The winter park in Östersund

10 travel ideas to spark your winter wanderlust

Uncategorized | No comments

Everyone loves a good Christmas market abroad, but what about the months from January through March? Travelling in these winter months can actually be inspirational in the extreme the perfect re-boot. And there are so many great winter activities, events and places to visit on Stena Line’s destinations here in northern Europe. Find your winter travel inspiration below!

Going skiing in the winter months is a perennially popular activity, especially seeing as most of the countries we sail to have some sort of winter school holiday. But far from everyone loves skiing. Fortunately, there are plenty of other inspiring winter activities to indulge in.

As we forecasted in our travel trends report, we see winter adventures on the rise! Here are 10 off-the-beaten-track ideas to make you want to pack your parkas and experience the thrills offered by a snow-covered Northern Europe.

Białowieża Forest - Polish Tourist Organisation

1. Track bison in ancient Białowieża Forest of Poland

In the eastern part of Poland lies the majestic Białowieża Forest, the last primeval forest in Europe. Come face to face with (or rather… within a comfortable distance of) a zubr, the European bison. Nature and wildlife tours run all year, and you can stay overnight at the village of Bialowieza, tucked deep in the forest.

Relevant route: Karlskrona-Gdynia
Distance from port: 491 km. Approx 6 hours 40 minutes drive.

The National Latvian Opera & Ballet

2. Experience the glories of old Europe at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet

In for a more cosmopolitan winter activity? Look into Riga, the largest capital of the Baltic states and a treasure chest of a town. Transport yourself back in time and space at the resplendent Latvian National Opera and Ballet, where an orchestra seat will only set you back around €25

Relevant route: Nynäshamn-Ventspils
Distance from port: 186 km. Approx 2 hours 30 minutes drive.

3. Yell and drink mead at Viking festivals in the UK

Nothing will help you truly embrace the cold like drinking from a horn and hearing the sound of drums around every corner — yes, the Vikings have come to town. The UK has a famously awesome Viking festival in York called the Jorvik festival, featuring live battle re-enactments, combat performances and even a great Viking banquet. Keep an eye on this one for next February!

Relevant route: Belfast – Liverpool
Distance from port: 161 km Approx 2 hours drive.

Relevant route: Hoek van Holland – Harwich
Distance from port: 372 km Approx 4 hours 20 minutes drive.

4. Explore the jazz scene of Denmark

If you have a thing for jazz, then you’ll probably have a thing for Denmark! Every year, the Vinterjazz festival permeates the country with the sounds of saxophones, with 500 concerts playing at 100 different venues across Denmark. Hot tip: Aarhus, the second largest city after Copenhagen, offers walkable cosiness.

Relevant route: Varberg – Grenaa
Distance from port: 63 km Approx 1 hour drive.

Relevant route: Gothenburg – Frederikshavn
Distance from port: 182 km Approx 2 hours drive.

5. Hit the ice rinks of the Netherlands

Their canals may no longer freeze every winter, but activities on the ice remain firmly rooted in the Dutch psyche. Every winter Ice*Amsterdam is set up in the city’s Museumplein, where you can skate in front of that most Instagrammable “I love Amsterdam” sign. There’s also the Sportium, an indoor ice rink where you can skate through caves and over rises like a North Pole explorer.

Relevant route: Harwich – Hoek van Holland
Distance from port: 84 km Approx 1 hour 15 minutes drive.

Relevant route: Gothenburg – Kiel
Distance from port: 550 km Approx 4 hours 40 minutes drive.

6. Take your camera to the white-clad mountain of Snowdonia, Wales

You don’t necessarily need to bring out your ice picks to enjoy mountains in winter — there are other, more subtle ways to experience the thrill of being around them. Snowdonia’s peaks are exceptionally photogenic, with moody, changeful winter weather providing the light for some truly awesome shots. You can also set up some glorious snaps at the imposing Caernarfon and Harlech Castles.

