Cold Travel Destinations – Don’t Forget to Bring a Jacket!

As the world shrinks, the desire to visit its final frontiers becomes more and more pressing in the eyes of many travelers. We all want to see it before the concept of a frontier vanishes completely. For some, this has changed the concept of the typical vacation. Taking a long vacation used to be pretty straightforward: pick a tropical island or archipelago, sit on the beach, and have a margarita. Today’s tourists are much better traveled, and view travel as not exclusively about relaxation. Stronger emphasis is being placed on adventure and exploration. With that in mind, many are heading for the unknown, the abandoned, and the downright COLD regions of the world.

Cruises to Alaska to see the fjords and glaciers are now almost as common as the traditional Caribbean variety of cruise. With a warm cabin and great meals, more people are willing to brave the elements to get a glimpse at awe-inspiring natural beauty and marine wildlife such as whales and pods of orcas.

Tierra del Fuego, on the opposite pole, also attracts more and more visitors every year. The capital city of Ushuaia boasts many nearby ski areas, to be sure, but the majority of people do not visit the city for this. Tierra del Fuego National Park has some excellent trails, the area is quite beautiful, and all the major cruise lines operate out of Ushuaia. People come because it is at the end of the world.

Glaciers are also rapidly becoming prime tourist destinations. New Zealand is known for the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers; numerous outfits rent equipment and take scores of tourists out onto the blue ice. The Chilean fjords and numerous glacier fields have also seen a steady increase in traffic. Tourists flock to see the San Rafael glacier calve into the Laguna San Rafael. Perhaps this rush is not just about our frontiers disappearing as a concept, but physically as well; global warming has drastically shrunk a number of glaciers worldwide, at a disturbingly alarming rate.

Cold travel does not have to be purely about natural beauty, either. The town of Kemi, in Finland, has housed the world’s largest snow castle since the mid 1990s. This magnificent ice castle, three stories high and more than half a mile long, receives hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The ice chapel makes it a popular wedding destination. Also in the same region is Santa Claus Village, where the man himself lives (a tourist trap for children if there ever was one.)

Of course, the destination that tops everyone’s bucket list is the continent of Antarctica. Much to the dismay of many environmentalists, visiting the “Frozen Continent” becomes easier with each passing year. The most popular cruises to Antarctica are based out of Tierra del Fuego. You cross the stormy Drake Passage before reaching the continent itself. At this point, smaller groups of people are taken out via zodiac boat to make landfall, look at penguins, and to just plan marvel at the ethereal beauty of this place.

It is definitely on my bucket list!