At first glance, winter is a harsh and unforgiving season. Life seems to be buried underneath a mountain of snow and ice, and the chill in the air causes us all to stop and pause. When we stop and pause, however, we notice the quiet beauty that is all around us in winter. Whether you lust after the northern lights, glaciers, or hot springs, nature is at her most beautiful during this season, and there are many stunning winter wonderland destinations to visit.

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are known as nature’s light show. Dazzling colors including green, blue, and red, dance across the night sky in arcs and circles. The aurora borealis is most easily seen in extreme northern locales, including Svalbard, Norway. This tiny mining village is located between the 74th and 81st parallel and is an excellent destination from which to view the northern lights. In addition to a thriving reindeer population, Abisko, Sweden also has frequent sightings of the auroras. Winter is the ideal time to visit these destinations, as it is then that the auroras are at their peak.

Glaciers loom large in the modern imagination. Amazingly, it is possible to visit physical glaciers in all their glory. Located in Los Glaciares National Park, the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina is three miles wide and extends 558 feet underwater. Tourists can view the glacier via a boat ride or by exploring a glacier cave. Travelers to Alaska can walk right up to the Matanuska Glacier, located near the Glenn Highway a couple of hours north of Anchorage. As the largest glacier accessible by car in the USA, visitors can use a pull-off to snap a picture or pay a fee to get up close and personal with the glacier.

Hot springs are delightful in the winter, whether for human or animal use. Perhaps the most remarkable hot springs setting to visit is the Jigokudani Monkey Park located in Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, Japan. During the winter, snow monkeys make their way to the hot springs to bathe during the day. Their furry bodies soaking in hot water are a sight to behold! Closer to home, vacationers can venture to Lake Tahoe in California to enjoy winter hot springs.

Winter is magical, and there is a wonderland to appeal to everyone!