Christmas Season is synonymous with family gatherings, holiday cheer, carols around the Christmas tree, presents, and incredible turkey feasts. Christmas is all about sharing the cheer with friends and loved ones. But, not for all…
Today, for more and more people around the world, Christmas is becoming the time of the year associated with grand adventures. Many of those working full-time are finding it easier to take time off during the holidays to get away farther and explore the world beyond their home towns.
December is a wonderful time to travel (unless of course you choose to leave on Christmas Eve which is officially one of the worst days to travel). Whether you are looking to take advantage of the white Christmas abroad, or hoping to get out of the cold and experience the oddly enticing Christmas on the beach, the options are limitless. So where should you go?
I reached out to 10 travel bloggers, all of whom have spent years roaming around the globe, spending more than their fair share of Christmas’ on the road, asking them to share their favourite Christmas destination. Here’s what they had to say.
by Ania and Jon from Hitch-Hikers Handbook
Christmas is a special holiday period that’s best shared with family and friends but if you find yourself travelling at this time of year, why not travel to London? It’s arguably one of the finest places to spend Christmas anywhere on Earth. London has a unique festive atmosphere simply because British people love Christmas and buying presents. Walking the city’s central streets filled with wrapped-up warm, busy shoppers and enjoying the spectacular lights of Oxford Street, which are turned on by a celebrity every year, is one of many joys of spending your holiday in the British capital.
We also recommend marvelling at the iconic Trafalgar Square huge Christmas tree, which is an annual present from the people of Norway, sent as a token of gratitude for British support during the Second World War. Britain is also home to some of the world’s most unique Christmas traditions, like pulling Christmas crackers or attending traditional Christmas pantomimes. And you can’t miss the institutional Queen’s Speech broadcast at 3 p.m. every Christmas Day. Besides, where else can you stuff yourself silly on Yorkshire puddings and turkey?
Read more about Christmas Traditions in Britain on their blog Hitch-Hikers Handbook.
by Carolyn from Holidays to Europe
Having visited Lucerne during summer I didn’t imagine it could be even more beautiful in the winter.
Arriving shortly before Christmas, I was greeted by a scene straight from a Christmas card. Leafless trees along the lake glistened with their dusting of snow, baubles decorated Christmas trees outside the luxurious lakeside hotels and snow formed a pretty cap on top of the Chapel Bridge. Fairy lights decorated the streets and shoppers bustled about the Christmas market stalls set up in the old town.
To me, Lucerne is the perfect Christmas travel destination. The city itself offers plenty to do for both young and old and its close proximity to the Swiss Alps and other major Swiss cities means it is perfectly located should you like to venture further afield for a day or two. Mind you, you probably won’t want to move too far from your own personal Christmas card.
by Jaclynn Seah from The Occasional Traveller
The one thing I loved about Munich more than the beer were the Christmas markets! With the cold snowy air and the call of warm gluhwein burning in your belly, these quaint fairs selling all sorts of Christmas related sundry and more, really put you in a ridiculously festive mood! The Christmas markets are usually open from the end of November and close by 23rd Dec so it’s quiet over Christmas and after.
To read more about her experience at the Munich Christmas Markets visit her post: Munich Meandering – The Magic of Christmas Markets
by Laurel Robbins from Monkeys and Mountains
I love Salzburg at anytime of year, but especially in December, because it’s home to several Christmas markets. The largest and most touristy, is held in Cathedral Square, but my favorite ones is “Advent Magic” in which the windows of Hellbrunner Palace are turned into a giant Advents Calendar! Not only are the Christmas markets great places to pick up souvenirs, they’re also about connecting and spending time with people that you love, over a mug of steaming mulled wine.
Besides the Christmas markets, there are a wide range of Advents Concerts you can choose from, some taking place in beautiful historic churches. There’s almost something going on every day, making Salzburg a great Christmas destination!
New York City
by Chanel Brown from CulturalXplorer
New York City is one of the best places in the world to spend the Christmas holidays. From window-shopping on Fifth Avenue, to ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park, the city has something for everyone to enjoy!
Families traveling with children would love FAO Schwartz, NYC’s most iconic toy store that turns into a magical place during the holiday season. Couples would enjoy watching any of the numerous shows playing during the holiday season, such as The Nutcracker or the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. Shoppers would enjoy visiting the numerous holiday markets around the city and doing Christmas shopping in some of the best stores in the entire world.
No matter what you are looking to buy, what you want to see, or who you want to spend the holiday season with, New York City is the best place to do it all.
by Christine from Don’t Forget to Move
San Francisco may not bring the idyllic white Christmas of New York, but our city by the bay has plenty to offer during the holidays. Hop on a cable car down to Union Square to check out the 80-foot tall Christmas tree and giant menorah. Tourists and locals alike can enjoy a chilly skate around the rink, followed by cozy hot chocolates (or hot toddies for an extra shot of warmth!) at the adjacent café.
