Tag Archives: arctic

Brook in Norway in winter, posing at the Lofoten Islands, with snowy mountains, the Norwegian Sea and houses in the background.

Here’s Why Norway in Winter is Delightful

Even for a dedicated off-season traveler like me, I’ll admit that going to Norway in winter initially sounded like an oxymoron. Isn’t Norway a place best experienced in summer, when you can enjoy a broad array of outdoor adventures?

Well, I am here to report that I had a fabulous 10 days in the country this past November, on a trip dreamed up by WOW Lister and Norway native Torunn Tronsvang. I discovered that it’s a brilliant destination in late fall and winter. Here’s why—based both on my own experience and on the reviews that we’ve received from your fellow travelers who planned their trips the WOW way:

You can still do many of the same things that you’d do in summer.
One of my trip’s highlights was cruising through a fjord on a private yacht. Cozily bundled in coats and hats under blankets provided by the captain, my husband, son, and I gazed up at a sheer rockface to one side of the boat, a gentler slope covered with a powdered-sugar dusting of snow to the other, and wisps of clouds lit up by the afternoon sun. During our entire time in Lysefjord, not a single other vessel came into view. Other days brought similarly quintessential Norwegian experiences—hiking a beautiful mountain trail, eating cinnamon rolls and other local delicacies, driving gorgeous coastal routes. Indeed, it is the Nordic spirit to carry on no matter the elements: We saw plenty of locals snuggled up under blankets and heat lamps outside bars and restaurants, and even playing golf when the temperature was in the high 30s.

Brook and the family sitting on orange chairs on a private yacht, overlooking the Lysefjord and the mountains.

Brook and family aboard a private yacht in Lysefjord, Norway. Photo: Helge Ljones

Despite all of Norway’s natural beauty, one of my favorite afternoons was spent indoors, making cheese with a farmer. It was truly hands-on: We donned hairnets, rinsed our arms in whey up to our elbows, and then plunged them into a vat to gather the curds. Since we’d caught the farmer at a quiet time of year, he was happy to spend several hours with us. I left having a far better appreciation for the artisanal cheese-making process—and convinced that it should cost $100 a pound, given the work involved!

Brook breaks up the cheese curds at a cheese farm in Norway.
Brook breaks up the cheese curds during a cheesemaking class at the Lofoten Gårdsysteri cheese farm.
Brook and son Zeke packing cheese curds into rounds.
Brook and son Zeke pack the curds into rounds.
Brook’s son Zeke flipping over a fresh cheese round.
Zeke flips over a fresh round.
Hugo shows Brook a round of goat cheese flavored with local seaweed.
Farmer Hugo shows Brook a round of goat cheese flavored with local seaweed.


You can have the iconic sights largely to yourself.
Last year was Norway’s busiest ever for cruise travel, but most ships visit over the summer. I didn’t see a single cruise ship while I was there—nor, for that matter, any large groups of tourists. (This traveler similarly enjoyed a quieter experience of the Flam Railway, one of the country’s most famous train lines, in late fall.)  The most popular spot on my itinerary was Pulpit Rock, which juts out over Lysefjord and provided the backdrop for the climatic fight scene in Mission: Impossible—Fallout. During the summer, 6,000-7,000 people a day hike the 2.5 miles each way to the lookout, in “two long conga lines” that my private English-speaking guide described simply as “pandemonium.” In contrast, we saw only a handful of people on the day we visited and even had the iconic spot all to ourselves for some time.

Brook posing in front of Pulpit Rock above Lysefjord with showy mountains in the background.

Brook in front of Pulpit Rock above Lysefjord, Norway. Photo: Erlend Berne

You can see the northern lights.
Sightings of the aurora borealis can happen in Norway from late August through March. WOW List travelers have combined northern-lights viewing with ice fishing and snowshoeing in February, and with dogsledding and meeting the Sami people in March. The advantage of seeing them in November, I found, was that I didn’t have to wait until the wee hours for total darkness: I saw the northern lights twice, both times around 7 p.m.

Brook with the northern lights in the background at the Hattvika Lodge.

Brook takes in the northern lights from Hattvika Lodge in the Lofoten Islands. Photo: Ryan Damm

When the days are short, the light is gorgeous.
Above the Arctic Circle, the days constrict quickly in November, going from seven hours of sunlight early in the month to just two and a half by the end. What those numbers obscure is the quality of that light—with the sun always low on the horizon and high clouds often adding texture, it’s nearly impossible to take a bad photo—and the additional periods of dawn and dusk when you can still be exploring outdoors.

