World travel

Tropical Paradise VS Winter Wonderland: 14 Holiday Destinations that will Divide Your Friends & Family

Beach or snow? Surf or ski? Some claim they don’t prefer one over the other, but when the holiday planning starts, we all have to make a decision: tropical or wintery. Fortunately, with Planet Earth’s two epic hemispheres, we have access to both year-round.

This list might be the answer to your holiday stalemate or the recipe for yet another family feud. Regardless, you won’t believe what’s waiting beyond the horizon.

Yasawa Island (Fiji)

Tropical Paradise #1 – Yasawa Islands (Fiji)

Get off the grid while lazing on soft, white-sand beaches and snorkelling rainbow coral reefs. Natural beauty meets laid-back luxury, from cliffs on the edge of the Pacific Ocean to fine-dining at beachfront resorts. You can also explore local villages, kayak around idyllic islands and charter a private yacht, with champagne of course.

Our Top Hotel for Yasawa Island

Yasawa Island Resort & Spa

Yasawa Island Resort & Spa

The all-inclusive Yasawa Island Resort & Spa is a true tropical haven with 10 private beaches, excellent coral dive sites and 18 traditional beachfront bures with sprawling decks, outdoor showers, hammocks, day beds and cabanas. Local and international flavours fuse to create sumptuous seafood and barbecue meals, while private beach picnics fan the flames of any romantic getaway.

Award-winning treatments and massages await at Baravi Spa, while traditional Fijian dance ceremonies and feasts complement cooking classes and kava nights. But ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s all about those pristine beaches.

Gstaad

Winter Wonderland #1 – Gstaad (Switzerland)

Gstaad has long attracted royalty and celebrities with its upscale resorts and Michelin-star restaurants. There’s a perpetual ambience of the one-percent here, whether you’re soaking in a heated outdoor spa, eating fondue in a horse-drawn carriage or sipping hot chocolate in a pop-up igloo. The Glacier 3000 resort offers almost year-round skiing, while the nearby Saanenmöser Pass cradles a more laid-back vibe within its sugared mountain range.

Our Top Hotel for Gstaad

Le Grand Bellevue

LE Grand Bellevue

It’s easy to see why Le Grand Bellevue boasts an almost-perfect rating among HotelsCombined visitors. The historic hotel has one of Gstaad’s many Michelin-star restaurants, an art-deco bar and cocktail lounge, wine cellar, cinema and cigar lounge.

It epitomises the grandeur and wealth of Gstaad with its chalet-style rooms and suites, most of which have mountain vistas, antique furnishings and separate living or sitting areas. With its hay sauna, herbal sauna, Turkish steam bath, Roman-inspired Laconium and salt inhalation grotto, Le Grand Spa shouldn’t be missed.

White beach - Boracay, Philippines

Tropical Paradise #2 – Boracay (The Philippines)

You know those beaches you’ve been dreaming about? The translucent water, powdery sand and swaying palms? You’ll find them on Boracay, a resort island where days pass by while sailing, sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling. Sunset brings forth an eclectic nightlife scene, while sunshine spells heaven for water sports, exploring shipwrecks and drinking tropical cocktails.

Our Top Hotel for Boracay

Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa

Shangri-La's Boracay Resort and Spa

Nestled on a private bay overlooking the impossibly blue water of Puka Shell Beach, Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa is everything you’d expect from a Shangri-La resort. The facilities are seemingly limitless, from the tennis courts and lagoon-style infinity pool to the indulgent day spa and kid-friendly Adventure Zone.

Water sport rentals cover jet skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkelling and kite surfing. Accommodation ranges from contemporary sea-facing rooms to luxe suites with indigenous materials and self-contained villas positioned steps from the sand.

Lake Louise in winter

Winter Wonderland #2 – Lake Louise (Canada)

Few places in this world epitomise a winter wonderland better than Lake Louise. When it freezes over and a layer of snow covers the mountains and trees, there’s nothing better than sitting by the fire or exploring the otherworldly terrain on skis or in a horse-drawn sleigh. Hiking, ice sculptures, dog sledding and hot chocolate will keep Lake Louise in your heart long after you’ve left.

