To make Christmas vacations stand out from another, we recommend changing the scene, breaking tradition for something new. How about a Christmas underwater or on the farm, in the wild or in the woods?
The planning of the day, the tree-dressing, the trifle-making, gammon-roasting, cracker-tugging, stocking-emptying and carol-serenading gets us into a tizz and is almost as pleasurable as the event itself. On the day, after the wrapping paper has been ripped and the tables have been cleared, you get to sit back, descend from the high, recover and then start again.
To make one year stand out from the rest, consider breaking tradition and celebrating somewhere new and unique – underwater or above, in the snow or the African wilderness. Here are ten suggestions from around the world.
1. In the farm : Wharekauhau Country Estate, New Zealand
Farm life takes us away from the distractions of the city and lets us refocus on one another – the very aspiration of this end-of-year holiday. Wharekauhau Country Estate’s farm setting overlooks the Palliser Bay in New Zealand and is surrounded by a croquet lawn, flowers, orchards and vegetable gardens. Enjoy delicious Kiwi cuisine and wine, around a crackling fire or while watching the sea.
2. In the snow : Hôtel Restaurant La Bouitte, France
The White Christmas is a norm for many, but for those used to a December in the pool, trade sun for snow with this chalet in the ski region of Trois Vallées in France. La Bouitte’s immense wine list and fine dining merge with a family atmosphere and several winter activities in the Savoie – including skiing, snow shoe trekking, dog sledding, mountain biking and motorcycling on snow.
3. Like prince and princess : Castello di Guarene, Italy
Celebrate Christmas in a palace in the vineyards of the Piedmont in Italy. Surrounded by gardens with hornbeam espaliers, yew trees and cypresses, it overlooks the city of Guarene and the Langhe hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Relish in Piedmontese cuisine and a range of fine local wines. After the merriment, take to the spa, indoor pool or your private suite.
4. In the rainforest: El Silencio, Bajos del Toro, Costa Rica
An authentic eco-lodge, El Silencio invites you to discover the splendours of the tropical rainforest. With many national parks (Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero, Irazù volcano, Poás volcano, Corcovado), Costa Rica is home to the rhythm of its abundant vegetation that can be discovered on the hiking trails. From El Silencio, head towards the Promise Waterfall: through a nebulous forest with an exuberant microclimate, a clearing suddenly emerges. Let yourself be overwhelmed by the roar and mist of the waterfall; you are at peace and at one with nature. A lush and colourful country!
5. Into the wild : Zarafa Camp, Botswana
Replace the mistletoe with the leaves of the giant ebony tree at Zarafa Camp in the wilderness of Botswana. Share the day with elephants, cheetahs, leopards, giraffes and antelopes in the private 320 000 acre Selinda Reserve the camp is set in. Dine to the roar of lions and the cry of the African Fish Eagle and experience the wild close up on game drives and bush walks.
6. In the woods : Kasteel Engelenburg, Netherlands
A castle in the forest creates its own mystical charm but with the festive spirit winding through the trees, the Kasteel Engelenburg in the Netherlands promises something truly unforgettable. This 19th century castle, set amid landscaped gardens and a private forest, invites you in with hand-carved fireplaces, a restaurant in a 19th century conservatory, a lounge with a collection of 300 Scottish Single Malts, and a medieval wine cellar with its own collection of delights. Explore the terrain on horseback, mountain bike or on hiking trips.
7. Underwater : Dolphin Island, Fiji
If a laid-back Christmas speaks more to you, the blue waters of Dolphin Island will too. A short boat ride from Viti Levu, this exclusive-use paradise is based on an ethos of total freedom – there are no schedules and children can roam freely. Imagine a Christmas with beach massages, candlelit dinners in the sleep-out bure, diving in crystal-clear waters, midnight swims in the infinity pool and cocktails on the floating pontoon.
8. In the desert : Awasi Atacama, Chile
For something as different to the white Christmas as you can hope to get, travel to Awasi Atacama, in the Atacama Desert, the most arid place on earth and one of the most beautiful. Explore the terrain around this tiny getaway in the town of San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile, on 4x4 excursions with a private guide and vehicle. Enjoy your own silent night with cuisine featuring regional flavours.
9. In the city : Heritage Brugge, Belgium
There is a romance in roaming city streets – in the way of the flâneur. At Christmas, escape to Heritage Brugge, in the heart of Bruges, to experience the city from this view – whether on foot, by carriage or boat. It is the ideal starting point to explore the city and its museums, boutiques, canals, World Heritage sites and theatres. Toast to the season in the lounge bar and savour local cuisine and a selection from a 14th century wine cellar.
10. In the vineyards : The Louise, Barossa Valley, Australia
It being the time to eat, drink and be merry, your festive spirit will find a home at The Louise in Australia’s Barossa wine valley. View the vines from your suite and taste the vintages of the region in a dining menu paired with selections from local wine producers. Try your hand at being a winemaker at a nearby winery and enjoy sparkling wine at a picnic or a breakfast with wild kangaroos.