Originally appeared on Travel + Leisure
We all travel for pretty views, amazing food, and centuries-old landmarks—but vacationing in the name of animals should also be on your list. There are plenty of places around the world that are also home to some pretty spectacular species. And while summertime may seem like the best time to stake our your favorite creature, there are plenty of animals that thrive in cold weather that are extra fun to observe in their natural habitats. Here are some of our favorite wintertime animal destinations:
Puffins are not only one of the most popular animals to see in this arctic archipelago, but they’re also a local delicacy. These birds breed in large numbers in various areas around the islands, but head to Mykines—the westernmost island in the set of 18—for the best chance of seeing one.
The best time to check out the polar bears in Svalbard—the island between Norway and the North Pole—is during the midnight sun from May to September. Considering there are an estimated 3,000 polar bears on the island (more than there are people!), you can count on seeing more than one if you join a guided tour. A guided tour is highly recommended given the large population. Natural World Safaris is a good place to start your research.
Cape Town’s Boulders Beach is not only a great spot to spend a somewhat un-crowded day at the beach, but it’s also home to the only penguins you can find on the continent of Africa. This colony of penguins has been calling Boulders Beach home since 1983, when they first fell upon False Bay after migrating from Dyer Island. You can read more about these little guys and gals on the Cape Town Visitors website.
The Inuit culture is rooted in admiring its cold-weather creatures—the narwhal included. These whales live in the surrounding waters year-round and are wildly recognized by their long tusks. They’re easier to spot during the summer months when they move closer to the shore to feed, but they’ll swim up to 1,400 feet underneath pack ice to find a meal during the winter.
Winter seal watching is a favorite activity for those living in and visiting Cape Cod during the winter. Harbor Seals and Grey Seals take in the warmer water during cold months, and take advantage of sunning spots whenever the sun decides to make an appearance. According to CoastalStudies.org, head to Stellwagen Bank near Boston, Monomoy Island in Nantucket Sound, along the Gulf of Maine, and across beaches in Maine and Massachusetts.