Unveiling the Best Christmas Travel Destinations: From Iceland to Barbados
Looking to ditch the familiar and create unforgettable memories this Christmas season? We've got you covered! Picture yourself gazing at the stunning Northern Lights in Iceland, exploring the enchanting castles of Edinburgh, and sipping mulled wine in the heart of Munich's Christmas markets. From the snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps to the tropical paradise of the Maldives, we've compiled the ultimate list of the best places to travel for Christmas. Get ready to unwrap a world of adventure and discover the most magical destinations that promise to make this holiday season truly unforgettable.
If you're looking for the perfect holiday destination filled with Christmas spirit, consider Iceland. It offers lively Christmas markets where you can find food, drinks, and gifts. The markets are decorated with beautiful Christmas trees and surrounded by breathtaking landscapes of lava fields and snow-covered mountains. Don't miss the chance to take a warm dip in the Blue Lagoon's geothermal waters when the temperatures drop. You can also go on a self-drive trip to the mountains to witness the stunning northern lights shimmering in the night sky. And don't forget to go trekking near the Snaefellsjokull glacier for an unforgettable experience.
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Save up to £200 per couple. Available from: January 2nd 2023. Available from: January 22nd 2023. Stein am Rhein, on the banks of the Rhine in northeastern Switzerland (Getty Images).
Scotland (Highlands & Edinburgh)
Scotland is a wonderful destination to visit during the holidays, known for its festivals and Scottish spirit.
The Scottish highlands and lowlands are filled with festive atmosphere for travelers. From Christmas Day to Boxing Day (Dec. 26) to Hogmanay (New Year's Eve), you'll find plenty of celebrations. Hogmanay is still an important festival in Scotland, believed to have been inherited from the Vikings.
When visiting Scotland, make sure to spend some time in Edinburgh, which offers numerous special Christmas events. The main Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens is a must-visit, with its crafts, art, gifts, and delicious food. You can also enjoy the evening light trail at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where you can admire beautiful lights, listen to music, and indulge in hot chocolate or mulled wine.
Where to stay in Edinburgh: For a luxurious and special experience, consider The InterContinental Edinburgh The George. The hotel offers five-star accommodation and is located just steps away from iconic attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile. Enjoy a delicious meal at The Printing Press restaurant and unwind at the Printing Press Bar. The hotel's historic Georgian townhouses add to its charm.
Where to stay in the Scottish Highlands: If you're heading to the Isle of Sky, consider staying at the Cuillin Hills Hotel. This four-star hotel overlooks the capital town of Portree and offers comfortable rooms with stunning mountain and sea views. Enjoy a drink at the lounge bar or explore the Malt Embassy with its impressive selection of Malt Whiskies.
Germany offers a unique and unforgettable Christmas market experience with its authentic markets and fantastic festivals. From urban Berlin to magical Munich and the Bavaria region, Germany has a lot to offer. Don't miss out on trying traditional German holiday treats such as Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies), Stollen (fruitcake), Marzipan, and Glühwein.
Where to stay in Munich: Consider the Sofitel Munich Bayerpost hotel located in the heart of the city. This hotel offers luxury accommodation with 339 rooms, a French restaurant, a spa, and an indoor pool.
Austria (The Alps & Vienna)
Austria, with its spectacular landscapes, friendly locals, and divine cuisine, is a truly special place to visit during the holidays.
The Austrian Alps offer beautiful skiing opportunities, with a wide range of hotel options to suit different budgets. You can enjoy activities like dogsledding, Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, and reindeer safaris. For those who prefer not to ski, there are also options like horse-drawn carriage rides, evening events with bonfires and hot tubs, and cultural tours to learn about the indigenous people of Lapland.
When in Vienna, make sure to explore the fabulous capital city. Consider staying at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, a unique hotel located near Zurich. Experience Michelin-starred restaurants, a thermal spa, and stunning views of the Swiss Alps.
Lapland, Finland is an adventurous and bucket-list-worthy destination for the holidays. You can enjoy a warm and beautiful Christmas celebration in one of the most remote spots in Europe. Don't miss the chance to spot the Northern Lights, and make sure to visit Rovaniemi, the official hometown of Santa Claus.
