The height of summer's only just upon us, but it's worth thinking ahead if you're after your fix of winter sun this year: while the excitement of Christmas and New Year goes some way to helping us put up with the miserable British winter weather, sometimes we can bear it no longer. A festive holiday is the perfect way to blow away those Christmas cobwebs – here are some of our favourite places to end and begin the year in the style.
No one knows how to have a good time quite like the Aussies, and New Year’s Eve celebrations don’t come much more spectacular than in the country’s biggest city, Sydney. The famous harbour and iconic Opera House are thrown into technicolour relief by spectacular fireworks displays, which are beamed across the world and have become an iconic symbol of the New Year. Happily, it’s also the perfect excuse to escape a drab British winter, with the Australian summer in full swing at the end of the year: combine the fireworks with a trip to the Blue Mountains, wine tasting in the Hunter Valley and kayaking with dolphins in Byron Bay.
If we’re honest with ourselves, the festive season in the UK is unlikely to ever deliver the white Christmas of our dreams – so why not jet off to the glitzy resort of Whistler in Canada, where the white stuff’s never in short supply and the good times roll at the never ending restaurants, bars and clubs. Oh, and there’s also the matter of some of the world’s best skiing and snowboarding, as well as hiking and climbing in the surrounding mountains – Christmas is celebrated with spectacular Fire & Ice shows, with world-class athletes flipping through burning rings of fire. If you’re looking for a quieter spot to celebrate an alpine Christmas, why not head east to the Kootenay Rockies and the unspoilt village of Revelstoke, whose glaciers, lakes and forests are a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors.
Sometimes, even the approach of Christmas isn’t enough to beat away the winter blues, and when you can bear the grey skies and driving rain no longer, the endless blue skies and sandy white beaches of the Maldives are the perfect remedy. The beautiful Niyama, spread over two paradise islands in the Dhaalu Atoll, is a truly remarkable place – just be careful that the swaying palms, holistic 24 hour spa and underwater nightclub don’t see you forgetting that it’s Christmas altogether!
When you’ve had too much of the wintry weather to want to take to the slopes, but a beachy fly and flop isn’t your cup of tea either, a more cultural escape to the fascinating country of Vietnam might be for you. That’s not to say that sun, sea and sand aren’t on offer here: the beaches of Phu Quoc, Con Dao and Ninh Van Bay are as picturesque as any in South East Asia, while the striking Halong Bay is an unmissable experience for any visitor. Combine those with the bustling food markets and French streets of Hanoi, the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An, and the misty mountains of the Northern Highlands, and you have a fantastic festive destination. The Vietnamese go mad for Christmas, but don’t expect too many celebrations the following week – Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, isn’t until February.