Our Top Hotel for Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Once a base for alpinists, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has transformed into a magical mountain resort with arguably one of the best winter settings at Lake Louise. Old-world luxury meets contemporary comforts in the rooms and suites, many of which overlook the lake and boast fireplaces, inclusive breakfast and deep-soaking baths.

The experienced spa therapists provide rejuvenating treatments, while on-site dining is highlighted by lake views and wild boar at Fairview Bar and Restaurant. Winter delivers numerous activities, including horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice sculpting, dog sledding, ice fishing and snow tubing.

Nungwi (Tanzania)

Tropical Paradise #3 – Nungwi (Tanzania)

In the north of Zanzibar you’ll find Nungwi, a tranquil coastal refuge where traditional dhows drift leisurely along the cocktail-blue water and holiday-makers relax under palm trees on the bleached sand of Nungwi Beach. Don your snorkelling gear to observe green and hawksbill turtles underwater or settle in for some of the world’s best sunsets.

Our Top Hotel for Nungwi

The Z Hotel Nungwi

The Z Hotel Nungwi

Steps from Nungwi Beach, The Z Hotel Nungwi is a boutique residence blending London-inspired design with Zanzibar-based materials. The on-site Dive Centre is perfect for experienced or beginner divers, while Mnazi Mini Spa offers Swahili head massages and hot-stone therapy.

It’s hard to look past the cosy Ocean Front Cottages, which are separated from the hotel and boast private balconies, ocean vistas and direct beach access. They may only be surpassed by the Z Suite, which has a wraparound balcony, “superking” bed and Italian leather furnishings.

Hallstatt (Austria)

Winter Wonderland #3 – Hallstatt (Austria)

Some say Hallstatt has been taken straight out of a fairy tale, but in reality its Christmas warm and fuzzies and quaint Austrian architecture has inspired fantasies. You can walk around the town in 20 minutes, giving you ample time to simply relax and soak up the winter scenery, which comprises a mirror-esque lake and snow-dappled mountains.

Our Top Hotel for Hallstatt

Heritage Hotel Hallstatt

Heritage Hotel Hallstatt bedroom

Hallstatt’s winter romance flows through the three historic buildings that comprise Heritage Hotel Hallstatt. Every room offers a unique design and decor and the accommodations in House Seethaler are renowned for their lake vistas from private balconies. You can also wake up to views of Lake Hallstatt from House Stocker, which is more than 500 years old.

The main building, House Kainz, sits on the peaceful port and features an on-site spa with a gable sauna, infrared cabin and relaxation room. The daily breakfast includes fresh Austrian coffee and smoked fish, while the hearty wiener schnitzel is the perfect comfort food for winter.

Vibrant daytime panorama of Tulum Caribbean and Mayan Ruins

Tropical Paradise #4 – Tulum (Mexico)

Just south from Cancun, Tulum is a world away from the hedonistic revelry and overcrowded beaches of the tourist hub. Think Mayan ruins, snorkelling in limestone sinkholes and a white sand beach sprinkled with beachfront restaurants. Coastal cliffs separate the beach from the verdant nature of Parque Nacional Tulum, while the town centre reveals traditional trattorias and tapas bars.

Our Top Hotel for Tulum

Ahau Tulum

Ahau Tulum

The eco-friendly Ahau Tulum exudes rustic charm on a white-sand beach between dense Mayan jungle and the azure Caribbean Sea. This is the perfect place to disconnect while practising yoga, kitesurfing, stand-up paddleboarding or meditating. You can also try the Temazcal healing ritual with volcanic rocks and mineral-rich waters.

