Travel ideas to escape the holiday madness
Feeling overwhelmed by the spirit of the season? Follow our lead for travel ideas to escape the holiday madness. From remote islands where palm trees replace Christmas trees to exotic destinations in the Muslim world where Christmas is barely a blip on the radar, here’s where to escape the madness of the holiday season.
The shopping in Tokyo is some of the best shopping in the world, to be sure. But the Japanese don’t traditionally celebrate Christmas, so you can get well away from the holiday vibe here while enjoying the city’s super-modern vibe, exploring ancient temples and dining on great Japanese food in a laid-back izakaya. Consider taking the shinkansen—the bullet train—to explore cities like Kyoto and Nara, too.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Christmas in Jamaica is all about spending time with family and friends and getting your party on at the beach. Forget being cooped up inside by the fire all day. Head to the beautiful beaches around Montego Bay or make for Jamaica’s “Capital of Casual” in Negril, where you can stay in a hotel overlooking the cliffs on the West End and spend your days frolicking in the turquoise waters.
Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
Christmas coincides with summer vacation in Uruguay, so count on the small South American country to be in vacation mode even more than holiday mode at this time. Escape to the relaxed beachside town of Punta del Diablo and follow the lead of locals, partying with family and friends on the beach and cooking up grilled meats for asado.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Even during the holidays, nothing can divert the attention from the unique animals and interesting ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands. And whether you set off on a cruise aboard a beautiful ship like Ecoventura’s MV Origin or opt to explore the Galapagos Islands from a land-based hotel on the islands, you won’t be distracted from the experience by all the commercialism of the season.
Communism trumps commercialism and religion on the tropical island of Cuba, making it a great place to visit for those looking to completely escape the overwhelming holiday spirit. Trade Christmas trees for palm trees and hot chocolate for mojitos while enjoying Cuba’s best beaches in spots like Cayo Coco and Varadero or just taking in the highlights of Havana.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Everywhere you stroll in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang in Laos, you’ll hear the sounds of monks’ chants rising from the many beautiful temples. Buddhism far outweighs any inkling of the Western holiday spirit and commercialism here. So spend your time enjoying inexpensive meals in the many restaurants and strolling along the banks of the Mekong River.
The paradise island of Bali is always a good idea for a vacation. A center of Hindu culture in the mostly-Muslim archipelago of Indonesia, Bali offers many alternatives to celebrating the holiday season. Intrepid Travel puts together great itineraries that might have you climbing the Mt. Batur volcano or chilling in the bohemian enclave of Ubud. The greenest thing you’ll see in these parts isn’t a Christmas tree but rather the emerald-hued rice terraces covering the countryside.
While Christmas is definitely celebrated in Icelandic culture, there are so many other things to divert visitors’ attention during a vacation to this winter wonderland. Head out from the main city of Reykjavik on Northern Lights tours to see a real holiday light show as the Aurora Borealis lights up the dark winter sky.
The Muslim country of Qatar and the glittering city of Doha and surrounding desert landscapes offer just the antidote to a cold Christmas back home. Go on a 4X4 off-road desert safari and soar down steep dunes, head out on Bedouin-style camping trips or shop for gold and spices and spot falcons in Doha’s exotic Souq Waqif.
Shopping in Marrakech in the colorful souks is a highlight of any trip to Morocco. And when you hear the call to prayer emanating from the city’s many mosques five times a day, any thoughts of Christmas caroling will feel far away. Stay in a riad hotel (a traditional Moroccan courtyard-style house) in the ancient medina and visit the famous Jamaa el Fna market to see the snake charmers and try traditional foods. Intrepid Travel can arrange itineraries that do it all. Farther afield, head out on trips into the desert dunes and visit ancient kasbahs.
In the land Down Under, the holidays fall right over summer vacation. And Australians celebrate Christmas enjoying sun or the beach whenever possible. The result is a Christmas holiday that feels more like a beach vacation and less like being cooped up inside by the fireplace. The city of Perth in Western Australia makes for a fun alternative to Sydney. Give yourself the gift of snorkeling with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef, stroll along pretty Elizabeth Quay or go winery-hopping in the Margaret River wine region.
Corn Islands, Nicaragua
Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island—the two tropical islands that make up Nicaragua’s Corn Islands—are located off the country’s Caribbean coast. And if you’re looking for a laid-back Caribbean locale far from the holiday-celebrating masses, this is the spot. Spend your days snorkeling in horseshoe-shaped bays or lounging on beautiful beaches like Otto Beach and Iguana Beach.
Queenstown, New Zealand
The Kiwi spin on celebrating the holidays is refreshingly low-key. For Christmas in New Zealand, people gather with friends and family and spend time outside enjoying the summer weather Down Under. In the popular resort town of Queenstown on the South Island, you might even find yourself enjoying a summer luge run or dipping into the crystal-clear lake for a swim.
Spending the holidays in a party town is always a good way to escape the Christmas feeling. And the beach town of Goa in the south of India treats Christmas like any other day—time to have a party, enjoy the beach and relax. For a more mellow holiday, there are plenty of yoga retreats to sign up for in these parts, too.
The predominantly Buddhist country of Thailand is a perennially popular vacation destination thanks to the many beautiful islands, fascinating temples and cityscapes to explore. Kick things off in Bangkok, the cosmopolitan capital, home to fabulous restaurants, rooftop hotel bars and world-class nightlife. Then board a bus, train or plane to visit popular island destinations like Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Phi Phi and Trang province.
You’re technically in France when you’re on the island of Guadeloupe. But the vibe is far more Caribbean than European here. Escape the holiday madness of the USA by visiting one of Guadeloupe’s beautiful beaches such as Plage de Vieux-Fort or Plage de Grande-Anse, enjoy a coconut ice cream in the shade of a palm tree, or take the short boat ride to visit the beautiful islands of Les Saintes, nearby.
A vacation to this island nation of 1,200 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean is always an escape from reality. And when you stay at a secluded resort here on a paradise island, you might see some holiday decorations but you’ll hardly be bombarded by the usual trappings of the season. Snorkeling or scuba diving in the Maldives is a must, as the reefs and tropical marine life are among the best in the world.
What’s better than almost anything you’d find wrapped up under the tree? How about a hot-air balloon ride above the UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscapes of Cappadocia in Turkey. Most flights last around 45 minutes, but the memories of an un-Christmas like no other will last a lifetime.
Ten Thousand Islands, Florida
The vast wilderness of the Ten Thousands Islands lies just off the southwest coast of Florida. And when you venture by kayak into the mangrove mazes and emerge onto sandy islands in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s hard to imagine a mainland locale so remote. The holiday season is a great time to go, too, since the mosquitoes have relented for winter and the dolphins and manatees are still out to play.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
Get away from it all in Bocas del Toro, a laid-back archipelago of nine main islands and many more islets and cays off the northern coast of Panama. For visitors, it’s all about relaxing on the beautiful Caribbean beaches here and partaking in eco-tourism activities such as kayaking, snorkeling and wildlife tours.
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