Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year… until you’re overwhelmed by turkey timings and squabbling kids. Why not put the office shutdown to good use and escape it all with a Christmas getaway or New Year holiday?
Escape the cold and head to an alternative destination this holiday season. It’s a great time for a sun-soaked retreat to stave off the winter blues, and if you round up your favourite faces for a self-catering villa holiday, you can avoid the sky-high prices and jam-packed restaurants of hotels over the festive season. Check out below our top picks for you to trial a different Christmas holiday this year, or read more if you want to find out our favourite 'Christmas Getaway' destinations:
Carol singing with Christmas villa holidays in Cyprus
Steeped in Greek mythology and legend, Paphos is an intoxicating place to visit year round – but even more so over the Christmas holidays. Every year a carol-singing event is held at Paphos Harbour, set against a fairy-tale backdrop of the moonlit castle.
Running for close to a decade, the festivities are led by a local soprano, and attract around 600 people – both locals and tourists. A sea of twinkling candles can be seen among the crowd, who sing classics such as Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful. The event is run as part of the Paphos municipality festive programme, which also includes theatre, dance and music performances.
Dordogne Christmas markets and chateaux
Chateau-peppered countryside, Christmas markets, pretty villages, rich food: the Dordogne ticks all the boxes for dreamy Christmas villa holidays. Every city, town and village across France holds their own version of the Marché de Noël, many with small wooden chalets sheltering stalls of local cheeses, pastries, candies and other artisanal delicacies – plus the ubiquitous mulled wine, or vin chaud.
Some of the best markets can be found in the medieval town of Sarlat-la-Canéda; Perigeux, where stalls are arranged around a skating rink; and Bergerac, which showcases traditions like glass blowing and basket weaving.
Beynac, nice town in Dordogne
Sun-soaked Christmas in the Canary Islands
From the Santa Parade in Puerto del Carmen to elaborate Belenes (nativity displays) across the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is perfect for a sun-drenched Christmas holiday. But if you can’t get into the festive spirit without a White Christmas, Tenerife offers the best of both worlds. While the coast remains balmy year round, Mount Teide is often blanketed in snow come winter, with locals sledding down its powdery slopes. We advise picking a villa holiday as many resorts close their restaurants on Christmas Eve – a time for family celebrations at home. New Year holidays are celebrated widely across the Canaries, with all-night fiestas and street parties.
Teresitas beach, Tenerife
Beach parties with New Year holidays in Thailand
Thailand knows how to ring in the New Year in style. In the party capital of Phuket, all the major beaches come alive with firework displays and buzzy clubs; our top picks are Café del Mar and XANA. If live DJs and dance music are your jam, Illuzion is the largest on the island, while the White Room has a more intimate vibe.
If you’re pushed for time, Hua Hin is a great alternative to Phuket, as it’s easier to get to from Bangkok, but not as frenetic as the capital. It has some great rooftop bars and a new (free) Countdown event, with fireworks and a beach party. Forget the cookie-cutter gala dinners of pricey hotels; instead rent out a self-catering villa for a more flexible, wallet-friendly option.
Thailand boat party
Chilled New Year holidays in beach-bejewelled Bali
While most people flock to Ubud or Seminyak for Christmas getaways and New Year holidays, Canggu is a quieter, cooler alternative. Despite Bali being predominantly Hindu, Christmas traditions are creeping in due to a strong ex-pat community. However, Canggu is more about chilled brunches and toes-in-the-sand celebrations than Santa Claus and roast turkey.
There is one thing, however, that Bali always goes big on – fireworks. Staggering displays mark Christmas and New Year, usually accompanied by cocktails and music. Canggu’s west-facing beaches are the best spot for sunsets, so you get two sky-high extravaganzas for the price of one.
Rice paddy in Ubud, Bali
Romantic Christmas getaways and villa holidays in Morocco
The minaret-studded Red City, with its shimmering palaces and dusky pink ramparts, is magical at any time of the year. But beyond the ancient medina are the rippling dunes of the Sahara Desert, best explored on camel back.
There’s no experience more exhilarating than a camel ride through the sandy expanse of Morocco, especially on Christmas Day.
Be sure to sign up for a tour well in advance, and book a self-catering villa to avoid rocketing hotel prices over the festive season.