Top 20 Christmas Destinations for your Epic 2016 Winter Getaway

Looking for that perfect getaway to enjoy your winter vacations at? A snowy Christmas or relaxed time at the beach, big city madness or an off beat locale? I have compiled a list of 20 dream destinations for Christmas 2016 as recommended by top travel bloggers.

20 Unmissable Spots for your Christmas Travel Bucket List

Salzburg, Austria by Ron and Michele from Legging It

salzburg austria

Stunning view of Salzburg through the lens of – Ian Spencer Photography

Our dream destination for Christmas is Salzburg in Austria, situated where the Christmas carol “Silent Night’ was written and performed, it seems the perfect Christmas destination. We spent a few weeks in the area in summer exploring the countryside and were told a few things about local traditions which has inspired us to return in Winter.

Like most of Europe, they have an amazing ‘Kristkind Markt’ (Christmas Markets) running for the weeks up to Christmas. The city comes to life with the small laneways decorated for the period,  there will be Nativity scenes, traditional plays, concerts and Christmas activities.  We look forward to trying the lebkuchen (local cookies), snacking on bratwurst and kartofelpuffer (a delicious potato pancake served with apple sauce) while enjoying a Gluhwein and taking in the unique atmosphere.

Of course we also hope to experience a “White Christmas’ something we would never see at home in Australia but even without the snow it will be a stunning place to spend Christmas.

Iceland by Lavina from A Capricious Compass

Breathtaking Icelandic waterfalls

Breathtaking Icelandic waterfalls, Photo via Pixabay

Cliffs, waterfalls, lagoons, landcsapes….Iceland has it all. Come December, the dipping temperatures transform this place to a winter wonderland.

Reykjavik celebrates Christmas with peculiar traditions such as the 13 “Yuletide Lads” which are nothing but Santas that bring gifts to kids who have been good for the 13 nights leading to Christmas.

There are Christmas markets strung with numerous holiday lights and local artisans offer unique treats everyday.

In addition to the cities celebrating Xmas with full fervor, there are many exciting activities that one could take up in the wilderness in Iceland.

Be it whale watching, icebergs floating in lagoons, shifting continental shelf plates, there’s an endless list of things you can do in Iceland.

Winter is the best time of the year to hike on glaciers!

With so much to offer, it’s only apt that Iceland is an excellent destination to head off to to celebrate a White Xmas. A dazzling show of the Northern Lights can truly make it magical!

Rovaniemi, Lapland by Karolina and Patryk from KarolinaPatryk

Rovaniemi, Lapland - Winter Paradise

Rovaniemi, Lapland – Winter Paradise

We have been to Rovaniemi in Lapland last December. Even though it is probably one of the most commercial Christmas destinations, we still loved it! The Santa Claus village is good for the kids, they really can have lots of fun there.
We are a couple, so we decided to rent a car and travel around the Arctic Circle. It was the best decision EVER. We left in the middle of a night to drive away from the city. We wanted to see the Northern Lights and it is only possible without artificial lights around. About 50 kilometres from Rovaniemi, we finally saw the beautiful, green Aurora Borealis.
On our way back we saw many wild reindeers, hares and foxes. We’ve never seen so many beautiful and rare animals in one place.
Even though we’ve been quite overwhelmed by the money-focused Santa Claus village, we absolutely loved the unspoilt nature of Lapland. It is the best Christmas destination that we have been to so far.

Budapest by Barbara Wagner from Jet-Settera

Festive vibe in Budapest

Festive vibe in Budapest

Budapest is an ideal Christmas destination, because this holiday has a long tradition in the city and the whole place turns very festive in December. Hungarians dress up the whole city in beautiful lights. The Andrassy ut, which is also known as the Champs Elysee of Eastern Europe is beautifully decorated. There are two Christmas markets in Budapest, one on Vorosmarty Square and one by St-Stephen’s Cathedral.