A secluded beachfront area offers wooden deck chairs and huts overlooking the water, while the bar and restaurant serve fresh and tantalising food and drinks. All the cabanas are crafted out of eco-conscious materials and most include netted beds, ocean-facing balconies and hammocks. The Bali Huts on the beach look like your very-own dream cubby house.

Lapland (Finland)

Winter Wonderland #4 – Lapland (Finland)

Lapland is world-famous for its Santa village and the aurora borealis, but this northern region of Finland is also blessed with ski resorts, pristine high fells of Arctica and the rich culture of the indigenous Sámi people. Adventurers have a platter of activities to choose from, including husky and reindeer sledding, off-piste skiing, kayaking the wild Baltic Sea and white-water rafting.

Our Top Hotel for Lapland

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort – Igloos and Chalets

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort - Igloos and Chalets

The accommodation options at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort are ethereal in their beauty and opulence. We’re talking two-person glass igloos with Northern Lights views from your bed, cosy log chalets with fireplaces and saunas, authentic snow igloos, suites with outdoor Jacuzzis and traditional houses with kitchens.

Winter activities abound here, including adventurous safaris using huskies, reindeer, snowmobiles or snow tanks. You can also ice fish on Lake Inarinjärvi, ski and snowboard or embark on an icebreaker cruise.

Espirito Santo (Vanuatu)

Tropical Paradise #5 – Espírito Santo (Vanuatu)

Vanuatu’s largest island, Espírito Santo lures sunseekers in with coastal enclaves called Champagne Beach and some of the world’s most remarkable scuba diving reefs. It has the tropical staples—white-sand beaches and swaying palms—but also offers freshwater swimming surrounded by rainforest at the Blue Holes, traditional Kava drinks and cultural dancing and music.

Our Top Hotel for Espírito Santo

Barrier Beach Resort

Barrier Beach Resort

Imagine staying in a private beachfront holiday home with a sprawling deck, king-size bed and living room, or picture a tranquil garden-enclosed oasis with a private plunge pool. Barrier Beach Resort complements its intoxicating setting with unforgettable accommodations that include free use of stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, bicycles and snorkelling equipment.

The resort spills out onto the white-sand beach, where picturesque islands and coral reefs sit just offshore. Indulge in fresh local ingredients and fruity cocktails at the on-site restaurant and bar or visit Moyyan Day Spa for holistic and natural treatments.

Scenic View Of Frozen Sea Against Sky

Winter Wonderland #5 – Ilulissat (Greenland)

Nestled on Greenland’s western coastline, Ilulissat presents a Hollywood-quality winter landscape with ice fjords, icebergs, snow-covered hiking trails and dramatic mountain slopes. Winter is the perfect time to discover the region’s rich Inuit culture and history, embark on dog-sled tours and admire ice sculptures.

Our Top Hotel for Ilulissat

Hotel Icefiord

Hotel Icefiord

Enjoy front-row seating to the natural beauty of Diskobay where whales meander past icebergs and Disko Island. The sea meets land at Restaurant Icefiord, which serves freshly-caught fish, reindeer and musk alongside sumptuous Thai specialties.

All of the rooms capture views of Diskobay and feature cosy bedding and plenty of warm blankets for those chilly mornings and evenings. The cliffside setting transports you deep into the peaceful ambience of Greenland, while hotel-booked tours offer access to mountainous treks and iceberg cruises.

Green Island (Australia)

Tropical Paradise #6 – Green Island (Australia)

Just imagine reclining in a sun lounger, sipping cocktails and bronzing in the sun, before stepping into crystalline water and swimming 10 metres to a reef teeming with turtles, fish, rays and octopus. This is the reality on Green Island, a 15-hectare Australian paradise with one resort and ample opportunities for you to experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef.

Our Top Hotel for Green Island

Green Island Resort

Green Island Resort

Catch the ferry across from Cairns to Green Island and leave the hustle behind in one clean sweep of golden beaches, where you can enjoy cocktails on the sand and access to the vibrant Great Barrier Reef. Green Island Resort is the sole resort and offers romantic rooms with deep-soaking baths, rain showers and balconies surrounded by tropical palms.

