Salt flats Altiplano, Bolivia (Shutterstock: see credit below)
List Words : Hazel Plush | 29 October

9 of the best trips to take this Christmas

Where will you wake up on Christmas Day morning? From climbing Kilimanjaro to cycling across Thailand, here's how you can really shake things up!

1. Trekking in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains

Ethiopian Explorer, KE Adventure
How long? 13 days
How much? From £1,545
Departure date: 21 Dec

Simien Mountains National Park (Shutterstock)
Simien Mountains National Park (Shutterstock)

Hike to the 'Roof of Africa' and explore the remnants of ancient civilisations on KE Adventure's Ethiopian Explorer trip. Mount Ras Deshen – the fourth highest mountain in Africa – has tantalised trekkers from all over the world. This December, you could climb its slopes – while keeping an eye out for Simien red foxes, meeting villagers from the rural settlements, and taking in the view over 'Africa's Grand Canyon'.

Then, you'll get under the skin of Ethiopia's most sacred ancient city on a two-day tour of Lalibela. This collection of rock-hewn churches were built the 12th century, and you'll explore the site with an expert guide. Thousands of Christian pilgrims flock to Lalibela every year, making it a spectacular end to this exceptional walking holiday.

Love this? Don't miss these...

Ethiopia: northern highlands | Destinations

Hitchhiking (and falling in love) in Ethiopia | Reader's story

Tribes of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia | Destinations

2. Gorging on Vietnamese food

Gourmand's Vietnam, Travel Local
How long? 11 nights
How much? From £1,395
Departure date: Tailormade

Vietnam bbq street food (Shutterstock)
Vietnam BBQ street food (Shutterstock)

Sick of Christmas turkey? How about slurping Vietnamese pho noodles on 25 December instead? Nibbling cha ca fishcakes in Hanoi? Or dunking Banh xeo savoury crepes into spicy sauces? Munch your way around Vietnam on Travel Local's Gourmand Vietnam tour, which plunges you (stomach first) into its finest foodie attractions.

Take a guided tour of Saigon's Ben Than market, enjoy cooking lessons from seasoned local pros, wander through fruit orchards in the Mekong delta, and gorge on cat ba oysters in Halong bay (they're a local delicacy, you know).

This trip is private and the itinerary can be customised – so if you only want to seek out vegetarian bites, or have a particular penchant for a certain dish – you'll be catered for. Better yet, you won't even have to do the washing up.

Love this? Don't miss these...

The Wanderlust Guide to the best of Vietnam | Blogs

3 suppers from Hoi An, Vietnam | Recipes

How to make Vietnamese pho | Recipes

3. Crossing Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam on two wheels

Cycle Bangkok to Saigon, Adventure Worldwide 
How long? 16 days
How much? £1,245
Departure date: 13 Dec

Angkor Wat (Shutterstock)
Angkor Wat (Shutterstock)

What better place to spend Christmas Eve, than a homestay on the banks of the Mekong River? Adventure Worldwide's active trip takes you into the welcoming heart of South-East Asia, as you travel by bike from Bangkok to Saigon.

Your two-wheeled steed will get you closer to the highlights of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam than any other method of transport: you'll cycle around Angkor Wat, the Mekong River delta, national parks and perfect beaches, with the wind in your hair and a big smile on your face.

You'll experience local life, too: shopping in floating markets, visiting craftsmen and farms, and stopping in homestays. You'll have to put in the legwork, but nothing beats the thrill of completing a challenge like this – and you'll arrive in Saigon on 28 December, just in time to celebrate the new year!

Love this? Don't miss these...

Top tips for cycling in Thailand | Blogs

The beginner's guide to cycle touring | Advice

Two-wheel madness in Vietnam | Blogs

4. Climbing Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Rongai Route, Exodus
How long? 10 days
How much? From £1,399
Departure date: 19 Dec

Mount Kilimanjaro (Shutterstock)
Mount Kilimanjaro (Shutterstock)

Everyone who climbs Mount Kilimanjaro waxes lyrical about the buzz they got at the top – but why not go one better by summiting on Christmas Day? Not that it's a competition at all...

Following the Rongai Route, this 10-day Kilimanjaro trek with Exodus allows plenty of time for acclimatisation (one more day than standard itineraries), and boasts some of the most dramatic paths through farmland, forests and moorland. The gradient is gentle, and there's an intoxicating sense of wilderness here: you'll camp along the way, with support (and fabulously hearty dinners) from Tanzanian porters.

The final ascent climb begins under the cover of darkness, but your reward is spectacular views over the summit cone and down to the plains of Tanzania. Happy Christmas!

Love this? Don't miss these...

5 things I wish I’d known before climbing Mt Kilimanjaro | Inspire Me

Kilimanjaro: A typical climb | Destinations

Kilimanjaro Q&A | Destinations

5. Driving through Oman

Self-Drive Oman, Travel Local
How long? 9 days
How much? From £1,095
Departure date: Tailormade

Wahiba desert Oman (Shutterstock)
Wahiba Sesert Oman (Shutterstock)

Could Oman be the Middle East's most diverse, welcoming country? We think it could be – and even though Christmas isn't celebrated locally, you can be sure you'll receive extra-special hospitality if you visit during the festive season.

On Travel Local's self-guided trip through Oman, you'll start in surprisingly cosmopolitan Muscat – wander through the intoxicating Muttrah souk, watch the fishing boats bob in the harbour, and visit the spectacular Al Bustan Palace hotel for dates and afternoon tea. From here, you'll head into the more rural parts of the country: the Friday market at Nizwa, Ras al Hudd to see the turtles nesting, and the Rustaq fort.

