Settle in front of the fire, pull the blanket right up to your chin and sit back with a hot toddy – these five spots are some of the continent’s cosiest places to enjoy the cold.

Settle in front of the fire, pull the blanket right up to your chin and sit back with a hot toddy – these five spots are some of the continent’s cosiest places to enjoy the cold.

The modern one: Chalet Gerard, Italy
Few regions wear their winter guise as well as the Dolomites. Mountains tower over valleys lying deep in snow, their cathedral-spire peaks turning red in the rays of the setting sun. As the day fades and skies blanketed in stars lend an extra magic to crisp nights, light blazes from the windows of village houses and isolated chalets, in scenes that couldn’t look more typically Alpine.

Chalet Gerard, however, takes traditional architectural forms and gives them new energy, from the undulating roof that recalls a ski slope waiting for fresh tracks, to the curvaceous fireplace that recalls a hovering spaceship in the lounge. The Mussner family rebuilt the mountain lodge in 2010, using local Dolomite stone and larch wood and the affect is one of calm modernity, all clean lines and soft colours.

It stands in splendid isolation on a hillside in the upper reaches of the Val Gardena, in the northern Italian region of South Tyrol, between two vast mountain outcrops – the Sella and Sassolungo groups. The Val Gardena is an oddity – one of two valleys within an otherwise largely German-speaking part of Italy where most inhabitants speak a Romance language called Ladin. The cooking offered at Chalet Gerard – cream of pumpkin soup with mild gorgonzola, tagliatelle with venison and mushroom sauce – is a satisfying tribute to the mix of cultures in this particular area of the Alps. If guests are able to tear themselves away from the lodge, they head to one of the many ski slopes in the region. The nearest resort, at Selva di Val Gardena, is three miles away, although its ‘suburb’ of Plan de Gralba is an easy ski down from the hotel – with a shuttle service back up when ski legs tire and a place by the fire calls.

Getting started
Chalet Gerard is 10 minutes’ drive south of Selva di Val Gardena/Wolkenstein in Gröden. Innsbruck in Austria is the closest airport to the Val Gardena (two hours by car). Verona (2¼ hours) and Venice (three hours) are alternative airports. Buses run to Val Gardena from Innsbruck and Verona airports.

The traditional one: Les Fermes de Marie, France
When night falls and snow lies heavy on the boughs of the fir trees, the instinct to scurry indoors, find a heat source and wrap yourself up in something furry takes over. Les Fermes de Marie more than fulfils this desire.

In the French Alpine ski resort of Megève, nine old chalets have been relocated from mountain pastures to form this hamlet-hotel. Wood was traditionally a humble building material in the Alps, but old timbers today are not at all out of place in luxurious surroundings such as these.

If it’s blowing a blizzard outside, guests gravitate to the sofas arranged around the bar, or by the open fire in the library. If it still hasn’t let up by dinnertime, the hotel’s three restaurants beckon, with fortifying staples such as fondue and spit-roasted chicken, as well as dishes which Savoyard farmers of a century ago might be less familiar with, such as scallops with parsnip and salsify purée.

Megève is one of France’s higher-end resorts – it was developed by the Rothschild family, after all. The skiing here is at a lower altitude than Val d’Isère and Les Trois Vallées, but between the forest runs and Megève’s cobbled streets, it’s undeniably pretty.

Getting started
Les Fermes de Marie is in the centre of Megève, a 1¼-hour trip by car from Geneva airport. Buses take around 1½ hours – several bus and shared taxi companies are listed on the Megève tourism website but Borini is one of the cheapest.

The British one: The Grove, Wales
You don’t have to travel to the lands of glühwein and melted cheese to find that feeling of warmth and comfort in the dead of winter. On a chilly day, the same can be had at the end of a hedgerow-bounded country lane in Wales.

The Grove stands amid the low hills and scattered woods of southern Pembrokeshire. This part of the country does not get blanketed each winter in the way Snowdonia and the highland parts of Wales do, but when there is snow lying all around, the white walls of this hotel look particularly impressive, and that tea by a log fire in the wood-pannelled lounge becomes all the more necessary. Bedrooms, with big squashy beds piled high with pillows and throws, become hard to leave.