The resort facilitates leisure and dining, including seafood and sushi platters delivered to your room. Most days are centred around lazing on the beach and exploring the marine life in the reef, but you can also swim in the pool, learn scuba diving or embark on day trips to other islands.

Prague, classical view of snowy roofs, city center. Winter scene.

Winter Wonderland #6 – Prague (Czech Republic)

One of the best-preserved cities in Europe, Prague is a winter escape for history lovers seeking centuries-old architecture covered in pure-white snow. The city’s bridges, river and castle combine to create a fairy-tale setting punctuated by cosy bars with crackling fireplaces, sprawling winter markets and quiet, cobblestone laneways.

Our Top Hotel for Prague

Grand Majestic Plaza

Grand Majestic Plaza

Nestled between Prague’s Old Town and the Vltava river, the 4-star Grand Majestic Plaza combines old-time elegance with modern opulence. The Deluxe Suites are contemporary enclaves with mini bars, comfortable living rooms, baths and heavenly beds. The two-course menu at Atrium Restaurant showcases local cuisine, while the lobby bar has a range of liquor.

While the lobby might set the scene with its magical waterfall, the exterior caters to those wintery feels when it’s sprinkled in snow. Don’t forget to kick your day off with the daily buffet breakfast, which includes home-made sausages, fresh vegetables and eggs cooked to perfection.

Makunufushi (Maldives)

Tropical Paradise #7 – Makunufushi (Maldives)

Makunufushi is perfect for a flop and drop holiday. The island is encircled by a continuous white-sand beach and has one resort with overwater bungalows giving you direct access to the sky-blue water. There’s not much else to do other than snorkel, sunbathe on your bungalow’s deck and indulge in fresh tropical cuisine. For some, that’s absolutely perfect.

Our Top Hotel for Makunufushi

COMO Cocoa Island

COMO Cocoa Island

Don’t be surprised if you never want to leave your overwater bungalow at COMO Cocoa Island. They’re inspired by the traditional dhoni boats and feature private terraces where you can dive straight into the Maldivian sea. The two villas stand above the rest with their living and dining areas connecting the two wings.

Asian and Mediterranean classics are served on the beach each night, while UFAA is renowned for its seafood spread. Yoga, Pilates, therapeutic massages and body treatments are all par for the course at the day spa, while sunset cruises, reef snorkelling, sunset fishing and sailing lessons are ideal when you’re finished drinking cocktails and sunbathing (if ever).

A male snowboarder blasts a heel side turn while snowboarding at Coronet Peak in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Winter Wonderland #7 – Queenstown (New Zealand)

Queenstown is world-renowned for its adrenalin-junkie experiences, such as bungy jumping, snowboarding, skiing and jet boating. However, the lakeside town on New Zealand’s South Island is also a haven for mountain scenery, boutique restaurants and bars and relaxed weekend markets. Its local institutions, such as Fergburger, pair well with hiking trails and boat cruises.

Our Top Hotel for Queenstown

Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa

Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa

Positioned on the blue water of Lake Wakatipu, Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa boasts tranquil Queenstown vibes while keeping you close to all the adrenalin-pumping experiences. The resort has its own jetty and water taxi for quick trips into town and features a pool, bicycle rentals and a jogging track.

Overlooking Lake Wakatipu, the luxurious Wakatipu Grill showcases seasonal local produce and an extensive wine list of over 1,000 wines that pair perfectly with the fireplace in winter. There’s also a roaring fireplace at Stacks Pub, where you can watch live games, while eforea: spa is perfect for a rejuvenating treatment and massage.

Author: Ben Stower

I'm enamoured with travel, whether it's finding the quiet, local sanctuaries in touristic cities, venturing into rock vaults in a distant jungle or spending hours on a Spanish beach. I can't see an end to my travelling. Just another chapter and another story to tell.

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