10 Great Winter Holidays in Europe for Non-Skiers

Mountain spas and dog-sledding, cosy cabins and roaring fires … You don’t need to hit the slopes to enjoy a snowy break

Snowshoeing in Austria

In winter, the hills around Salzburg are alive with the sound of snowshoes shushing across frozen slopes. Learn the technique on a small-group guided adventure in Salzkammergut, south-east of the city.

Based in the village of Faistenau, the group will be given expert tuition before setting off to explore the snowy trails of Mount Zwölferhorn and the shores of Lake Fuschlsee. On the last day, soak tired muscles in the heated pools, saunas and hot tubs of the St Wolfgangsee Wellness spa.

  • Five nights’ half-board costs from £829pp with Walks Worldwide. Excludes flights/rail travel to Salzburg. Departs 9 February.

Chasing the northern lights in Russian Lapland

landscape photo of mountains near lake wallpaper
Photo by Johny Goerend on Unsplash

A visit to the world’s first nuclear-powered ice-breaker is among the highlights of a new group tour to the icy wilderness of northern Russia.

Based in the city of Murmansk, the largest city north of the Arctic Circle, the trip also includes an aurora borealis-hunting expedition, dog sledging, a visit to Snow Village, where you can see hand-carved ice sculptures, and the chance to meet Sami reindeer herders. 

  • The five-day Winter Adventures in Murmansk Group Tour costs from £1,595pp with Regent Holidays. Includes four nights’ all-inclusive accommodation, transfers and return flights from London to Murmansk via Moscow. No single supplement. Departs 13 March.

Trekking in Transylvania

woman standing near forest
Photo by Norbert Tóth on Unsplash

Transylvania’s landscape of forest-covered mountains and hilltop castles is transformed into a winter wonderland when the snow falls. Explore the region’s traditional villages, quiet valleys and mountain pastures on a week’s hiking and snowshoeing adventure with Exodus.

No visit to Transylvania is complete without a visit to Bran Castle (the jury’s out on whether Vlad the Impaler, on whom Bram Stoker loosely based Dracula, ever visited the castle, but it looks suitably gothic).

Other highlights include the chance to search for wolf and bear tracks in the snow, and a walk through the impressive Prăpăstiile Zărneştilor canyon. 

  • An eight-day guided group trip, including seven nights’ accommodation at the Villa Hermani guesthouse, most meals, transfers and flights, costs from £1,049pp with Exodus.

Wellness in the Dolomites

Yes, of course, you can hurtle downhill from the ski resorts of Renon/Ritten in the South Tyrol, but why would you want to when you could be soaking in the hot tub of the new Adler Lodge Ritten, gazing at the beauty of the surrounding Dolomites, or enjoying a herbal sauna in a frost-laced forest?

High above the town of Bolzano and reached by a short ride on a cable car, this spa hotel is offering guests the perfect antidote to festive indulgence – crisp mountain air, gently bracing activities and luxury treatments.

Yoga, meditation and guided hiking are offered by the hotel. Guests can also try their hand at sledging, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice skating on outdoor rinks and frozen ponds (weather permitting). 

  • A three-night Winter Magic all-inclusive stay at the Adler Ritten Lodge costs from €678pp. Includes use of the spa (not treatments), spa voucher, ski tours, hikes, yoga and access to forest sauna. The nearest airports are Verona and Innsbruck, or travel by train to Bozen.

Winter walking in the Spanish Pyrenees

The Ordesa National Park has some of the best hiking in the Pyrenees. Its landscape of towering mountains, tumbling waterfalls and deep limestone canyons is even more starkly beautiful in winter, when the lakes freeze over and Monte Perdido (Lost Mountain), the highest peak in the park, is capped with snow.

Combining snowshoeing with hiking, a seven-day guided winter walking tour from Purely Pyrenees will take you deep into the park, returning each night to a traditional hotel in the mountain village of Linas de Broto. 

