9 places to escape this Christmas

Ho-ho-holidays! Christmas is one of the most popular times to travel, whether it’s for visiting family, searching for snow or just celebrating the festive season with an overseas adventure.

Bigger crowds and higher costs can take the shine off Christmas travel, but with some careful planning, you can enjoy an unforgettable end-of-year adventure.

So, from the beaches of Bali to festivals in Finland, here are nine of the best Christmas holiday destinations around the world.


Christmas holidays for beach lovers

Are beach chairs and palm trees at the top of your Christmas list? Here are three of the best coastal destinations in December and some tips for holiday travel.


1. Bali, Indonesia

There’s a reason why Bali is one of the most popular island holidays for Aussie / Kiwi travellers. Its staggering coastline is peppered with incredible beaches, its warm waters abound with world-class waves, and its sunsets are truly some of the best in the world.

Christmas travel tip: Make no mistake - Bali can be crowded with tourists, especially at Christmas time. Expect to share the sand with daring surfers, travelling yogis and families from far and wide. If you’re looking for a more relaxed pace, consider researching surrounding islands like Nusa Lembongan or the Gili Islands.


2. Southwest Coast, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a slightly more off-the-beaten-track alternative to Bali’s bustling sands. The small island nation is also home to countless scenic beaches, especially in the southwest of the country. Towns like Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, Tangalle and Bentota are increasingly popular holiday spots for beach lovers, who travel in search of snorkelling, surfing and tropical sun.

Christmas travel tip: December is the height of the monsoon season in Sri Lanka’s east, so keep your beach holiday to the south and west coasts.


3. Fiji

Fiji’s postcard-perfect vistas have long been a favourite for honeymooners, families and beach bums of all types. The country is home to stunning island groups and family-friendly resorts, making it a popular place to unwind over Christmas. Regions like the Mamanuca Islands, Coral Coast and Denarau Island house some of the best accommodation and natural beauty in the country.

Christmas travel tip: Resort rooms can be in high demand over the Christmas period, so ensure you book early to avoid missing out.


Christmas destinations for snow bunnies

Dreaming of a white Christmas? These three winter wonderlands will have you swapping the swimsuit for the Christmas sweater.


4. Hokkaido, Japan

Christmas in Japan certainly has its quirks, like the fact that many in the country celebrate the occasion with a bucket of fried chicken from KFC. But as far as winter Christmas destinations go, the north of Japan is as magical as anywhere. The northern island of Hokkaido is your best chance at finding snow in December, which is officially the beginning of the snow season in Japan.

Christmas travel tip: The German Christmas Market in Sapporo is a must-see attraction in Hokkaido, with dazzling decorations, traditional German fare and concerts.


5. Vienna, Austria

Picture charming town squares illuminated with enchanting lights, as carol singers and puppeteers delight the crowds - Christmas in Vienna is like something straight from a fairy tale. The Vienna Christmas Markets are some of the most famous in Europe, where revellers are treated to traditional holiday treats like hot punch, roasted chestnuts and candied nuts.

Christmas travel tip: Instead of one central event, the Vienna Christmas Markets are spread across various locations in the city. Some of these specialise in arts and crafts, others are famous for their music and entertainment, and others are favourites among the foodies. If you're spending a few days in Vienna, you might find you can beat the crowds by visiting some of the smaller Christmas markets around town.


6. Lapland, Finland

Where better to celebrate Christmas than the very home of Santa Claus himself? Lapland is a true winter wonderland and the Finnish territory is one of the most popular places in Europe to celebrate the festive season. Travellers from around the world make the journey to see wild reindeer, ice sculptures, pristine snow and, of course, Santa Claus Village.

Christmas travel tip: Winter in Lapland can go weeks without sunshine, which can come as a surprise for unsuspecting travellers and even cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). To stave off symptoms of lethargy associated with SAD, consider talking to your GP about taking a Vitamin D supplement during your stay.


Christmas cities for culture lovers

You don’t need to venture to remote islands or the Arctic wilderness to enjoy a magical Christmas holiday. Check out these three city-centric festive celebrations.


7. New York City, USA

Outdoor ice skating, snow-capped sidewalks and the sultry sounds of Frank Sinatra - the City That Never Sleeps sure knows how to turn on the Christmas cheer. New York City is the USA’s spiritual home of Christmas, and the subject of classic holiday movies like Home Alone, Scrooged, Elf and more.

Attractions like the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, Rockefeller tree and Bryant Park Winter Village are family-friendly favourites packed with holiday spirit.

Christmas travel tip: New York City traffic is chaotic at the best of times, but add snow and ice to the mix and getting around can be a real challenge. Opt for the underground subway system instead of taxis where possible.


8. London, UK

Across the ocean, London also lights up with several Christmas celebrations throughout the city. Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, Trafalgar Square’s historic Christmas tree and Leicester Square’s festive markets are just a few of the larger events on the calendar, but you’ll find countless other attractions throughout the winter months.

Christmas travel tip: There is no public transport in London on Christmas Day, and a majority of tourist attractions are closed, so plan your travel accordingly.


9. Cologne, Germany

Christmas in Cologne is a festive feast for the senses, with dazzling night markets, towering trees and traditional holiday treats, like German Christmas cookies, Stollen (Christmas cake) and mulled wine. The historic Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral is one of the most impressive in all of Europe, and the nearby Heinzels Winter Fairytale is great for the kids, featuring an ice rink and other attractions.

Christmas travel tip: Cologne’s markets are popular with tourists and can be extremely busy, especially if the weather is clear. Arrive early to beat the crowds.


Do you have a favourite place to spend Christmas that isn’t on this list? We’d love to hear it! Please send us an email at stories@scti.co.nz and tell us more.

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