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If you’re itching to take a summer trip but the thought of soaring temperatures and high-season crowds gives you pause, consider visiting a destination that receives the lion’s share of its visitors in the winter months. From high-altitude ski resorts to pristine landscapes set just below the North Pole, there are a number of places traditionally thought of as winter destinations that shouldn’t be written off for a summer trip. Here are a few of the best cold-weather hotspots that are even better in summer.
The “land of fire and ice” brings to mind images of frozen glaciers and steaming hot springs ringed by snow, but this island country set on the rim of the Arctic Circle is, in truth, best visited in summer. In addition to endless sunlight (21 hours a day on average) that’ll allow you to stretch your sightseeing time to the max, you can also take advantage of peak puffin- and whale-spotting season; highland hiking and 4x4 adventures; iceberg cruises in the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon; and summer festivals and events.
Millions of visitors flock to Sapporo in the winter to hit Japan’s top ski resort or attend the weeklong Snow Festival held each February, but Hokkaido’s capital city is equally captivating in the summer months. Outdoor enthusiasts can cycle around Lake Shikotsu; explore the hiking trails on Mt. Moiwa and in the Nopporo Forest Park; or soak in the hot springs at Hoheikyo Onsen. The city itself offers plenty to do for both culture enthusiasts and gourmands, too, from architecture walks to beer crawls and food market visits.
Alaska and snow may go hand-in-hand, but America’s Last Frontier is a summer sleeper for adventure seekers and lovers of the great outdoors. Its vast forests, frozen lakes, and iced-over rivers come to life in the warmer months of the year, offering unbeatable wildlife spotting by land and whale-watching by sea from early morning to after midnight—sunlight here can stretch up to 22 hours a day. Inland highways and railways cleared of ice are ideal for scenic road trips through the state’s interior or Denali National Park, although you can also enjoy bird’s-eye views of the latter on a flightseeing tour. Plus, the handful of cities in the state shake off their winter slumber to host warm(er)-weather events and festivals come summer.
Perhaps the world’s most famous skiing mecca, these towering peaks transform into a hiking and biking paradise once the snow melts. And the adventure isn’t limited to the trails—you can paddle across crystalline Alpine lakes, hop on a high-altitude train for spellbinding views, white-water raft down rushing rivers, or paraglide across the peaks. If you want to pop into winter for a few hours halfway through the year, strap on your skis and head to the slopes on Zermatt that offer year-round snow.
Like the nearby Swiss Alps, Italy’s UNESCO-listed Dolomites are a world-class ski destination, but those in the know visit in the summer months to savor the spectacular views, food, and trails with a fraction of the winter crowds. Set within striking distance of Venice, these peaks are ideal for a hiking day trip—adventurous hikers can take on one of the famed via ferrata trails with an expert guide—or scenic driving tour, as well as outdoor adventures such as canyoning or rock climbing. This area is also dotted with chic Alpine towns including Madonna di Campiglio and Cortina d’Ampezzo, home to Michelin-starred restaurants and exclusive shopping all year round.
Host to the immensely popular Ice and Snow Festival each year, Harbin is one of the top winter destinations in Asia. Summer visitors, however, can delve into the less frenetic, more authentic pace of the slower season. Explore cobblestoned Zhongyang Dajie, the old town’s main thoroughfare, lined with the city’s oldest temples, Russian Orthodox churches, and synagogues. Or, delve further into Harbin’s heritage with a walking tour through Russian Town and the city’s Jewish sites; take the cable car across the water to Sun Island; and explore the local cuisine on beer tours or during dumpling-making lessons.
It may be Santa Claus’ home, but this Arctic wilderness offers more than just a wondrous Christmas holiday destination. Vast stretches of untouched landscapes extend from the main city of Rovaniemi for scenic hiking and biking in the Pyhä-Luosto National Park and Kevo Strict Nature Reserve; meanwhile, animal lovers can observe dozens of Arctic species at the Ranua Wildlife Park or learn how to mush on a husky-drawn wheeled cart. And Arktikum is Finland’s top museum no matter what the season.
The American answer to Switzerland's Alps, the Rocky Mountains that cut through Colorado are a winter paradise of dazzling peaks, trendy resorts, and powder-covered pistes. The fun doesn’t end with spring, however. Warm summer days reveal unparalleled trails for adventuring out on foot or two wheels; ziplining thrills; delightful mountain towns thick with art galleries and fine dining; and water sports from kayaking to white-water rafting. For fabulous views over one of the most dramatic landscapes in the Lower 48, take off by hot-air balloon as the sun rises above the Rockies.