Dreaming of a white Christmas or exchanging gifts under a palm tree? Jetting to a luxurious destination over the winter break is better than any present under the tree, and is trendsetting as well. We’ve selected 10 exceptional holiday destinations offering travellers the right balance of escape and yuletide nostalgia.
Sugar plum fairies, dancing snowflakes and battling mice make up memorable moments from Tchaikovsky’s acclaimed ballet, The Nutcracker. A holiday tradition for many, to see this classic in a performance revered as the world’s best, travel to London. With iconic choreography and remarkable orchestral accompaniment, the English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is magical. History meets modernity on the streets of London. Ride atop a double-decker bus, see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and watch the rowers compete along the Thames River.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Extravagance rules in this hip city where bakeries sell 23-carat gold cupcakes. Surrounded by the Arabian Desert, visitors can swim in the Persian Gulf at the beaches of five-star hotels. With 70 opulent shopping malls including the world’s largest, Dubai Mall, holiday wish lists are luxuriously satisfied. Attractions are figments of unrestrained fantasy. Visit an underwater zoo, swim with dolphins or ski indoors while outside temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius. During December and January there are numerous Christmas festivals, street parties and gala dinners.
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
Spend Christmas morning sunbathing on white sand beaches, snorkeling with sea turtles or even climbing a volcanic crater. Kapalua Beach is among the world’s best destinations to watch big wave surfers and take a lesson from the pros. On the site of a historic pineapple plantation, Maui’s most luxurious resort, the Ritz Carlton Kapalua has a sparkling tri-level pool with private cabanas and two championship golf courses. Holiday festivities include a Christmas Day Feast and Hawaiian Luau.
With its azure skies, snowcapped Andes Mountains, December temperatures of 28 degrees Celsius and more than 1,500 wineries spread through three main regions - Lujan de Cuyo, Valle de Uco and Maipu, Mendoza is a sommelier’s delight. Wineries range from small, family owned to large production modern architectural masterpieces. Wine flights provide the luxury of sampling the area’s famous Malbec and native white Torrontes. A must for epicureans, the Bodega Ruca Malen winery serves a five-course beef tenderloin lunch exceeding all holiday feasts.
Palm Springs, California
You can count on sunny weather and clear blue skies in Palm Springs. An easy 2.5 hour flight from Vancouver, this desert city caters to snowbirds with a panache for tennis, golf and chaise lounges. There are rainforests to hike, super-sized outlet malls and design tours of architecturally-splendid homes. The Festival of Lights Parade takes place the first weekend in December and has quickly become one of Palm Springs' most beloved holiday traditions.
Christmas at Disney World is a spectacular event! The park is decked with holiday cheer. Magical snowflakes float through the air and Disney characters offer warm season’s greetings in the biggest and most jolly parade of the year. Cinderella’s Castle glitters and glows with 200,000 lights! Anticipate enchanting fireworks, live entertainment and the opportunity to feast on turkey and all the fixings at “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.”
Cape Town, South Africa
Famous for her pristine beaches, Table Mountain and cliffs where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean along a wild African shoreline. Cape Town balances nature and cosmopolitan life like no other destination. Top this with fabulous food, colorful ethnic district and vibrant waterfront, and you have one of the best cities in the world. Come December, tourists bask in the full bloom of summer. Car rental is the ideal way to traverse the famous Garden Route. The thought of weaving along this beautiful coastline, through quaint towns and breathtaking forests in a sporty convertible roadster is thrilling. Don’t miss seeing the penguin colonies at Boulder’s Beach.
Compared with the intensity of travel and frantic pace in North India, beautiful Kerala in the south is a tropical paradise, offering a more laid back introduction to the sights and colors of the country. Stroll through lush tea plantations of Munnar, spot unique wildlife in Periyar National Park or cruise through the steamy Kerala backwaters on a houseboat. Prince Charles chose to celebrate his 65th birthday here at the Kumarakom Lake Resort, revered for its Ayurveda and rejuvenation massages.
White Christmases are guaranteed at Colorado’s most famous mountain town and ski resort area. Make it a Norman Rockwell vacation with a private horse-drawn sleigh ride through the decorated town, and within the snow-covered Aspen forest. The sound of jingle bells and the warmth of apple cider create the most memorable of holiday traditions. Aspen is synonymous with a posh jet set crowd dressed in the latest European ski fashions and furs, and is an amazing ski and snowboard destination for all abilities.
Innsbruck, Tyrol Austria
Host city for the winter Olympics twice, this medieval village feels like a living fairy tale at Christmas time. Even the air smells of good cheer with rich aromas of glühwein – mulled wine, roast chestnuts and freshly baked gingerbread. Four Christmas Markets, all within walking distance of each other are a must see. Handcrafted ornaments, light displays, church bells and children’s choirs all add to the festive spirit. From opera houses, bobsled runs and nine different ski areas, Innsbruck is an idyllic European vacation.