9 places to escape the winter blues this Christmas
Christmas time means different things to different people. For some, it's about embracing the short days and enjoying the Christmas lights. For others, it's about getting as far from the cold as possible while still finding ways to revel in the Christmas spirit.
Here, we've handpicked a selection of destinations for every taste this Christmas that promises a variety of weather, from teeth-chatteringly chilly to roasty-toasty. All you need to do is choose your favourite and remember to pack the presents.
- Prague, Czech Republic
- New York, USA
- Canary Islands, Spain
- Colorado, USA
- Lapland, Finland
Prague, Czech Republic
- Best for: Christmas markets Czech-style
Europe is aglow with Christmas markets throughout the festive period and deciding which one to visit can be difficult as they each have their own individual appeal. While there's the classical setting of Vienna, the edgy option of Berlin and the certainty of chocolate-coated treats in Brussels, pretty Prague takes some beating.
The Czech capital city hosts two main markets, the largest in the Old Town Square in the shadow of the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn, the other in nearby aptly-named Wenceslas Square, as well as a number of smaller markets. Between them, they offer all the svařák (mulled wine), klobása (BBQ sausages), Czech beer, decorations, candles, wooden toys and handmade jewellery you could wish for.
Listen for choirs singing Christmas carols as you mingle in the melee of locals and tourists who come to enjoy the seasonal spectacle, typically in temperatures around the freezing mark. It's a truly magical place to visit before or over Christmas that puts on one helluva show.
- Best for: an indulgent cruise
Is there anything more indulgent than a Caribbean cruise at Christmas? Nope, we thought not. Embark on an easy-going voyage with wonderful winter sun weather and all the little extras you could wish for taken care of as you hop from port to port.
You'll soon discover that each island has a personality all of its own. The not-so-ancient history has played a massive role in shaping the culture of the different islands of the Caribbean, be it Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada... the list goes on. The days of colonialism and impact of the slave trade have left their marks in everything from the architecture to the cuisine.
When it comes to Christmas in the Caribbean, don't miss the food such as spiced fruit cake in Jamaica, the Christmas Eve tradition of roasting a pig overnight in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic or the Christmas Junkanoo Festival on Boxing Day - a lively parade through Nassau in The Bahamas.
Cruising not for you? Fear not as there are plenty of other ways to 'do' the Caribbean including staying in luxurious all inclusive resorts such as those offered across a number of islands by Sandals*.
New York, USA
- Best for: Christmas in the movies
You know that heartstring-tugging scene in Home Alone 2 where Kevin is reunited with his mum in front of the giant sparkling Christmas tree? Well, any Christmas spent in New York evokes the same sort of warm and fuzzy feeling thanks to the incredible decorations, endless twinkling lights and seasonal chill in the air.
As well as the famous tree and ice skating rink at the Rockefeller Centre, festive activities include Christmas markets with lots of handmade crafts, checking out the impressive window displays at the likes of Macy's and Lords and Taylor, and, of course, braving the hordes to bag a few bargains in the Boxing Day sales. You can also see in the bells with the big ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve..
It's certainly not a place to go for hot and sunny conditions but it ticks every box for a truly immersive Christmas break and the weather, with short, dark days and low temperatures, plays its part beautifully.
- Best for: anyone on a budget
Always a favourite with us, the Canary Islands do not disappoint when it comes to Christmas. Weather-wise, the days are warm - without being too hot - and consistently sunny, which is what keeps people coming back again and again.
Christmas is celebrated in a number of ways across the five main islands. Las Canteras Beach in Las Palmas Gran Canaria sees one of the world's largest nativity scenes sculpted out of sand, while over in Tenerife, the capital Santa Cruz puts on regular Christmas carols and concerts under the stars.
Markets such as Teguise Market in Lanzarote and Teror Market in Gran Canaria sell crafts, prints and souvenirs that make perfect presents, as well as many delicious local snacks such as savoury pastries. If you're in the archipelago for New Year's Eve, expect a traditional shellfish feast and a late-night party before a rejuvenating swim in the sea on New Year's Day.
The best bit? Whichever Canary Island you choose to visit at Christmas, there's sure to be a great value way of getting there as the islands are hugely competitive, ensuring there are bargains to be had for anyone travelling on a budget. Feliz Navidad!
- Best for: winter sun
Fancy swapping your scarf for your snorkel? For a completely different kind of Christmas that offers its own customs as well as plenty of sunshine, you might want to consider the Indian Ocean paradise of Mauritius.
