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Enjoy a World-Class Winter with These International Destinations

Who doesn’t want to get away in winter?

Ice, snow and cold can make winter travel a drag in America, but that doesn’t mean the season is meant for staying home. In countries on every continent, the months between December and March offer excellent opportunities to explore cultures and climates that differ wildly from our own.

Taking your group abroad in winter opens a world of possibilities, from perusing handcrafted ornaments at German Christmas markets to watching animals on safari in South Africa or joining a samba parade in Brazil. As the temperatures drop, check out these winter travel destinations for ideas to plan your group’s next international adventure.


With picturesque villages and fairy tale castles, Germany can feel like a storybook destination at any time of year. During the holiday season, though, cities and towns throughout the country take on an extra layer of magic. Many of the iconic traditions of Christmas in America originated with German customs, so a holiday journey to Germany is something of a Christmas-lover’s pilgrimage.

Seasonal Experience: Winter cold comes early in Germany, but locals use the turning of the seasons to prepare for the Christmas markets that have become an iconic part of the holidays. Known locally as “kristkindlmarkts,” these outdoor festivals take place in big cities and small towns alike. Visitors will find dozens or hundreds of vendors selling holiday decorations and other handmade goods, as well as live holiday music, roaring fires and plenty of mulled wine to take the edge off the cold.

Top Attractions: Germany’s most-visited sites tell compelling stories of its history. Cologne’s Kolner Dom cathedral was built on the banks of the Rhine in 1248. In Bavaria, the 1869 Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for the castles at Walt Disney’s theme parks. And Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate was built in 1791 and was later a symbolic part of the Berlin Wall.

While You’re There: Don’t miss the opportunity to sample traditional German sausages, mustard and pretzels in restaurants around the country, some of which have been operating for hundreds of years.


With one of the fastest-growing economies in South America, Brazil is increasingly earning attention among Americans. Famous for its beaches and its tropical climate, Brazil also has a host of attractions and events that highlight its unique culture and heritage. While the long months of winter seem to drag on in America, Brazil enjoys 80-degree temperatures throughout January and February, making winter a good time to take a group for some fun in the sun.

Seasonal Experience: Plan your winter trip to coincide with Carnival, the Brazilian equivalent of Mardi Gras in the United States. The dates vary year to year, but Carnival takes place in mid to late winter and features citywide celebrations that put all but the most raucous Mardi Gras parties to shame. The centerpiece of Carnival is the samba parade, which can feature hundreds or thousands of participants with percussion instruments and elaborate costumes. The samba parade at Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival takes place in the Sambadrome, a stadium built especially for those festivities.

Top Attractions: Many of the most famous Brazilian attractions are in Rio. Groups will want to see Sugar Loaf Mountain as well as the massive Christ the Redeemer statue, which stands hundreds of feet above the city. Beyond the city, Iguacu Falls on the border with Argentina features a semicircle of 247 waterfalls.

While You’re There: River cruises on the Amazon are surging in popularity and offer groups the opportunity to see exotic wildlife and get to know Brazil’s indigenous people groups.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.