The best countries for ice skating

Having grown up in a country with very long, cold and dark winters, winter sport was a fundamental part of my childhood. We sent sledding, ice skating, skiing, and snowshoeing, to mention just a few of the more common sports my brothers and I did with our parents. It was just a normal part of growing up so far as I knew. In fact, without other frames of reference I didn’t even realise until I was well into my 20s that when people talk about the Olympics that are usually referring to the summer Olympics and not the winter ones. I love sunbathing and swimming at the beach as much as the next person, but winter sport—especially my favourite: ice skating!—will have a special place in my heart. And I like to travel too, so I tend to combine my passions as many people do.

With that in mind, here are my top three holiday locations for ice skating, based on my own personal experience:

Argentina. While this massive country that dominates the southern half of South America might be better known for its deserts, jungles and expansive grasslands, more than half the country is covered by the Andes and Patagonia. The appeal of visiting the place is as much that diversity as anything else, but for the winter sport aficionado Argentina will not leave you wanting. The quaint town of Bariloche in the Andes looks like it could be in the Alps and has skiing and ice skating that rivals anything found in Austria or Switzerland. If you do go, remember that winter there lasts roughly from May to September, unlike in the northern hemisphere.

Russia. The largest country in the world is famous for its cold winters, though being so large, the country has a plethora of climates with temperatures that get well into the 40s. Nevertheless the cultural capital of Saint Petersburg is something out of a winter fairy tale and well-worth the visit. Unlike Argentina, prices in Russia can be quite high so it’s a good idea to budget well for the trip, especially when visiting Saint Petersburg or Moscow. With many museums and beautiful architecture there’s plenty to keep you busy if the ice skating gets a bit too cold!

Finland. Not far from Saint Petersburg, Finland is a land of lakes with countless thousands of them. Being so far north they regularly freeze, creating ideal conditions for ice skating. It’s no wonder that the oldest known ice skates (actually animal jaw bones used as skates) were found here. If you’re sensitive to light-deprivation, try to visit in February or March when it’s cold enough to skate but the sun doesn’t set at 14.00 as it does in December and early January, depending on how far north you go. And make sure to budget in a couple of days to explore the charming capital, Helsinki.