Winter's frigid temperatures may chill the bones, but snow and ice lend a magical air to almost any landscape. From the frozen wonders of Northern Hokkaido to the famous Christmas markets in Strasbourg, here are the top 25 most beautiful and sought-after places to shoot winter landscape photography.
Of all the world’s wintery landscapes, Antarctica reigns supreme. This vast, white wilderness is home to some of the most epic elemental forces: snow, ice, sea and rock. It is also extremely popular with wildlife photographers due to its unique inhabitants, which include Emperor penguins, Weddell seals, Humpback whales and the millions of seabirds that skim the Southern Ocean.
02. Lapland, Sweden
With a grand mountain range, endless forests dotted with reindeer, and, of course, the majestic northern lights, Swedish Lapland in winter is one of the most enchanting places on earth.
03. Alaska, USA
If you’re brave enough to face the bone-chilling cold of an Alaskan winter, you’ll be handsomely rewarded. From tranquil winter sunrises to elusive glimpses of the Aurora Borealis—the scenery is nothing short of spectacular.
04. Yosemite Park, USA
From January to March, there are fewer crowds at this wildlife hotspot, which means you get to bask in all of Yosemite's natural glory. Capture lunar rainbows at the base of Yosemite Falls during a full moon, and at sunset, seasonal waterfalls can glow like falling fire for as long as 10 minutes daily.
05. Strasbourg, France
At the crossroads of France and Germany, Strasbourg is a UNESCO world heritage site that truly brings the magic of Christmas alive. Touted as the birthplace of European Christmas markets, Strasbourg doesn't disappoint with over 300 wooden chalets in the city’s historic center, countless illuminated streets, and a majestic Great Christmas Tree.
06. Central Park, New York, USA
One of the world’s most loved (and surely most photographed) green spaces, Central Park is an endless stretch of rolling meadows, elm-lined walkways, manicured European-style gardens, a lake, and even a reservoir. Coated in snow for at least two months of the year, this 843-acre park is equally magical in winter. Make sure to go early to beat the crowds.
07. Lucerne, Switzerland
Known as the pocket-sized version of Switzerland, Lucerne is a lakeside town where history, culture, and spectacular scenery collide. Aside from its charming mix of cosy restaurants, traditional shops, and Swiss architecture, Lucerne is surrounded by an impressive mountain panorama that is perfect for photo ops.
08. Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Located in New Zealand's South Island, Franz Josef Glacier (or Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere as it's known by locals) is a breathtaking 12 km long glacier that descends from the Southern Alps onto the valley below. For those who aren’t up to hike to this natural wonder up-close, the surrounding village at the entrance of the valley offers its own scenic charms.
09. Telluride, Colorado, USA
Framed by the towering San Juan Mountains on three sides, Telluride has the highest concentration of 14,000-foot peaks in North America. The town itself is a postcard-perfect strip of colourful Victorian-era homes, clapboard storefronts, and boutiques. This former mining town turned popular skiing destination is so cinematic that Quentin Tarantino handpicked it to be the backdrop for his chilly western film “The Hateful Eight.”
10. Harbin, China
Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province. In January, the city hosts the largest ice and snow sculpture festival in the world, where participants travel from all corners of the globe to exhibit their spectacular creations at the city’s Sun Island Park.
11. Budapest, Hungary
Summer in Budapest gets all the love, but its winter is just as beautiful (and far less crowded). Bisected by the River Danube, Budapest’s enchanting medieval skyline comes alive in the winter time—its Romanesque architecture is sprinkled in snow, while revellers dart between coffee houses and thermal spas for warmth.
12. Tallinn, Estonia
Estonia’s capital on the Baltic Sea, Tallin, is home to striking medieval architecture, ecclesiastical art, and quaint taverns. During the winter months, the old town is somehow even more charming, with its string of cafes and shops, as well as Kiek in de Kök, a stunning, historic 15th-century tower.
13. Plitvice National Park, Croatia
With its sixteen turquoise lakes, waterfalls, and a dazzling array of flora and fauna, Plitvice National Park is a 295-sq.-km forest reserve in central Croatia. In winter, the water freezes, offering stunning photographic opportunities to capture this sprawling waterscape frozen in time.
14. Banff National Park, Canada
Home to rocky mountains, pristine glacial lakes, and a picture-perfect mountain village, there really is no place quite like Banff. The Canadians love it so much, you’ll find it on their $20 banknote. Photographers are spoilt for choice here with so much mountain scenery, as well as an abundance of wildlife and adventure for skiers, hikers, and campers.
15. Pragser Wildsee, Italy
A popular Italian destination for Instagrammers, Pragser Wildsee (or Lake Prags) is located in the Prags Valley near the northern Dolomites. This breathtaking lake's emerald blue waters turns into a stunning snow-covered wonderland in winter.
Greenland is the biggest island in the world, nestled between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. With most of it covered by a permanent ice sheet, you get magnificent winter landscapes everywhere you look. It’s also very densely populated, which is great for surreal wide-angle and panoramic shots.
17. Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany
A 19th Century Romanesque revival palace above the village of Hohenschwangau in Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle is straight out of a Disney film (quite literally, it was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland). In winter, the spires of the castle are shrouded in mist and a dusting of snow, offering fairytale-esque vignettes for photographers.
18. Lake Arrowhead, California
Known as “the Alps of Southern California,” this charming little town in San Bernardino offers picturesque views of alpine mountains and pine-tree-lined landscapes. Fittingly, it's also home to a North Pole-themed park which is aptly named 'Santa’s Village.'
19. Sapporo, Japan
For a week every February, the Sapporo Snow Festival transforms the city into a dreamy winter wonderland. Dazzling light displays, ice sculptures, live music, food markets, and family events all take place against the gorgeous white backdrop of Hokkaido.
20. Chicago, USA
With its steely skyscrapers and dynamic food and art scene, Chicago is a much-loved destination for lovers of gastronomy and culture alike. During the winter, temperatures dip so low that the shores of Lake Michigan partially freeze over. Be sure to drop by the 25 acre Millennium Park to capture stunning winter shots of the infamous Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Cloud Gate sculpures.
21. Gullfoss, Iceland
Revel in the untouched beauty of Gullfoss in Arnessysla, Iceland. Fed by Langjökull (the second largest glacier in Iceland) the waterfall is 32 metres tall and falls—mighty powerfully—into a magnificent canyon. In winter, the waters turn vibrant shades of blue and turquoise, while the surrounding rocks gather ice and snow.
22. St. Petersburg, Russia
A Russian port on the Baltic sea, St. Petersburg remains one of the most visually stunning and unique cities in Europe. The city truly comes alive in winter when its grand imperial architecture and perfect rows of candy-bright terraces become even more magical against grey skies and falling snow.
23. Prague, Czech Republic
With an ethereal blanket of fog and snow draped over its Gothic architecture, Prague in the winter is one of the world's most romantic destinations. Its maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards transforms into a wintery paradise for photographers and wanderers alike.
24. Lake Bled, Slovenia
A picturesque pocket of north-western Slovenia, Lake Bled is an expansive body of water surrounded by the Julian Alps and home to many waterfalls, natural pools, and caves. During winter, the lake turns a frosty blue and reflects the surrounding snowy mountains on its surface.
25. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
Take a boat tour and marvel at the giant blue expanse that is the Perito Moreno Glacier. Located in the Los Glaciares National Park, this glacier is one of only three in Patagonia that are currently growing—a true sight to behold for photographers and nature lovers alike.