There's a chance to venture off the beaten track, too: Wahiba Sands, a vast stretch of bleak desert terrain, is the place to fulfil your Thesiger fantasies – with the benefit of a 4x4 car, plus supplied GPS, maps and local mobile phone!

This trip is tailormade, and the itinerary can be tweaked to suit your preferences – so you choose where to spend Christmas Day... With bedouins in Wahiba Sands, anyone?

Love this? Don't miss these...


In Thesiger's tracks: rediscovering Oman | Destinations

Top 5 desert adventures in Oman | Inspire me

Searching for Arabian leopards in Dhofar, Oman | Destinations

6. Discovering Bolivia's best bits

Bolivia Odyssey, Highlives
How long? 13 days
How much? From £1,850
Departure date: 18 Dec

Uyuni salt lake in Bolivia (Shutterstock)
Uyuni salt lake in Bolivia (Shutterstock)

Need to shake things up this year? With its larger-than-life landscapes, punchy mix of cultures and vibrant wildlife, Bolivia is an invigorating place to spend the festive season. Far from the tourist trail, Bolivia encompasses the mystery and exotic intrigue of the South American continent.

On Highlives' 13-day Bolivia Odyssey trip you'll explore the colonial legacy in Sucre and Santa Cruz, soak up the lively streetlife of La Paz, and explore the spiritual centre of the Andean world; Lake Titicaca. You'll spend 25 December on the dazzling white Uyuni Salt Flats, too – now that's a really white Christmas – before venturing to nearby volcanoes and lagoons, with only flamingos for company.

Love this? Don't miss these...

Know before you go: Bolivia | Blogs

Bolivia travel guide | Destinations

Top 5 must-see sights around Lake Titicaca | Inspire me

7. Seeking out the Northern Lights, Swedish Lapland

Northern Lights, Transun
How long? 4 nights
How much? From £699
Departure date: 23 Dec

Northern Lights over trees (Shutterstock)
Northern Lights over trees (Shutterstock)

A spectacular lunar light show on Christmas Eve night, with showers of shimmering green, blue and red orbs? In a magical snow-trimmed setting? Oh, go on then...

Ok, so we can't guarantee you'll spot the Aurora Borealis while Santa Claus streaks across the sky, but you know Transun's Northern Lights-spotting trip will be nothing short of magical. Hey, even the transfer from Kiruna Airport in Sweden is a stunner: you'll travel through snow-dusted forests and pass frozen lakes, venturing deeper into the Arctic Circle.

The remote village of Karesuando will be your base for the next few days – it's at the centre of the 'Northern Lights Route', an area deemed perfect for Lights-spotting by the governments of Finland, Sweden and Norway. While you're waiting for nightfall, take advantage of the myriad merry activities on offer: think snowshoeing, husky safaris, snowmobiling and forest trekking.

Then, snug in your thermal suit and boots (they're included in the price), wait for the show to begin... And keep an eye out for Saint Nick too, of course!

Love this? Don't miss these...

Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights travel guide | Destinations

Top 6 places to see the Northern Lights | Inspire me

Photographing the Northern Lights | Advice

8. Cycling from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea

Jordan Cycling, KE Adventure
How long? 9 days
How much? From £995
Departure date: 20 Dec

Petra, Jordan (Shutterstock)
Petra, Jordan (Shutterstock)

Work off the calories of Christmases past on this challenging Jordan mountain bike trip with KE Adventure. On two wheels you'll descend from the heights of spiritual Mount Nebo to the depths of the Dead Sea shore (400 metres below sea level) – before traversing one of the longest canyons in Jordan. Next up is the high mountain plateau of Dana, before heading down into the desert below, and eventually to the ancient 'Rose Red City' of Petra.

There's time for a quick breather, before you continue on to Wadi Rum for a night camping under the stars with your Bedouin hosts, and then to a relaxing finale at the Red Sea. Put those feet up – you've definitely earned a beer!

This is a testing trip, but cyclists with reasonable fitness and minimal technical ability should be able to complete it – and, more importantly, enjoy it!

Love this? Don't miss these...

The Wanderlust Guide to the best of Jordan | Blogs

7 highlights of offbeat Jordan | Inspire me

Jordan travel guide
| Destinations

9. Getting active in Costa Rican rainforest

Tropical Adventures in Costa Rica, Adventure Worldwide
How long? 9 days
How much? From £1,595
Departure date: 20 Dec

Ziplining in Costa Rica (Shutterstock)
Ziplining in Costa Rica (Shutterstock)

While your friends are at home, slumped over a never-ending game of Monopoly on Christmas Day, you could be soaring over the Monteverde Cloud Forest in the Sky Tram cable car, spotting tree frogs and toucans – or whizzing through the trees on a 3km zipline!

From volcanoes to coastline, jungle to city, you'll explore all corners of Costa Rica on this 9-day Tropical Adventures trip with Adventure Worldwide – with lots of adrenaline-pumping activities along the way...

Tackle Arenal Volcano on mountain bikes and horseback, go whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River, trek through the rainforest to find dazzling wildlife, and wobble along the treacherous Sky Walk canopy route in Monteverde Cloud Forest. An adventurous, energetic trip – with plenty to keep you entertained!

Love this? Don't miss these...

9 paradise Costa Rica holiday rentals - from £8.50 per night! | Inspire me

Costa Rica: sensational and sustainable | Destinations

The Wanderlust guide to the best of Costa Rica | Blogs


Main image: Salt flats Altiplano, Bolivia (Shutterstock)