If the idea of spending a few days with the in-laws has got you daydreaming of a change of scene this Christmas, we hear you. The good news is that there are plenty of exciting alternative Christmas destinations still out there if you can plan an escape – from the picturesque coast of Croatia to the warm sunshine and vibrant colours of St Lucia.
We can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to find a traditional Christmas day turkey roast at all of these destinations, but that’s the point, right? Here are our top picks for alternative Christmas holidays.
The Roman town of Porec, one of Croatia’s prettiest coastal spots, is a great place to visit off-season when you’ll only have the friendly locals for company. Croats love the festive season and there’s no shortage of things to do here, from ice rinks and open-air concerts to Christmas markets. Spend your days exploring the UNESCO World Heritage basilica and taste some of the countries finest food and drink including truffles, wine and olive oil at the towns’ excellent restaurants.
Steaming hot chocolate, lakeside saunas, ice rinks in historic royal palaces and cold-water dips are just the beginning for a festive break in Sweden’s coastal capital. We love this city for its amazing diversity, from regal architecture to an edgy underground art scene. Wrap up warm and spend your days like the locals – outdoors – exploring the 14 surrounding islands and snacking on traditional Swedish dishes like meatballs or gravadlax smoked salmon.
If golden sandy beaches, warm sunshine and peaceful retreat are what you crave, then Goa is an ideal laid-back escape. It’s also great value too so a festive break here won’t break the bank. We love the East meets West vibe – the states’ Portuguese heritage permeates the landscape with Baroque architecture and grand Portuguese villas, alongside chic beach boutique hotels, yoga retreats and traditional houses. On Christmas day, swap the dry turkey for seafood and fresh coconut on the beach.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, it’s hard to imagine a prettier setting for Christmas than the 18th-century Georgian town of Bath. The whole place is transformed in the festive season with twinkling lights and Christmas celebrations galore including the famous Christmas market that sells quintessentially British produce. Warm up from the chill at the Roman hot spring baths or meander through the cobbled streets, past cream-coloured houses and crescents.
A two and a half hour taxi ride from Marrakech will land you in the tranquil village of Oualidia on the Atlantic coast, facing a stunning saltwater lagoon. Loved by Moroccans and a small set of in-the-know Europeans, this is a place to totally switch off – go surfing, eat oysters, watch the tide or the gorgeous sunset over a cocktail or two. There is a small selection of excellent hotels and restaurants but you won’t find much more, just locals going about their daily lives in this charming part of little-known Morocco.
St Lucia, Caribbean
If the Pitons, St Lucia’s two impossibly photogenic volcanic peaks, aren’t enough to tempt you to the island, then the breathtaking nature, friendly people, hidden white sand beaches and party vibes will. Oh, and the amazing food which brings together Indian, British and Caribbean influences. You can be as lazy or as active as you want, with chocolate making, cycling, snorkelling and hiking just some of the things to do on Christmas day.
Tallinn’s old city centre is postcard-pretty: old churches, Baroque architecture, colourful rooftops and cobbled streets. Though the weather may not be St Lucia, Tallinn shines like a (Christmas) star during the festive season.
Supposedly, Tallinn is the home of the first-ever Christmas tree put on display in Europe in 1441. And it is one of the best European Christmas markets organised annually. Shopping, sauerkraut, blood sausages and a glass of mulled wine. Merry Christmas one and all.
For more December travel inspiration, read our monthly Where To Go Edit