In the immortal words of Ned Stark, “Winter is coming”. As the nights are drawing in, you’re looking at your remaining holiday allowance and asking just where exactly to go with four and a half days?!
We say, why not follow your festive folly? Forget the family plans and be more spontaneous this Christmas.
For the beach bums..
Short haul: Aberdeen, Scotland
While sister cities Edinburgh and Glasgow attract visitors for their historic centres and Christmas markets, Aberdeen’s poor beachfront isn’t exactly a bustling mecca for holiday-makers at this time of year. That is until thousands of onlookers descend on the city in the hope of seeing one of the strangest sights in Scotland: the annual Santa Christmas Run (10 December). Scotland might not promise sunshine but the sight of thousands of people dressed up in santa suits running will certainly warm the cockles. We don’t expect you’ll be going in for a dip though.
Long haul: Havana, Cuba
When the December chills roll in, the beaches of the Caribbean will never have looked more appealing, their deep blue seas and the balmy weather tempting you further in. Hop on a plane to Havana and soak in some sunshine before the New Year hits. Ignore the Varadero beach, even though it’s arguably the prettiest seafront in the capital – the string of resorts make it the tourist destination number one. Instead, head over to the area Playas del Este and go the Santa Maria beach and soak up Cuban culture alongside the locals. When nighttime hits, the Havana International Jazz Festival (11-19 December) is going on and beach lovers can sip tropical cocktails while listening to famous jazz figures like Chucho Valdes and Arthur O’Farrill.
For the Thrill Seekers..
Short haul: Gubbio, Italy
Christmas means all sorts of things to different people: the novelty jumpers, nan drunk on the mulled wine, arguments over the referendum and your paltry share of the turkey. Why not make this one about adventure? Head over to Gubbio, Italy to see the best Christmas tree in Europe – also the largest in the world. It’s not an actual tree, but strategically placed lights on Mount Ingino. The tradition started in 1981 so locals could honour their patron saint Ubaldo. Many important figures since have had the privilege of pushing the button to light up the tree on December 6. Seeing an entire mountainside light up in a shape of a Christmas tree is an unforgettable sight, as travellers dine on fine wine and pasta.
Long haul: Anchorage, Alaska
To say Alaska is a bit nippy in December might be the understatement of the year, but majestic fauna and snow for as-far-as-the-eye-can-see is the reward for anyone mad enough to brave the climate. From Anchorage you can also try the hell-raising pastime of heli-skiing over the Chugach mountains. The extreme sport requires experienced skiers or snowboarders to start their run by jumping down from a helicopter. The descent – with added risk of avalanches – will certainly get the blood racing and beat off the chills of the Arctic tundra. Heli-skiing is widely banned in Europe yet has become a popular extreme sport across Canada and North America. It won’t take long in Alaska to see why.
For the city slickers..
Short haul: Maastricht, The Netherlands
Just off the beaten path, with a youthful and vibrant charm, Maastricht has two main squares: Vrijthof for its cathedral, bars and restaurants; Markt for the town hall and vendor markets on Wednesdays and Fridays. December may be a bit chilly, but worth wandering the Old Town to experience the city’s fortified walls and exploring the underground tunnels.
Long haul: Nassu, Bahamas
Junkanoo Parade is a beloved annual tradition of the Caribbean, celebrating life and freedom. The parade starts in the early hours of Boxing Day and the streets come alive with the sound of rhythmic goombay drums, melodic horns and the sight of colourful costumes. With roots going back to West Africa, the Junkanoo Parade is the oldest surviving street festival in the Caribbean. Legend has it that slaves decorated themselves with whatever was available and used flour paste to paint their faces. Whether or not this is true is up for debate, but it now has evolved into an experience with elaborate, colourful costumes with unforgettable music and tradition.
Source from here.