Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Winter Is Europe’s Secret Season

by WendyPerrin.com | March 27, 2024

Savvy travelers love Europe in winter and not just because they can avoid the sticker shock and tourist crowds of peak season. It’s easier in winter to feel connected to local life, as it’s easier to meet the local people and see how they really live. More time may be spent indoors, but museums feel like your own private galleries, and it’s easier to get into the most in-demand restaurants for fabulous meals. Insider experiences, charming scenery, and great food are all accessible and available, as the travelers below discovered, if you just know the right trip designers who can help you make the most of this cozy time of year. Here’s what it means to get a WOW trip.


NORWAY: “We were in the middle of a herd of hundreds of reindeer, watching them and admiring their beauty inside an Arctic wonderland.”

Traveler Julie Silbermann feeding reindeer in Norway.

Julie Silbermann spent a day with Sami people and got to help feed their reindeer.

“WOW! What a trip we had to Finnmark in northern Norway! We can’t thank Wendy enough for connecting us with Jan and Miriam for our trip March 7-15. They crafted an exciting trip of one adventure after another. We flew to Alta, which is 400 miles inside the Arctic Circle, and stayed at the Sorrisniva Arctic Wilderness Lodge. It is remote and incredibly beautiful. We stayed in a room overlooking the river and mountains with floor-to-ceiling windows. We went dog sledding, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. We even caught Arctic char, which our guide, Kalle, expertly cooked for us inside our warming tent for lunch! We were very lucky to see the Northern Lights on three out of four nights, and Helle knew just where to bring us to see the spectacular light show.

One of our most special expeditions was spending the day with the Sami people, helping them herd and feed their reindeer! We were in the middle of a herd of hundreds of reindeer, watching them and admiring their beauty inside an Arctic wonderland. Just an amazing experience. Big thanks to Trygve Nygard, Kalle, Helle, and Emilie for their special care on our expeditions. Everything was taken care of for us—there wasn’t a detail left to chance.” —Julie Silbermann

Read more reviews of Norway trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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PORTUGAL: “In the Alentejo region we experienced an outstanding lunch with a wine pairing, horseback ride, cork factory and hikes…”

The river Guadiana and the village of Mertola. Alentejo Region. Portugal

The river Guadiana and the village of Mertola im Alentejo Region, Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was our first trip using a recommended Wendy Perrin trip planner. We travelled to Portugal March 8th—March 15th, 2024. It was a special trip to celebrate our son’s graduation from college. Our trip was planned by Goncalo and Joanna. WOW! What an amazing trip they planned for us. The accommodations that they chose for us were fantastic! Very unique and customer oriented. The destinations and route they planned—from Lisbon to the Alentejo region and the West Region—were perfect. Our driver, Sandru, was amazing and he made sure everything was taken care of when we reached our destinations. (He also knew our itinerary and was always able to answer questions.) Sandru went above and beyond to make our trip very special.

We had a wonderful cooking class and gastronomic tour with Lara in Lisbon and even attended a Benefica Football game. In the Alentejo region we experienced an outstanding lunch with a wine pairing, horseback ride, cork factory and hikes. In the West Region, a full day tour which included Obidos, Nazre, and Alcobaca. The details were taken care of for us, from tours to restaurant reservations, it was the best trip I have ever been on. I can’t wait to plan our next trip with a Wendy Perrin recommended trip planner.” —Lori Bentley

Read more reviews of Portugal trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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PARIS: “A fashion expert who took us to neighborhood boutiques featuring up-and-coming Parisian designers…”

Louvre Museum at night, Paris, France

The Louvre Museum at night, Paris. Photo: EdiNugraha/Pixabay

“This was a trip for our daughter’s college graduation. She was interested in fashion, food and the Louvre.

Let’s start by how incredibly smooth our airport arrival was! Upon exiting the aircraft, we were whisked away by Mohammad, who led us through customs, helped us with our luggage and delivered us to our driver. This alone was worth using Wendy Perrin! I bet we saved 2 hours not having to wait in the line at customs.

