Tis the season that beckons fantasies of snowy wonderlands – here’s a look at the dreamiest and snowiest destinations in the region and beyond
It’s always sunny in Singapore, so what’s top on my Christmas wish list this year is jetting out to a winter wonderland.
Here are five perfect Christmas destinations that are calling out — and if you’re lucky, you may still be able to book a flight to these white paradises.
The year-end is one of the best times to visit Japan, as regions like Hokkaido are coated in a beautiful blanket of snow.
Hokkaido is an enormous region with varying winter climates. So if you’re looking to ski, head to central Hokkaido, which includes Sapporo and Chitose, where heavier snowfalls are often recorded, instead of, say, urban Hakodate, which sees lesser snowfall.
Ski season begins in December, when temperatures hover around 2 deg C.
This chilly weather also makes for a perfect time to soak in a piping hot onsen (hot spring bath) while admiring the scenery as snow sprinkles down from the sky. The area of Noboribetsu, an hour’s train ride from Sapporo, is best for this activity, as it has numerous onsens, from white sulphur to iron, for you to dip in.
As January and February are the coldest months of the season, the year end is still the best time to enjoy winter before it starts to bite.
EMEI SHAN, CHINA
If you’re planning a trip to China, swing by the UNESCO World Heritage site of Emei Shan (or Mount Emei) in Sichuan, near Chengdu city. It’s normally known for the Leshan Giant Buddha but, come winter, you’re in for a whole new world of beauty.
Looking as pure as a bride in a stunning white gown, the mountain’s slopes are blanketed in snow and the rolling mountains stretch beyond where the eye can see. For the best view, hike up Emei Shan, which has been paved with stairs for easy climbing.
Or you could take a bus to the top and soak in the commanding view from the peak, before slowly making your way down in cable cars and buses.
For a different kind of white Christmas, make a stop at the magnificent Huangshan — or Yellow Mountain — region near Shanghai. You may recognise these dramatic mountains from ancient Chinese paintings and carvings, and they take on a magical façade during wintertime.
During the cold year-end, striking peaks shoot out from the beneath the misty sea of clouds, a sight for which Huangshan is most famous.
Best of all, December is the low travel season, with lesser crowds to contend with and cheaper hotels and flights for you to choose from.
For the adventurous traveller, there are hiking tours that can take you up the serene mountains through paths that are cleared every day for your safety. Be sure to pack thick coats and non-slip boots, as the average daily high is 4 deg C.
But if you’d prefer a more relaxing journey through Huangshan, hop on one of the three cable car lines and enjoy the scenic ride to the 1,400m hotel area, where you can then unwind at the Yellow Mountain Hot Springs, which bubble at a cosy 42 deg C.
A titbit for movie buffs: Hong Village at the foot of Huangshan is the setting for Ang Lee’s famous movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Saying that the town of Ilulissat is a wonderful white wonderland is just grazing the tip of the spectacular iceberg.
Resting on the shores of Western Greenland, this colourful ice fjord town is flanked by two astounding views. On one end flows the sprawling waters of Baffin Bay, a marginal sea of the North Atlantic Ocean. On the other, a sculpture-like gallery of icebergs, marking some impressive camping spots, rises up into the sky.
Winter in Ilulissat is also the prime time for dog sledding. Lay on a sled as the dogs whisk you across the powdery snow, and if you listen closely, you can make out the faint cracking and rumbling of the icebergs in the distance.
Famished after your adventure into the frost? Make a pit stop at the town’s eateries, where you can warm up over a simple cup of cocoa or be treated to exquisite fine dining featuring the day’s fresh catches.
LAKE TAHOE SOUTH, UNITED STATES
For many of us tropical urbanites, winter seems to come with its fair share of exciting outdoor activities.
At Lake Tahoe South in California, close to the Forbes-recommended Heavenly Ski Resort, this fantasy comes true beyond your wildest imagination.
No longer are you limited to just snowboarding, ice skating and snowball wars. When Lake Tahoe South transforms into a snowy paradise, unusual activities pop up as well: You can go human sled bowling — where you ride your sled into snow pins — go dog sledding and even participate in a contest building snow unicorns.
While the area has retained an authentic small-town feel, city-dwellers can also revel in the comfort of urban cuisines, ‘live’ concerts and pumped-up nightlife.
By Pamela Chow