They sell all sorts of local goods and traditional food that the locals eat during the festive season, such as chimney cake and mulled wine. You can hear Christmas songs everywhere on the markets and in the stores. During Christmas time, visitors should go to the Opera to see the famous ballet, The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. It is a beautiful Christmas story that children enjoy very much.

Visitors can also ride the Christmas Streetcar in Budapest. It is a tram completely lit up with Christmas lights. Tourists can also take a river cruise down the Danube River and admire the views of the lit up city.  On Christmas Eve, locals and tourists are recommended to visit the St-Peter’s Basilica to witness a beautiful Christmas Mass and an organ concert.

Zakopane, Poland  By Nisha Jha from Lemonicks

Zakopane Christmas market

Zakopane Christmas market

There are many, many destinations around the world where I would want to celebrate Christmas. From summer Christmas in Australia to chilly Christmas in Switzerland, I have celebrated all. I have great memories of those places.

I would want to celebrate a white Christmas now. And the town I want to be in is Zakopane, Poland.

More than the actual celebration, I look forward to Christmas markets. Full of Christmas gifts and presents, these markets are about the liveliness and joie de vivre to drive away the cold dull days ahead and that is what makes them more attractive. And that is why I always try to escape every year to a country where these markets happen.

Zakopane is a quiet town and in winters it is covered with a white blanket. Most of the chalets have thick layers of snow on their wooden sloped roofs. However, the market along the Krupowki Street buzzes with activity and has all kinds of traditional and varieties of Christmas gifts such as crib figurines, bee wax candles, handmade toys, woolens, lace work, jackets, leather garments, wooden artifacts and much more. The aromas of chestnuts, hot mulled wine, homemade cheese that fights off the freezing cold winter and enhances the ambience of Christmas Market. Not to mention about the traditional music, singing and dancing.

Queenstown, New Zealand by Natasha from LiveLearnVenture

Natasha enjoying pristine beauty of Queenstown

Natasha enjoying pristine beauty of Queenstown

I’d love to spend Christmas in Queenstown, New Zealand because it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited and in December, it’s their summertime. To me, it would be exciting to enjoy summer weather and take in the amazing natural views that Queenstown has to offer. I don’t know about you, but I can live without snow for at least one Christmas season!

Queenstown is located on the South island of New Zealand and is known as the destination for adventure lovers. You can enjoy skydiving, zip lining, and bungy jumping, just to name a few wild activities! If you like spending time outdoors and taking part in new adventures – this would make for the perfect Christmas destination.

Hakone, Japan by KJ from Always Travelicious

Hakone's stringing beauty captured by KJ

Hakone’s stringing beauty captured by KJ

I visited Hakone in 2010 with my husband during Christmas.  At only 1 hour 45 minutes by train from Tokyo, Hakone is a relatively quiet town if you compare it to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. The onsen town is pristine with lots of gorgeous natural sceneries.

The best part is, it is in the vicinity of Mount Fuji.  You’ll encounter this majestic mountain quite a few times; perhaps when you are cruising along Lake Ashi, or when you are visiting the Owakudani Volcanic Valley.  Hakone also has a lot of interesting museums, such as the Venetian Glass Museum with intricate glass exhibits in a European fairy-tale set up, the Little Prince Museum that showcases the author Saint Exupery’s life stories, and the Open Air Museum which displays intriguing art pieces outdoors.

We enjoyed Hakone a lot and we would love to visit Hakone again for Christmas !

Venice, Italy by Cameron & Natasha from The World Pursuit

Christmas in Venice

Christmas in Venice

Italy is the perfect place to spend a Christmas abroad. Any Italian city will do, but the charm of the canals in Venice really make the holidays special. People are incredibly friendly this time of year, there is Christmas food and drink everywhere, and then there are the incredible lights that line the cobblestoned streets. It’s just that typical Christmas spirit that the Italians seem to do so well.

On Christmas day, duck into one of the many catholic churches and just watch the procession for the hour. We did this last Christmas, and although we can’t speak a word of Italian it was still a fantastic experience!

