Do you fancy taking a break from your desk and escaping the endless summer of home? Why not head to Europe for a winter holiday escape? Europe provides winter-time treats with an interesting change of pace to keep the blues at bay.

CARNIVAL IN VENICE, Italy

5 European winter escapes with a difference VENICE CARNIVAL

This masked, fancy dress festival goes on for several days, with festival goers dressing in Venetian masks and Baroque-style clothing to enjoy jousts, masked balls, live music and theatre, dazzling processions and parades. Dating back to the 11th Century, the costumes are colourful, gilded and spectacular to see. To save your baggage allowance, you can hire a costume or purchase a traditional Venetian mask from one of the many traders in
the city.
In 2014, the festival will be take place until March 4, making the most of the mystical winter before welcoming in the spring.

THERMAL SPAS IN THE BLUE LAGOON, Iceland

5 European winter escapes with a difference BLUE LAGOON ICELAND

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon could be an ideal spot for sheer relaxation; a naturally heated thermal pool in the centre of an icy landscape about an hour from Reykjavik. Packed with minerals and completely opaque, the water here is an ideal way to soothe tired muscles and pamper your body while you enjoy the impressive views. Visitors can even book a soothing massage or spa treatment to make it a day to remember. The quiet and calm surroundings are sure to have you back to your old self in no time.
The Blue Lagoon is open all year round and the winter hours are 10am to 8pm. Standard entry costs €35 (S$60). Book tickets in advance at www.bluelagoon.com.

CANAL SKATING IN AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands

5 European winter escapes with a difference ICE SKATING AMSTERDAM

When the weather dips to below -4°C for several days in Amsterdam, there’s a high chance that the world famous canals can freeze over entirely, giving locals and visitors the opportunity to strap on their skates and witness the city from a unique perspective. Local cafes have been seen to place tables and chairs on the icy canals for a dining experience with a difference, as wrapped-up customers sip hot drinks and enjoy their meals outside.
If the weather is too warm for exploring the canals by ice, there is a wealth of other skating options within the city, so you’ll be able to find a good spot for strapping on your skates.

SKIING IN LAPLAND, Finland

5 European winter escapes with a difference SKIING IN LAPLAND

If you’re a ski lover in search of a unique European destination then Lapland has plenty to offer a in the way of adventure. Situated directly above the Arctic Circle, snow is virtually guaranteed, with near perfect conditions all year round. With fantastic instruction and piste options for all skill levels, the region also offers a wide choice of après ski and non-ski activities, like reindeer safaris, snowmobile adventures and excellent restaurants and bars. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness the luminescent swirls of the Northern Lights at night, the perfect way to top off a unique, action packed and snowy escape. 

STRONG BEER FESTIVAL IN MUNICH, Germany

5 European winter escapes with a difference STRONG BEER FESTIVAL

Dating way back to 1751, the Strong Beer Festival celebrates the famous Salvator beer once brewed by the Paulaner monks living in the region. Drawing huge crowds of jovial locals, this is an ideal alternative to Oktoberfest, with fewer tourists making this a uniquely exuberant experience. Indulge in local drinks and plates of sausage-laden dishes for a celebratory taste of German heritage.
Find more details about the events at www.destination-munich.com/munich-strong-beer-festival.

To enjoy the best of Europe, consider taking a tour – Contiki regularly run trips that take in festivals, adventure experiences and exciting winter events, often taking in several countries and destinations.