Photo: Bongsub Kim
There are two ways of planning a winter vacation. You can either embrace the cold weather and snow, or look for an escape from the cold weather and snow. Coming from sunny Northern California, I’m a fan of both. I love “visiting” winter weather and snow, but I’m always happy to pair it with a warm escape.
As part of their Destination Unknown travel series, the hotel booking site Hipmunk asked me to share some places that I would like to visit during the winter months. I’ve had Asia on my mind a lot lately (spoiler here: We are planning a trip to Japan and possibly China next year!) and I’ve been pinning a lot of my East Asia travel inspiration over on Pinterest. Here are six places in Japan and China that I think would make great winter travel destinations.
1. Hokkaido, Japan
One of Japan’s best snowy winter travel destinations is the country’s northernmost island, Hokkaido. Hokkaido is a world-class ski and snowboarding destination — National Geographic recently named it one of their best trips for 2016, mostly because of the consistent snowfall and high-quality powder. I don’t ski, but I’d love to visit the island’s capital city, Sapporo, for the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. In this annual snow and ice sculpting competition, teams from around the world construct elaborate buildings, historic and literary scenes, and much-loved anime characters. The sculptures are huge — some are up to 60 meters high!
Photo: Giby Joseph
Hokkaido has hundreds of “onsens,” natural hot spring baths. The Jozankei Hot Spring is right outside of Sapporo and gives visitors the chance to enjoy the steamy water in a natural outdoor setting.
2. Nagano, Japan
I was surprised to learn that animals enjoy the hot springs, too! The Japanese macaque (“snow monkeys“) gather in the hot spring in Jigokudani Monkey Park, in Nagano, Japan. This park gives you the chance to see the wild monkeys bathing in the steamy, spring-fed pools. Seeing these beautiful creatures in person is near the top of my winter travel bucket list.
Photo: James Tucker
Photo: Masashi Mochida
Photo: Small Kit
3. Mt. Zao, Yamagata/Miyagi Prefectures, Japan
When we visited Northern Japan last year, I learned about Mount Zao’s “snow monsters.” Zao Snow Resort is a popular ski resort in the Tohoku region. The windy mountain’s pine trees are often encrusted with snow and ice and create otherworldly figures that the locals call “snow monsters.” I’d love to see these strange and beautiful natural formations.
Photo: Jussi Lyons
Photo: Dai Nonaka
4. Fukuoka, Japan
The Southern Japanese city of Fukuoka is known for the Fukuoka Illumination, an extravagant holiday lights display featuring millions of twinkling multi-colored lights. The centerpiece of the festival is the world’s largest “Christmas tree,” lit up on the side of the Fukuoka Tower.
Photo: Tetsuya Katsuge
Photo: Chihiro Sugioka
5. Beijing, China
I’d love to see Beijing, the city’s ancient temples, and even the Great Wall (!) under a dusting of snow.
Photo: Zeng Quiang Lee
Photo: Aileen Wong
Photo: Rain Lee
6. Southern China & Hong Kong
Kevin’s stepbrother, Mike lives and works in the southern city of Shenzhen, China. We would love to get out see Mike and his wife and explore this fast-changing urban region. I understand that the winter months are the best time to visit Shenzhen–the summer is really hot and humid.
Photo: Asean Leung
Shenzhen is the gateway to Hong Kong, a city I’ve always wanted to visit. Everyone who has been there raves about the food, so it’s near the top of my culinary travel bucket list.
Photo: Anek S
The nearby city of Ghuangzhou is the home of dim sum, and adjacent to some stunning natural landscapes that I’d like to see, including Baiyun (a.k.a.”White Cloud”) Mountain.
Photo: Di Wu
This post was written for Hipmunk’s Destination Unknown series.
What are your favorite winter travel destinations?