Dreaming of a winter wonderland this holiday season? Since we live in a tropical country with just wet and dry weather, most of us dream of experiencing snowy destinations at least once in our lives. But the typical places in Europe always seem too far and expensive to visit.
If you don’t want to travel somewhere distant, there are a few destinations right in Asia where you can experience the wonders of winter. If the cold never bothered you anyway, here are five snowy destinations a plane ride from the country to add to your travel list.
Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido prefecture in Japan, is known as one of the best winter destinations in Asia. Located in the northernmost island of Japan (near Russia), Sapporo draws in travelers from all over the world during its Sapporo Snow Festival where visitors can witness hundreds of gigantic ice sculptures and snow statues come to life.
Aside from the festival, there’s lots more to experience in Hokkaido during winter. Active travelers can enjoy skiing, snowball flights, smelt fishing, snowboarding, and sledding. Go sightseeing at the Sapporo Fushimi Inari Shrine, and admire the sight of the vermillion torii gates against the snow.
Cap off your day sightseeing at the Sapporo Beer Museum to learn more about the iconic Japanese drink and enjoy a hot grilled meal at the nearby Sapporo Beer Garden. You can also warm up from the cold in an onsen, the traditional hot springs and bathing facilities found in volcanic areas and traditional inns around them.
When to visit: The first snowfall in Sapporo usually occurs in late October or November. From late December, the amount of snow begins to increase and the city transforms into a winter wonderland covered in pure white snow that lasts until March. The 2023 Snow Festival is scheduled for February 4-11.
Gangwon-do, South Korea
While many Pinoy travelers dream of visiting Seoul for the K-pop and K-drama scene, those who want to experience winter there can head to Gangwon-do, a mountainous, coastal province in the northernmost part of South Korea that’s known to be one of its coldest regions.
Pyeongchang county is notable for hosting the Winter Olympics in 2018. Now, the famous ski resorts are top draws for activities like snowboarding, skiing, and snow sledding. Ski enthusiasts can also enjoy visiting holiday centers like YongPyong Resort, the largest ski and snowboard resort in South Korea, and Alpensia Resort, which sits 700 meters high and is reminiscent of the Alps. Winter is also the perfect time to try strawberry picking in the area.
When to visit: The climate in Gangwon-do is said to be similar to Central European weather conditions and their winter season usually lasts from December to February.
There’s more to explore in Taiwan beyond the amazing street food and markets in capital Taipei. While snow in Taiwan is rare, you can experience it in Hehuanshan, a high alpine area in central Taiwan. Sitting at an elevation of 3,416 meters, Hehuanshan is home to farmlands, quaint mountain villages, a spectacular Alpine mountain road, and hiking trails just waiting to be explored.
The peak is accessed via the Wuling Pass, the highest assessable road in Taiwan. Due to the high elevation, you’re almost guaranteed to see snow here, so it’s best to book stays at a mountaintop resort and spend a couple of nights. Warm up by slipping into one of the country’s more than 150 hot springs.
When to visit: Winter in Taiwan runs through the months of December, January, and February, with January being the coldest month. In 2021, the first snow started to fall on December 27.
Ever wonder what Elsa's palace might look like in real life? With its long frozen winters, Harbin in China is one worthy winter destination that would give the snow queen a run for her money. Harbin is known for hosting the world’s largest ice and snow festival.
In Harbin, visitors can enjoy special winter travel activities like Yabuli alpine skiing, winter swimming in Songhua River, skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and more. You can also visit the ice and snow world, admire the snow sculpture art expo, check out the ice lantern art fair in Zhaoin Garden, visit an ice and snow carnival, and dine at an ice bar and restaurant.
When to visit: The first snow in Harbin usually comes in mid-November and the whole snowy season typically lasts until April. The next Harbin Snow and Ice Festival is scheduled to run from December 23, 2022 to February 28, 2023.
Almaty, the largest city of Kazakhstan, is usually the starting point and base of any trip to Central Asia. While it is an interesting destination all year long, it's best to plan your visit in December or January if you like snow and winter activities.
Try the winter sport of ice skating at the Medeo skating rink near Almaty, one of the highest mountainous sports complexes in the world that's roughly 1,700 meters above mean sea level. The Shymbulak Ski Resort is another spot you can visit to enjoy an adventurous escape. A gondola service brings visitors to the top of the mountains from where you skiing down during the winter months.
If you want to take a break from the chilly weahter, try a warm bath and relaxing spa at the Arasan Bath, one of the best Soviet-style baths in Central Asia.
When to visit: Winter months in Kazakhstan are from December to February, though the cold weather can extend from October to April. Snow primarily falls in November.