If you're already grumbling about winter, stop right now! The colder months means it's the perfect time for some of the world's most unusual experiences.
The Perfect 10: Unusual Winter Breaks
If you ever tried building an igloo when you were young, you'll love the grown-up glass versions in Finnish Lapland. With heated glass against the Arctic Circle temperatures and to prevent condensation, there's a perfect view into the night sky, including the Northern Lights which are at their best during November to February.
There's even a motorized rotating bed in the middle so you can lie back and check out the whole sky. If you can tear yourself away, there's ice karting, plus snowmobile and reindeer safaris to keep you amused. The glass igloos cost from £213 per day and you can book through Inghams.
Tropical seas and coral reefs are all very well but for proper bragging rights, it's hard to beat diving between tectonic plates in Iceland. One of the planet's most untouched areas, the seas in the Silfra Riff in Thingvellir National Park are stunningly clear as you float between two continents.
And with a dry suit on, you won't be in danger of freezing to death! A two night trip with Black Tomato costs from £1,000 per person including flights and accommodation.
Mush, mush! Get behind the reins of your own dog sled with a team of huskies whisking you across the snow in Norway's Svalbard region. It's one of the best ways to see this incredible frozen wilderness, where polar bears still roam – in fact there's almost as many of them as there are humans living in this part of the Arctic Circle.
One of the best times to experience it is during February, when the sun starts to peek above the horizon in a permanent sunrise after months of darkness, while the snow is still thick. A four-night trip with Original Travel costs from £1,550 per person including flights, accommodation and activities including a full day snowmobile adventure, 4 hours dog sledding & morning glacier trek.
The start of winter needn't spell the end of mountain walking – and you don't even need to be able to ski. Instead, pull on a pair of snow shoes to explore the landscape in a completely different way.
Explore runs a four-night trip through Bulgaria's Rila mountains, taking in a Unesco World Heritage monastery and following the quiet paths through the forests. No experience necessary, it costs from £694 including flights with departures in December and February. The company is also planning more snow shoe destinations for 2011.
You don't need snow to keep yourself entertained this winter – October to February is hunting seasons, so it's the perfect time to try your hand at one of the world's oldest sports, falconry. The 16th century Dromoland Castle runs special breaks teaching you how to handle and release Harris Hawks on the country estate.
Package prices start from £470, including two nights' accommodation, one gourmet dinner, a spa treatment and a hawk walk. Hotel guests can also experience falconry for around £50 per session.
If Amy Williams' gold medal in the Winter Olympics has inspired you, try a slightly safer option than the luge with a mono bob at St Moritz. The Kulm Hotel is running training during January and February 2011, including three nights' half board accommodation, two days instruction and a sea salt bath for your tired muscles at the end. The package costs from around £935.
If you don't fancy the thought of being in control – or even out of control – of a mono bob, hitch a ride with a driver on the Bob Taxi Ride for a quick adrenalin rush, with packages starting from around £615.
It's not just the Northern Lights which tempt people to the Arctic regions during the winter – it's also a wonderful place to try some star gazing. Explorers tours, which specializes in expeditions to see solar eclipses, is launching a range of new Astronomy Tours.
The first, a trip to Lake Myvatn in the north of Iceland, is led by astronomy expert Dr. John Mason, and the tours are chosen for dates when the moon is less bright, giving you the best chance to see the sky and Northern Lights. The eight-day tours depart on February 26 and March 2, 2011, costing from £1,189 including flights.
The world's northernmost jazz festival takes place in February 2011 in Spitsbergen, Norway, where you can enjoy the music under the Northern Lights in between exploring ice caverns, dog sledding and polar bear spotting.
Basecamp Explorer can arrange packages including the jazz festival. A three night trip to Spitsbergen, including accommodation in a glass roofed trappers hut, breakfast, half day dog sledging, half day snowmobile safari, loan of thermal clothing and guides costs from £499 per person.
Extremely shy, wolves aren't easy to spot in the wild, so the bare branches in winter make it the best time to try – from a safe distance. Try tracking the animals, as well as lynx, in Romania's Carpathian mountains with Tour Dust.
Led by an expert guide, you'll hike through the wilderness with your route depending on the wildlife, before spending afternoons warming up with some plum brandy, a sledge ride or sightseeing. Prices start at £1,210 including half-board accommodation and five days with a professional tracker.
When it comes to visiting the world's coldest continent, December is the best time to head to Antarctica as the sea ice melts to let you get much closer to this incredible frozen land. If you're going to head to the extremes of the earth, it's worth doing it in style though.
Luxury cruise ship The World, which has 165 private residences abroad to rent as well as a spa and gourmet restaurants, is sailing to the pole this Christmas, giving you the chance to see icebergs, whales and penguins, with excursions led by an expert team. Departing from Ushuaia, Argentina, the expedition runs from December 23-January 2. Prices start from around £1,000 per night. Or a 12-day Classic Antarctica Cruise costs from £2,694 with Responsible Travel with departures between November and March.