From classic ski breaks to festive Christmas markets and trips to see the Northern Lights, brighten up the darkest part of the year with a holiday. Whether you prefer to seek the snow or flee to warmer climes, here is our guide to holiday travel this winter.
SANTA, SKIING AND CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Visit one of many Christmas markets, which are open, from now until Christmas. London, Manchester and Edinburgh all offer unique shopping experiences for every visitor, fun filled with crafters, artists, gift shops and gastronomic surprises. Get into the Christmas spirit!
London’s largest festive celebration has opened its doors for 2015, Christmas markets, an ice rink, circus shows and even an Ice Kingdom. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park offers the whole family a festive experience, which you won’t forget. There is even an ice bar! There is so much for you to do, to get into the festive spirit and enjoy the most magical time of the year.
Lapland - Finland, where 200,000 reindeer roam snowy highland and trees wear white coats, is the quintessential festive landscape – not least thanks to its most famous resident. Go snowmobiling to find Father Christmas, as well as a rendezvous with Santa, the destination offers a reindeer-drawn sleigh ride and husky mushing. Visit Rovaniemi for a once in a lifetime, magical getaway. Read our guide here.
Non-believers will find authentic flair, in Finland's Northern Lights territory. Warm up in the sauna of many Finnish hotels after finger-numbing activities such as snowshoeing, kick sledding and snowmobiling in and around the reindeer herding community. And then by night, head out in search of the Aurora, which puts in an appearance here around 200 nights a year.
Visiting Italy during the Christmas season offers two bonuses: You'll avoid the high summer season tourist crowds, and you'll get to see the country decked out in all its holiday finery.
Heading for Rome over Christmas couldn’t be a wiser choice. In addition to the festivities in Rome itself, you also have Vatican City's celebrations. It's like getting two cities' worth of holiday in one spot.
At the Vatican, the Pope delivers a Christmas Eve midnight mass, there's a huge Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square and a life-sized Nativity scene in front of the basilica. In Rome, the Piazza del Popolo fills with over 100 Nativities, the Piazza Navona turns into a Christmas market and Christmas Eve mass is held in historic churches throughout the city -- including the Pantheon, where you'll hear Gregorian chants.
White (sand) Christmas
Not everybody dreams of a white, snowy Christmas. For festive dinners and Santa Claus combined with warm seas, clear skies and a tropical sun, try St Maartens. December temperatures on the island average 27C. No one will blame you if you just want to lounge on the palm tree-lined beach. From December through till May, head to this exotic island which is outside of hurricane season and less likely to rain.
Head to Santa’s house during the whole month of December in Cripple Gate. You will be welcomed with festive decorations, music and offered cake and homemade punch.
Costa Rica has no real winter period, the sun shines here throughout the year. With over 12 hours of sunshine a day, the sun rises at about 5:45 am and sets at about 5:45 pm consistently throughout the year. Much like St Maartens, December through to April are the dry season for the destination. Temperatures are on average 24C throughout the month of December.
During the dry months spot soaring Quetzals and waddling green turtles. Travel during this time of year and you'll also find vibrant fiestas taking place across the country, featuring bullfights, dancing and live music. In San José, temperatures linger in the 20s year-round, while drier regions along the Northern Plains and coast, like Nicoya Peninsula and Guanacaste, see 40-degree temperatures. In December and January, North American and European visitors head to Costa Rica for sun, splendour and a break from chilly winter months at home.