Celebrate St Patrick’s Day around the world

It sometimes seems that everyone is Irish on St Patrick’s Day, or at least wishes they were. The festival of Ireland’s most famous saint is celebrated around the world on March 17th, including in some unlikely places.

Here are the best places to paint the town green and celebrate St Patrick’s Day around the world.

The craic will find you in Dublin

You can’t go past the Irish capital, Dublin, as the very best place to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. The city gets into full swing for its annual St Patrick’s Festival, which runs from 12-17 March in 2010, and showcases Ireland and Dublin to the world through film, music, comedy, spectacle and family events.

World famous for its culture and craic, as well as its abundance of lively pubs, this is Ireland’s biggest annual event, attracting some 1.5 million people, culminating in the three-hour festival parade on the final day.

The parade weaves its way down O’Connell Street, through the city centre, and features Irish and international bands, street theatre troupes, giant puppetry, dancers, marching bands and pageants.

Most of the events are free, and there’s something to suit most tastes and ages, so it’s the perfect event for a good value group trip. Join in the family treasure hunt, and keep an eye out for art installations in unexpected locations around the city!

St Patrick's Day Festival 2017 - 04

Photo by Garry Knight under the Creative Commons License

St Patrick’s Day in the USA

Outside of Ireland, St Patrick’s Day is probably taken most seriously in the USA. New York City has been holding official St Patrick’s Day celebrations since 1762 and more than a million people view the parade each year.

On the other hand, Boston claims to have held the first official American St Patrick’s Day celebrations in 1737 and Massachusetts calls itself the nation’s most Irish state. You can expect a big party with music and laughter all over Boston and across the state there will be hundreds of concerts and dances, theatre and literary events, culinary feasts and and genealogy lectures from Boston to Holyoke and from the North Shore to Cape Cod.

On the March 13th the city of Chicago will be colouring its river bright Irish green with non-toxic dye to celebrate the famous St Patrick´s Day Parade on the same date. The parade is the Saturday before the actual calendar date of Saint Patrick’s Day to allow families to participate in the festivities. The best viewpoints for the parade are from the East side of the bridge at Columbus Drive or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive.

St. Patrick's Day Chicago

Photo by Maxintosh under the Creative Commons License

Savannah, Georgia, has been celebrating St Patrick’s Day since 1813. It is home to the second largest St Patrick’s parade in the US, drawing party people from around the world with numerous Irish themed events arranged throughout the day.

St Patrick’s Day in Europe 

Festa Irlandese in the Italian city of Florence is ten days of celebrations around St Patrick’s Day. Thousands of people come to see live performances of celtic music and dance in this celebration of all things Irish. And to sample what is admittedly an Italian interpretation of Irish food and drink, including plenty of stout.

In Germany the only place to be on St Patrick’s Day is Munich. The large Irish community established the first parade in 1995 with the help of Spike Milligan and the German-Irish Society of Bavaria. It’s an exciting open air party that tries to bring a bit of the Irish way of life to Munich with live music, food and of course drink. 

St Patrick

Photo by Thad Zajdowicz under the Creative Commons License

St Patrick’s Day in the Caribbean?

Did you know the Caribbean island of Montserrat is the only country besides Ireland to celebrate St Patrick’s Day as a national holiday? In fact, a whole week of events takes place on the island to mark the occasion from March 13th to 20th.

The island’s Irish Heritage dates back to the 17th century and Irish connections are still evident today from the moment visitors arrive on the island and receive their shamrock passport stamp.

Events taking place during the week will include the annual St Patrick’s dinner at the Montserrat Cultural Centre; a Freedom Run to commemorate an eighteenth century slave uprising; an island pub crawl starting at Garry Moore’s Wide Awake Bar; and a Heritage Day and feast in Festival Village, with local food, music, dances, games and the heritage day Jamboree.

By Natasha von Geldern

Where is your favourite place to spend St Patrick’s Day?

The ultimate one-month New Zealand travel itinerary

Here is my ultimate one-month New Zealand travel itinerary. I have included a mix of the main attractions and places that will not appear on a travel agent’s itinerary for New Zealand!

A few tips about planning your New Zealand travel itinerary

Overall, aim to spend more time in the South Island than the North Island because the scenery is more spectacular, although the north also has its unique charms. Try not to spend your whole holiday driving. There is a lot more ground to cover than you expect and it is often quite tiring driving because the roads are not long and straight.

To get around you will probably need to hire a car or camper van. There is some public transport in New Zealand but it is not particularly ‘joined up’ or convenient.