The menu in the restaurant gives ample space to Welsh ingredients, with dishes such as Brecon red deer loin with faggots, turnips and glazed shallots, and celeriac cooked in ash with russet apple and hazelnuts. If you feel the need to earn your dinner, there are winter walks all around the region, starting on the doorstep of the hotel, with the ancient forest of Canaston Woods close by. The hotel is also on the edge of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, so you can make an excursion that’s impossible in the Alps, to see a majestic coastline on the fringes of the Atlantic.

Getting started
The Grove is located two miles southwest of Narberth, which is just off the A40 between Carmarthen and Haverfordwest. Driving times are two hours from Cardiff, 4½ hours from London and five hours from Manchester. Narberth also has train services from Swansea. It’s a request stop so you’ll need to forewarn the train driver. Staff from The Grove can pick you up from the station – a five-minute drive away.

The sociable one: Chesa Wazzau, Switzerland
The clusters of houses strung out along the Engadine Valley stand out among Switzerland’s many beautifully preserved mountain villages. Instead of fretwork wooden chalets, it’s the thick-walled stone farmhouse that distinguishes this long valley in the southeast of the country. Windows are kept small to let as little heat escape as possible, but they give out into funnel-shaped recesses in the walls to bring light to the interior. Many Engadine houses are decorated with sgraffito – intricate designs scratched into the plaster on the exterior.

In the village of Bever, you and several like-minded companions can have an Engadine house to yourselves for a whole week. Chesa Wazzau is a 17th-century farmhouse with six bedrooms and plenty of communal areas to sit down with a coffee or glass of Swiss wine. Sharing a candlelit supper around the communal dining table is a fine way to end a winter’s day.

Bever itself is not a ski resort, but it’s a short drive or a 15-minute bus ride up the road to Celerina, where you can jump onto a ski lift that’s linked in to the St Moritz ski area. The broad Engadine Valley is also ideal for cross-country skiing, and for horse-drawn sleigh rides into forested side valleys, with the promise of a restorative cheese-rich dinner before the journey home.

Getting started
Chesa Wazzau can be rented by groups of up to twelve. The nearest large airport is Zürich, 3¼ hours away by car, although it’s only around 30 minutes extra to drive from Milan’s airports. Bever is 3½ hours by train from Zürich Airport with two or three connections. Chesa Wazzau is a five-minute walk from the station.

The unusual one: Iglu-dorf, Germany
Most winter refuges operate on the principle that however pretty the snow looks from the warm side of the window pane, guests must leave the white stuff at the door. Iglu-Dorf, on the other hand, is happy to welcome the most ardent chionophile (snow-lover).

Each winter, these igloo communities pop up in six different locations – four in Switzerland, one in Andorra, and one in Germany on the reliably frozen heights of Zugspitze. Using the ancient knowledge of the Inuit, that air pockets trapped in snow make it a surprisingly good material for insulation, these snow chambers are just about warm enough to spend a night in, once you’re ensconced in one of the sleeping bags provided, lying on top of an icy ‘bed’ with a blanket or lambskin spread over it.

The igloos themselves come in various grades, from Standard (a six-bed affair for families and friends) to Romantic Plus – an igloo for two with its own en-suite bathroom and Prosecco thrown in. Snow artists have also been let loose on the designs, and igloos sport fanciful carvings of anything from swans to the stone faces of Angkor. All guests partake in mulled wine, an evening meal of cheese fondue, a hot whirlpool bath in the snow and sometimes a nighttime snowshoe trip. At Zugspitze, guests descend the mountain in the morning for breakfast in a log cabin.

The location is an astonishment in itself. Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain, at 2,962m. The rack railway that winds its way up makes its final climb inside the mountain, leaving passengers to emerge blinking onto the snowfield at the top, where the igloo village takes shape every winter. From here on a clear day, there’s a view of four countries: Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

Getting started
Iglu-Dorf Zugspitze is open from 31 December to mid-April, weather conditions permitting. Zugspitze is reached on the rack railway from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The closest international airport is Innsbruck, an hour’s drive away. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is 1½ hours by train from Innsbruck.