In Lapland, you can enjoy exciting activities like dogsledding, Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, reindeer safaris, ice fishing, and more. You can also learn about the indigenous people of Lapland, the Sami, on guided tours. Consider staying at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in their famous glass igloos for a chance to view the Northern Lights right from your room.
Czech Republic (Prague)
The Czech Republic is known for its wonderful Christmas markets with an Eastern European twist. Explore fantastic castles and small towns to immerse yourself in local traditions and cultural heritage.
Consider staying at the Augustine, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Prague for an amazing historic experience. Located in the center of Prague's Lesser Town district, this hotel was converted from a 13th-century monastery. It offers special tours where you can explore an authentic Augustinian monastery and a 13th-century library without leaving the premises.
Switzerland offers a truly special Christmas market vacation with its spectacular landscapes, friendly locals, and delicious food.
Zurich is a spectacular winter wonderland destination with unique activities to enjoy, such as skiing, chocolate making, and relaxing at breathtaking spa hotels. Consider staying at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz near Zurich, where you can experience Michelin-starred restaurants, a thermal spa, and stunning views of the Swiss Alps.
Explore these amazing destinations and create unforgettable holiday memories.
If you're looking for a warm Christmas destination, Sydney, Australia is a great choice. Not only can you enjoy Christmas decorations, lights, and Santa, but you can also have beach parties. Australia offers a range of adventures and relaxation options, from urban getaways to remote retreats. It's wonderful to celebrate Christmas and New Year in the country that celebrates it first, with fantastic fireworks and Christmas Pudding.
While there are many great spots to spend Christmas in Australia, our experts particularly recommend the city of Sydney. Sydney is one of the most fun and lively cities to visit during the holidays. The city is decorated, energetic, and offers outback activities that create an unforgettable trip. Plus, the comfortable summer temperatures make it even more enjoyable.
Where to stay in Sydney: Capella Hotel is a great choice for a mix of luxury and indigenous roots. The hotel is adorned with a wonderful collection of artwork, and they offer complimentary events like historian-led storytelling sessions and guided market tours.
Singapore goes all out for Christmas, with festivities starting in mid-November when the Orchard Road shopping area lights up with almost four kilometers of Christmas lights. Restaurants also showcase their festive menus, and Christmas Wonderland opens at Gardens by the Bay. The highlight of the season is the extravagant countdown and fireworks party at Marina Bay. If you want to escape the merry and bright atmosphere, stay at a beach hotel like Capella Singapore on Sentosa Island. With its infinity pools, expansive gardens, and views of the South China Sea, it offers a tranquil retreat amidst the holiday flamboyance.
If you want to spend Christmas on the beach, Muscat, Oman is a perfect choice. Just a short 15-minute drive from the airport, you can relax on the sandy shores. The Chedi is a great option for families with kids, as it offers a kids' menu and a family pool. If you have older children, Six Senses Zighy Bay is hidden behind the Al Hajar Mountains on the south coast, offering hiking, snorkeling, and a luxurious spa for the whole family to enjoy. Don't miss out on the traditional dhow boat trip from Marina Bandar al Rowhda, where you can marvel at rare marine life.
If you're looking to trade the traditional red and green Christmas colors for shades of blue, head to the Maldives. Fly to the capital, Male, and take a seaplane to a private island resort like Medhufushi. Stay in a villa suspended on stilts above the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and immerse yourself in snorkeling and day-sailing activities. Many hotels in the Maldives offer traditional Christmas menus, but if you're not a fan of sprouts, you'll find fresh lobster, oysters, and grouper to indulge in.
In Mauritius, the start of the festive season is marked by the blossoming of Flame trees, which bloom in vibrant red between late November and early December. Hotels across the island dress up their lobbies and shop windows in seasonal decorations. Food is at the center of Mauritian Christmas celebrations, and beach resorts like Grand Baie and Flic-en-Flac offer gala dinners and festive brunches where you can indulge in delicious food and cocktails.