If you’re trying to keep the travel budget under control the hostels/backpacker lodges are of a good standard everywhere and usually have private rooms. Holiday homes are often available for rent if you want to base yourself in one place for a week e.g. Queenstown. Note that if you are there in January it’s probably necessary to book accommodation ahead because this is peak holiday time for New Zealanders.

Do you want to do some hiking in New Zealand?

This is highly recommended because if you want to really experience New Zealand’s natural beauty you need to get out of the car! If you want to include going hiking in your New Zealand travel itinerary your starting point will probably be to consider the so-called ‘Great Walks’ of New Zealand, which are all outstanding.

Mt Ruapehu from the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

Definitely do the Tongariro Crossing (one day) in the North Island, it’s dubbed the best day walk in the world after all! In the summer you often have to book your hut accommodation for the Great Walks ahead of time. If you want to do the Milford Track you have to book at least six months in advance. The Routeburn is a good option as it is shorter than the others and very spectacular.

I can also recommend a number of ‘non-great-walks’, such as the Rees-Dart Track, which you don’t have to book but still offer an outstanding NZ hiking experience – drop me a note in the comments.

Daley's Flat Hut, Rees-Dart Track, Hiking in New Zealand

You’ll need equipment such as sleeping bags and good hiking gear as the huts in NZ are good but basic (definitely not catered) and the weather can be unpredictable even in summer. Doing a multi-day walk involves a bit of planning as you have to think about leaving your car etc. It also eats into your time in New Zealand.

If a multi-day walk is not your cup of tea there are so many short walks all over the country that are well marked and with good trails. Take a look at my post about preparing to hike in New Zealand.

I also recommend picking up a paddle during your time in New Zealand – either in the Abel Tasman National Park or the Whanganui River trip (also a ‘great walk’ even though it’s not a walk).

Without further ado let’s kick off the ultimate one-month New Zealand travel itinerary:

Fly into Auckland…

Spend a couple days in Auckland, dealing with the jetlag. Either stay in central Auckland or choose somewhere like Devonport, a pretty waterfront suburb from where you can get the ferry into the city.

Auckland city at night, New Zealand

Catch the ferry out to Waiheke Island (beaches, wineries) as a day trip from Auckland.  Make sure to go somewhere high in Auckland to get a view over the city and harbours e.g. Mt Eden or the Skytower.

If you want to get off the beaten track go out to the west coast beaches, Piha and Karekare are wildly beautiful with black sand and dangerous surf.

Piha, New Zealand

The Bay of Islands or the Coromandel Peninsula

A lot of people go north to the Bay of Islands but if you want to spend some beach time on your holiday I recommend the Coromandel Peninsula. Hahei is a lovely spot to stay – a quiet beach community that is not touristy. Do the day walk to Cathedral Cove.

Go to Hot Water Beach and dig a hole in the sand. Further up the peninsula there is a little train and bush walks. For example the Waiau walk (off the 309 road) takes you through big Kauri trees to a gorgeous waterfall.

Searching for Hobbitses in New Zealand

On the way south stop at the Hobbiton film set near the tiny hamlet of Matamata in the Waikato region. Even if you’re not a Tolkien fanatic you’ll love the delightful hobbit holes and the way the world of the Hobbit books is brought to life.

The Party Field, Hobbiton, New Zealand

Thrills and smells in the central North Island

Next head for Rotorua where you can view some of New Zealand’s famous geothermal activity and learn about Maori culture. Whakarewarewa is well worth a visit. Nearby Mt Tarawera is beautiful and a crater walk very interesting. Apparently you do get used to that rotten egg sulphur smell over time!

Rotorua geothermal, New Zealand

Drive to ‘National Park’ for the Tongariro Crossing. Stop just before Lake Taupo to stretch your legs with a walk to Huka Falls and a taking stroll on the shores of Lake Taupo is also very pleasant. If you want to see more geothermal activity or decided to skip Rotorua there are a number of other options here, including the easily accessible Craters of the Moon with steam vents and mud pools.

Café culture in Wellington

Then drive to Wellington. If you want to break the journey with a meal/coffee the best place to stop is the little town of Taihape, which has some decent cafes (Brown Sugar, Le Café Telephonique).

Wellington has great cafes/eateries and the Te Papa Wellington is the must see on the waterfront. Drive up Mt Victoria for the view over the harbour or take the cable car up to the university.

Cable Car Wellington New Zealand

From Wellington catch the ferry to Picton. There are two options – the Interislander and the Bluebridge ferries and you will probably have to book your crossing ahead of time if you are taking your car.