Vang Vieng, Laos by Danielle Ditzian from Like Riding a Bicycle

Danie enjoying Christmas with new friends in Vang Vieng

Danie enjoying Christmas with friends in Vang Vieng

The place I dream of spending Christmas this year is the very place I spent it last year; Vang Vieng, Laos. It’s a magical little town in which the bars serve everything from opium joints to mushroom pizza – it’s complete insanity. Last year was particularly special, though, as I spent it with four friends – each of whom was from a different part of the world, and who I’d met in a different country. It was absolutely magical. Oh, and not that I’d know… but don’t eat an entire weed pizza to yourself. That is just too much (in theory, of course).

Philippines by Ruben & Rachel from Gamin Traveler

Traditional Christmas food - puto bumbong

Traditional Christmas food – puto bumbong

No matter how cheesy and overrated this will sound, Christmas is still one of our favorite days of the calendar year. We are very happy to celebrate Christmas together for third year in a row now, in the Philippines. Why is Christmas in the Philippines so special for us? In the Philippines, you can feel Christmas spirit for the whole month of December. It wouldn’t even look weird here if you start playing carols in September. People really look forward to the whole “-Ber” months. The streets are full of lights at night everywhere you go, and during the day you can hear carols. People also go crazy shopping! One thing we love around this time of the year is the traditional Christmas food. Our favorite traditional food are Bibingka and Puto Bumbong. And you can find these in the streets everywhere. At dinner time, the whole family eats together. On the table: lechon (small roasted pig), lechon manok (small roasted chicken) and also, the Filipino spaghetti (sweet compared to the Italian version).  And as a tradition, it is believed to be good luck if you have 12 fruits at your home. We love enjoying family time and traditional food together! Definitely something to look forward to, after a whole year of traveling.

Jamaica by Samantha from Expat and the City

When I think of Christmas, I immediately think of being with family, eating delicious holiday treats, and SNOW. But if you’re like me and hate the cold, you want to escape it once December 21st rolls around! Jamaica is the perfect holiday destination for those wanting to flee from the cold harsh climate that comes with the season. I was lucky enough to spend Christmas on the beach in Jamaica – away from the snow and the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

The resorts are decorated to make tourists feel at home and to keep the Christmas spirit alive sans the cold stuff. There’s nothing better than relaxing on the beach, exploring cliffs and hills, snorkeling with fish and unwinding from a hectic year! New Years is also a great time to spend in Jamaica. People will light off lanterns, make a wish, and send them off into the sky on New Year’s Eve. Plus there are many parties happening on the beach to ring in the New Year. I think everyone, especially those in cold climates, should experience a holiday in the heat!

Bermuda by Danielle Desir from The Thought Card

Blue Hole Park in Hamilton, Bermuda

Blue Hole Park in Hamilton, Bermuda

This year, I would like to spend Christmas in Bermuda. I visited Bermuda for the first time in September and I fell in love with its beautiful beaches, cold swizzle drinks and abundance of natural caves. Since Bermuda is only 2 hours away from New York City (by air), it’s a quick island getaway that doesn’t require a lot of fuss.

On Christmas morning, my family and I would exchange gifts, have a hearty breakfast and spend the rest of the day lounging around at the beach. Come evening time, we would hop on a sunset cruise and I’m sure we’d have no regrets about spending Christmas in Bermuda.

British Columbia, Canada by Gemma & Craig from Two Scots Abroad

BC's incredible sunshine coast

BC’s incredible sunshine coast

British Columbia in Canada is my chosen dream Christmas destination! Craig and I (Gemma) spent six months in B.C last year, including Christmas in Vancouver. B.C has it all, beaches, mountains, friendly people, bars, Granville Island (food!) Yes, it does rain come Autumn but that’s what makes it so lush. Another cool aspect of living in B.C in winter is escaping to Whistler for skiing or snowshoeing at Joffre Lakes. There’s a lesser known area of B.C I would like to big up, our home for two months – the Sunshine Coast. This gem is a forty minute ferry ride from Vancouver and a nature lover’s dream – hikes, bike rides, and lakes. The sunsets are incredible in the ‘darker’ months.

