Best Non-Schengen Winter Destinations You Can Visit With a Schengen Visa
Winter travel, particularly for the individuals who are required to obtain a visa for entry into the Schengen area, can be demanding, given the challenges posed by limited visa application slots and the absence of guaranteed approval for Schengen visas.
Schengen visas, which are exclusively issued by Schengen member countries, provide holders with the privilege of staying for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period in the Schengen area, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
To illustrate, for a Schengen visa with a one-year validity, the visa holder can only spend up to six months within the Schengen area.
However, once you utilise the permitted time in the Schengen area, you can also explore 17 other countries worldwide that are not part of the Schengen area but can be visited using a Schengen visa. The majority of these countries are located in Europe.
SchengenVisaInfo.com handpicked top non-Schengen winter destinations, each offering many winter activities for you to explore using your Schengen visa.
The EU member state, which has not joined the Schengen area yet, is home to some of the finest ski resorts, such as Bansko, Borovets, and Pamporovo in Eastern Europe. Bulgaria earned a reputation for its delightful spa culture, cities that come alive during winter, and many indoor attractions that attract visitors from all over the world.
Aside from skiing, Bulgaria’s winter landscape offers a perfect setting for engaging in activities like snowshoeing, ice climbing, and snowmobiling.
Particularly in the Rila Mountains, the highest range not only in Bulgaria but also in the entire Balkans, outdoor enthusiasts can find a paradise close to Sofia. The journey from Sofia to the primary launch points at Malyovitsa or Panichishte is a convenient 1.5-hour drive.
Offering a diverse landscape that ranges from serene glassy lakes to the majestic Pirin Mountains, Pirin National Park is an expansive natural wonder.
Within its boundaries, you will also discover captivating waterfalls like Skakaloto and Popina Luka. While Skakaloto might be a bit more challenging to reach, the effort is well rewarded with a splendid winter hike.
With a record-breaking performance, the last winter season, 2022/2023, welcomed over 1.7 million tourists, making it the most prosperous winter in the last four years. Bulgaria truly shines as a captivating winter destination.
In the winter months, certain regions of Bulgaria are covered in deep snow, so make sure to pack your reliable winter hiking boots before travelling to Bulgaria in the winter.
From heli-skiing to snowmobiling, Georgia offers an exhilarating array of winter activities for adventure enthusiasts. Located at the crossroads of southeastern Europe and West Asia, this potential EU candidate provides a diverse winter wonderland for travellers.
Located in the Ajara region of Georgia, Goderdzi Pass is a prime destination for catskiing enthusiasts. The allure lies in its unspoiled, untouched snow, and skiers delight in the ascent to the starting point, followed by the exhilarating catskiing descent.
In the village of Bakhmaro, visitors can find one of the country’s most pristine resorts, which is particularly appealing to extreme adventure enthusiasts.
Standing in the region of Guria, it offers skiing and hiking routes, crowned by the stunning “Sunset Hill” where one can witness the sunsets, making it a rewarding experience for those who embark on a snowshoe tour to reach the hill’s peak.
On a snowshoeing tour, make sure to explore destinations like Gergeti Trinity Church, Gveleti Waterfall, the village of Sno, and Sno Gorge.
For those looking to hop from one village to another and experience the snowy mountain landscapes, winter hiking, and snowshoeing in Kazbegi, a townlet in Georgia, is an ideal choice.
Make sure to pack your snowshoes to stay warm and fully enjoy the experience.
The EU candidate country with 85 per cent of its territory blanketed in the mountains, North Macedonia, the second most mountainous country in Europe, has an excellent potential to become a top winter destination due to its climate, which is characterised by heavy snowfall.
Mavrovo, one of the country’s largest national parks spanning nearly 200,000 acres, is famous for its renowned ski resort and the Mavrovo Lake.
Located in the Polog region of North Macedonia, the ski resort boasts 15.5 kilometres of slopes for skiing and snowboarding, along with 13 lifts to efficiently transport visitors.
Additionally, in the picturesque Western town of Debar, visitors can find the thermal mineral water sources celebrated for their remarkable healing properties.
The water sources boast an impressive concentration of about four grams of various minerals per litre, marking them as one of the most curative and mineral-rich sources in the entire continent.
For skiing enthusiasts, a thrilling annual event occurs every February on Popova Sapka – the Sarplaninski Cup. The competition brings together the finest skiers from Macedonia and foreign participants, all vying for the coveted cup.
While the country is renowned for its summer allure, the winter season is now gaining momentum. Just in December of 2022, around 28,000 foreign tourists arrived, signalling the increasing popularity of the winter season in this destination.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Currently an EU candidate, Bosnia is home to some of the most esteemed ski resorts in the Balkans, with a rich history in winter sports, having hosted the Winter Olympics.
Among these remarkable ski resorts are Vlasic, Bjelasnica, which caters to those seeking an adrenaline rush with its steeper slopes designed for speed enthusiasts, and Jahorina, celebrated for its scenic routes that rival the famous skiing destinations in the Alps.
Numerous log cabins are ready to welcome tourists, providing the inviting warmth and cosiness of wood-burning fires in the ski resorts after braving the cold days in Bosnia.
When the first snowfall blankets the mountains, both locals and foreigners alike can head to the slopes and engage in skiing and snowboarding activities that last well into spring.
Snowshoeing is gaining popularity as a way to explore snowy landscapes, and the country boasts some of the best trails in Europe for this winter activity. One such example is Čvrsnica Mountain, where each can see the scenes of snow-covered pine forests to frozen lakes.
Just last year, in December 2022 alone, over 50,000 foreign tourists flocked to Bosnia and Herzegovina, underlining the growing popularity of this captivating destination.
Visiting Türkiye with a Schengen Visa is challenging, as only nationals from specific countries are allowed to do so, and they must obtain an e-visa for entry.
The countries included are Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Niger, Angola, Gabon, North Korea, Bangladesh, Gambia, Pakistan, Benin, Ghana, Philippines, Botswana, Guinea, Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Burundi, India, Sao Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Iraq, Senegal, Cape Verde, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Lesotho, Somalia, Chad, Liberia, Sudan, Comoros, Libya, Swaziland, Cote d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Togo, Djibouti, Mali, Uganda, Egypt, Mauritania, Vietnam, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Yemen, Eritrea, Nepal, and Zimbabwe.
In winter, Turkey’s second-largest lake, Lake Çıldır, freezes over, framed by a backdrop of snow-draped mountains, transforming it into a sought-after destination for various winter activities, including traditional sleighing.
Visitors can experience the activities, which range from traditional sleigh rides to snowmobile rentals and other modern transport options on the frozen lake.
For a truly immersive winter experience, visitors, both local and from afar, can also embark on horse-sleigh trips and ice-fishing trips across the frozen expanse of the lake.
For skiing enthusiasts looking for a convenient getaway from Istanbul, the Uludağ ski centre is within easy reach.
It boasts 28 kilometres of slopes catering to skiers of all levels, from beginners to experienced and to access the different slopes, there are 16 lifts available for convenient transport.
In Türkiye, a popular way to warm up after being out in the cold winter is by trying the traditional hammams, or Turkish steam baths, that offer a wide array of spa-style treatments in addition to the essential steam.