Peru, South America
With many opting for sun, sea and sangria for their Christmas Break, sometimes it’s refreshing to be different and you couldn’t be anymore different than opting to spend the festive period in Peru! Instead of lapping up the sunshine, you can improve your knowledge of ancient history by visiting Cuzco and walking in the footsteps of The Incas. Discover the lost city of Machu Picchu and keep with Latin American tradition and enjoy your Christmas meal on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. The most important festivity for Peruvians is Noche Buena where the whole family gets together to celebrate the 24th night. Pava (turkey) and Paneton (high cake) are the delicacies you’re most likely to eat during these celebrations and be prepared for a lot of apple sauce – it’s mandatory at Christmas in Peru!
‘The White Continent’ – Antarctica
If snow is one of the major factors in your decision-making for a festive holiday destination then you can’t get snowier than festive holidays to Antarctica! Antarctica is the fifth largest continent and up until 30 years ago only the most adventurous of explorers would set foot on this vast area of snow, ice and outstanding natural beauty. Awe-inspiring landscapes, dazzling starlit skies and amazing wildlife will captivate you on holidays to Antarctica. Follow in the footsteps of intrepid explorers, get up close & personal to nature and perhaps spot a humpback or killer whale amongst the Bergs – if you’re lucky!
Swap the traditional Christmas Turkey dinner for roast barbecued pork, chicken & soup with wood ears on festive breaks to China. Afterwards you can work off that Christmas meal with a brisk walk along The Great Wall or clear the mind with a relaxing session of Tai Chi. You can visit the Forbidden City in Beijing, experience the hustle & bustle of Hong Kong, check out the Water Markets or take a relaxing cruise along the might Yangtze. Also if you’ve been a good boy/girl then you may get a visit from Dun Che Lao Ren (Chinese version of Santa Claus) – just remember to leave out your muslin stockings when you go to sleep on Christmas Eve!
The Holyland, Israel
Spend Christmas where Christianity was born with festive holidays to Israel. Locals and tourists alike descend upon the Church Of The Nativity (which is covered in flags & decorations to mark Christmas) to watch the annual procession led by galloping horsemen & police mounted on Arabian horses -an ancient effigy of the Holy Child is then placed in the church. Each village square will have a silver star mounted on a pole and Christian homes will paint a red cross on their front door and have their own homemade Manger scene displayed in their lounge windows. Visits to Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem during the festive season are highly recommended as you’ll be reminded of the Christmas story, but don’t forget to include Tel Aviv, Akko and Galilee in your itinerary too. You will not want to miss the biblical sights of The Garden of Gethsemane, the Manger Square and the Mount of Olives where Jesus first gave the Lords Prayer. Maybe join the Via Dolorosa walking tour and follow the route that Jesus is believed to have taken as he carried his cross to Calvary. As you tour this fine country you’ll find spirituality oozing from every corner as Christians pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre whilst Jews dance by the Western Wall and Muslims prostrate before Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Even though Austria is not as off-the-wall as the other destinations mentioned in this Top 5 but spending Christmas in an 800 year old Castle could well be up there! As you arrive at Schloss Krumbach Castle you’ll be greeted by torchlight and trumpeters with mulled cider, roast chestnuts and gingerbread. Every Christmas, each town in Austria sets up its own huge tree in the Main Square where families will decorate it with gold & silver ornaments or stars made out of straw/sweets. On Christmas Eve everything closes at 6pm as families head to the main square where the tree is lit and everyone sings Christmas Carols. That evening, good children will receive a visit from the cherubic Christkind who will leave gifts under the tree. No festive break to Austria would be the same without visits to Salzburg, Vienna, Bregen and not forgetting the mighty Alps – where the hills will definitely be filled with the sound of music with all the carols being sung!