Ferry entering Wellington Harbour, New Zealand

Wines and Whales in New Zealand’s South Island

Head to the Marlborough region and spend a day pottering around the vineyards. My favourite wineries include HighField Estate Winery (book lunch here), Cloudy Bay, Hunters, and Grove Mill.

Drive south to Kaikoura for whale watching and there are nice walks along the coast where you can see fur seals basking in the sun on the rocks.

Kaikoura coast New Zealand

New Zealand’s highest peak: Mt Aoraki

Drive to Mt Cook village. This is a long driving day (6 hrs) but there are a few stops on the way for photo opportunities – at Lake Tekapo by the Church of the Good Shepherd and then another stop at the foot of Lake Pukaki.

Church of Good Shepherd, Tekapo, New Zealand

From Mt Cook you can go on a glacier lake tour and there are a number of short walks. There are only two accommodation options here, an expensive hotel here (the Hermitage) and a backpackers’ lodge…

Drive from Mt Cook to Queenstown stopping at Kelling Ponds for photos.

New Zealand’s star: Queenstown

There are lots of fun activities to do around Queenstown including walking, wineries, horse riding etc. The Shotover Jetboat, the lake trip on the TSS Earnslaw paddle steamer up Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station, and taking the Skyline Gondola up the hill for views over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

There is a lovely day walk here called the Moonlight Track – you take the gondola up and then walk. You can take a side path up the summit of (the other) Ben Lomond on the way.

The Kiwi Bird Sanctuary is near the gondola station and a great opportunity to see the national symbol (in artificial darkness as they are nocturnal), as well as other fascinating creatures like the Tuatara. They run excellent conservation-focused shows.

Drive up the lake to Glenorchy. There are more lovely wineries around Queenstown (mostly pinot noir), often serving delicious lunches and very family friendly.

Milford Sound New Zealand

Do a trip to Milford Sound. It is a beautiful drive with lots of stops/little walks on the way then you can do a boat cruise on the fjord. If you want to do a Great Walk, the Routeburn Track is a good option from Te Anau because it is a bit shorter than the other great walks and absolutely spectacular. The Milford Track is New Zealand’s most famous.

Next drive through to Wanaka via the Cardrona Valley (have lunch at the historic Cardrona Hotel on the way). Wanaka is a smaller/quieter lakeside town with more lovely day walks. and nice cafes.

Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

New Zealand’s West Coast

Drive from Wanaka to Fox village via the Haast Pass, stopping at the Knights’ Point lookout on the way.

On the West Coast the glaciers are the big attraction. I recommend a heli-hike on the glacier if you can afford the cost or the glacier walk.

West Coast scenery near Lake Matheson, New Zealand

Go early in the morning to take photos of Lake Mathieson with its backdrop of mountains. There is an awesome overnight walk here up to Welcome Flats (there are hot pools at the hut).

Drive on up the coast. There are a few wonderfully quirky little places to stay, such as tiny Okarito (there is a very pretty half-day walk here) and Blackball. This ex-mining community inland from Greymouth has an old hotel that is full of character (and characters).

From Greymouth one route is to take the Trans Alpine train to Christchurch, although that may not be an option if you have a hire car. Or you can carry on north to the Abel Tasman National Park.

Kayaking and walking in Abel Tasman National Park

This area has beautiful golden-sand beaches and you can either go sea kayaking (from half to three day trips) or the coastal hike. I have stayed at The Barn a couple of times and it has good budget accommodation in a lovely setting. The kayak hire place is just down the road from here. If you have time you could go across into Golden Bay.

Abel Tasman National Park New Zealand

Photo by Michael von Geldern

Finally drive back to Christchurch with a stop at Maruia Springs, a gorgeous place to stay the night in the forest enjoying the hot pools.

Fly out from Christchurch …

I hope you found my ultimate one-month New Zealand travel itinerary useful. Happy travel planning!


The Ultimate One-Month New Zealand travel Itinerary

Jordan: How to visit the Dead Sea (with children)

When visiting Jordan it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list to float in the Dead Sea. The lowest point on earth and floating in the hypersaline water makes it a unique experience. But I have to tell you about how our visit to the Dead Sea (with children) was almost a disaster.

The Dead Sea part of our Jordan holiday was the part I really talked up to my daughter. “This is the bit you’re going to love,” I said. “It’s going to be so exciting floating without swimming!” Those were my lines when I was planning the long drives and cultural visits for the Wandering Kiwi family.

