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You'll need to organise your visa before you go (£50; ru.vfsglobal.co.uk).

The delightful Nevsky Prospect b&b is located right in the heart of the city; its five rooms have stoves and antique furnishings and the owners are incredibly helpful (from £63, shared bathroom; bnbrussia.com).

3. Sweden's reindeer migration
One of the world's greatest migrations takes place each year just over a thousand miles north of Britain. As snow thickens on every surface, lakes freeze over and the temperature drops below -25˚C, tens of thousands of reindeer make their way across northern Sweden. Descending from summer pastures in the mountains to the west, the herds travel east to spend the long winter foraging in the forests.

Accompanying them on a journey that can take ten days or more are their seminomadic Sami owners. While herding methods may have modernised over the centuries (snowmobiles - and even helicopters - have replaced snowshoes), reindeer husbandry is still a cornerstone of their culture. To fall in with the Sami and their herds is to be part of a heritage that stretches back millennia - one of days dictated by the pace of the reindeers' steady trot, and of nights sharing stories round the fire under a chill, star-filled sky.

Make it happen
Kiruna is a fine base from which to make forays into the Arctic wilderness. Fly there direct from Heathrow with SAS (from £100; flysas.com) or fly from Stockholm Arlanda (BA and SAS fly to Arlanda from Heathrow; SAS flies from Manchester; and Norwegian flies from Gatwick) to Gällivare with Next Jet (from £100; nextjet.se) or to Kiruna with Norwegian (from £100; norwegian.com). l

Nature Travels offers six-day reindeersled trips, staying the night in traditional tents and cabins and led by experienced Sami herders (£1,588, excluding flights; naturetravels.co.uk); Discover the World offers three-night hotel-based trips in Lapland, with daily excursions to learn about the Sami way of life and their reindeers (from £779, including flights; discover-the-world.co.uk).

4. Italy's sunken bell tower
Head to Italy's South Tyrol this winter and you're likely to come across one of Europe's most bizarre sights - an apparently amputated church spire poking out from the frozen waters of Lago di Resia. The 14th-century bell tower, pointing like an arrow to the blustery skies above, is a forlorn monument to an entire village drowned beneath the waters of an artificial lake created as part of a hydroelectricity project in the 1950s. Locals will tell you that the tolling of its church bell can still be heard on a cold night - even though the bell was removed when the valley was flooded. Tall tales may have sprung up around it, but the church and the lake are very much part of local life, particularly in winter. Snowkiters twirl across the ice, leaping high into the air as their kites catch a gust of wind, keeping an eye out for ice-skaters gliding around the lake's perimeter. Families slip and slide their way to the base of the tower, eager to slap their gloved hands on a piece of history that's out of reach most of the year.

Make it happen
The nearest airport is over the border in Innsbruck, Austria. EasyJet flies from Bristol, Gatwick and Manchester (from £50; easyjet.com) while BA flies from Gatwick (winter only; from £120; britishairways. com). The major car rental companies are represented at the airport (around £60 per day; innsbruck-airport.com).

Stay on a mountain farm a few miles from Graun. The Strohhaus has wonderfully warm, wood-clad apartments sleeping from two to six people; sleds are also provided (from £70 for two; fliri.net).

5. Yellowstone's boiling waters
There are few places as beguiling as Yellowstone National Park. It is a landscape created by grinding glaciers and volcanic eruptions, a place of fire and brimstone where the very earth breathes, belches and bubbles like a giant kettle on the boil. Here, in a land roamed by moose, bears and wolves, geysers and hot springs seethe and simmer and finally blow, capturing the imagination as they have done since the park's inception in 1872. It is America made wild and primaeval.

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