  • A seven-night trip costs from 925pp with Purely Pyrenees, excluding flights or rail travel to Lourdes. Departures from 1 January to 28 March

Cross-country skiing in Norway

person standing on snow covered land
Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

The village of Beitostølen in central Norway is known as the home of cross-country skiing, so where better to try out the national sport? Some 320km of cross-country trails radiate from the village and out into the Jotunheimen National Park with its frozen lakes and some of Norway’s highest peaks.

The family-run Bergo Hotel in the heart of the village makes a cosy and welcoming base, with an open fire, hearty evening meals and mountain views. Snowmobile safaris, ice fishing and husky tours are available in the resort.

  • A seven-night trip with Inntravel costs from £995pp based on two sharing, including full-board accommodation, return flights from Heathrow and transfers. Departures available until 19 April 2020.

Family fun in Slovakia

snow covered ground
Photo by Monika P. on Unsplash

Slovakia’s Tatras mountains are beautiful in winter and you won’t have to share them with hordes of tourists. Join Family Worldwide’s week-long activity holiday and you can explore the national parks, pine forests and mountain villages by snowshoe, husky sledge or horse-drawn carriage.

Other highlights include bathing in natural hot pools, a scenic rail trip to the highest village in the Tatras, a visit to an ice sculpture park and a winter barbecue in the forest. 

  • A seven-night trip with Families Worldwide costs from £1,099 per adult and £1,059 per child, including B&B accommodation in a three-star hotel, two lunches and guided activities, excluding flights or rail travel. Departs 15 February.

Bavarian winter wonderland

wet pathway between trees covered with snow
Photo by Herr Bohn on Unsplash

With its baroque, onion-domed church and wooden-gabled farmhouses, the quintessentially Bavarian village of Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden makes a magical base for a winter break.

Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, a boat trip across Lake Königssee, or a chair-lift into the hills for spectacular views across the lakes, rivers and forests of the Berchtesgaden national park. 

  • A three-night half-board stay at the Berghotel Rehlegg, a cosy family-run hotel with great food and spa, costs from £695pp, including flights and transfers with Inntravel.

Cabin hideaway in Finland

black car on snow covered road during daytime
Photo by Saad Chaudhry on Unsplash

With abundant snowfall and top aurora spotting potential, the Syöte National Park in Finnish Lapland is a great choice for a winter activity holiday.

Some of Finland’s best ski slopes are close by, but non-skiers will find plenty to keep them busy, from ice fishing and husky-sledging to cross-country skiing and nocturnal snowmobile safaris across frozen plains in search of the northern lights.

At night, return to a cosy log cabin with open fire and private sauna. 

  • A three-night stay in a Kelo cottage at the Iso-Syöte Hotel costs from £747pp half-board with Discover the World. Includes flights from Gatwick to Rovaniemi.

Off-piste adventure in La Plagne, France

La Plagne is one of the world’s largest and most famous ski resorts, so it might seem an odd choice for non-skiers. But there’s enough off-piste action in this lively resort to keep the most ardent ski refusenik occupied for a week.

Test your nerve on the Olympic bobsleigh track (from €48pp); try the new winter sports craze, Snooc – a ski/sled hybrid that is a fun alternative to a toboggan (from €7pp) – or explore the Vanoise National Park by pony-sled (from €15pp).

Finish your day with the new Far North Experience, which includes a snowshoe walk up to a tipi camp for a fireside vin chaud and cheese fondue, then a descent back to the resort by dog sledge (from €54pp). 

  • Double rooms at the four-star Hotel Le Cocoon in Plagne 1800 cost from £130 per night B&B, two sharing. Travel from London St Pancras on the Eurostar ski train via Paris to Aime la Plagne, a 30-minute taxi or bus ride from La Plagne (return fares from £160pp). For more information, see la-plagne.com.

This post was originally published on The Guardian.

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