That said, if you want more sunlight, go in late February or March, when the days are roughly equivalent to what you get in the United States.

The limited daylight forces Type-A travelers to slow down.
I’m a no-FOMO kind of traveler. Do I usually cram in too much? Probably. So I actually came to appreciate the dark morning and afternoon hours of Norway’s off-season. It forced me to slow down both body and brain. It helped me start to understand the Norwegian way of life. It made room in the day for my family to play board games, stoke a fire in our cabin’s fireplace, or relax together in a hot tub. (My adolescent son was also thrilled that this was the rare trip on which he was allowed to sleep in.)

Norway’s weather is changeable at any time of year.
You can get a rainy day with 50-degree temperatures in July just as easily as in December; sweaters and raingear are essential items even in summer. The day before the worst storm that I encountered in my travels, another group had been sea-kayaking in the same spot on water that they described as glass-smooth. You wouldn’t know it when the schools shut down the next day due to sideways-pelting rain, but our private guide ably pivoted our itinerary from the intended hike to instead visit a not-yet-open-to-the-public fishing museum created by her uncle. And that was the only day of the trip when the weather forced a change in our plans.

It’s a winter wonderland.
As a Californian who lives far from snow, encountering it during our trip was a plus. You may not feel the same if you have to shovel it off your front path every winter, but the dusting of white—aided by the Christmas decorations in many cities and hotels, even a twinkling tree in our room at the Eilert Smith Hotel—made the trip feel like the kickoff to a cheery, festive season.

Brook on a hike to Pulpit Rock posing in the snow.

Brook goes off-trail to romp in some snow on the way to Pulpit Rock. Photo: Erlend Berne

There was snow in the hills we hiked near the southern coastal city of Stavanger (where temperatures were usually in the 40s, equivalent to New York City that month); up above the Arctic Circle in the Lofoten Islands, there was snow all the way down to sea level, and temperatures topped out at 35 degrees. But it was also the most beautiful place I think I’ve ever been in my life:

A landscape of the Lofoten Islands with snowy mountains, the Norwegian Sea and a rorbu house.

One of many picturesque spots in the Lofoten Islands, burnished with November light. Photo: Ryan Damm

Sidewalks and paths can be slippery; if you’re not sure-footed (and even if you are), a device like Yaktrax will be enormously helpful.

You can have your choice of accommodations.
Norway’s hotels typically have just a handful of rooms, so they book up six months or more in advance for the summer high season. In winter, you have your pick of places to stay (excepting the most popular northern lights-viewing lodges) and aren’t left piecing together an itinerary based on whatever availability remains. This is not the trip on which to be stingy about your accommodations, either: You’ll be spending time there in those darker cozy hours, so give yourself room to spread out.

Brook sitting on a wooden chair overlooking the Lysefjord.

Brook at The Bolder, a collection of cabins high above Lysefjord. Photo: Ryan Damm

You won’t miss your holiday feasts back home.
I wasn’t prepared for just how delicious the food was in Norway. Even when abrupt hunger pangs sent us to the first open restaurant, or a late-arriving flight made take-away in our hotel room the best option, we were served top-shelf meals, from a halloumi sandwich at a burger bar to legitimately spicy Thai noodles.

As a vegetarian, I tested the country’s commitment to local and seasonal ingredients—and came away impressed by the variety of produce I was served, from beets to celery root to mushrooms to kale, often flavored with pickled herbs. My husband enjoyed local lamb, reindeer, and of course, fish. This family enjoyed a fancy New Year’s Eve dinner at their Oslo hotel, followed by a midnight toast on the roof.