The streets are packed with holiday shoppers and Salvation Army volunteers ringing their bells in front of the major department stores. Adoptable puppies and kitties romp around the holiday window displays set up by the local shelters. And if you’re there at the right time, you just might get a glimpse of tens of thousands of Santas roaming the streets for our annual Santa Con! Feliz navidad!
by Rachel Jones from Hippie in Heels
Goa is definitely the most popular destination in India for Christmas. People come from all over the world, but mostly England and Russia, to party from Christmas all the way through NYE at the mass trance parties all over Vagator, Ashwem, Anjuna, and Morjim.
The beaches are great, fancy dinners with wine are affordable, the party scene is wonderful, and weather is the best in December than it is all year long. Instead of cooking a huge dinner, you can try authentic Greek, Italian, Fusion, or Japanese at great prices thanks to so many expats running restaurants in Goa. It’ll be crowded and prices will be higher, so you’ll have to book early (that goes for a room and dinner plans). It’s best to come for two weeks with a larger group and rent a villa to save money. A Christmas season in Goa is something you’ll never forget.
by Moss and Rebecca from Four Jandals
Christmas for us Kiwi’s (New Zealander’s) is all about the beach and sunny warm weather – there is no white Christmas for us! As many Kiwi’s do, we travel with our families to our bach (kiwi slang for holiday house near the beach). Lucky for us, this means spending Christmas on the beautiful east coast beaches of Whangamata and Manly. Picture outdoor family activities/games, swimming, boating, fresh sea food, BBQs, all while under the sun with our unique Christmas trees, the Pohutukawa, in full red bloom!
by Chris from Aussie on the Road
Christmas in China can be a tad miserable. Between the bitter cold and just the general lack of festivity in the largely atheist country; Nomadic American and I were definitely not feeling it in 2012, so I decided to treat us to the closest we could get to an Aussie Christmas without leaving China.
Hainan, a tropical island province in the country’s south, is a tourist haven all year round – and even in the middle of ‘winter’ we were treated to 26C days; perfect for sunbathing or playing in the crystal clear water.
An Aussie Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a barbeque, so I even managed to find us a beachside shaokao (BBQ skewer) place so we could sink into some surf and turf while savouring the amazing view.
It was a tad odd seeing the Easter Bunny strolling the beach on Christmas Day, but you just have to roll with it in China. It wasn’t a perfect White Christmas, but it was arguably the most memorable way I’ve ever spent the big day.
My Favourite Christmas Destination: Sri Lanka
I have spent the last 4 years celebrating Christmas all over the world. In 2010, I spent Christmas in Melbourne, Australia. After admiring decorations in Federation Square and walking along Yarra River, I shared a wonderful kangaroo steak meal with a fellow backpacker, who I had met only a few weeks prior. In 2012, I embraced the festive spirit of Christmas when my family visited me in London, UK. In 2013 when I was living in Shanghai, I celebrated Christmas with a traditional Chinese hot pot, followed by a night out in one of Shanghai biggest student bars. Each experience was unique and special in their own way. But I have to admit, my favourite Christmas was last year in Sri Lanka.
While many parts of the world hurry around decorating their houses, buying presents, and filling their lives with festive Christmas cheer, life in Sri Lanka goes on without interruption. Being mostly a buddhist country, Sri Lankan people don’t get caught up in Christmas. So if you wanted to get away from the commercialism of Christmas, then spending the holidays in a country like Sri Lanka might be exactly what you need! And it was exactly what I loved!
We spent a few days leading up to Christmas enjoying the beautiful beaches along Sri Lanka’s Western Coast. On Christmas Eve, we took a trip to Galle Fort, spending an afternoon exploring the Dutch colonial buildings, meandering down its cobblestone alleyways, and watching locals go about their daily life. It was quiet, peaceful, and absolutely perfect. Awarded with one of the best sunsets on our trip, we walked around the Fort walls, admiring the views and reflecting on our time in beautiful Sri Lanka. The highlight of our Christmas in Sri Lanka was spending Christmas morning scuba diving in some of Sri Lanka’s best dive spots! After that, it was a family meal under the stars on the beach in Unawatuna – a perfect ending to a great Christmas trip!
Sure, Christmas is all about spending time with family and about following the traditions, but for our family, exploring the world over Christmas has become the best tradition of all! I look forward to many more Christmases on the road, to more memories and more family gatherings away from “home”.
Big THANKS to Ania, Jon, Carolyn, Jaclynn, Laurel, Chanel, Christine, Rachel, Moss, Rebecca and Chris for sharing their favourite Christmas destinations with the rest of us!