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‘Fire and Ice’ Vacations Are the Latest Travel Trend. Here’s How to Plan One

6 minute read

Planning a vacation can be stressful. With limited vacation time and infinite destination options, many prospective travelers bear the burden of making the right choices.

Luckily, for those who are admittedly indecisive, a new travel trend could help alleviate some of that pressure.

Fire and ice trips — one jaunt that juxtaposes two staggeringly different climates (usually one snowy, one sunny) — offer more variety and experiences than a single trip to one destination might. They can also help you get more out of one vacation, leaving you feeling more satisfied with your precious time off.

“U.S. travelers looking to take bucket list adventures have the added pressure of fulfilling their trip in half the time of a French or British traveler,” says Claire Saylor, senior marketing manager for the U.S. for Audley Travel, a bespoke travel company. “And therein lies the draw for the burgeoning ‘fire and ice trip’ — one that offers travelers the chance to cross off several bucket-list experiences in one go.”

Of course, planning a successful fire and ice trip requires some foresight. If you’re looking to maximize your vacation with this dual-climate concept, consider opting for any of the below destinations — top picks from travel professionals worldwide.

New Zealand’s South Island

High Angle View Of Buildings On Field Against Sky
Christchurch, New ZealandIgor Kondler—EyeEm/Getty Images.

“Any trip that culminates in a place called ‘the Adventure Capital of the World’ has a lot to live up to,” says Brad Crockett, regional director of expeditions at Butterfield & Robinson, a travel company that plans luxury active trips around the world. Start in Christchurch where both the airport and a slew of beaches are located, explore the greenery of the Canterbury Plains (and famous Kiwi farms), or trek the mountainous environs of Wanaka and Queenstown, where you can try thrill-seeking activities like skydiving, whitewater rafting, epic hiking or off-road trail biking, he says.

Greater Lake Wanaka Area - New Zealand
Greater Lake Wanaka area, New ZealandAndre Distel Photography—Getty Images.

From there, skiing and glacier adventures are not far away — making for an ideal multi-climate expedition. “Travelers can helicopter to the top of a glacier within the Southern Alps one day, and then take a quick 30-minute long helicopter ride back to sunny Queenstown where they can ditch their coats for warmer weather,” says Christine Donohue, a New Zealand country specialist with Audley Travel.

Just remember to pay attention to the weather. The best time to go is during the Kiwi summer (November to March) — it’s warmer with more predictable weather, Crockett says. And it always pays to ensure you have plenty of layers — both warm and waterproof — no matter the time of year, he notes.

The Northern and Southern Tips of Japan

The view of star Castle in Hokkaido, Japan.
Star Castle in Hokkaido, JapanPioneron—Getty Images.

If you travel to both the Northern and Southern tips of Japan, you’ll likely experience the best of two disparate climates — provided you go at the right time, according to Caitlin Frost, a country specialist with Audley Travel. The northern isle of Hokkaido is filled with high mountains, hot springs, and in the winter, plenty of snow for winter sports, making it a popular ski destination. You can then take a four-hour nonstop flight down south to the Okinawa archipelago which will provide the perfect beach vacation you’re after. “Spend a day or two in Naha, the former capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom, before island hopping to beautiful Ishigaki Island or Miyakojima island for the best of Japan’s beaches,” she says.

Landscape Zamami Island, Okinawa Prefecture
Zamami Island, Okinawa Prefecture, JapanYanis Ourabah—Getty Images.

If you are looking to hit the slopes and the beach all in one trip, “I’d recommend visiting later in the season, February and March, so you can enjoy the best of the Okinawan spring on Ishigaki island,” Frost says. It’s also important to remember that Hokkaido and Okinawa are fairly remote destinations, and public transportation cannot be relied upon like it is in central Japan — so the best way to explore these areas is with a rental car, according to Frost.

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Hawaii Island

Exploring The Big Island of Hawaii
Kona Kohala Coast, HawaiiGeorge Rose—Getty Images.

Popularly known as the Big Island, Hawaii Island is home to a majority of the world’s climate zones (think tropical, dry, temperate) making it a perfect fit for those craving a little bit of everything. For the full experience, book a sunrise or sunset trip to the summit of Maunakea, the island’s 14,000-foot peak that, during most winter months, can be completely covered in snow, suggests Jason Cohn, vice president of sales and marketing at Hawaii-based tour operator Hawaii Forest & Trail which curates trips to the summit. It’s also one of the world’s best places to view the stars, he adds.

HI, BigIsle, summit of Mauna Kea covered with snow at sunset, Mauna Loa in bkgrd
Summit of Mauna Kea, HawaiiRosenberg Philip—Getty Images/Perspectives.

Less than a two-hour drive away is the sunny Kona and Kohala coastline. There — especially now that eruptions from the Kilauea volcano have halted — you’ll find clear, fiery sunsets and warm weather. People gather in Historic Kailua Village along the seawall on Alii Drive to catch the picturesque sunset, says Cohn. On the last Saturday of each month, there’s even a sunset festivity on the lawn at Coconut Grove Marketplace, complete with live Hawaiian music and hula.


Osorno Volcano at Sunrise
Osorno volcano with the Petrohue waterfalls and river in the foreground in the lake district near Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, South ChileSL_Photography—Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Bounded on the east by the snow-peaked Andes mountains and on the west by the Pacific Ocean, Chile stretches across 2,653 miles from north to south and incorporates some of the largest protected wilderness areas in the world. Audley Travel’s Chile specialist Jeff Barone suggests visiting in the austral autumn (March to May), when conditions and temperatures are at their best in both the southern ice fields of the Patagonian Andes and in the blazing desert of the northern Atacama.

View at sunset from the overlook of the rock formation in
View at sunset from the overlook of the rock formation in the Valley of the Moon near San Pedro de Atacama in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.Wolfgang Kaehler—LightRocket/Getty Images

“For adventure, I particularly recommend northern Patagonia, a landscape carved by ice and magma,” Barone suggests. Travelers can enjoy scenic drives, picturesque hikes and other outdoor activities from bases in the colonial settlements of Pucon and Puerto Varas in the Lakes District. “It’s also a great cultural destination where you can really take in the life of Chile’s rural southern districts,” he says.

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