Christmas breaks: Why not give yourself the gift of a getaway?

Whether you want Christmas with bells on or just to escape from it all, here are some great trips to consider

Feel festive in Iceland

Guarantee yourself a white Christmas and a chance for some serious Christmas lights with a festive tour of Iceland from On the Go Tours. It kicks off on arrival on December 23rd, staying at the Stracta Hotel in Hella, which feels like the North Pole itself, only with outdoor tubs and saunas. The big celebrations take place here on Christmas Eve, which sees you tour rural villages to see traditional Christmas lights, followed by a four-course Christmas dinner.

The hotel offers a wake-up service if and when the Northern Lights appear, guaranteed to put all other Christmas lights in the shade. Spend Christmas Day exploring volcanoes, glaciers and waterfalls for an unforgettable gift to yourself. The tour only price is €1,485 per person based on two sharing and at the time of writing you can get return flights to match for €372 per person with Icelandair.

Chocolate box Christmas

For that full-on festive feeling, nowhere does Christmas quite as magically as the Austrian Tyrol, and you don’t even have to ski to enjoy it. The colourful streets of the medieval town of Kitzbühel are beautifully illuminated and the sounds and scents of music and mulled wine waft over everyone from the Advent market in the Hinterstadt district.

Stay for a three-night Tranquil Christmas break at the Hotel Kitzhof for a very traditional festive package including mulled wine reception, open fires, four-course meals and Champagne breakfasts. On Christmas Eve, the big day for feasting, you’ll get a full Christmas menu and all the trimmings. Priced from €918 for those staying solo, or €1,846 for two.


Venice to yourself

Skip the hoards by visiting Venice at Christmas, when its usually thronged streets are quiet and atmospheric. Budget Travel has Venetian breaks to sigh over in December, including a seven-day stay at the Amadeus Hotel in the already quiet district of Cannaregio. It’s a great location close to the train station and an easy walk to all the main sights, with the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square just a stroll away.

There’s an Irish pub just up the street, so it’s not like you’re turning your back on the country completely. In these days of dynamic pricing things change but at the time of writing a week’s stay for two adults over Christmas week, including breakfast, came in at €1,826 per couple, arriving on 19th December and departing on St Stephen’s Day, including flights.

Torremolinos for two

You won’t be sunbathing, but with temperatures ranging from 10 to 16 degrees, you will at least be escaping the worst of the winter here – and getting great value to boot. A week’s stay at the Bajondillo Apartments – 100m from the beach so perfect for winter walks – is also handy for day trips to Malaga, 15km away, to see Christmas lights.

Stuff yourself silly with churros and hot chocolate while enjoying the spectacular light and sound shows at Calle Larios. Most restaurants and bars will close on Christmas Day (and New Year’s Day) but other than that it’s a lively time of the year. A week’s stay with Abbey Travel currently costs €789 for two sharing on a B&B basis, including flights from Cork, departing December 19th.

Fill your walking boots

To walk your way through Christmas, check out Responsible Travel’s best-selling Amalfi walking tour. December is a good time for it because temperatures average 9 to 15 degrees. As always with Responsible Travel, you’ll be getting off the beaten path to meet local producers and rural communities, staying in family-run hotels.

It includes Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, Valle delle Ferriere National Park and Ravello. There’s also a day spent on the Sentiero degli Dei, the Path of the Gods, with stunning views down to Positano on the coast, a walker’s high. There is currently availability – limited, so be quick – for this eight-day tour, going out either December 23rd or 30th, from €1,620, excluding flights.

God’s own Christmas

To really avoid Christmas, head to Kerala, known as God’s Own Country for its picturesque location, with the Arabian Sea on one side, the Western Ghats mountain range on the other and miles of lush “backwaters” – Kerala’s network of lagoons, lakes, rivers and canals – in between.

December is a good time to go, with temperatures between 23 and 31 degrees – so, hot but not stultifying. Trailfinders has 10-day trips for a guide price of €1,617 per person, based on two sharing. Its tour takes in the colonial city of Cochin, famed for its picturesque Chinese fishing nets, a journey to the hill station Munnar, and an extended stay on a houseboat, all fuelled by Kerala’s famously delicious – and coconut-based – cuisine.

Solo season

Intrepid Travel’s 18s to 29s escorted tours for solos are jam packed with activities and, because everyone’s in the same boat, groups tend to bond really well. It has an 11-day tour, Essential Vietnam, starting in Hanoi on Christmas Eve and finishing up in Ho Chi Minh City on January 3rd, for a tour-only price of just €970 per person.

It includes Halong Bay and Ninh Binh, both Unesco World Heritage Sites, as well as walking, cycling and river tours, plus the option of a backstreet tour of Hue by motorbike. All in all, it’s a terrific Christmas present to yourself.

Light up Las Vegas

Swap one set of lights for another with a trip to Las Vegas, every bit as sparkly as you’d expect. Check out Enchant, Hallmark Channel’s festive maze experience, take an ice-skating trail through a forest of Christmas lights or sit back and enjoy the ride through Rockin’ Christmas, the world’s largest drive-through animated show.

Tour America has packages to a range of hotels in Las Vegas including one at the four-star MGM Grand Las Vegas, from €1,062 at time of writing, departing December 23rd.

Turning Japanese

To really get away from it all, Tropical Sky has a terrific 13-night Highlights of Japan tour, which starts in Tokyo and ends in Osaka, taking in everything from the olde worlde charm of Kanazawa to the museums of Hiroshima along the way.

More bullet train than whistle-stop, it’s packed with interesting things to see, do and experience along the way and costs from €4,319, including flights. Post Covid, tourism numbers have soared in Japan, and the authorities are keen to have people visit outside of summer, so you’ll be doing the locals a favour by travelling in December.

Cruise through Christmas

To really indulge yourself, a Christmas cruise is an unbeatable option. Celebrity Cruises has a great one taking in the Canaries, Morocco and mainland Spain, on board the Celebrity Infinity, departing December 21st. It’s priced from €2,172 for an inside cabin – and, let’s face it, December is one time of year not to upgrade to a balcony.

The cruise starts from Barcelona, so the only additional cost is in getting yourself there. You’ll spend Christmas Day in Tenerife and St Stephen’s Day in La Palma before heading for Casablanca and Tangier. From there it’s on to Seville and Valencia. Let the experts deck the halls, stuff the turkey and tidy up, while you start the new year as you mean to continue.

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times