Jennifer, our trip planner, did a great job planning our tours and making our dining reservations! We were very impressed with each tour guide—private 1/2-day tour of the Louvre could not have been better! We loved our croissant-making class and our chef was fabulous. We were pleasantly surprised with our tour of the Dior museum—so unexpected and maybe one of our most favorite things. We had the museum to ourselves and our guide was fantastic! Jennifer secured a fashion expert who took us to neighborhood boutiques featuring up-and-coming Parisian designers and this was a real treat! We loved meeting the shop owners and we felt like locals shopping for the afternoon.

Each and every restaurant reservation that Jennifer procured provided the best table in the restaurant with amazing views of the Eiffel Tower. One of the restaurants surprised us with a sparkler in my daughter’s dessert, which was so fun.

We would definitely use Jennifer again in the future.” —Kim Brown

Read more reviews of Paris trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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FINLAND: “An exciting jaunt by snowmobile to learn how to ice fish on a frozen lake and then dog sledding on a snowy day…”

The cozy and warm Glass House Suite at the Arctic Treehouse Hotel in Finland.

Between outdoor adventures, Michael Ruma warmed up by the fire in his Glass House Suite. Photo: Traveler Michael Ruma

“My wife said she’d like to see the aurora borealis and, with Wendy’s help, we were quickly introduced to Leigh, who created a delightful week of fun in Finland.

We hopped an easy flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, which lies directly on the latitude of the Arctic Circle. An efficient, private transfer brought us to the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel. Met with warm blueberry juice, we checked into our Glass House suite. Our room had a centrally located living room with an enclosed wood burning stove along with two bathrooms, one of which had our very own dry sauna.

Advised to download the Aurora app, we learned about the KP index which predicts the probability of witnessing the northern lights. Fortunately, after dinner at the hotel, a notification from the app informed us at 9pm the chance was high! Intent on seeing the natural phenomenon, we bundled up and hiked up a trail to a 50-foot observation tower specifically designed for viewing the lights. Finnish myths say the lights are caused when a fox runs across the Arctic landscape whipping up snow from its tail, sparking the lights in the night sky.

Regardless of the cause, we were blessed by an hour display of a gray hazy line emerging in the distance and evolving into a bright green glow right in front of our eyes. As we watched and photographed the sky, the lights blew around us along our walk back to our room.

Our next two days were filled with other Arctic adventures which included an exciting jaunt by snowmobile to learn how to ice fish on a frozen lake and then dog sledding on a snowy day in the beautiful and vast northern Finnish countryside. We concluded our trip with a train ride from Rovaniemi back to Helsinki. On our last day in Helsinki, we splurged and dined at Restaurant Savoy.

We would happily come back to Finland for a future visit either in the winter to take in the unique night sky, but this time much further north, or during the summer to take in the lively and sunny long days in Helsinki filled with so much to see, taste, and do. Delighted by its vast country, small polite population, and compact capital, its seasonally focused food, and its matter-of-fact and kind people. We had such fun in Finland.” —Michael Ruma

Read more reviews of Finland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO FINLAND

SICILY: “Getting to know Sicilians—over good conversations, culinary experiences, archaeology hikes, tours, food and wine—was the highlight of the entire trip.”

Sicily coastline Italy

The view of Sicily’s coastline and region, Italy. Photo: Pixabay/kirkandmimi

“We are just back from an AMAZING, perfectly planned and executed trip to Sicily. Marcello is the gold standard of travel planners. He created a perfectly curated, balanced itinerary and checked in daily to make sure all was going smoothly. We could not have covered as much as we did (in nine days) without having private drivers, who were excellent. We covered a lot of ground in Sicily with a full schedule each day, but somehow it never felt rushed.

While January might not be the ideal time to visit Sicily (with the weather less than cooperative!), we saw, learned, engaged, and met wonderful people all along the way—from Palermo and surrounding towns Monreale, Castelbuono, Cefalu to Villa Romana del Casale, Agrigento, Testa dell’Acqua, Noto, Siracusa/Ortigia to Mt Etna. More than anything, getting to know Sicilians—over good conversations, culinary experiences, archaeology hikes, tours, food and wine—was the highlight of the entire trip. Marcello’s selection of guides and hosts was superb.

