Christmas holiday destinations
There was been a dramatic rise in the past 20 years in the numbers of people going on holiday at Christmas. In the past, people tended to stay at home, visiting relatives and hunkering down for the traditional celebrations. But Christmas holidays in the sun are now increasingly popular with couples and families determined to be somewhere hot – or at least sunny and warm.
This has increased competition for flights, but has also led to a huge growth in the number and variety of holidays at Christmas offered by tour operators. And it’s not just “hot holidays” at Christmas. You can also find hotel deals in the UK, ski holidays and traditional winter activities.
In spite of the growth in Christmas holidays, you can often pick up some great deals, particularly if you are willing to fly on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day itself. Others prefer to celebrate at home then fly off on Boxing Day or the day after. Here, we present some of the best Christmas holiday destinations and how to book.
Note: all the travel companies featured are personally recommended by our editors.
The best Christmas holidays in the sun 2013
The Caribbean is a classic Christmas holiday destination – but it’s not cheap. If you want a good deal you’ll need to travel before the schools break up. Our favourite islands include Barbados, Tobago and Jamaica. For adults-only all-inclusive relaxation, we recommend Sandals. For value, look at the Dominican Republic. See the latest offers.
A Caribbean villa is a great way for families to spend Christmas. If you want to push the boat out, how about a sailing holiday in the Caribbean? We recommend Sunsail. If you’re an experienced sailor, book a bareboat yacht charter. If not, go to sailing school first.
In Asia, Thailand is a wonderful Christmas holiday destination. It’s great value, the weather will be hot and dry and – although it’s a Buddhist country – Christmas is celebrated with charm and enthusiasm. Phuket is one of the best places to stay. See our recommendations for the best hotels in Phuket.
Where to go at Christmas if you don’t want a long flight
You don’t need to cross oceans to find sunshine and warm temperatures at the end of December. It’s only 5 hours flying time to Egypt which offers great weather, excellent hotels and modest prices. This is the ideal time of year for sightseeing as it’s not too hot. Combine the Pyramids, Luxor and the Valley of the Kings on a 10-night Classic Egypt holiday.
In less than 5 hours you can be in the Canaries where you can expect temperatures of 24C at Christmas. Tenerife is a beautiful island once you get away from the crowded resorts of the south: for couples and families we recommend Abama Golf & Spa Resort.
Neighbouring Lanzarote is also a great choice. We recommend the Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort for families. Or grab yourselves a gorgeous villa with a private pool, making a great base for exploring this beautiful island.
North of the Canaries, Madeira is a stunning place to celebrate Christmas. It’s great for walking, dining out and experiencing the local culture. You can stay at a resort hotel in Funchal or one of the Quintas, traditional countryside hotels.
Six hours flying time gets you to Dubai which offers a heady mix of glamour, shopping and entertainment. There are many spectacular hotels in the city itself or you could stay in the desert at the charming Al Maha Desert Resort. You can also try some extreme activities in Dubai including a tandem sky dive, and a 300 kph drive in a specially-adapted two-seater F1 race car.
For a taste of the “real” Arabia, try Dubai’s next door neighbour, Oman. It boasts great beach hotels such as Six Senses Zighy Bay with ancient culture, adventure tours and beautiful untouched scenery. View the latest special offers.
Christmas holiday ideas for families
The Caribbean is hard to beat for families. We recommend the all-inclusive Verandah Resort & Spa in Antigua, which is set in 30 acres of beach and gardens and offers free watersports including windsurfing and sailing. The all-inclusive Beaches Resorts are excellent for kids of all ages. Try Beaches Turks & Caicos or Beaches Negril.
If your family is not content to lie around beside a pool, check out this selection of active family holidays. Great Christmas holiday destinations include Costa Rica where we love this Rainforest & Volcanoes tour.
We also recommend these family adventures in Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Both are remarkable destinations combing great value with excellent weather over the Christmas period. Other family tips include a tour of China and the chance to visit the pyramids and swim in the Red Sea on a family tour of Egypt.
Christmas in Africa is always magical. Check out these family holidays in Kenya. If your children love horses, why not saddle up for a horse riding with Aardvark Safaris in the Masai Mara or Okavango Delta.
South Africa is a great destination for families. We like this self-drive Cape Town, Garden Route and Safari holiday. Or you could head to Tanzania for a safari and beach holiday perhaps combining game drives at Selous Impala Camp, where you will sleep in a family tent and see elephant, lion, giraffe and hippo, with The Tides, a friendly hotel on a white-sand beach.
More Christmas holiday ideas for families? How about Mauritius, which offers overnight flights, no jet lag and superb hotels, many with free kids clubs. Check out The Residence Mauritius and these latest special offers.
For single parent holidays, we recommend Single With Kids.
See our full selection of family holiday ideas.
Best Christmas holidays in the UK
Clearly, you are not going to enjoy beach weather if you stay in the UK, but you can find great hotel packages and – if you want to get away from the crowds – some wonderful self-catering accommodation.
For a warm hotel welcome set amongst beautiful countryside, we recommend Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District, and Lucknam Park in the countryside near Bath. Families will love Sands Resort on the north coast of Cornwall.
In Devon, The Cary Arms – the latest project from Peter de Savary and his wife Lana – is the height of British seaside chic overlooking Babbacombe Bay.
From London it’s a short drive to Maison Talbooth in Constable Country on the Essex / Suffolk border.
If you want to rent a cottage over Christmas, we recommend Sheepskin which has gorgeous properties in Wales and Devon.
Cool Christmas holidays
Christmas is a great time of year to venture north to discover natural wonders. One of the most exciting winter trips is to Iceland where you have a great chance of glimpsing the Northern Lights. Next winter (2013-2014) will offer some of the most spectacular displays in recent years, according to Nasa. There is lots more to see in Iceland including glaciers, hot springs and geysers, volcanic craters, lava flows and waterfalls. Plus the capital Reykyavik is charming.
In Russia, the city of St Petersburg is never more beautiful than when snow is piled high on the pavements and there is skating on frozen rivers.
Skiing over Christmas is surprisingly good value – much less expensive than February half term week. We recommend Ski Esprit which has superb childcare and family-friendly chalets. See the latest special offers. For luxury family ski holidays we recommend Powder Byrne, which also offers ski weekends and stylish family skiing at San Cassiano in Italy. See the latest ski availability over Christmas.
If you want a traditional celebration, head across to Europe to visit a Christmas market. There are famous markets in Cologne, Munich and Prague, along with church services, concerts, hymn recitals and ice staking. For the ultimate cosy Christmas experience try a lesser-known city such as Freiburg, Koblenz or Wiesbaden.