And after months of the big up sell, she lasted less than a minute in the water. That’s right, she ran crying from the water on what was supposed to be the most exciting day of our trip. Parenting fail.

Of course, the water is really salty – the salinity level is 342 grams per kilogram – and she had some (not visible to the naked eye) little cuts or abrasions, and the water made them really sting. I had some grazes on my hands from rock climbing in Wadi Rum and they stung initially in the water but children’s skin is so much more sensitive. She hated the idea of slapping mineral-rich black mud on herself, unlike me…

Dead Sea mud bath Jordan

Now I’m not usually one for seaside resorts with multiple restaurants and pool complexes but this time I was so happy that on a whim I booked us two nights at the Movenpick Dead Sea Spa and Resort.

Dead Sea Sunset Jordan

For some tourists on a holiday in Jordan a few hours is all they schedule for the experience. There is a public beach (the entry cost is 25 JDs) that makes it easy to spend a bit of time floating in the water. You can see the Dead Sea beach in the midground of this photo – that sloping brown area:

Movenpick Dead Sea Spa and Resort Jordan lowest point

There are a lot of flies around and it is quite humid (a real change after the dryness of other parts of Jordan) so you don’t want to be spending a lot of time sunbathing or lounging about anywhere.

Movenpick Dead Sea Spa and Resort Jordan

But because we were staying two nights at the hotel resort, the swimming in the Dead Sea disaster turned into happiness. Because of the stunning swimming pool area and ice cream bar and free soft drinks and… She and Mr Wandering Kiwi didn’t get out of that pool until it was well past sunset…

Movenpick Dead Sea Spa and Resort Jordan pool sunset

Staying here also gives you a chance to visit the Dead Sea at different times of day. In the afternoon I found things quite lively, with groups having fun with the mud and lots of people in and out of the water.

In the morning, about 9am it was much quieter and my experience floating in the Dead Sea was wonderfully serene (being without a crying child might also have had something to do with that).

I could enjoy the surroundings and look with interest at the mountains of Israel and at the salt crystals encrusting the rocks at the water’s edge. It was a beautiful thing.

The beautiful Dead Sea Jordan and views of Israel

Basically it was a happy place for a family who was tired after a week of amazing Jordan adventures. Plus they had cats! There were cats and kittens around the resort to befriend. Thanks to the Movenpick and because my daughter really enjoyed so many of our other experiences in Jordan it wasn’t the end of the world that she didn’t like floating in the Dead Sea. Phew!

By Natasha von Geldern

How did you visit the Dead Sea in Jordan?

Italy: If you’ve only got one day in Venice

Obviously I am not actually recommending that you only spend one day in Venice but what if your travel itinerary allows you only one day to see La Serenissima? It is still worth doing!

“So now, thank God, Venice is no longer a mere word to me, an empty name, a state of mind which has so often alarmed me who am the mortal enemy of mere words.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This is what happened to my brother recently and we did a mad tour around the city, seeing all the main sights. Despite the sometimes overwhelming summer tourist crowds we managed to give him a whistle stop tour of Venice, including many beautiful churches, bridges and canals. It helped that I’d visited Venice several times before.

An emergency Venice walking tour

If you have arrived in Venice by train or bus your entry point to the City of Bridges will be Piazzale Roma and this is where you should start your walking tour of Venice. It may be worthwhile buying a transport ticket from the office here, for example a one day travel card for 20 Euros may be worthwhile depending on how much public transport you are going to use (tip: Venice is very walkable). A single adult one-way fare on the water taxi costs 7.50 Euros but your journey can last up to 75 minutes and you can use more than one line during that time.

Head across the bridge into Giardino Papadopoli, walk through the gardens and cross another bridge before turning left onto Fondamenta dei Tolentini. This becomes Calle dei Amai and then continue straight ahead onto Fondamenta Sacchere, which becomes Calle Chiovere. At the end of this street turn right briefly and then left onto Calle Larga O Campiello de le Chiovere. Have a look at the beautiful Chiesa San Rocco with its Tintoretto paintings and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum if you have time.

“It is charming to wander through the light and shade of intricate canals, with perpetual architecture above you and perpetual fluidity beneath.” – Henry James

Next turn left along the side of the Frari, one of the greatest churches in Venice. It’s full name is the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and it was completed in 1338. It is full of great art, particularly the huge Assumption altarpiece by Titian.

