Escaping Christmas: five festive-free getaways
The festive season means something different to everyone – and while some people plan escapes to celebrate the so-called ‘most magical time of the year’, others will be hoping to escape Christmas altogether. Happily, there are plenty of options to whisk you away from the festivities, says Karen Edwards
If you’re someone who prefers to give the frivolities of a home-style Christmas a wide berth, constant reminders of the season can feel suffocating. Rest assured that you are not alone. Luckily, countries all over the globe offer glorious getaways that eschew Christmas traditions. Here are five worth investigating…
Morocco: good food and good people
If you prefer to be among people rather than trees, Morocco’s vibrant business-as-usual atmosphere continues throughout December – without so much as a nod towards the festive mayhem.
Treat yourself to the comforts of a riad hotel in Marrakech, such as La Sultana or Les Yeux Bleus, and you’ll be a stone’s throw from the food stalls and artistry of nearby Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. Steaming bowls of harira soup and spicy, slow-cooked tagines are a welcome change from turkey and Brussels sprouts, while people-watching with a pot of mint tea amidst the colourful chaos of the medinas is almost a must-do pastime.
For those seeking quiet, the wonders of the Atlas Mountains – including the mudbrick ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou – are waiting to be explored. Plus, there will always be a place by the pool.
The Maldives: drop and flop
Home to just 30 beachside and over-the-water villas, the Drift Thelu Veliga Resort in the Maldives is a true antithesis to Christmas. Guests are encouraged to take their shoes off at the door and not put them back on until the day they leave.
Meanwhile, each villa has its own sand path leading to silky-soft white-sand beaches. Sign up for a snorkel or dive in the indigoes and blues surrounding the atolls, where fringing reefs are home to hundreds of colourful fish and reef sharks, while manta rays feed nearby. Back ‘home’, the restaurant chefs fuse together the flavours of Sri Lankan and Indian cuisine to produce mouthwatering options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
By the time you return, Christmas will be just a memory. And, while everyone else will be filled with too many mince pies, you will return full of life, rejuvenated and relaxed.
Finland: solitude within nature
The archetypical Northern Hemisphere winter can be found in Finland, where snow-covered landscapes reach out to the horizon and reindeer graze among the holly brambles. Rural regions such as Lapland and Lakeland are stunning under the glistening snowfall that’s commonplace in December, and log cabins rentals are a popular choice for visitors.
The cabins are typically Finnish holiday homes that have been transformed into glorious self-catering chalet-style havens for those seeking a little solace within the forest-covered landscape. These carefully designed homes offer a mindful retreat away from the crowds. Basics such as linen and blankets are provided, but do bring your own creature comforts, not forgetting a Kindle and a pair of walking boots.
Japan: a cultural excursion
Should the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns have you yearning to explore a long-haul destination, Japan is a wonderful option. Rather than remaining in the capital, Tokyo, jump on a long-distance train going north and enjoy the meditative beauty of slow travel, as you spend seven hours chug-chugging towards the northern prefecture of Hokkaido Island.
Away from buzzing Sapporo’s central train station is the small coastal town of Otaru, where you can watch the sunset over the ocean, while enjoying the most authentic of Japanese food. Few tourists come here, so restaurants such as Yabuhan are low key but a delight for the (mainly local) tastebuds. While temperatures remain in low single figures, there are plenty of delicacies to keep you toasty, such as the region’s famous warming butter-corn ramen and the perfect-on-every-occasion zangi chicken karaage.
Qatar: sunny celebrations
Tiny Middle Eastern nation Qatar enjoys temperatures around 24°C at this time of year. Qataris relish their own cultural celebrations throughout December, with a three-week food festival taking place this year at the Al Bidda Park.
Elsewhere, history buffs can enjoy the pop-up Flag Museum, where the story of the nation is told through an exhibition of photographs, paintings and scripts, while there are always exhibitions on at Katara Cultural Village. And style enthusiasts will enjoy the Heya Arabian Fashion Exhibition (from 12-17 December), which showcases the work of women within the style industry, focusing on young entrepreneurs and up-and-coming designers.
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