Morocco is known for its "cold country with a hot sun" climate. While the Atlas Mountains may have snow from mid-November to April, the city of Marrakesh still enjoys plenty of sunshine and blue skies. This is a great time to visit Marrakesh and enjoy the ski slopes during the day while soaking up the warm sun in the afternoon. If you can handle the high temperatures, July and August are even cheaper to visit. Stay in a centrally located self-catering apartment in the Forum and make use of ski lessons to brush up your skills.
The Ganges, India
For a unique Christmas experience, embark on a luxurious cruise along the Ganges, India's holiest river. The winter sun adds warmth to the Christmas spirit as you journey along misty mornings, ancient temples, bustling bazaars, and solemn fortresses. Explore the rich cultural heritage and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere of India.
If you're looking for some winter sun during Christmas, Tenerife is the place to be. While there are touristy resorts, the majority of the island remains unspoiled and showcases its natural beauty. From seaside villages and picturesque coves to colonial towns and rainforests, Tenerife offers a diverse range of landscapes. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the 200,000-year-old volcano that watches over the island.
Courchevel is renowned as a luxurious ski resort and a gathering place for the world's superrich. With its broad and easy-skiing pistes, Michelin-starred restaurants, and five-star hotels, it promises a glamorous and social skiing experience. The period between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve is particularly vibrant, with champagne bars, perfect teeth, and stunning mountain views.
The best time to visit Anguilla is from December to April, as the weather is more favorable during this period. Although Anguilla is warm year-round, Christmas time is especially appealing with its slightly warmer temperatures and sunnier days.
According to Linda Sergeant, a travel advisor with Global Travel Collection, Anguilla offers a laid-back atmosphere where visitors can explore nearby islands by boat and snorkel at various beaches. The island is also known for its excellent dining options.
Where to stay in Anguilla: If you're willing to splurge, the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla is the perfect choice for an unforgettable Christmas trip. Over 80% of the property's 166 villas offer breathtaking views of the island's 33 beautiful beaches. Guests can enjoy a seaside spa, relaxing by the pool, engaging in seaside sports, savoring fresh cuisine, immersing themselves in the unique culture of Anguilla, and more.
St. Barthelemy (St. Barts) is a popular choice for a Christmas vacation in the Caribbean. The stunning French island offers incredible beaches, vibrant nightlife, exquisite gastronomy, and fantastic shopping opportunities that fulfill every holiday wish.
According to Metzger, many of the Caribbean islands host festivals and special events during the holiday season, making it the perfect escape from cold weather. The Caribbean offers endless opportunities for sunbathing, enjoying the beaches, engaging in boating and water sports. Despite holiday pricing, it is still possible to find options within your budget. Higher-end villas and resorts also provide additional amenities.
Where to stay in St. Barts: Consider the Rosewood Le Guanahani St Barth for a relaxing vacation. Situated on 18 acres of its own private peninsula, this property offers a full-service experience with world-class amenities and facilities. With 66 rooms, many featuring ocean views and some with private pools, three restaurants, and an all-inclusive experience, it provides a perfect getaway.
Christmas in the Caribbean is a delightful experience. Barbados, a beloved Caribbean destination, becomes particularly relaxed from mid-September to mid-December. During this time, hotel prices drop by up to a third, and the regular visitors seeking winter sun haven't arrived yet. While there might be occasional rain, it never lasts long, and the temperature remains pleasantly warm at 27C.
Explore the wild east of the island, characterized by dramatic shores, rolling surf, swaying coconut palms, and hilly landscapes that provide a stark contrast to the bustling beach resorts on the west and south coasts. Take a drive and enjoy the peace and fresh air. Martin's Bay, specifically Bay Tavern, offers a calm spot for locals to unwind on Thursday afternoons and enjoy informal gatherings.
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Courchevel (Getty Images)
With so many incredible destinations around the world, choosing the best place to travel for Christmas can be a difficult decision. Whether you're drawn to the enchanting landscapes of Iceland and Scotland, the festive charm of Germany and Austria, or the exotic allure of the Maldives and Mauritius, there is truly something for everyone. From bustling cities like New York City and Prague to serene getaways like the Ganges and Tenerife, the options are endless. So pack your bags, embrace the holiday spirit, and embark on a Christmas adventure you'll never forget.
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