Venetian Palazzo Italy

From the facade of the Frari cross the little bridge and turn right onto the Fondamenta Frari. Then turn left onto Rio Terra Cazza, right onto Calle Seconda dei Saoneri, then left onto Calle Saoneri. Continue straight(ish) until you get to Campo San Polo, one of the biggest public squares in Venice and home to Chiesa Rettoriale di San Polo.

Cross the Campo and duck down Calle Cavalli then follow Calle Luganegher and then Calle Perdon until you get to Chiesa Sant’Aponal. Turn right into Calle Sbianchesini, follow this until you get to Campo di Silvestro and cross this until you get to the Riva del Vin waterfront. Stroll along here until you get to the Rialto Bridge, the oldest fixed way to cross the Grand Canal. With two levels and lots of shops it has become one of the architectural icons of Venice since it was completed in 1591.

Venice Rialto Bridge Italy

On the other side of the Rialto turn left and follow Pescaria San Bortolomio until you turn left into Calle Bembo – just after the European Cultural Centre in the magnificent Palazzo Bembo. Then carry on straight ahead until you get to Piazza San Marco, perhaps Europe’s most famous set piece with the exotic San Marco Basilica surrounded by so many architectural gems. The Correr Museum is here, as well as the National Archaeological Museum.

“It is very old, and very grand, and bent-backed. Its towers survey the lagoon in crotchety splendour, some leaning one way, some another.” – Jan Morris, Venice

More than likely by the time you get to St Marks the queues for both the Basilica and the campanile (bell tower) will be long and with only one day in Venice you don’t want to waste it standing in line! Never fear, there is a much easier and just as satisfying way to get an aerial view of beautiful Venice.

Venice Piazza San Marco Italy

Walk down to the lagoon between the Doge’s Palace and Sansovino’s exquisite Library. Turn left and walk along to see the famous Bridge of Sighs, the brilliant white limestone construction whereby prisoners crossed from the prison to the interrogation rooms in the palace.

Venice Bridge of Sighs Italy

Then, carry on along the Riva degli Schiavoni to the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop and catch a No 2 water taxi across to the tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore.  Here there are no queues and an elevator up the campanile for spectacular views across the whole of Venice. Enjoy the peace and the sea breezes. You also get a great view of the beautiful (private) monastery gardens.

San Giorgio Maggiore Venice Italy

When you’ve finished on San Giorgio Maggiore, catch the No. 2 back to San Zaccaria and then board a water taxi that will take you all the way up the Grand Canal to Piazzale Roma for bus, train and flight transport connections.

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.” – Italy Calvino, Invisible Cities

Venice at Night

If your day in Venice extends into the evening, after the overwhelming business of the day you’ll love the more peaceful atmosphere and the soft air that makes Italian nights so divine. I recommend booking a meal on the terrace at Restaurant Terrazza Danieli near the Doge’s Palace followed by a drink at the Skyline Rooftop Bar over on Giudecca.

Venice lagoon and gondolas Italy

Those are my tips for spending a day in Venice. You’ll inevitably wander off track here and there. Don’t worry, that’s part of the joy of being in Venice. Of course you’ll return one day and spend more time in this wonderful city, visiting the incredible museums and just sitting on ancient steps listening to the slap, slap of water against stone.

“The trip will be short,” he thought, and wished it might last forever. – Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

By Natasha von Geldern

If you’ve only got one day to see Venice pin this post!

What to do if you only have one day in Venice!

Magical Christmas holiday ideas around the world

Whether you’re dreaming of a white Christmas or a day on the beach, people are already turning their minds to Christmas holidays, so here are some great ideas for those planning their Christmas break, from beautiful Christmas markets trips to less traditional festive escapes.

Christmas holidays in the United Kingdom

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is London’s largest and most dazzling winter event and is open for six whole weeks of festive fun from late November until early January. With no admission fee, Winter Wonderland offers a whole day out from 10:00 to 22:00 with beautifully themed attractions set out under thousands of twinkly lights. The event seems to add more rides and attractions every year, including the popular ice rink, the iconic 50m observation wheel and the atmospheric German Christmas market. The free Father Christmas experience will welcome all children with a surprise gift. Read here for more ideas about Christmas in London.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland London

Discover the magic of an Edwardian Christmas in Britain at Batemans, the former home of Rudyard Kipling in East Sussex. This 17th Century home provides a remarkable insight into the life of the well known author. For the second year running Batemans will be opening its doors for the first three weekends in December to display the ground floor of the house all decked out for Christmas.

