From fishing with your bare hands to ballooning over a mountain to sitting back and watching the world’s best athletes, Asia’s most enjoyable winter activities come courtesy of Korea, Japan and China.
Bare hand trout fishing, Hwacheon
Tired of clingfilm-wrapped supermarket fare? The frigid waters of Hwacheon offer a chance for some bare-hand trout fishing. An annual tradition for locals, the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival is one of the grandest ice-fishing festivals in the country.
For those with a little more patience and less frost-resistant hands, there’s also ice fishing and lure fishing. Trouts are fast swimmers but if you’re quick enough to catch one you can take it to one of the nearby restaurants for a dinner you’ll be talking about for years.
More info at narafestival.com
Ice skating, Seoul
Every winter the Grand Hyatt Seoul transforms its summertime pool into an icy wonderland. Overlooking the Korean capital, the ice-rink on Namsan is adorned with twinkling lights making it a favoured spot for families and romantic couples.
For those who don’t like the cold, outdoor heating systems are set up around the rink and refreshments are available to make sure guests stay toasty while whizzing around.
More info at seoul.grand.hyatt.com
Barbecue in the snow, Kitami City
The cold weather around Hokkaido’s Kitami City can hit well below zero, but that doesn’t stop locals from celebrating what they do best – Yakiniku barbecue. It’s a humble event that take splace at the Kitami Art & Cultural Hall with plastic crates as seats. But it celebrates two of life’s simpler things – good food and good company. Chat with locals as you keep warm in the glow of grilled meats and seafood cooked on small charcoal stoves.
More info at kitamikanko.jp
Snow, ski, sled and sleigh, Niseko
Niseko is a hot spot for winter activities because of its deep, powdery snow; around 14 metres of it falls every winter. While keen skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers can lose weeks here in the powder runs, families and non-skiers are catered for with activities like snow-rafting, snow-tubing and even reindeer sleigh rides.
More info at niseko-village.com
Sculpt some ice, Sapporo
Starting in 1950 with just six sculptures made by students, the Sapporo Snow Festival has grown into a mega-event. Stretching 1.5 kilometers through downtown Sapporo, 200 ice sculptures made by locals now line Odori Park.
Stay until evening and the sculptures are brought to life by colorful, twinkling lights.
Children can enjoy giant snow slides and parents can prop themselves up at the on-site ice bar. Everyone gets the chance to take part in an ice sculpting competition.
More info at snowfes.com
Steaming onsen, Minakami
Tucked away in the mountainous range of Gunma, Takaragawa Onsen is just a quick ride out of Tokyo making it perfect for a quick day trip. A seriously luxurious retreat, its rotenburo (outdoor bath) is often cited as the biggest in the country. Its other baths are both mixed and single-sex.
If you want to stay longer than one day, the resort has 43 guest suites and a delicious barbecue buffet to tuck into. There are also impressive views of the neighbouring snow fields during winter.
More info at takaragawa.com
Dog Sledding, Harbin
With temperatures sometimes dropping below -35, Harbin can become quite inhospitable during midwinter. The plus-side is that China’s ice city offers stunning winter scenes and an elaborate snow festival – the Harbin Ice Festival.
While it’s great for skiing and snowboarding, especially with China’s best ski-resort, Yabuli, right on its doorstep, dog-sledding offers a new and exhilarating way to spend a few winter days.
More info at icefestivalharbin.com
Hot air balloon ride over a mountain, Chengdu
Xiling Snow Mountain is Chengdu’s highest peak and one of the earliest places to get snow, so is nearly always coated in white. The 10-minute balloon ride that flies over its peak is a perfect way to get a relaxing view of the snow-capped peaks.
The nearby resort offers more traditional snow activities like skiing and snowboarding too.
More info at chinatourguide.com