With winter returning, it's time to get excited for the plethora of heart-warming and fascinating experiences that the season can bring. It's time for skiing, to go on scintillating and snowy rail journeys, to delve into the treasures of local Christmas markets. It's time to throw ourselves into the festive season and discover the crisp white scenery of the deep midwinter. There is so much that makes this season unique, so much that makes it magical.
But everyone has their own ideal winter. For every madcap, adrenaline snowboarding fanatic, there's a staycationer looking to make the most of a doorstep Christmas, and for every culture buff at a Christmas market, there's a sun-seeker wanting to stretch out on a white-sand beach. For each of these travellers, there's a winter holiday for them.
So with that in mind, this is our handy four-part guide if you're not quite sure which category you fall in to!
The Winter Adventurer
The highest peaks and most adventurous trails may well be a challenge in summer, but for those who are fuelled by adrenaline, the winter provides a fantastic array of new adventures across the world. This one is for the winter sports enthusiasts, those who zip past the amateurs on ski slopes, who climb the highest mountain for the most incredible views and who embark on hiking extravaganzas to make the most of the season.
Let's get one thing straight though: these people don't just do it for the thrill. Climbing mountains in winter yields absolutely spectacular views across a sublime winterscape of supreme beauty. And often, these adventurers access places that no form of transport could. As they conquer the peaks, whether on foot, snowshoe, ski or snowboard, they only have to look up for their reward, as a panorama of mountains, snow and pure blue sky greet them from their lofty perches. If you want an idea of how this might feel, just take a look at Caspar David Friedrich's iconic '' painting. That should give you some idea.
So for these self-punishing fiends, we've picked the Swiss Alps as your destination of choice. This corner of the world is just timeless, a landscape of perfection whose glamour has been etched onto the eyes, hearts and minds of artists, poets and musicians for generations. In particular, we'd recommend the stunning municipality of Kandersteg, high in the Bernese Oberland region. Alongside its challenging and illustrious walking trails, there are ski slopes in abundance, and for each one, there's an après-ski lodge with a hearty meal and a strong drink waiting.
The Christmas Enthusiast
Every Christmas, this character loves and cherishes the yule tide period. Every year, his house and halls will be decked with the biggest and best boughs of holly. He'll swarm out into the streets on Christmas Day singing songs of glad tidings, wishing merry Christmas to every urchin and his dog, and roaring out every carol off by heart at midnight mass. He cooks for his entire family on the special day, he'll watch every Christmas film on the menu and you can be sure he'll be first in line for sherry around a roaring fire. When all's said and done wrapped up and unwrapped again, he'll be counting done the days until it's time to do it all again.
Well you can imagine what his winter holiday will look like. He'll be visiting the homelands of the traditional European Christmas, wandering starry-eyed through the golden stalls of the biggest and best Christmas markets, and stopping at each Glühwein watering hole in town. He'll be trying his damnedest on the ice rinks in the centre of illustrious European capitals and will be paying a visit to every Santa's grotto he sees.
So for him, we'd recommend a Christmas market tour in the heartlands of Austria, where the festive season is less a tradition and more a lifestyle choice. In particular, we'd pick Vienna which plays host to the largest and probably most colourful market in Europe. Sat in front of the Rathaus, this celebration of all thigs festive is an experience to remembered for the Christmas zealot, full of shimmering sights and delectable smells and other, like-minded lovers of the season.
The Winter Sun-seeker
For some, the winter months are a tough time to get through. This poor person laments the loss of the sun and would rather give the deep snow and frosts of winter a miss thank you very much. For her, the ideal winter is no winter at all, and rather a summer's dream over the latter half of the year. So their response? Leave it all behind and chase the sun.
So she heads off to discover a winter abroad in the sun. And what a fine choice it is - because winter is experienced differently across the world. In deepest Australia, winter is summer as the dry season kicks in, and boy does it get hot. Christmas is still on the same day of course, so the ol' 'baby it's cold outside' dialogue doesn't quite work down under. The Canary Islands are another good option; their prime location off the African coast means pleasant yet not-overwhelming temperatures up and down the sun-drenched beaches. Florida is another option for summer sun, and stateside sun-searchers (also known as snowbirds) can enjoy temperatures no lower than 20ºC while exploring the USA's south coast.
But for us, the best destination for our summery friend is the glorious state of Kerala in southern India. This fantastic destination is one of the lesser explored states of India, and offers a dazzling alternative to the snows of Europe and Canada, what with its beautiful stretches of beaches and dazzling lagoons.
The Winter Home-Holidayer
You might think that most of the options on this list are attempts to escape from the typically drizzly and grey British winter and you'd be very much correct. Despite what you might thin though, we love the UK at this time of year what with all its quirks and baffling weather. So this entry celebrates the staycationer, those fine people who want to explore the uncovered roads of their home country and to delve into the innate charm that the UK when everyone else is tucked up at home and they have these destinations almost to themselves.
For where better to discover the pristine beauty that snow and frost lends a landscape than in the great British countryside? And where better to embrace the magic of Christmas than in a British city centre? And what better food to warm the cockles than British beef, Yorkshire puddings and pub pies? The castles of Wales look more noble than ever in the falling snow and the Glenfinnan Viaduct in the Scottish Highlands has never looked better than against a white backdrop. Across the country, the Christmas lights go up as excited crowds countdown wrapped in the winter coats and hats, painting a glowing picture of the festive season. It's good to stay at home for winter and there's so much to do, to taste, to see, to hear and experience in mighty Blighty.
So where do we recommend? It has to be Edinburgh.
The Athens of the north comes into its own during winter. The Scottish climate brings the snow, the Scottish people bring the cheer and the stunning light displays bring Christmas. There's history lurking around every street corner and culture aplenty in every museum. There's more restaurants than you can toss a caber at, and the residents of Edinburgh know what makes the perfect pub better than most.
So which one are you? Let us know in the comments below!