With Thanksgiving behind us, we can officially declare the beginning of the 2016 holiday season. Many of us will be traveling to spend time with our loved ones or preparing to welcome them into your own home. But as much as we love to gather around the hearth with our relatives and celebrate the festive season, traveling can be stressful and getting your house ready takes a lot of work. So it’s easy to see why, more and more, people are choosing the holiday season as the time to get away from it all. After all, the vacation time is basically built-in (read: no draining your PTO) and you’d likely be traveling anyway. So instead of driving five hours to grandma’s house or flying across the country to see Dear Old Dad, pack your bags for a more far-flung destination. Read on for our favorite holiday destinations around the world, and prepare to be bitten by the travel bug.
Quebec City, Quebec
Very few North American cities have maintained the fortified walls that were once an essential part of their defense systems. But despite efforts to tear down parts of it, ramparts stretching 4.6 kilometers remain in Quebec City, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Charming cobblestone streets and stunning French-inspired architecture complement these historic features. But Quebec City is not all about historical romance. It also has a bustling bistro café culture, hip bars, and chic boutiques to boot.
Taos, New Mexico
With 12,000+ foot snow-capped mountains, architecture reminiscent of the Old West, and some of the best green chile for miles, Taos is a haven for those seeking an off-the-beaten track winter escape. When you think of Taos in the winter, your mind may go immediately to skiing. But there is so much more to do for those looking to get outside without hitting the slopes. With miles and miles of hiking trails accessible in winter, snow-shoeing is a popular activity. It’s also one of the world’s foremost hot air balloon destinations—what better way to absorb the breathtaking high desert landscape and Rio Grande Gorge? For those looking for some R&R, Taos has countless hot springs dotting its landscape—the perfect way to end a day spent outside. There’s nothing quite like the holidays in the high desert.
The Dolomites, Italy
If you’ve never been to the Italian Alps, now is the time. We’re all familiar with the glamorous Swiss and French Alps, but the Dolomites are their laid-back yet equally sophisticated cousin. And with the Dolomites, it’s about the journey as much as it is the destination. Leaving from Milan will give you the chance to travel through some of Northern Italy’s most historic towns and cities, like Bergamo (and Venice is just a short jaunt to the south). With some of the best skiing in Europe, an average of 300 days of sunshine, adorable villages, and medieval lodges throughout, this region won’t be under the radar for much longer.
If outdoor adventures are on the docket, look no further than New Zealand. New Zealand’s summer coincides with our winter here in the U.S. so if it’s sunshine and backpacking that you’re after, this is best time to go. This is because many of the best tracks are closed as early as September or October due to snowstorms. A December or January trip to New Zealand will guarantee you the best weather all year long.
St. John, U.S.V.I.
There is no better place to ring in the holidays than on a gorgeous Caribbean island. And St. John is one of our favorites. With miles of reefs to snorkel, trails to hike, and beach to explore, there is something for everyone on this petite island. And it’s a stone’s throw from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, a surfer’s paradise. Just make sure to bring your passport if you plan on sailing over!
Palm Springs, CA
Sky-high palm trees and an abundance of midcentury modern homes instantly transport every Palm Springs visitor to a bygone era. It’s almost hard not to see Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack running around making merry. And because it’s just a couple of hours’ drive from Los Angeles, Palm Springs is the perfect place to get away from it all with minimal effort. During the holidays the town decks its famous cacti and palm trees in holiday lights, giving the town an even more festive, throwback vibe.
Uruguay is showing up on more and more travel lists, making it less and less likely that this hidden gem will remain so for long. With vast stretches of white-sand beaches that never draw crowds, you’re virtually guaranteed to have a strip of shore all to yourself. Those craving a more lively experience can head to Punta del Este, La Barra, or Manantiales, all chic getaways for Buenos Aires’ smart set.
Kenya’s lush landscape comes into its own in late December and January. It’s during this time that baby animals are born, birds are migrating, and game viewing is at its best. It’s also just past the high season, meaning rates will be a bit more reasonable and parks less crowded. And don’t forget about Kenya’s breathtaking coast on the Indian Ocean. There’s never a bad time to go, as it is hot and humid all year long, but we think it’s the perfect place to escape the chilly winter weather that blankets most of the U.S.
Are you taking an exciting trip this holiday season? Tell us about it in the comments!