Perhaps the highlight of many highlights was the final day at Mt. Etna guided by Salvo (a vulcanologist) followed by our visit to the Santa Maria La Nave Winery for a tour, wine tasting, and lunch hosted by Vera and Carmello. They epitomized the warmth, welcome and pride of purpose we found every day during this first visit to Sicily. We look forward to returning soon to this stunning, fascinating, history-filled island.” —Barbara Gross

Read more reviews of Sicily trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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PARIS: “…a market tour and curated cooking class in the beautiful home of a French chef near the Eiffel Tower…”

Caves Legrande is one of the oldest wine shops in Paris

Caves Legrande wine shop in Paris. Photo: Caves Legrande

Jennifer planned a delightful trip for us to Paris over New Year’s, with a good mix of culture and relaxation. Highlights included a day trip to Reims, complete with an intimate lunch with champagne pairings at a family-owned champagne house; a market tour and curated cooking class in the beautiful home of a French chef near the Eiffel Tower; and a private wine-and-cheese tasting at a historic wine shop with a young sommelier highlighting new and emerging winemakers from lesser-known regions in France.

Jennifer checked in with us regularly during our trip, seamlessly managing a few last-minute, unforeseen itinerary changes. Cannot recommend her highly enough—and am looking forward to all the fun she has in store for my return trip to the Champagne region with my friends later this year! —Katie Hausfeld

Read more reviews of Paris trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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ROME: “Our favorite experiences were exclusive visits to the Galleria Borghese and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj…”

charming cobblestone street with ivy in Trastevere, Rome, Italy.

Cobblestone street in Trastevere, Rome, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“Nancy and I were lucky to have spent the first week of 2022 in Rome on a trip planned by Jennifer and her team.  Jennifer arranged for us to stay at the Hotel Eden while we were in Rome. The staff at the hotel were so nice to us and looked out for us during our stay.

Jennifer also arranged some great experiences during our time in Rome. By far, our favorite experiences were exclusive visits to the Galleria Borghese and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj with Alessia, our favorite guide during this trip. Alessia was able to navigate both galleries so that we saw the most we could during our limited time. and her knowledge of the art in each location was outstanding. Two other experiences which were highlights during our trip were a day trip to Naples/Pompeii with our guide Liberata and driver Salvatore, as well as a lovely food tour in the Trastevere neighborhood with Luca, where we got to sample some Roman delicacies.

We always felt looked after by Jennifer and her team. They would check in daily to see if we needed anything and they would lay out the itinerary for the next day. We feel so fortunate that we have found Jennifer and know that everything will be spectacular on a tour which she has arranged.” —Kevin Haney

Read more reviews of Rome trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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HUNGARY & POLAND: “On the Danube, a private boat to see the lights of nighttime Budapest…”

HUngarian Parliament building lit up at night, viewed from the Danube River Hungary

Parliament building, Hungary. Photo: Leonhard_Niederwimmer/Pixabay

“The absolute best thing we asked Gwen to add for us was VIP arrival and departure service at the airports. When we landed in Warsaw, we were whisked off to a private lounge, and the staff took our passports and handled all the details for us as we relaxed in the lounge. No lines, no frustrations with procedures, no stress. It was worth every penny. In fact, we loved it so much, we asked Gwen to add the VIP departure service to our flight leaving Budapest at the end of the trip. Once again, we hung out in a private lounge as everybody took care of our paperwork. We were escorted through private security and then to a private transfer right to the door of the plane where we were the first to board. Fantastic!

Other highlights of our trip to Poland and Hungary included:

  • In Krakow, our private tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau was so moving and impactful. Our guide’s father was a survivor of Auschwitz, and it was humbling to have him share with us. Guides really do make or break tours.
  • In Egar, a fantastic meal at the beautiful castle restaurant, with Hungarian wines paired to our various courses—the best meal of the trip!
  • On the Danube, a private boat to see the lights of nighttime Budapest.