Think strolling along platinum beaches, swimming above colourful tropical fish, trying your hand at water sports, indulgent boat trips, heading inland for a spot of hiking in the rainforest, birdwatching - there's simply so much to do - and nothing to do if you so desire.
Christmas in Mauritius is a warm - quite literally - and friendly affair. The big day sees families gathering for slap-up meals with many people choosing to dine out on the beach for an extravagant BBQ. And don't worry about missing your Christmas tree - the delightfully-named Flamboyant Tree signals that Christmas coming when its red flowers burst into life around this time.
The weather is a gift of its own if you're hankering for some sun: days are warm and sunny, while the sea is also very tempting. You may encounter a passing shower but nothing that will put a dampener on your festive fun.
- Best for: powder lovers
For an action-packed Christmas break, why not head to the powdery slopes of Colorado? This state in the west of the USA boasts exceptional diversity when it comes to its landscapes, although it's the snow-capped ski resorts that pull people in at this time of year.
Resorts such as Vail and Breckenridge in the expansive White River National Forest are typically well covered in snow at Christmas with excellent conditions for skiing or boarding. On average there is 50% more sunshine than at European resorts, plus an extra hour of daylight because of their southerly location.
And you don't have to be a serious mountain skier to make the most of the snow. There's ski-biking, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing as well as scenic outdoor dining and live shows.
More than just the activities, ski resorts such as Vail and Breckenridge transport you to a real-life winter wonderland with pine trees heavy under the crisp white snow and wooden chalets bedecked in colourful lights - just like something from a Christmas card.
Staying for the New Year celebrations? Head to Breckenridge for the New Year's Eve torchlight parade through the town and huge fireworks display at the bells.
- Best for: adventure seekers
Christmas in Argentina is a beautiful blend of potential for adventure, warmer weather - depending on where you go in this enormous South American nation - and all the Christmas feels.
With a large Catholic population, Christmas is highly regarded: for many, mass is a fixture of Christmas Eve before celebrations that continue into the night with big family feasts and fireworks often found lighting up the sky as people welcome Christmas Day.
If you're considering a trip to Argentina over Christmas, head straight for the vibrant cosmopolitan capital of Buenos Aires where the cool culture and local customs will make you feel suitably festive. The weather here is very warm and sunny, giving you perfect conditions for exploring the city and its history as well as further afield.
From the capital you can easily plan boat trips on the Tigre Delta, visit the art deco buildings of Montevideo and one of the country's oldest cathedrals in La Plata. If you're planning a longer stay, why not venture up to Iguazu Falls on the border with Brazil, take in colonial Salta or go wine tasting in Mendoza.
- Best for: kiddies (and believers)
Give your wee ones a trip they'll treasure this Christmas with a holiday to Lapland. Located in the far north of Finland, the region's capital Rovaniemi sits at the very edge of the Arctic Circle and is seen as the gateway to the Arctic north.
That, and the fact that in 1927 the suggestion was made that this snowy wilderness was the home of Father Christmas, helped to propel Lapland into the spotlight and made it synonymous with all things Christmassy.
Add the fantastic snow and winter sports that can be enjoyed here, not to mention the fact that Lapland serves up the spectacle that is the Northern Lights, and it's easy to see why it appeals to so many after a seasonal break for all the family.
Expect to meet Father Christmas and the elves, get up close with the reindeer, go on a husky safari, try snowmobiling and if you're there on Christmas Eve, don't forget the truly traditional custom of a late-night sauna surrounded by snow.
- Best for: a holistic escape
Christmas can, in all honesty, be a bit stressful. There's so much to organise, buy and squeeze into your diary that the idea of jetting off with your loved ones for a quieter, more laid back approach to the festivities can be wholly tempting. If you're in the market for a chilled out Christmas, you might look east to the shores, mountains and exciting cities of Thailand.
Bangkok is a natural starting point and guarantees you won't feel deprived of Christmas cheer as the city goes all out with its lights and decorations. The malls, markets, street food and hot, sunny weather make it quite the contrast to Christmas at home but nonetheless enjoyable.
The other thing that sets Thailand apart is the opportunity to unwind in one of its countless wellness retreats and spas. Yoga, therapies, treatments and clean living are all easily found across Thailand, and what better way to start a new year than with a recentred, detoxed version of yourself? The island of Koh Samui, home to a number of top retreats not to mention wonderful weather in December, is an excellent place to start.
Still deciding where to go at Christmas? Don't miss our guide to the weather at destinations worldwide in December and our pick of the best places to go for hot and sunny weather in December.
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