You might think twice before spending Christmas travelling… Will it feel Christmassy enough? Can I go without my traditional Christmas dinner? Will I cope being so far away from family and friends during the festive period? It can actually be one of the most fantastic ways to spend a Christmas you will always remember! There are plenty of years to spend Christmas at home. Don’t take our word for it, some of our favourite travel bloggers shared their most memorable Christmas’s exploring the world and described some of the best places where to spend Christmas.
Best Places where to spend Christmas
“Spending Christmas in a country where it’s not celebrated is a different experience. This is what happened to me in Thailand, where Buddhism prevails. Unlike Christian/Catholic countries where the streets are full of lights and trees full of gifts, in Bangkok you can only see some minimal decor in a shopping centre or, even a clinic, targeting tourists. The lack of coloured lights and Christmas carols was no excuse for me to not celebrate along with other Latin American travellers who were also visiting the city. Each of us prepared a typical dish from our country, we exchanged gifts and had a very different evening.”
Analucía Rodríguez (Peru), Viajar para Vivir
“The white Christmas I’ve always dreamed about came true in “the island of the ice and the fire – Iceland. In Reykjavik the snow shines under the twinkling lights of the thirteen Jólasveinar, Icelandic versions of Santa Claus. Under the ground geysers explode through the ice and outside frozen waterfalls icebergs sparkle like crystal. And if you are lucky, the sky will turn green because of the aurora borealis influence.
Top tip: Wear thermal underwear, eat lobster soup and drink mulled wine. Of course, don´t forget to dance in the snow like Winona Ryder in “Edward Scissorhands”!
Patricia Rojas (Spain), La Cosmopolilla
Poland had to necessarily be part of the best places where to spend Christmas. “If there’s a destination where Christmas is truly celebrated it’s Poland. The cities have the traditional “Jarmark”, Christmas markets with lights and stands selling local sweets. Accompanied by snow, which arrives each year to cover the old quartiers of the cities. In these markets you can drink the “grzane wino” (mulled wine) or “grzane piwo” (hot beer with spices) both ideal drinks to combat the cold and get into the Christmas festive mood. You can also taste the popular “makowiec” (a traditional Polish seed pastry) and “piernik” (ginger bread).
One of the most important moments in Poland during Christmas is the dinner on the 24th December and every house has an extra plate on the table in case any lost traveller arrives! There’s a menu of 12 dishes, symbolizing the 12 apostles. The first dish is called “karp” (common carp) which remains alive in the bath until the moment of the dinner. This dates back to the communist time, when this fish, despite not being really tasty, was relatively easy to get. Last but not least: during the dinner it´s common to find a bone of this fish inside of the “pierogi” (a sort of pasty) or also a “grosz” (a cent). Whoever finds it, he will have luck and money.”
Iosu López & Alberto Menéndez, Mochileros TV (Spain)
The first time for me was in Kuta, Bali. The most surreal feeling to swap the winter cold for sunbathing in a Christmas hat. Surfing, cocktail buckets and even bungee jumping, on Christmas Day? Why not! I was impressed by the festive spirit, not just from the Western world but also a lot of locals from the mainland. I think everyone should, at least once, spend Christmas abroad.”
Scott Tisson (UK) Intrepid Escape
“Just below the Canadian border, there is a wonderful place on the coast of Lake Superior filled with evergreen (Christmas) trees and the constant lapping of waves on the shore. You’ll need a vehicle to get from place to place because of the sparse landscape and population. The water is cold year round, so don’t expect all too much swimming! The seclusion and the scenery will make you feel like you’re in different universe as mother nature will truly take your breath away. For the perfect cabin escape, a stocked cooler in the back of the van is ideal, because food choices are scarce (and a whisky around the fire is a requirement). Underrated and undersaturated, the north shore of Minnesota is a hidden gem. I would recommend visiting before word gets out.”
“I’ve spent quite a few Christmases away from my hometown Brisbane, Australia. Christmas for me is a hot summer’s day with the air conditioning on, the pool not far away, eating prawns and salad, wearing summer party dresses; so it’s always tough to do it differently in the cold. My very first Christmas away was in Paris on a three-month long school exchange at the age of 16. I remember being very confused and disillusioned by a number of things! My host mother stored the Christmas meal on the balcony of our tiny apartment, the cold weather acting like a second fridge. The Christmas Eve meal saw me trying to stomach frog’s legs, scallops and foie gras, and the drunk uncle of the family declared loudly in French at one point during the meal, ‘Katie, I think the dog speaks better French than you!’. Confidence shattered, a teary phone call home to my parents followed that Christmas. I hope this Christmas in Paris will be a little kinder to me!”
Katie McKnoulty (Australia) The Travelling Light
“My biggest tip for spending Christmas abroad while travelling is to arrive at a hostel about a week before Christmas. This means you can get to know the staff and others guests who you will be spending Christmas day with! It’s also great if you’re spending Christmas in a location with a working post service so friends and family can send you packages in the mail – like my amazing mum did! My last Christmas abroad was spent whilst working in a hostel in Budapest – I’d been at the hostel for two months when Christmas arrived and by this time our group of staff were as close as family, and we even had past guests return to spend Christmas day with us!”