Carrot tartlets and fried mushrooms served on traditional plates.
Carrot tartlets and fried oyster mushrooms at Bellies in Stavanger.
Artisanal cheeses cut on a wooden board with beets, and other jams on the side.
Artisanal cheeses at the Lofoten Gårdsysteri cheese farm.
Dishes from the 10-course seasonal tasting menu at Hattvika Lodge's Fangst restaurant in the Lofoten Islands, Norway. Photo: Ryan Damm
Elements of the seasonal 10-course tasting menu at Hattvika Lodge's Fangst restaurant.
Bowl of mushrooms and moose and reindeer liver between rounds of porcini flatbread on a bed of smoking dry ice. Photo: Ryan Damm
A smoking bowl of porcini flatbread at Kvitnes Gard in the Lofoten Islands.
A bowl of hearty stew with veggies and beans served over mashed potatoes at Priekestolen Basecamp, near Stavanger, Norway. Photo: Ryan Damm
A hearty stew of beans and veggies over mashed potatoes at Priekestolen Basecamp.


Oslo’s many museums are ideal sanctuaries on short, chilly days.
The only time I felt truly cold during my trip was when the temperature in Oslo dipped well below freezing. No matter: I explored the city by hopscotching from one toasty museum to the next. I saw multiple iterations of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, the study in which Henrik Ibsen wrote his last play, and secret messages circulated by the Norwegian resistance during World War II. But my favorite museum moment was walking around and under the original Kon-Tiki raft with Liv Heyerdahl, whose grandfather Thor built the bamboo-and-balsa vessel 75 years ago and then successfully sailed it from South America to Polynesia.

Brook standing in Oslo's Kon-Tiki Museum beside Liv Heyerdahl, granddaughter of famous Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl.

Brook at the Kon-Tiki Museum with Liv Heyerdahl, granddaughter of famous Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl.

Intrigued by an off-season adventure in Norway? Here’s one more reason why the next few years are a good time to go: The solar activity that causes the northern lights to appear runs in roughly 11-year cycles, with the next peak happening in July 2025.



Transparency disclosure: Some experiences described here were provided to Brook for free or at reduced rates. In keeping with our standard practice, there was no promise of editorial coverage in exchange: Complimentary or discounted travel never influences our reportage. All of these experiences are accessible to every traveler who uses Wendy’s WOW questionnaire. Thanks to Wendy’s WOW system, you’ll get marked as a VIP traveler.


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The Best Trips to Book in April: What to Lock in Now




Whether you’re still trying to figure out your summer travel plans, have already turned to fall, or are starting to think about next spring (many bucket-list trips need to be booked a year in advance, after all), we’ve gathered here a handful of memorable options for your next trip. These are the trips you should be booking in April if you want to experience nature’s greatest marvels and cultural extravaganzas at their best possible moments.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Belize: Lobsters and Last-Minute Deals

Belize fisherman showing off his fishing catch on a dock, giving two thumbs up

“Scuba Steve” on the opening day of lobster season. He speared all this himself! Photo: Rachael Wilson

For: June 2019

June is the start of Belize’s slower season, which means that there are often great deals to be had: four nights for the price of three, free resort credits, and the like. Furthermore, lobster season opens up on June 15 and there are countrywide celebrations that include fishing tournaments, live music, and lots of dancing. We even know how to get you a lobster-cooking master class with one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs.

Why book in April? These last-minute deals usually appear four to six weeks prior; start planning now so that you’re ready to snap them up immediately.

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Morocco: A Surprising Hot Spot for the Holidays

camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Wendy and family on a camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

For: December 2019 and January 2020

Most people don’t think of Morocco as a holiday destination, but December 20 to January 5 is the tippy-top of high season there: Top hotels get sold out months in advance, rates are higher, and most properties in Marrakech have four- to six-night minimum stay requirements.

Why book in April? Last year, our Trusted Travel Expert was already having trouble finding holiday availability in May. Book now to ensure your spot.

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Patagonia’s Beautiful but Short Summer

For: December 2019 through February 2020

Southern Patagonia combines jaw-dropping scenery, an edge-of-the-earth vibe, and luxurious lodges better than anywhere else. Luckily, this landscape isn’t just for the uber-fit: Options range from easy day hikes to multi-day backcountry treks—and unlike higher-altitude trails in the Andes and the Himalayas, the only thing taking your breath away will be the views.

Why book in April? Patagonia has a very limited weather window and relatively few beds. After April, availability at the big-name lodges and authentic Argentine estancias during these popular summer months will be hard to find. (You might also consider the shoulder seasons of November and March, which see pleasant conditions and fewer crowds.)

