaments, flags, toys, and other oddities that completely cover the interior.

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