Katie Dawes (UK) The Hostelgirl
“A few years back I got to experience the absolute British dream– Christmas on the beach in Australia. Byron Bay to be exact. It was such a novelty, listening to Christmas songs in glorious sunshine, and having a BBQ instead of a roast for dinner! But the best part was watching the surfers below from a clifftop at sunset. I mean that’s pretty much what you dream of when you’re planning to spend Christmas in Australia, right? Although, a word of caution – I hadn’t been homesick in the entire year I had been travelling up until this point, but speaking to my parents on Christmas morning did it. Don’t get me wrong, spending the festivities on the beach was still an awesome experience. But I do think the whole thing really made me appreciate Christmas in good old Blighty.”
Kara Caradas (UK) Heels In My Backpack
“I love spending Christmas at home with my beloved ones. We’re decorating all together our Christmas tree, eating Christmas cookies and watching “Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel” (Three Gifts for Cinderella). But I’ve already spent a few times Christmas in Australia (where I lived for four years) – in my bikini at the beach. Christmas there is more like a big party at the beach – with BBQ and decorated palm trees instead of a calm Advent like in Germany.”
“Christmas in Mexico is celebrated with the family but it’s bigger, louder und more colourful than in my home country – Germany. When I was in Mexico we sang “Posadas”- this meant that a few of us had to dress up before knocking at the door as Maria and Josef to ask (singing!) for permission to get back in the house. I was really impressed by the Mexican Christmas cribs because they are made with so much detailed love. There’s not just Jesus’ family and the stable, there’s also the devil who tried to lead the shepherds astray. Landscapes with green hills, waterfalls and deserts. And different animals – not only an ox and a donkey, there could be a dolphin too.”
Caroline Lohrmann (Germany)
“I think the most memorable Christmas I spent was in Egypt, actually, the whole situation was pretty special. We were taking a roundtrip, visiting Aswan, Luxor and a super expedition through the Western Desert, including a night in an Oasis and closing the trip at the Pyramids. The day we spent the night in the desert was Christmas Eve. There was no internet connection, no chance to wish Merry Christmas to our parents. Obviously, there were no plugs either, so we had to save our mobile phone battery for taking pictures during the day. But it was magical: the Muslim tourist guides knew the date and made a pretty special dinner for us on a bonfire. We improvised a secret Santa, where we exchanged sweets and treats we bought the day before. We slept under the sky full of stars and shooting stars and there was a full moon too! I felt privileged to be able to live that moment. We were all strangers, but it was like, in that moment, we were a family. We were alone in the middle of the desert but we didn’t feel lonely. And when I realised that the Christmas story was pretty simple (close to where I was), with shining stars and the 3 kings crossing the desert. I’m not very religious, but I found curious and interesting the coincidence of living (by accident) the Christmas in a way that was so similar to the first Christmas ever!”
Clarissa Donda (Brazil) Dondeando por aí
11.Interailing in Europe
“Christmas was coming so I decided to treat myself with a fantastic gift: a global pass ticket for the interrail! My first city was Innsbruck, circled by snowy mountains and wonderful astonishing Christmas markets with traditional hand made goods and delicious sweets. My second step was Monaco: fully decorated with Christmas lights, ice rinks and the Christmas tree in the famous Marienplatz square next to the gorgeous food market where I absolutely had to taste the local dishes such as apples cooked in the oven and the plums with almonds! My favourite city was the third one: Strasburg. Here I spent Christmas between brightly lit streets, a Christmas market in every corner, music, happy families and the smell of a delicious food in the air! Next stop Brussels where I found myself walking amongst the crowds to get to the Grand-Place, where the buildings’ were lit with a wonderful game of lights that are turned on and off in time with the music! Finally London. Where did I go in London to experience a taste of Christmas? Winter wonderland in Hyde Park of course! I felt like a big kid at Christmas! What else can I say… I made my Christmas special!”
Laura Tafuro (Italy)
“Bongoes, endless bongoes. The sun slid across the ocean lazily, palm trees swaying in the midday breeze. I sipped my beer and watched my footsteps disappear into the sand, reclaimed by the emerald waters of the Indian Ocean. It didn’t feel very Chrismasey. Up ahead, somebody had draped tinsel over their bamboo beach shack. I waved at them, a middle-aged hippie smoking happily on a chillum. My walk complete, I returned to my local bar and met with my friends. Excitedly, we exchanged gifts wrapped in brightly coloured paper. I looked around, a good crowd surrounding me as the sun began to set. My buddy handed me a beer, a pair of reindeer antlers and a fresh naan from the fire. I popped on my antlers and nibbled my naan… Christmas in Goa, surreal yet truly special. It’s who you are with, not where you are, that makes a Christmas memorable.”
Will Hatton (UK) The Brokebackpacker
“I spent my first Christmas abroad in 2009, it was in Romania and it’s still a great memory! I did an Erasmus year in Cluj-Napoca and made a Romanian friend there. He invited me to join him and his family for a traditional Romanian Christmas: we spent the night with his friends walking from house to house to sing Christmas carols (in Romanian, I admit that they could have made me sing anything because I did not understand the lyrics). In every house people were waiting for us with food and țuică, a Romanian traditional alcohol. Basically, we spent the night singing for the neighbours, walking in the cold (it is not warm in Romania at that time of the year), eating and drinking at each stop. It lasted until 6 or 7 am but no time to lie down to rest: on Christmas Day, the 25th, after breakfast, we had yet to visit the family. It was exhausting I must admit, but really awesome!