Santa’s Winter Wonderland at the Snowdome in Tamworth looks set to be just as popular as ever, with families and visitors flocking to experience Christmas magic in the Midlands. This festive attraction guarantees real snow to play in, have snowball fights or hitch a ride on a sledge as you wander through the snowy Christmas forest.

Basel Christmas decorations in the Old Town, Switzerland

Christmas can sometimes be a stressful period with family members coming to visit, a Christmas dinner to prepare for everyone and debates over who does the washing up! If this sounds all too familiar then why not take a break from it all this year with a Christmas holiday in Edinburgh?

At Christmas Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most memorable destinations for romantic getaways, family adventures, cultural explorations and shopping breaks.  Scotland’s capital is staging a month of winter festivities and this beautiful city will be alive with markets, entertainment and events from late November. Beneath the dramatic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, thousands of fairy lights illuminate the streets and gardens where activities include one of Europe’s largest outdoor ice rinks, the iconic Big Wheel swirling with colour and lights and a range of exhilarating fun fair rides, combining to create a breathtaking way to celebrate Christmas.

Sip traditional Gluhwein and browse handcrafted gifts at the popular German market, or enjoy the first class food at the Highland village market This year a new lantern parade, twinkling through the city streets, will mark the arrival of Santa himself in Princes Street Gardens, before thousands take to the streets for the Great Santa Run.

For a UK Christmas holiday with a difference head to the beautiful island of St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. The largest and most vibrant of the islands, St Mary’s offers around 30 miles of coastal paths and nature trails to explore. The landscape ranges from woodlands to heaths and marshland to sand dunes. There are also many ancient monuments to see.

Basel Christmas decorations, Switzerland

One of the best Christmas Grottos in the south of England this year will be at Colchester Zoo. Their Magic of Christmas season will feature beautiful lighting displays, loads of special activities and of course the opportunity to meet Santa between 09:30 and 16:00 each day. Every child will receive a present and Santa will even be bringing his reindeer.

European Christmas breaks

There is no better time to visit the stunning medieval city of Bruges than over the Christmas period, when the city’s main square comes alive with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas market. Browse tables laden with elegantly wrapped chocolates, brightly coloured sweets and handmade decorations while admiring the lights that adorn the cobbled streets and historic buildings. At the centre of the market is a beautiful ice rink and for those who would like an extra wintery experience, Europe’s only Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival is held in Station Square. Read more about Christmas markets holiday ideas in Europe here.

Basle Christmas Markets Switzerland

Visiting Santa on his home turf

For some a trip to Lapland to meet Santa Claus is the ultimate Christmas holiday and with fairy-tale landscapes, Christmas attractions and magic in the air it’s little wonder the old gent chose the snowy wilderness of Lapland to be his home. You can do day trips and three and four night stays in Lapland throughout December, as well as special seven-night holidays. Enjoy starlit firework displays, visit the Snow Ice Park and the amazing ice hotel, go husky dog sledding, snowmobiling and of course meet Santa and the elves.

Christmas in the sun

Forget the traditional turkey and trimmings, how about a festive escape with a tropical twist? Treat yourself to Christmas in Hawaii this year and enjoy stunning beaches, sun-filled vistas, dramatic landscapes, welcoming locals, the world’s best surfing spots and a balmy 28 degrees Celsius during winter. Christmas in Hawaii comes with a definite (hula) twist, from street parades to rice cake making, there’s a variety of activities across all of the islands for the whole family to enjoy.

Christmas holidays with a difference

For an event capturing the traditional spirit of a pioneer Christmas, how about a trip to Texas? The National Ranching Heritage Centre hosts the annual ‘Candlelight at the Ranch’ event, when luminarias light the paths around historic structures and Ranch Hosts recreate holiday scenes of trimming trees with home-made decorations, playing traditional music and gathering around the campfire on a cold winter’s night. Visitors can experience authentic yuletide celebrations that took place on the open prairie more than 100 years ago.

London Christmas Jumpers

Indulgent Christmas holidays

Escape the cold and dark days and celebrate the festive season Polynesian style in Bora Bora with a turquoise Christmas dream in Bora Bora’s pristine lagoon, fringed with coral islets and soft sands. Have a festive season of indulgence and leave your winter woes behind as you enjoy the special programme of culinary treats, as well as pampering in the Spa Miri Miri. Father Christmas himself even makes his way to the French Polynesian island bearing gifts for all on Christmas Day – after the champagne brunch of course.

By Natasha von Geldern

Where is your favourite place to travel for Christmas and why?

Magical Christmas Holiday ideas around the world