There are two types of people in the world: Those who can’t wait to bundle up and build a snowman as soon as the first flake falls, and those who crank the heat to 80 and hibernate until May. If you’re part of the second group, I’m happy to tell you there’s a better way to deal with the cold than hoping the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow. Traveling to somewhere new is a great way to cure the winter blues, and actually has quite a few benefits. Special festivals, warm temperatures, often fewer crowds and cheaper flights are just some of the perks of planning a winter getaway, in addition to taking your mind off of the cold weather.
Okay so now you’re ready to go – but where do you start? Lucky for you, Road Scholar is the authority on educational travel, and winter just happens to be one of our favorite times to go on a learning adventure. We’ve compiled a list of 10 fascinating destinations we think are perfect when the snow starts to fly.
The ancient Roman architecture, incredible cuisine and picturesque landscapes make Italy one of the most popular destinations in the world. So why not explore its historic streets when the crowds have gone home and the temperature is in the cool 50s? Trust us, the monuments and architecture are much more beautiful when cities are quiet and calm. December is Italy’s off-season, meaning you can explore the Venetian canals and colorful coastlines like a true local.
See our learning adventures in Italy
When you don’t feel like taking a long plane ride to another country, there’s always the option to discover the hidden gems in your own backyard. Heading south for the winter is a great way to escape the cold of the north, while exploring some of America’s national treasures. Find your oasis in Canyon de Chelly with certified Navajo experts or experience vibrant Cuban culture in colorful Miami. For your dose of Southern charm, Savannah has you covered with its historic downtown, or for a more lively adventure, experience the magic of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
See some of our learning adventures in the Southern U.S.
There are countless reasons why Costa Rica is the 13th-happiest country on Earth. Its exotic wildlife, cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches and relaxed culture make this small country an easy escape from your winter woes. Find your own happiness in December during their dry season and 70-degree weather. Best of all? Some of Costa Rica’s biggest festivals are held in the winter months, allowing you to get a unique perspective on the local culture and traditions. Plan your getaway for January to experience the epic Fiestas Palmares: a two-week long celebration with concerts, bullfighting and a traditional horse parade. Or fly down in February to be a part of Envision Music, Art and Sacred Movement Festival, a gathering that hopes to “awaken the self to a higher consciousness in alignment with the natural harmony.”
See our learning adventures in Costa Rica
If you’re looking for a wild getaway, Tanzania should be at the top of your list. From December-March, the temperatures are in the low-80s and the weather is mostly dry, making this time of year the ideal climate for wildebeests calving. As you drive over the Serengeti with a naturalist by your side, search for mothers and their young as they make their way on a great migration alongside zebras and gazelles. Keep an eye out for the hundreds of bird species that are migrating from the north and spot local birds in full plumage. Learn about these majestic animals with the local experts as you explore Tanzania’s incredible natural wonders – from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Ngorongoro Crater.
See our learning adventures in Tanzania
Though not as warm as some of the other countries on this list, Spain offers a great way to feel the festivity of the holidays and learn the traditions of a different culture. We recommend going in January for the Three Kings Day – when Spanish children receive their Christmas presents – which brings huge celebrations and parades across the country. But the fun doesn’t have to stop there. During winter in Madrid you can experience Gastrofestival Madrid and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, in addition to taking in the diverse art museums all over the city. In Barcelona, forget about those winter blues at Drap-Art, Copa Nadal de Barcelona and the Fira de Santa Llúcia – a huge Christmas market. Or, venture to the Costa del Sol or the Canary Islands for some warmer weather and beautiful landscapes.
See our learning adventures in Spain
The best way to get away from the cold? Go to the southern hemisphere. December to February are this island’s warmest months with temperatures averaging in the 70s. As the sun shines down, enjoy outdoor adventures like cycling along the Pukaki Ohau canal or hiking up mountains in the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with an expert naturalist. For an easier-paced escape, enjoy the many vineyards New Zealand has to offer or search for exotic and diverse bird species in New Zealand’s many local sanctuaries.
See our learning adventures in New Zealand
If you’re looking for a little culture change with your weather change, consider making Thailand a priority. Enjoy the 90-degree weather as you explore sea caves via kayak, learn about incredible, gilded temples and search for wildlife in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. October marks the end of monsoon season, so you’ll enjoy plenty of sun while tasting the fascinating local delicacies and snorkeling the pristine waters of the Andaman Sea.
See our learning adventures in Thailand
Why not trade in the barren trees and brown grass for some lush savannahs and dramatic plateaus? Knock a few items off your list by going on a learning safari searching for lions and leopards. Or take your adventure to new heights on a trek – by foot or cable car – to the top of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Make friends with some lively penguins on Boulders Beach or learn the secrets of a glass of the local, rustic red wine. Whatever South African adventure you choose, you’ll be sure to meet fascinating locals while basking in the perfect mid-70s weather.
See our learning adventures in South Africa
You won’t have to worry about sudden snowfall in Greece – this Mediterranean paradise rarely sees a flake and can reach temperatures up to the mid-60s in the winter. Immerse yourself in ancient history as you experience Greek ruins without the long lines and tourists. Take advantage of the Greeks' seasonal eating by trying some specialties you couldn’t have during the summer, such as stuffed cabbage rolls (lahanodolmades) or Greek wedding cookies (Kourakiedes). Warm up in Lake Vouliagmeni, a natural thermal pool that never falls below 72 degrees, and explore the Greek islands during their quieter months.
See our learning adventures in Greece
Though it might be dreary up north in winter, Brazil is nothing but lively parades and festivals. Fly down in February for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of Carnival or enjoy colorful New Year fireworks on Copacabana Beach. Explore one of the new seven wonders of the world – Christ the Redeemer – in Rio de Janeiro or voyage down the Amazon on a riverboat in the sunny, 80-degree weather. Brazil is a wildlife haven just waiting to be explored from the endemic pink dolphins to the exotic macaws that call the rainforest home.
See our learning adventures in Brazil
Any Road Scholar will tell you that winter is no excuse to put a halt on learning. In fact, it can be the perfect time to venture to the warm, Southern Hemisphere or to enjoy the quiet streets of normally crowded cities. So throw your shovels in the closet and grab your suitcase – your next winter adventure is waiting.
Do you know of another great winter destination? Let us know in the comments!
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