I appreciated Gwen being willing to make changes for us as we moved through the itinerary. It was such a relief to know the logistics were handled and we had someone on call should anything change or become difficult.” —Sarah Wade

Read more reviews of Hungary and Poland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO HUNGARY AND POLAND

ITALY: “We went to a Barolo village and had the chance to visit a Barolo wine cellar for a private tasting and tour…”

Serralunga d'Alba castle, medieval village in Piedmont, north Italy

Serralunga d’Alba castle, a medieval village in Piedmont, North Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“We were so very fortunate to be able to experience an impromptu trip to Milan and the Piedmont region in early January 2022—and we could never have done it without Jennifer. The trip was glorious. We went to a Barolo village and had the chance to visit a Barolo wine cellar for a private tasting and tour. Our guides in Torino and Milan were excellent, and we relished the opportunity to take in The Last Supper and other masterpieces with no crowds. Like NONE. In Piedmont, the weather was mild and we were able to spend a lot of time outdoors.  We made some wonderful memories and cannot say enough about how this trip abroad gave us a much needed change to start 2022.” —Gina Melton

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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FRANCE: “We didn’t just tour this small museum; Philip arranged for the museum director to spend three hours guiding us through it…”

Leafy town square with fountain in a picturesque village in Provence, France

Saignon, Provence, France. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our two-week trip to France in December focused on Provence and the Riviera. Philip created a wonderful itinerary focused on memorable experiences and lesser-known sights. The hotels he chose were excellent; we especially liked Mas de Pierre in the hills northwest of Nice. Our rooms in all hotels were both comfortable and spacious—a combination less often found in France. Philip suggested a glassblowing class in Antibes, and my husband and I made three glass pieces each (two vases, one bowl, two perfume bottles with fancy stoppers, and my favorite, my jellyfish in a glass globe).

The Riviera has lots of museums, but Philip sent us to one of his favorites, the remarkable Museum of Classical Art in the hilltop village of Mougins. We didn’t just tour this small museum that intersperses antiquities with Old Masters and modern art; Philip arranged for the museum director to spend three hours guiding us through it. What an enlightening experience.

Philip also arranged black truffle hunting outside Salon de Provence, which was interesting and surprisingly educational. (They use dogs now, not pigs, because dogs can be trained with food to back away from a truffle it finds. Pigs don’t, which is why many truffle hunters are missing fingertips.)  We had a delightful seven-hour private cooking class in Aix-en-Provence with a former chef who emailed us all the recipes for the dishes we’d made.

We went horseback riding in La Camargue, the wetlands area south of Arles between the two branches of the Rhône River. La Camargue is famed for its white horses, bulls raised for French bullfighting (the bullfighters have to snatch a ribbon from between the bull’s horns, not kill it), and pink flamingos. We had fun riding horses through this region on the ranch of a former bullfighter and seeing the bulls and horses he and his elegant wife raise.

A don’t-miss experience was Hotel Mirande’s Table d’Haute dinner in Avignon. We dined in the hotel’s tiny cellar kitchen on a nearly all-French evening (except the chef and sommelier, who spoke English), which tested my vocabulary but engaged us with locals and Belgian tourists.” —Jan Heininger

Read more reviews of France trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO FRANCE

TURKEY: “Late December/early January turned out to be a great time to travel to Turkey”

garden restaurant at Four Seasons Sultanahmet Istanbul Turkey overlooking mosque

The Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Istanbul. Photo: Four Seasons

Karen and her team did an excellent job planning our trip to Turkey. Every transfer and tour pick-up was prompt. The drivers and guides were excellent. We loved the hotels—The Four Seasons on the Bosporus was elegant and comfortable and the view spectacular.

Late December/early January turned out to be a great time to travel to Turkey. It was chilly (although luckily for us, it was a few degrees above normal, at least in Istanbul) but the sun was shining. In addition, there weren’t large crowds even at the most frequently visited sites.

We enjoyed the restaurants that Karen recommended, and appreciate that she switched restaurants between two evenings to avoid a traffic jam due to a soccer game being played along the route from our hotel to one restaurant. The tour plan was perfect and we maximized our time sightseeing. ” —Susan Sullivan

Read more reviews of Turkey trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO TURKEY

 

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