Not sure where to go this Christmas or New Year? Fly out to one of our off-beat winter destinations and experience the festive season like never before...
Forget the turkey, keep the Christmas tree in the loft and leave those party poppers firmly unpopped – your festive season should be spent exploring. But we’re not talking your typical snowy escapes or watching the New Year’s fireworks over Sydney Harbour – these nine trips prove you can experience the season’s joys a million different ways on your travels…
Avoid the usual rush of visitors to India with Wild Frontiers’ Alternative Christmas in India tour. Spy the icons of Old Delhi before relaxing at the charming Castle Bijaipur heritage hotel among the rolling Aravalli Hills. Explore this charming slice of rural India by bicycle or horse, then end your magical trip by wandering the Taj Mahal and the Mughal heritage of Kachhpura, with the chilly streets of home a long-distant memory.
Who: Wild Frontiers (020 87417390)
When: 22 Dec 2018; 21 Dec 2019
How long: 15 days
How much: From £2,665 (excl flights)
Climb Central America’s highest mountain on KE Adventure Travel’s Guatemala’s Magnificent Seven trip. Summit Tajumulco (4,220m) on Christmas Day, soaking up panoramic altiplano views, then flank your ascent by topping other volcanic peaks along the way, including Pacaya (2,552m) and San Pedro (3,040m), as well as wandering colonial Antigua and the ancient Maya town of Quetzaltenango. Finish by relaxing on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Bliss.
Who: KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966)
When: 15 Dec 2018; 14 Dec 2019
How long: 15 days
How much: From £2,335 (incl flights)
Travel from Santiago to Rio Coast to Coast via Patagonia on Oasis Overland’s epic adventure. See the mighty Iguazú Falls, trek past peaks and glaciers in Patagonia and learn to tango in Buenos Aires.
At the trip’s tail end, ring in the festive season in Brazilian style, spending Christmas at a farm lodge in the Pantanal wetlands and New Year’s Eve on Copacabana beach in party capital Rio de Janeiro.
Who: Oasis Overland (01963 530113)
When: 10 Nov 2018
How long: 51 days
How much: From £1,895 (plus $950/ £745 local payment; excl flights)
Head through the Middle East’s Holy Lands on Tucan Travel’s Best of Jordan & Israel trip. In Jordan, spy the Greco-Roman ruins of Umm Qais and glimpse the wonder of Petra, then hop over to Israel and climb biblical icon the Mount of Olives, before wandering Jerusalem and Nazareth. What could be more festive?
Who: Tucan Travel (0800 804 8435)
When: Selected dates Nov 2018–Mar 2019
How long: 11 days
How much: From £1,167 (plus $200/£155 local payment; excl flights)
Make the most of north Scandinavia’s cross-border time difference on Artisan Travel’s Utsjoki: New Year Twice trip. Be pulled by huskies through pristine alpine forest and hunt for the aurora by night. And come New Year’s Eve, mark the occasion in Finland before crossing into Norway – an hour behind – to count down 2019 again.
Who: Artisan Travel (01670 785085)
When: 27 Dec 2018; 26 Dec 2019
How long: 7 nights
How much: From £2,295 (incl flights)
Join Ramblers Walking Holidays on its Undiscovered Cape Verde trip to explore a unique blend of African and Portuguese styles. Visit Santiago island and the UNESCO listed colonial outpost of Cidade Velha, before hopping over to the isle of São Vicente for volcanic peaks and gorges as far removed from home as it gets.
Who: Ramblers Walking Holidays (01707 331133)
When: 19 Dec 2018
How long: 14 nights
How much: From £3,300 (incl flights)
Mark 2019 in style on Discover the World’s Northern Lights New Year Special tour. Enjoy the classic Golden Circle trip – waterfalls, geysers and Thingvellir NP – and nights under the stars at a hotel with its own observatory, before seeing in New Year’s Eve in the glow of Kopavogur’s bonfire and Reykjavik’s brilliant firework display.
Who: Discover the World (01737 886131)
When: 29 Dec 2018
How long: 4 nights
How much: From £1,669 (excl flights)
Enjoy the dawn of 2019 sans crowds on Inntravel’s New Year Break in Vejer de la Frontera tour. Stroll the tapas bars and whitewashed houses of this Andalucían town before exploring Roman ruins in Baelo Claudia and the town of Tarifa. Ring in the new year with a four-course meal, then take to the streets with the locals to celebrate.