New York by Karen from WanderlustingK

Central Park, NY

Central Park, NY

Who can resist the allure of New York City for the holidays? I’m from NYC and it remains one of my favorite places to be during the holiday season. Although you won’t get a traditional American holiday, you can experience pop-up Christmas themed cocktail bars, elaborate animated shop windows that come to life, massive shopping, the famous tree at Rockefeller Center, neighborhoods where the residents go all out decorating for the holidays, the insane Santacon bar crawl where everyone dresses up as Santa, the Christmas markets perfect for buying gifts, the Rockettes dancing in line to all your favorite Christmas music, and ice skating in Central Park.  It might be cold in December, but New York is even more magical than the movies in person!  Even if you’re not a Christmas lover, there’s still plenty to do and see in New York.  Read more insider tips on visiting New York City during the holidays from a native New Yorker on my blog!

Columbia by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel

Lovely sunset in Bogotá

Lovely sunset in Bogotá/ Via Pixabay

This year we are thrilled to be spending Christmas in Colombia! We hear that very few countries in the world celebrate Christmas with as much excitement as they do in Colombia. We plan to arrive in Colombia just in time for “El Día de las Velitas” (Day of the Little Candles) which takes place on December 7th and marks the unofficial start of the Christmas season in the country. On this day Colombians decorate their windows and homes with candles and public areas are adorned with lights to prepare the cities for the festive season ahead. We expect there to be lots of music and other festivities.

We’ll be spending the entire month of December in Colombia, so we expect to witness other celebrations throughout the country and most importantly get a chance to indulge in the Colombian version of “Cena de Navidad” or Christmas Eve dinner!

Greensboro, North Carolina by Marly Lutters from Culturiously

Heritage Hill Banquet Facilities, Greensboro

Heritage Hill Banquet Facilities, Greensboro

In 2016, I cannot think of any place I would want to spend the holidays more than in Greensboro, North Carolina!

Huh, where? I know… Of all places! But it sure is my dream destination this year.

First, I am turning 30 on Christmas Eve!
The BIG 3-0. And you know what? I am far from stressed about it. In fact, I am excited! After ten years of traveling around the world, “flying solo” for the first 8 and together with my partner the last two, I am ready to settle down and create a new home in The United States of America. New decade, new challenge! How long exactly I’ll be able to suppress the travel bug, is a whole different story though… 😉

Second, my parents and my brother are coming to the States to celebrate ourselves a “big ole” family Christmas party. The essential spirit and religious factor of this holiday might have gotten a bit lost along the way, but Americans sure know how to decorate their trees! Bring on those gifts y’all! 🙂

And if all that weren’t enough, my hubby and I are celebrating our wedding on December 30th!
I know I’ll be wishing for snow…

Switzerland by Katy Clarke from Untold Morsels

Montreux Christmas market at sunset

Montreux Christmas market at sunset

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening.. As a certified Christmas freak I always imagined a festive season spent among the snow capped mountains of Switzerland. The country is a genuine winter wonderland. From seasonal markets on the banks of Lac Leman, to the ski resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz and pretty medieval castle towns, Switzerland is a Christmas lovers dream.

My wish to celebrate Christmas in Switzerland came true a year ago. We enjoyed the festivities in true Swiss style with a fondue lunch in Gruyère’s old town, overlooking green valleys and the snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps. After our cheese feast we strolled around the famous Christmas market in Montreux sipping vin chaud (mulled wine). Cheeks rosy and hearts full we cheered along as Santa made a dramatic appearance, flying over the market crowd with a swoosh of bells. Our perfect Swiss Christmas was complete when snow began falling gently from the night sky.