Relevant route: Dublin – Holyhead
Distance from port: 46 km Approx 40 minutes drive.

Relevant route: Hoek van Holland – Harwich
Distance from port: 528 km Approx 6 hours drive.

7. Experience Sami culture in Sweden

Encounter one of the oldest cultures on Earth up in Swedish Lappland. With distinctive traditions, art forms, and way of life going back 10,000 years, travelling to the far north and getting to know Sami culture is a travel experience like none other. Every February the village of Jokkmokk hosts a reindeer festival, involving literally all things reindeer, a traditional fashion show, and lots more. Pro tip: this can also double as your opportunity to witness the Northern Lights!

It’s a long drive, so take the opportunity to visit Östersund — the Winter City — on the way (7 hours drive from Nynäshamn, 7.5 from Oslo and 10 from Gothenburg). This charming town is located on the shore of Sweden’s fifth largest lake, Storsjön, opposite the beautiful island Frösön.

Östersund - The Winter City - by night

Fun fact: The football team Östersunds FK reasently beat Arsenal in the Europa League at the Emirates Stadion in London, 1-2. Despite their heroic achievement, Arsenal is through and Östersund is our (4-2 agg).

Relevant route: Ventspils – Nynäshamn
Distance from port: 1000 km Approx 12 hours 30 minutes drive.

Relevant route: Frederikshavn – Oslo
Distance from port: 1172 km Approx 15 hours drive.

Relevant routes: Kiel – Gothenburg or  Frederikshavn – Gothenburg
Distance from port: 1380 km Approx 16 hours drive.

8. Listen to tall tales in Ireland

Folklore and Ireland are basically synonyms. The tradition of storytelling is happily still prevalent, with modern day Irish bards who travel the country, in addition to legions of novice storytellers practicing the craft. Pubs across the country hold storytelling evenings, it’s just a matter of Googling to find one. You can start by looking up the storytelling evenings at the Brazen Head in Dublin, the Moth & Butterfly in Galway and the Roundy in Cork.

Relevant route: Holyhead – Dublin
Distance from port: 0 km to Dublin, 266 km and approx 3 hours drive to Cork

Relevant route: Fishguard – Rosslare or Cherbourg – Rosslare
Distance from port: 175 km and approx 2 hours 20 minutes drive to Dublin, 202 km and approx 3 hours drive to Cork

Visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen, go for a nighttime torch-lit tour of one of Bavaria’s natural wonders — the Partnach Gorge

9. Take a torch-lit hike through a gleaming, frozen gorge in Germany

While on your next ski vacation in the insanely picturesque town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, go for a nighttime torch-lit tour of one of Bavaria’s natural wonders — the Partnach Gorge. Hold your flames up to gleaming banners of ice and 80 metre-high frozen waterfalls.

Relevant route: Gothenburg – Kiel
Distance from port: 987 km Approx 9 hours 20 minutes drive.

Relevant route: Harwich – Hoek van Holland 
Distance from port: 918 km Approx 9 hours  15 minutes drive.

Indoor Outdoor architecture in Norway

10. Encounter the indoor/outdoor architecture of Norway

Norway’s natural beauty is on a whole other level, with mountains and fjords that will break your heart with awe. Fittingly, an architectural style is taking shape in Norway that lets you stand toe to toe with nature while still in the comfort of the indoors. Think big, uninterrupted windows meet Nordic minimalism. The Juvet Landscape hotel is one example. These structures also exist out in the middle of nature, like the Wild Reindeer Pavilion in Tverrfjellhytta.

Relevant route: Frederikshavn – Oslo
Distance from port: 372 km and approx 5 hours drive to Tverrfjellhytta, 548 km approx 7.5 hours drive to Juvet.

The months of January, February, and March don’t have to be a slog. It’s easy to liven them up with a thrilling getaway. We hope you’ll find something suitable so that you can enjoy the last days of winter, when it returns in March as it has the last couple of years. /Ylva.