Who: Inntravel (01653 617002)
When: 29, 30 and 31 Dec 2018
How long: 3 nights
How much: From £335 (excl flights)
Spend the festive season in Siberian Snowscapes with Sundowners Overland as you ride the Trans -Siberian Railway. Chug the Buddhist outpost of Ulan Ude, snowstrewn taiga forest and historic Irkutsk, then mark Christmas Day on the banks of frozen Lake Baikal with husky sled trips. Finish in Moscow’s Red Square on New Year’s Eve under a shower of fireworks.
Who: Sundowners Overland (020 8877 7660)
When: 18 Dec 2018; 18 and 26 Dec 2019
How long: 16 days
How much: From £2,130 (excl flights)
Spend your festive season fording one of the world’s great waterways on Bon Voyage’s Mississippi Cruise over Christmas trip. Glide through rock ‘n’ roll history and smart antebellum houses, stopping off at the Blues hotbed of Greenville and celebrating Christmas perusing the markets of the Nottoway Plantation mansion. Carry on the festive traditions onboard along the way, decorating gingerbread, ornaments and even your cabin door, before crowning New Year’s Eve in New Orleans.
Who: Bon Voyage (0880 316 3012)
When: 23 Dec 2018
How long: 10 days
How much: From £3,235 (incl flights)
‘Tis the season… to join Wildfoot on its Christmas in Antarctica tour. Take advantage of 24-hour daylight and spy albatrosses over Drake Passage, see chinstrap penguin colonies on Deception and Half Moon islands and soak up the icy vistas from Neko Harbour. Cruise between sea ice, complete with snoozing leopard seals, and go ashore to either day hike or kayak the White Continent. Back onboard, pick up some handy photo tips with resident experts for your expedition.
Who: Wildfoot (0800 195 3385)
When: 20 Dec 2018
How long: 15 days
How much: From £5,154 (excl flights)
Hop on Abercrombie & Kent’s Egypt & the Nile Escorted Tour and see ancient Egypt unravel from your cabin. Enjoy the cooler conditions winter brings, exploring the Pyramids of Giza, before flying to Luxor and wandering the Temple of Karnak. Glimpse the Valley of the Kings before spying other temples – including Abu Simbel – as you ford the Nile and end with a couple of days taking in Cairo’s sights.
Who: Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547892)
When: Selected dates Dec 2018 and 2019
How long: 9 nights
How much: From £4,715 (excl flights)
Join Regent Holidays on its Northern Lights and New Year’s Eve in the Russian Far North aboard the Imperial Train trip. Begin in Moscow and see its icons thickly wigged with snow before chugging to the lavish architecture of St Petersburg. Then, pitstop at the 16th-century Karelian town of Petrozavodsk before trundling above the Arctic Circle to Murmansk, where you’ll ride a dog sled, keep an eye out for the northern lights and pay a visit to Ded Moroz – Russia’s answer to Father Christmas.
Who: Regent Holidays (020 3131 6202)
When: 26 Dec 2018
How long: 10 days
How much: From £4,060 (excl flights)
On Steppes Travel’s Georgia – Christmas in Tbilisi tour, stroll streets adorned with fairy lights and hear the choruses of Georgian choirs within the city’s spectacular churches and cathedrals – all of which embrace the festivities. Escape the city to the Kakheti region for its old churches and sun-soaked vineyards, spying epic Caucasus Mountain views from the village cobbles of Signagi.
Who: Steppes Travel (01285 601754)
When: 23 and 28 Dec 2018
How long: 6 days
How much: From £1,495 (excl flights)
Be treated to a greatest hits of some of USA’s natural wonders on Grand American Adventures’ Western Explorer tour. Hunt for bears and deer in Yosemite NP, spy the rust-coloured valleys and hills of Death Valley, spot the oasis-pooled cliffs of Zion NP and gasp at the unique rocks of Bryce Canyon NP. Spend Christmas Day eating a native Navajo meal among the epic sandstone monoliths of Monument Valley before concluding with a true American icon – the Grand Canyon.
Who: Grand American Adventures (0333 220 7209)
When: 16 Dec 2018
How long: 13 days
How much: From £2,719 (excl flights)