Mexico by Carol Perehudoff from WanderingCarol.com

Casa Sandra Hotel, Mexico

Casa Sandra Hotel, Mexico

This Christmas I’d love to get away from it all and retreat to a intimate luxe property in Mexico on the island of Holbox just off the northern coast of Cancún, the CasaSandra. For me, the greatest gift of all would be the ability to disconnect from the online world, urban chaos and winter, and reconnect with nature and – most importantly – the beach! CasaSandra is on my dream list because it’s tranquil and has an artsy side, with handmade interiors and original artwork by the owner, Sandra Perez Lozano. I choose the island of Holbox for the warmth, the palm trees, the chance to see whale sharks and dolphins and because it’s a small island separated from the mainland by a lagoon that harbours thousands of pelicans and flamingos. I might even be tempted to get up early enough for sunrise yoga … but probably not. It is a vacation, after all.

Cappadocia, Turkey by Sonal Paladini from DrifterPlanet

Cappadocia in Snow

Cappadocia in Snow

Fancy spending Christmas on Mars? We have a cheaper and more viable solution for you – Cappadocia. With its unusual volcanic formations, fairy chimneys and underground city, Cappadocia is sure to transport you to another planet. This stunning paradise in Turkey is one of the most famous summer destination of Europe but we highly recommend you visit it around Christmas. If you’re lucky, you may just get to see how magical it looks when it snows!

London, UK by Jyotsna Ramani from WanderWithJo – That’s me guys ;p

Tower Bridge, London

Tower Bridge, London

As most of you know, I simply love winters in UK so I wouldn’t mind a chance to head back there and enjoy a snowy Christmas. London was where I saw snow fall for the very first time, so you can imagine it instantly pops to my mind when I am dreaming of a winter wonderland.

Ofcourse, I would love to head to Lapland, Iceland, Cappadocia, Salzburg and other delightful winter getaways added here by my blogger buds for the ultimate white Christmas as well. But then.. being a true blue beach bum at heart, like every year, I am headed down south to the beaches of Goa (Well, last year it was Bali – but you get the drift). That being said, a Caribbean getaway would be just about awesome for a warm Christmas on the beach – Maybe next year, who knows, right?

Till, then, tell me where are you headed this Christmas or where do you dream of going? Not sure yet? Well, then maybe some of these top Christmas destinations will inspire you.

Merry Christmas ya all!

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  • So many places I want to spend Christmas this year! Thanks for including us here!

  • Untold Morsels

    My Christmas wish is to be home in Australia this festive season. And it’s coming true! Thanks for including our Swiss experience here.

  • Gemma

    Cappadocia Is so high up on my wishlist, never seen it in the snow! Thanks for featuring us!

  • This makes me dream of Europe at Christmas time again! The beautiful white snow and Christmas lights, so pretty! I’d love to check out Iceland at this time of year also.

  • Veronica Pototska

    I am seriously thinking of coming back to Cappadocia in winter! I totally loved it in simmer and I think it would also be magical in winter.
    And Lapland is definitely on my Bucket List!

  • I absolutely love this idea. It’s hard to say where for me but it would have to be snowy. Coming from the Uk nod having sent Christmas in Oz when it is scorching, I can wholeheartedly say I hate it. Christmas is meant to be cold with log fires and roast chestnuts for me. So probably Soll in Austria where we once spent Christmas skiing. This year I’m heading to Lapland in December so I may change my mind

  • JM

    Iceland, Switzerland and Cappadocia are on top of my list. Cappadocia looks more awesome with the snow coverings.

  • I’ve spent Christmas in FOUR of these places! So cool! Budapest was incredible because of the Christmas market, New York’s Christmas themed window displays and the giant tree at Rockefeller Center is something you will never forget, THE BER MONTHS IN THE PHILIPPINES OMG YESSSSSS LONGEST CHRISTMAS SEASON IN THE WORLD!!! And then finally Mexico although it was kinda lonely cause nothing was opened but at least I had my sisters with me. Pinning this and will try to get through ALL of these! So cool!