The experience: Although Akureyri is Iceland’s second largest city, it is still something of a hidden gem. You can immerse yourself in Icelandic culture, heritage and cuisine while avoiding the main tourist tracks. The city is full of museums, shops, restaurants and bars, all the while being surrounded by stunning Arctic scenery.
There’s plenty of opportunity for adventure in Akureyri. On the Lake Myvatn Adventure you’ll be guided by a knowledgeable local guide around some of the most beautiful sights Iceland has to offer, including the mythical Godafoss Waterfall, the boiling mud-pools of Namafjall, and even the chance to see the magical Blue Lagoon of the North. On the night of your arrival you’ll be treated to a four-hour tour searching for the Northern Lights, and as Akureyri is only 60 miles from the Arctic Circle, it’s one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis.
Added extras include a thrilling snowmobiling experience, spotting whales and seals at the Eyjafjörður fjord, visiting the Bjorbodin Beer Spa, and skiing opportunities. You’ll also get the choice of five hotels with your package, so you can pick the perfect hotel to complement your winter wonderland getaway.
The location: Akureyri, Iceland
The details: Incredible Iceland package from £499 per person, packages include flights, four-night stay in a choice of hotels, and two excursions worth £200 per person. Flights available from Leeds Bradford and Manchester.
The experience: If you’re after a truly authentic experience, look at where the locals go on holiday. Perhaps Finland’s best-kept secret, Vuokatti, in the stunning ‘lakeland’ region, is where locals go to get away from it all. And what better way to explore this unspoilt frozen landscape than from a cosy sled, with a team of huskies stretching out before you?
This five-night ‘Into the Wilderness with Huskies’ break whisks you away on daily husky safaris. You’ll even get the chance to take the reins yourself, learning not just to holiday like a local, but drive a sled like one, too. Returning to your hotel each night, you can relive the day’s experiences in comfort.
The location: Vuokatti, Finland
The details: At £1,515 per person, this trip includes flights from London, transfers, five nights’ half-board accommodation, one additional lunch, cold weather clothing and three guided activities: 12-kilometre husky safari, Northern Lights husky safari, 24-kilometre husky safari.
The experience: A truly palatial experience is in store for visitors to Quebec’s Hotel de Glace. Freshly created each year entirely from ice in the grounds of the Hotel Valcartier, this ephemeral structure is a work of art, as well as a thoughtfully-designed hotel. Explore Quebec by day, and by night be treated like an (ice) king or queen, with a range of sumptuous experiences to make you feel truly regal. Retreat to the nordic relaxation area to luxuriate in the sauna and slip into the hot spa under the stars, before sipping your complimentary cocktail in the Ice Bar. As part of the package, you have two rooms: one in the Hotel de Glace and one in the Hotel Valcartier. This clever arrangement allows you to get ready in your standard room, with all the convenience of modern facilities, before preparing for your night in the ice hotel.
The Hotel de Glace itself has 45 rooms and suites to cater for every taste and budget. For the ultimate fire and ice experience, we love the Premium Suite: you’ll feel a shiver of delight when you see its cosy log-burning fireplace. If you prefer to snuggle up to keep warm, Hotel de Glace offer rooms which can accommodate up to six people, which can enable you to make significant savings if you are travelling as a group.
The location: Quebec, Canada
The details: Ranging from £290 to £520 per night, based on double occupancy. Each person is provided with a nordic sleeping bag and a free cocktail at the hotel bar. Each room booking includes a separate room for the same night in the Hotel Valcartier.
The experience: Sleeping under the stars may sound romantic, but change that to ‘sleeping under the Northern Lights’ and we move into the realm of magic. Explore Northern Norway on this five-night trip, including a one-night Luxury Glamping experience on the island of Kvaløya, where, if you’re lucky, you might see the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed. Stylishly appointed, with cosy furs for comfort, the deluxe tents have panoramic windows to make the most of the dramatic natural surroundings.
Opportunities to witness the Aurora Borealis continue, with guided Aurora hunts and a stay on the stunning island of Sommarøy, its dark skies providing the perfect backdrop to the Northern Lights.
These are not the only natural wonders the region has to offer; it’s also teeming with wildlife. Witness the ocean’s giants on a whale and fjord cruise, then take a dog-sled safari to meet a herd of reindeer and learn about their herders’ lives.
The location: Tromsø, Northern Norway
The details: This five-night trip, from tour operator The Aurora Zone, is priced from £1,845 per person, based on two people sharing. This includes the activities listed above, transfers, five nights’ bed and breakfast, three dinners, two light evening buffets, two lunches, expert guides and cold weather clothing. Flights not included.
The experience: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a certain bearded man in a red suit and boots. He’s not as slim as he once was and sometimes gets stuck up the chimney. We couldn’t write about winter wonderlands without including the ultimate magical adventure, for parents and children alike. While chances are slim that a snowman will come to life and whisk your child off to meet Father Christmas, we think we’ve found next best thing.
Transporting you to the snowy realms of Finnish Lapland, this three-day trip promises magical experiences aplenty, including snowmobile excursions, a husky safari and sleigh rides through the region’s silent forests, with the opportunity to get close to the reindeer. Sledging and snowmen also feature, making this the perfect winter holiday – and that is without mentioning the main event. Cleverly devised as a hunt for the mystery man, a helpful elf or two may appear to help bring budding detectives a little closer to finding the man himself. There’s no need to feel shy either, as meetings with Father Christmas are private for each family, making those memories even more special.
The location: Hetta or Karesuando,
The details: Santa Claus Trips
(www.santaclaustrips.co.uk) offers a three-day, two-night ‘Santa’s On His Way’ trip, with flights from four UK airports including Newcastle. Prices from £989 per adult and £449 per child.