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Northern Peru’s Archaeological Wonders—with Special Access

The ruins of Kuelap, Peru

The walled settlement of Kuelap, Peru, was built in the sixth century. Photo: Aracari

For: August 2019

Explore some of northern Peru’s most interesting hidden gems—including the seat of the oldest civilization in the Americas and the highest tropical mountain range in the world—with Trusted Travel Expert Marisol Mosquera as your guide. Thanks to Marisol’s connections, you’ll be hosted by archaeologists studying significant pre-Inca ruins, witness ongoing excavations, step behind the scenes in a museum, dine in a private home, and visit artisan workshops.

Why book in April? Right now, there are seven spaces left on this special journey, and Marisol is offering a 10% discount on the land costs for WendyPerrin.com readers.

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Portugal’s and Spain’s Less Crowded Shoulder Season

Lisbon, Portugal skyline with Sao Jorge Castle

Lisbon is getting even closer, thanks to new direct flights. Photo: Shutterstock

For: October and November 2019

While the Iberian peninsula has become so popular that you’ll find foreign visitors there well into fall, the locals have returned home by then, making the crowds a bit more manageable. Plus, the summer heat has subsided but the days are still long and the sun is shining. In Portugal, smart travelers stay at one of the spectacular hotels just outside Lisbon and Porto, so that you can enjoy the cities but retreat to a place of tranquility at the end of the day. In Spain, Andalusia is absolutely idyllic in fall.

Why book in April? The most prized hotels are already nearing full occupancy for the autumn months. Moreover, the Alhambra has changed its ticketing policy, making reservations increasingly limited, and complicated to arrange; book now to ensure that you get the date and time you prefer.

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Ireland’s Autumn Sweet Spot

landscape view of green fields in Ring of Kerry, Killarney, Ireland

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Photo: Jonathon Epstein

For: September and October 2019

Autumn hits the sweet spot in Ireland, when the summer crowds have left favorite sites such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry—but the fine weather remains. And there are fun events taking place too, such as the Galway Oyster Festival and the Cork Jazz Festival.

Why book in April?  Ireland is extremely popular among travelers right now, so you have to book early—even for travel during the shoulder season—if you want dibs on the most well-connected guides and prime rooms at the most atmospheric hotels (a lake-view room at Aghadoe Heights Hotel, say).

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Antarctica’s Prime Season

travelers in red winter coats rowing a zodiac boat amid floating ice and glaciers of Antarctica

There is a short season when travelers can visit Antarctica. Photo: Expedition Trips

For: November through early March, for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons

As with Patagonia, there is a short season when travelers can visit the White Continent, and a limited number of ships capable of making the journey. Whether you are hoping to experience Antarctica at its most pristine early in the season, see fluffy penguin chicks up close, or search for whales as the sea ice opens later in the summer, there are excellent options still available for both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

Why book in April? Airfare to South America increases as the season approaches—and high-demand cabins sell out quickly—so April tends to be a sweet spot with moderate airfare and good availability. Some departures still have early booking incentives available, too.

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One of Mexico’s Most Colorful Festivals

people parading in Oaxaca street for La Guelaguetza, one of Mexico's most colorful festivals

La Guelaguetza, in Oaxaca, is one of Mexico’s most colorful festivals. Photo: Journey Mexico

For: July 2019

One of Mexico’s biggest and most colorful festivals, La Guelaguetza takes place in Oaxaca on two different dates in July (this year, it’ll be on July 22 and 29). The celebration, also known as Los Lunes del Cerro or Mondays on the Hill, includes traditional dances, music, parades, art, costumes, and folk tales from the indigenous people who make up nearly half of Oaxaca’s population.

Why book in April? Tickets for the festival go on sale in May; if you get the dates of your trip and your hotels nailed down now, you’ll be ready to snap up event tickets as soon as they’re available.

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Norway’s Breathtaking Fjords (and Slightly Lower Prices)

The Reinefjord in Lofoten. Photo: Andrea Giubelli - Visitnorway.com

The Reinefjord in Lofoten. Photo: Andrea Giubelli – Visitnorway.com

For: mid-May to mid-September 2019

Norway’s fjords are iconic for good reason: These deep valleys, cut by glaciers along the country’s western coast, combine gorgeous landscapes with picturesque little fishing villages. You can cruise into the fjords, and go hiking and biking along their edges. The flowers and waterfalls are most impressive in the spring, while mid-June to mid-August usually sees the best weather (and nearly endless days). From mid-August to mid-September, the leaves start turning, and prices can be lower too.

