For many living in the UAE, where the sun shines bright most of the year, the idea of a chilly winter is exciting. Imagine swapping the warm desert for snowy landscapes, cold breezes, and cosy evenings by the fire. It’s no wonder that as the year ends, UAE residents dream of winter holidays in cooler places. For those who haven’t experienced snow or the fun winter activities that come with it, the curiosity is even greater. So, where are the best countries to visit in December and in January? Let’s explore some top winter destinations that offer both adventure and relaxation for those keen to experience a different kind of cold.
Japan in winter is a sight to behold. As temperatures drop, various parts of the country get draped in a blanket of snow, transforming ordinary scenes into postcard-perfect vistas. From bustling urban areas decorated with twinkling lights to tranquil countryside spots covered in snow, winter brings a quiet charm to Japan. The season is also significant for various cultural events, end-of-year celebrations, and, of course, delightful winter cuisine that warms the soul.
With a roughly 9-hour flight separating Dubai and Tokyo in winter, the land of the rising sun is not an easily accessible wonderland, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Key Japan winter months to consider for travel
While December heralds the beginning of winter season, Japan is of the best countries to visit in January and February. These months are perfect for those wanting a full winter experience, be it witnessing heavy snowfall in regions like Niigata and Akita or participating in the numerous winter festivals that dot the country.
Often hailed as the crowning jewel of Japan’s winter destinations, Hokkaido is a realm of pristine white landscapes. Its capital, Sapporo, hosts the famed Snow Festival, where impressive ice sculptures take centre stage.
For those keen on skiing, 2023 promises exciting additions to Hokkaido’s ski resorts. With improved facilities, extended ski trails, and a range of accommodation options to fit every budget, there’s a renewed focus on enhancing the skiing experience for both beginners and experts alike.
While Tokyo might not see as much snow as Hokkaido, the capital city has its own winter magic. Streets come alive with dazzling illuminations, especially in areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku. The city’s gardens and parks, like Ueno Park and the Imperial Palace Gardens, take on a serene ambiance, making them ideal for peaceful strolls. Special winter menus in cafes and restaurants provide the perfect opportunity to indulge in seasonal delicacies.
Among the must-experience activities is ice-skating under the Tokyo Skytree or attending the Winter Comiket – a massive event for manga enthusiasts. Not to mention, the hot spring baths or ‘onsens’, which are even more enjoyable in winter, offering a warm retreat from the cold.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our neighbouring land, often gets overlooked as a winter destination. But in fact ther is even a winter park in Saudi Arabia. With a flight time of just around 2 hours from Dubai, this vast country unveils a delightful winter tapestry waiting to be explored.
Contrary to popular belief, Saudi Arabia isn’t always sweltering hot. Winter in KSA brings with it cooler temperatures, especially in the northern regions. Days become milder and nights can get quite cold. This is the time when outdoor activities bloom and the deserts turn into a favourite camping spot. The atmosphere becomes lively with festivals, and traditional gatherings called ‘haflas’ become the norm in desert areas.
Valleys and Islands
China, a vast and diverse country, has always enchanted travellers with its rich history and sprawling landscapes. A mere 8-hour flight away from Dubai, it turns into a wonderland as winter arrives, showcasing the country’s multifaceted beauty under a snowy blanket.
The northern parts, such as Beijing, witness a proper cold season with heavy snowfalls, while the southern regions like Shanghai experience a milder winter. This season is also special because of the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, the most significant celebration in the Chinese calendar, which usually falls in late January or February.
Beijing, the capital, undergoes a magical transformation in winter. Its historic monuments, like the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, wear a snowy mantle, providing stunning photographic opportunities.
Beijing snowfall averages of around 5 to 10 cm during the winter months. While the city looks beautiful under a layer of snow, it’s essential to come prepared for the cold. The best times to visit for snow lovers are late December to early February. However, if one wishes to partake in the New Year festivities, planning the trip around the Spring Festival would be ideal.
Unlike Beijing, Shanghai’s winter is not defined by thick snow layers but by its chilly winds and crisp air. The city’s skyline, adorned with lights, reflects off the Huangpu River, creating a mesmerizing view. The Bund, Shanghai’s iconic waterfront, takes on a serene ambiance, perfect for evening strolls. While snow is rarer in Shanghai, when it does snow, it adds a layer of quiet beauty to the city’s bustling life. The winter months are also a great time to explore Shanghai’s indoor attractions, like its museums and galleries, and to savour hot, local winter delicacies in the numerous restaurants and street stalls that the city boasts.
Just a short 4-hour flight away from Dubai, Turkey attracts travellers with its rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. Turkey winter months are a delightful blend of chilly days, snow-covered vistas, and the warm hospitality of its people.
While many flock to Turkey in the summer months, the winter season is an underrated gem. The country’s unique geographies, from bustling cities to quiet mountain villages, provide a diverse range of winter experiences. Whether you’re seeking snowy adventures or cosy retreats, Turkey has it all.
Straddling two continents, Istanbul’s is one of the best places to visit in January. The city’s historic landmarks, like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, stand majestically against the backdrop of snow. The Bosphorus, which divides the city between Europe and Asia, often carries a misty aura, with ferries cruising through its gentle waves. The bustling streets of the Grand Bazaar become even more enchanting, offering warm Turkish tea and delicacies to fend off the cold.
Cappadocia, known for its otherworldly landscapes, becomes even more surreal in winter. The iconic rock formations, often called ‘fairy chimneys’, get adorned with snow, creating a contrast that’s a feast for the eyes. Hot air balloon rides over the snow-clad valleys offer unparalleled views and memories to cherish.
Apart from Istanbul and Cappadocia, places like Pamukkale with its thermal springs, the snow-laden mountains of Rize, and the winter wonderland of Lake Çıldır should be on every traveller’s list. Each region offers a unique experience, from winter sports to thermal spas, ensuring a wholesome winter holiday.
Coming from a place where sand dunes and scorching temperatures are commonplace, the allure of snow-clad landscapes and chilly breezes is all the more magnified for the residents of Dubai. Winter becomes an escape into a different world, offering experiences that are in stark contrast to what they’re accustomed to.
Travel goes beyond mere destinations and experiences. It’s about the journey, the stories we weave, the memories we create, and the horizons we expand. For the residents of the UAE, every winter journey is not just a getaway from the familiar but an embrace of the new, the unknown, and the magical.
And if you need assistance with the logistics, The Visa Services company is here to guide your steps, ensuring that your dreams of the best places to visit in winter translate into tangible, unforgettable memories. Contact us now to know more about how we can help you with your visa applications.