It’s that most wonderful time of the year…and more so in some places than others!
While Christmas and the festive season are always a joyful time, some destinations just add a tiny bit more magic to an already magical time of year. For a Christmas with an extra drop of festive cheer and a sprinkle of happiness, here are our favourite festive season destinations both locally and internationally.
South African Festive Season Destinations
The Cape Winelands
The Cape Winelands are undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most popular destinations at any time of year, but the Christmas spirit coupled with the clinking of wine glasses makes for a very merry festive season. Far removed from the traditional idea of a white Christmas, the festive season in the Winelands is distinctly grown up. It’s all about long summer lunches set under the shade of oak trees, refreshing sips of white wine or MCC, gin and tonics by the pool as you admire the sprawling vineyards, and gourmet foodie adventures at the foothills of mountains. There might be snow, but it certainly is idyllic.
The Drakensberg is a great festive destination for those who want to go somewhere different but still enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. It’s an amazing family holiday because there’s tons for the kids to do; they can swim, cycle, play outside safely, go for walks or horserides – but there’s still plenty to keep adults entertained. The Drakensberg is one of those places that suits every type of budget and every type of family. Open spaces, beautiful hikes and brightly shining stars every evening make for a Christmas that’s far away from the madding crowd. Celebrate the big day with a relaxed braai against a backdrop of craggy peaks and green valleys.
International Festive Season Destinations
You’ve probably seen enough Christmas movies to know that New York is a city of hope, dreams, love, and everything good whenever the festive season rolls around. It’s wintery and snowy over Christmas, so you can snuggle up in front of a warm fire, drink hot chocolate, or walk the streets bundled up in coats as you admire the city lights and tree-lined streets.
The thing about New York though, is that it still retains it’s incredible bustling energy. There are many, many cities in the world that offer a white Christmas, but very few of them have the same atmosphere of the Big Apple. Take in the extravagantly beautiful shop displays, go ice skating in Bryant Park or Central Park, and get excited about the huge Christmas trees adorned with baubles and fairylights at Rockefeller Center. If you want to experience life as if you’ve just stepped out of a Hollywood movie, New York is unbeatable.
It seems like an unlikely Christmas destination but the Croatian capital is a truly magical experience over Christmas. Zagreb’s Christmas Market has been voted the Best Christmas Market in Europe three years in a row. And while you might not always get snow, you’ll definitely get cool enough weather to enjoy all the perks that come with a Christmas market; mulled wine, ice skating, hot chocolate, freshly baked pastries and locally cured meats.
Another big bonus of Zagreb over many European capitals is its small size. The whole city is designed to be easy to explore on foot, so you can get a really good feel for things by walking without having to cover huge distances. Your feet will thank you for choosing Zagreb, we promise! On top of that, there’s loads to keep you entertained in Zagreb; museums galore, wine tasting, food to die for and plenty of day trip options.
Everyone knows about Carnival so it stands to reason that party city Rio has some pretty great festive celebrations. On New Year’s Eve for example, around two million people gather at the iconic Copacabana beach. They dress head to toe in white and light candles and toss flowers into the sea. Of course there’s also samba and fireworks in true Brazilian style.
If you visit Copacabana on Christmas Day, you’ll find it unusually quiet and empty while most people stay at home with family. Take full advantage for great pictures and a rare day of sun and sand to yourself. But who knows, if you celebrate Christmas Eve the Brazilian way you’re unlikely to be getting up in time to head to the beach! Traditionally, people in Rio will start celebrating on the 24th with a meal at around 11pm – much like New Year’s Eve, everyone gives a cheers and wishes each other merry Christmas when the clock strikes midnight. The festivities go on until the early hours of the morning and the alcohol flows freely, so come prepared!