10 Best Luxury Winter Destinations
In the summer, it is such a pleasure to escape the heat of the city and head to the coast. But, it is when the days get shorter and the skies are grey that a getaway to an exotic destination can really lift the spirits.
Some holidaymakers prefer to leave the cold behind altogether and head for a tropical beach but others embrace the winter vibe by heading to a winter wonderland.
Lapland and Finland
Do you have your Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving? Do Christmas carols make you nostalgic – in July? If so, then Lapland is probably your dream winter vacation destination. You can visit Santa Park near Rovaniemi, the official home of Santa Claus for a truly magical holiday experience that kids (of all ages) will love. Stop by Santa’s workshop, cross the Arctic Circle, hang-out at the Reindeer Resort or eat at an ice restaurant. With a variety of other top restaurants to choose from and some four and five-star accommodations available, you are sure to enjoy your winter time visit with Santa and his industrious little elves.
The Galapagos Islands
Winter is a fabulous time to visit the Galapagos Islands. December marks the transition from the cool/dry season to the wet/warm season in the region but any rainy season showers are warm and short-lived. The islands spring to life in the warm sunny weather and refreshing rains. Plants bloom throughout the region and nature lovers will be thrilled with the variety of wildlife they will see.
December is the month that the Giant Galapagos eggs hatch and the tiny babies make their way to the sea. And for divers, December to May is manta season when you will have the most chance to see these beautiful angels of the sea.
Enjoy a Summer Vacation in New Zealand in December
While North America is experiencing winter’s bite, summer is just beginning in New Zealand. Enjoy long, scenic drives through this beautiful country where Lord of the Rings fans might recognize the location for The Shires in the rolling green hills, or perhaps the view from Isengard to Saruman’s Tower.
December to February in New Zealand are great for adventure tourism and outdoor activities. Visit the Franz Josef Glacier, Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland or the small Art Deco inspired town of Napier. There are top-rated accommodations throughout New Zealand, along with amazing restaurants to help make your visit even more memorable and comfortable. You might even get to try a traditional Maori hangi for your Christmas dinner.
Located in the southern hemisphere, Costa Rica is a smart choice for anyone trying to escape the snowy conditions of a northern winter. Explore the unique and lush rainforests or simply relax on one of the nation’s beautiful beaches. Arenal, in Costa Rica, is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and a must-see natural wonder. Want a unique Costa Rica experience? Head to Puerto Viejo, known as the “Other Costa Rica” where the Jaguar Rescue Center rehabilitates wild cats and other animals and you will find the rainforest, wetlands and mangroves of the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.
European Skiing (France, Italy, Austria & Switzerland)
Avid skiers dream of the snow-capped Alps. And for good reason. The beauty and majesty of this stunning landscape and the challenge and thrill of the slopes, regularly feature in the imagination of dramatic novelists and film directors. (Who can forget the James Bond ski chase filmed in Austria for The Spy Who Loved Me?).
Star in your own adventure movie with exciting daytime skiing and snowboarding on some of the world’s best slopes followed by five-star comfort and dining in the luxury hotels and Michelin starred restaurants in the area.
Thailand is a beautiful destination at any time of year but it makes an especially great getaway from the cold of the northern hemisphere in winter. Bask in fabulous five-star comfort in Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental, stay in an elephant conservation camp or head to the luxury island spas for body and soul rejuvenation.
In Thailand, the latest in modern comfort and luxury contrasts with the simple lives of the Buddhist monks. The country is a colorful palette of contradictions and surprises and what better time to explore it than at Christmas?
Winter Strolling in Spain’s Spectacular Cities
A beach holiday in Spain in summer is delightful but temperatures in the cities can be unbearable. It’s much wiser to save exploring the fabulous architecture of Barcelona or strolling along Madrid’s leafy boulevards for a sunny but fresh December morning.
If you are there pre-Christmas, enjoy Christmas markets, nativity plays and the many community activities that the Spanish love to share at this time of year.
Foodies head for the resort town of San Sebastian in the Bay of Biscay for gourmet markets and shops, and some of the finest dining Spain has to offer.
Head to the Algarve in the south of Portugal for warmest winter temperatures. It will be a bit cooler in Lisbon but nothing a light jacket won’t handle. Portugal loves Christmas and unlike back home, here you are likely to be eating your Christmas dinner al fresco in a pretty street cafe. The Portuguese, like the Spanish, love nativity scenes and you’ll see them everywhere as well as streets bedecked with Christmas decorations.
The cooler months are also a great time to experience a wine tour of the Doura Valley. This beautiful UNESCO heritage site is the oldest demarcated wine growing region in the world and the birthplace of Portugal’s signature Port wine.
Australia’s Warmest Winter Welcome
If you are absolutely not dreaming of a white Christmas, head to Australia where you can celebrate the festivities on a white sandy beach instead. Forget the dreary weather at home and instead plunge into the waters around the Great Barrier Reef to experience one of the greatest natural shows on earth.
Wake-up on Christmas morning at Uluru, the sacred red rock or treat yourself to rainforest massages and an immersive spa retreat in the Australian outback. Australia has it all, fabulous weather, extreme luxury, robust adventure, friendly locals and a desire to make visitors want to come back soon.
Chile’s Natural Wonders
How about spending Christmas on Easter Island? December is summer season in South America and December to March the best time to visit Chilean Patagonia. There is much to experience in this ancient land. There are sites of both historical and natural importance, mysterious monuments and enigmatic drawings in the desert, stargazing night skies that are untouched by ambient light, or replenishing your spirits in the lush oasis of the Elqui Valley.
If it is less adventure and more romance and relaxation that takes your fancy, unwind at a resort in the Chilean Lake District or in the luxurious surroundings of the Mandarin Oriental in Santiago.
Our little blue planet has such a wide variety of beautiful destinations, each with their own character and wonderful things to explore. This year why not unwrap a different kind of gift, a journey to a corner of the world you have never visited before. As a solo traveler, as a couple or as a family, make memories this Christmas.