I’ve always found my favorite places on Earth among the mountains. Maybe it’s because I won’t ever truly understand them, or maybe it’s because I find them more mysterious than anywhere else in this world. I may not know why I love mountains, but I do know that I love how time ceases to exist when I am amongst them. It creates an overwhelming feeling of absolute freedom.

Check out our list of 8 countries to visit if you love the winter.

I always prefer to travel to natural destinations, rather than big cities. For this reason, Austria is one of the countries I visit quite often.

My last Austrian journey began in the middle of January. I traveled from Prague, and ended in beautiful, lakeside Hallstatt, Austria. 

My relationship with this cute mountainside town has always been quite complicated. On one hand, I’m amazed by the atmosphere. Since the town has a long history, it creates an atmosphere you can really feel — and even smell — due to all the half-wood half-stone houses. On the other hand, considering its popularity with tourists, there are always crowds gathering for photos.

I tend to go for early morning walks in Hallstatt, when the tourists to Austria are still asleep and I have the winter town to myself. Watching the sunrise over the mountains covered with morning mist is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

And just 20 minutes outside Hallstatt lies Gosausee — a mountain lake situated between the impressive Dachstein Glacier and the mighty peaks of the Gousaukamm mountains. It feels like another world, especially in winter. There are mountainous peaks in every direction, wooden cabins dotting the landscape, and so much snow that you can’t see where the shore ends and the lake begins.

Visiting Hallstatt and the surrounding area in Austria this past winter was very special for me. I went to my favorite — and oft revisited — places in Austria, but this time everything was covered in snow. Places that were once familiar suddenly didn’t feel familiar at all; it felt like I was exploring it all again for the first time.

Your perception of every place always depends on the conditions in which you experience it, the people who accompany you, the weather, the season … everything converges to create your experience. Even if you’ve visited a place before, simple changes can make a place feel brand new again. Traveling has taught me to never stop exploring. You never know what you are going to find – even in places you’ve seen many times before.

What’s the most beautiful winter destination you’ve ever visited? Let us know on Twitter