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10 of the best places to escape Christmas this year

Christmas cheer got you feeling less than cheerful? Even if you love Christmas TV and the abundance of food, the festive season can get a little overwhelming – like your high street on a December evening kind of overwhelming. If you want to get away and make the most of the time off work, there are plenty of places that treat 25 December just like any other day of the year. And surprise: travelling at this time of year really has its advantages.

So avoid the family debates, the carol singers and the overeating with a last-minute getaway to these festive-free destinations. Bah humbug to one and all. 

1. Dubai

Dubai desert safari

December could not be a better time to visit this dazzling city. At this time of year the temperature drops to a more bearable 23-30 degrees, practically sub-zero compared to its 40-degree summers. Switch the annual Christmas Day walk in the forest for a Desert Safari or go dune bashing in Al Qudra, or for an equally beautiful but less high-energy activity, head to Al Qudra Lake for a spot of exotic birdwatching. It may be Boxing Day back home, but on 26 December in the UAE, it’s the beginning of Dubai’s shopping festival – so if you’re on the hunt for a holiday bargain, and you’ve got the luggage space to boot, enjoy up to 90% off.

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2. Nepal

Nepal mountains

If sitting in front of the fire watching Christmas films is not your style, an active getaway could be on the cards. As 25 December is a public holiday in Nepal, government offices shut for business, but everything else is open as usual.

It may be cold but winter trekking in Nepal is cheaper with a guide in the off-season, there are fewer people on the trails, and the sky often remains clear during the day. Just be careful to stay at low altitudes (maybe take a rain check on Everest this time) and monitor the temperature before you head off – trekking in Nepal is not for the faint-hearted. Treks in the Annapurna region are recommended at this time of year for spectacular views and more comfortable trekking conditions.

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3. Gran Canaria

Sunset Gran Canaria

If you don’t want to travel too far afield, the Canary Islands will still offer you warmth in December – temperatures stay in the low 20s. Stay away from the busy capital Las Palmas and stick to the quieter parts of the island like Puerto de Mogan, a small port in the southwest. Many bars and restaurants stay open as usual over Christmas and outdoor activities are still on offer too – how does a jeep safari on Christmas Day sound?

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4. Turkey

Istanbul Turkey

Enjoy a different kind of Turkey this Christmas by escaping to the capital Istanbul and take advantage of the off-season winter months. Museums and shops are open as usual over Christmas so now is the time to visit the main attractions the city has to offer. The Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar are among some the best things to do in Istanbul and they’re much quieter at this time of year as the majority of travellers fly back to the nest. Make sure you finish your sightseeing days with a rejuvenating trip to one of the many iconic hammams (Turkish baths) like Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami or Cagaloglu Hamami.

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5. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka beach

If you can’t quite stretch to the cost of the neighbouring Maldives, Sri Lanka will offer you good value in comparison, and you can still get the holiday of your dreams. If you want a sun-soaked, fly-and-flop break, head towards Hikkaduwa in the south west, a two-hour drive from the capital Colombo. Here you’ll find sandy beaches, and a great spot for snorkelling and surfing, especially at this time of year. Look out for giant turtles who hang out by the shore in the daytime too. From here, take a day trip to the quaint, historic town of Galle and see the Galle Fort, built in 1588, then venture onto Yala National Park, which hugs the coastline in the south east of the island. Combining affordable safaris and an abundance of wildlife, you have a high chance of seeing elephants, crocs and even the mysterious sloth bear.

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6. Mauritius 

Mauritius swimming pool

With a mostly Hindu population, the traditional Christmas celebrations are kept to a minimum in this slice of paradise. Just make sure you travel home before New Year as this is when prices start to rocket. Hire a car so you can cover more of the island – driving from the north to the south of the island will only take you just over an hour. While away the hours at the beautiful Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, then drive up to the northern point of the island to Grand Baie where you’ll find sheltered sandy beaches and glistening blue shores. Then make sure you drive down to the east side to experience the coral reefs in Belle Mare.

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7. Beijing, China

Great Wall of China

Christmas is not widely celebrated as a religious holiday in China, although in more commercial areas you may still stumble across some festivities. Make the most of this time and visit Beijing’s top attractions: the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Jingshan Park and then stop off at the Panjiayuan antique markets for a different kind of Christmas shopping. If you’re looking for some evening entertainment, swap the pantomime for the Beijing Acrobat Show. And if you want to city hop and tick a few places off the bucket list you’re in luck, because at this time of year domestic flights across the country drop in price.

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8.  Kerala, India

Kerala houseboat

Take a step back from the madness back home and instead set yourself up on a sandy beach in Kerala – temperatures top 32 degrees in December so you can guarantee you’ll be toastier than your friends in front of the fire back home. Varkala, a vibrant beach set beneath strikingly colourful cliffs, is one of the places to be in December, whether you want a scenic stroll or that enviable Insta. For accommodation, why not spend your days on one of the iconic houseboats and enjoy life cruising on the water. And if, after all that relaxing, you fancy an evening out, make the most of the carnival in Kochi which runs until 31 December – stick around for the finale on the last day to see an impressive traditional procession.

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9. Aviemore and the Cairngorms

Cairngorms Scotland

Okay, so you won’t be able to escape Christmas completely in the UK but that’s not to say you can’t enjoy some time away in the remotest parts of the country. Hire a car and head to the north or fly into Inverness and kickstart an active getaway in chilly Scotland. Fly through the trees and away from the festivities at the Zip Trek Park, a series of 14 zipwires on the corner of the Cairngorms National Park. It closes for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but you’ll find it open for business every Friday and weekend throughout the winter months. 

Once you come down to earth, drive to Loch Morlich and revel in the peace and quiet surrounded by a tinsel-free pine forest, a sandy beach, and breathtaking views of the Cairngorms.

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10. Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto Japan

Avoid Tokyo and its robotic Santas and opt for Kyoto for a more traditional, calmer side of Japan. Christmas Day is not a public holiday so shrines, temples, restaurants and shops are all open – New Year is treated as the bigger event in Japan. It’ll be a cool trip – temperatures fall to a low of 3 degrees – but don’t let that stop you from getting outdoors. Kinkaku-ji Temple, a World Heritage site, which you may know as the ‘gold temple’, looks even more beautiful when its surroundings are dusted with snow.

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Still looking for inspiration?

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