Why book in April? There are only a few top-quality hotels in the fjord region, making it hard to find an available room for peak season if you wait until after Easter to book. The savviest guides get booked first as well.

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China: A Place to Hike Off the Beaten Path

Yading Nature Reserve—in Sichuan Province, China—is full of beautiful mountains, monasteries and autumn views. Photo: Raymond Ling

For: October 2019

Sichuan Province’s Yading Nature Reserve is full of turquoise lakes and holy mountain peaks that are the beautiful backdrops for invigorating hiking and camping. It has been home to Tibetan monasteries for more than 800 years, but the area wasn’t familiar to the outside world until the first Westerner to visit published his photographs in National Geographic in 1931 (which some think were the inspiration for the “Shangri-La” depicted in James Hilton’s explorer classic Lost Horizon). Today you’ll find isolated mountain temples, lamaseries, and Tibetan towns. In October, the red, yellow, and green trees form a particularly dazzling autumnal vista.

Why book in April? Although Yading Nature Reserve is still off the beaten path, it’s becoming more popular with domestic travelers. Book now to ensure you’ll have the best hotels and highest-caliber guides to help you take in your own slice of serenity.

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Canada: A Polar Bear Safari

polar bear reclining in Hudson Bay in Churchill, Canada,

Hudson Bay in Churchill, Canada, is one of the best places to see polar bears in the fall. Photo: Jennifer Santoyo

For: October and November 2019

Every fall, the shores of Hudson Bay in Churchill, Canada, transform into a polar bear kingdom as the mighty mammals make their annual migration to the sea ice. There is no other place on earth where humans can see so many polar bears so easily. Experience the thrill of wildlife watching from the safety of a customized polar rover.

Why book in April? The window for polar-bear viewing in Churchill is narrow and demand is high; book now to claim a spot before they sell out.

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India’s Fascinating and Famous Pushkar Camel Fair

camel wearing colorful decorations in front of a tent at Pushkar Camel Fair india

The Pushkar Camel Fair in India draws tens of thousands of camels and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Photo: Billie Cohen

For: October and November 2019

One of the most magical festivals in a country with a calendar full of them, the Pushkar Camel Fair is a spectacle of livestock trading and religious observance, with tens of thousands of camels and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in attendance. The event ends on the full moon (November 12 in 2019), and villagers start arriving en masse about ten days prior. This year, our Trusted Travel Expert has a professional photographer leading a tour to the festival, ensuring that travelers will bring home shots worthy of that spot above the fireplace. The best time to visit is November 6-9, when the focus is on animal trading and you can stroll the bazaars.

Why book in April? The bottleneck for Pushkar is the limited number of good-quality hotels and tented encampments in the area. If you wait until May, you’ll likely be stuck in poor-quality accommodations that are quite far from the action.

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Zambia: The Highest Density of Leopards in All of Africa

An aerial view of Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia. Photo: Lower Zambezi National Park

An aerial view of Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia. Photo: Lower Zambezi National Park

For: November and December 2019

When Mfuwe Lodge’s wild mango trees ripen in November and December, entire families of elephants walk right through the lobby to snack on the fruit. Mfuwe is located in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, which also has the highest density of leopards in all of Africa and is home to immense populations of other wildlife, from wild dogs to lion and unique antelope species.

Why book in April?  During April only, our Trusted Travel Expert can get you five nights at Mfuwe for the price of four, and a highly discounted rate for a private guide and vehicle. It’s an offer that’s available only to WendyPerrin.com readers, so be sure to use Wendy’s trip request form.

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The Netherlands: Cruising through Tulipmania

a field purple tulips in bloom at Tulips at Keukenhof Gardens Netherlands

More than 7 million tulips bloom at Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. Photo: Keukenhof Gardens

For: April and May 2020

Spring is tulip time in the Netherlands, of course, and one of the best ways to see the colorful display is via a barge slowly cruising the country’s canals. You’ll stop at Keukenhof Gardens, where seven million bulbs are in bloom, as well as in the canal-ringed city of Delft (once home to the painter Johannes Vermeer), and you’ll pass many of Holland’s iconic windmills set amid the photogenic spring landscape.

Why book in April? Only two of the barges plying the canals of Holland live up to our Trusted Travel Expert’s high standards, and the season is short—so you need to book early to reserve your cabin.

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