12 Christmas breaks: where to travel this holiday season
Do you dream of a white or sunny Christmas?
The festivities of the past year have been reduced for many, but with the gradual opening of world travel, there are all kinds of ways to make 2021 one to remember.
In Europe we are fortunate to have many historic and charming towns to experience a traditional Christmas. The chocolate markets of Austria and Germany are eager to bring tourists back in December.
And like Dozens of countries drop UK red list, you could even spread your wings in the Seychelles or Costa Rica, snorkel in the Maldives or explore Marrakech.
A Christmas on the go is not for everyone, so those who want to venture abroad will certainly find quieter attractions.
Here are some of our choices of travel experiences to inspire you.
1. Marvel at Faberge Eggs in St. Petersburg, Russia
The exquisite collection of Faberge eggs from the Russian Imperial family at Shuvalov Palace in St. Petersburg is a sight to behold. And of course, marveling at the luxury eggs only takes up a small part of your itinerary on this tour of Christmas markets and museums.
A beautiful Sapsan high speed train can take you from St. Petersburg to Moscow in under four hours, allowing you to admire the Kremlin, Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
2. See the Northern Lights in Norway
Watching the Northern Lights is a unique experience. If you want to get into pole position, Norway’s remote Lyngen Alps are highly recommended.
November through April is the best time to see the Northern Lights, and if you are looking for a very special viewing platform then the luxurious Aurora Lodge has just opened in the region.
Other activities organized by tour operator Black Tomato include skiing in the (frozen) sea and participating in whale tagging and conservation.
3. Cruise to Christmas markets in Europe
Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärkt is one of the largest in Europe and would be a centerpiece for any holiday.
To arrive in style, you can book an all-inclusive package luxury river cruise liner, with Christmas markets in a row for eight days. A trip down the Rhine then takes you from Zurich to Amsterdam, showcasing the delicacies of Basel, Strasbourg, Baden-Baden, Mannheim, Koblenz and Cologne along the way.
Think of traditional gingerbread hearts, the heartwarming aroma of glühwein, and visualize (if you can) the biggest Christmas tree imaginable in Cologne.
4. Snorkeling with turtles in the Maldives
British sun worshipers will be happy to note that the Maldives is not on the Red List. If you’ve missed a summer break and want some vitamin D in December, this could be the Christmas getaway for you.
It’s not just about R&R at Kudadoo Maldives; you can get up close and personal with some of the amazing marine animals in the area. Searching for dolphins, swimming with stingrays, and snorkeling with turtles alongside the resort’s marine biologists can all be arranged.
5. Skiing in the French Alps
The French Alps are a beautiful place to spend Christmas, and what could be better than the heart of the Mont Blanc massif? A traditional winter sports village, Megève, popular with artists and ski enthusiasts since 1916, promises to be particularly sparkling during the end of the year celebrations.
The without traffic, the cobbled medieval center is full of pretty shops to spend the hours when you are not on the slopes. Novotel Megeve Mont-Blanc is a good family option to stay.
6. Sail the sky on a Turkish hot air balloon flight
A hot air balloon flight is a way to leave 2021 in style. Cappadocia in Turkey is well known for its multi-colored hot air balloons, but many don’t realize that they happen all year round.
At a reduced price during the winter months, you can enjoy a mesmerizing view of the snow-capped mountains. The Argos hotel in Cappadocia – which is built from a 2000-year-old historic network of ancient ruins, caves and underground tunnels – runs sunrise walks.
7. Stargazing at the Sagrada Familia
Barcelona is a beautiful destination at any time of the year. But there’s a specific reason why you might want to make the trip in December.
Under construction for years, the Sagrada Familia has announced that its 138-meter-high tower of the Virgin Mary will be completed by the end of the year. To mark the occasion, it will be surmounted by a luminous 12-pointed star.
Learn about Barcelona’s Christmas attractions, including a play of light and a magical forest, from the Catalan Tourist Office here.
8. Party at the ‘Pestacles de Pere Noel’
For something a little different, a weeklong festival in a French village might be the perfect fit.
Now in its 22nd year, the “Pestacles de Pere Noel” with humor is a Christmas snow festival in the Aravis village of La Clusaz, and sees magicians, puppeteers, storytellers, jugglers, singers, musicians, artists and dancers descend in the streets, providing fun for the whole family.
9. Listen to Silent Night where it all began
Another glorious place for Advent is the Austrian city of Salzburg. Easily accessible by train for Europeans, it is home to the country’s original and oldest Christkindlmarkt, dating back to 1491.
Only 25 minutes by train is the village of Oberndorf, where the Christmas carol “Silent Night” was played for the first time. It is a peaceful place to reflect on the meaning of Christmas.
Salzburg also takes pride in being the birthplace of Mozart, so there is a lot to explore musically during the holiday season – read more here.
10. Take a Christmas-themed tram in the Czech Republic
Prague is famous for its Christmas markets, but the second largest city in the Czech Republic, Brno, also offers a beautiful Christmas party.
UNESCO Creative City of Music, there will be music all around as well as a variety of festive drinks at the winter bar in the town square.
Even public transport gets into the Christmas spirit: tourists can take a scenic stroll through the streets of Brno aboard a Christmas-themed šalina (tram).
11. Swap the Christmas markets for the souks of Marrakech
Marrakech is another amazing destination for those looking for a bit of winter heat. The recently renovated Riad Elegancia offers a luxurious base for exploring the “red city”.
A three-night hotel package will take you through the souks, ancient monuments and gardens of Marrakech, before relaxing with a refreshing cocktail in the rooftop pool.
12. Explore the town where the first Christmas tree stood.
But if you really want to immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit, the Latvian city of Riga has a special origin story.
This is believed to be where the first decorated tree stood, after a group of local merchants decorated it with artificial roses and danced in December 1510.
With traditional Christmas markets galore and husky dog sleds on the outskirts, it’s also a great place to see in the New Year.