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Christmas is that one time of winter many people look forward to, despite the short days and shivering temperatures. It’s the perfect time of year to explore some of Europe’s countless festive markets, enjoy a mug of warming mulled wine or even pay a visit to Father Christmas. Others prefer to use the Christmas holidays to escape from the cold and head for the warmer climes of southern Europe and beyond. However, Europe truly presents something for everyone:

1 ) Lapland, Finland

For families with children, there are few more magical places to visit than Lapland in northern Finland. Home of Father Christmas and guaranteed snow throughout the season, Lapland offers a truly festive experience that your children will treasure for the rest of their lives. The number-one destination in the region is the small city of Rovaniemi, where snow stays on the ground for almost six months of the year. Not only can you enjoy the whole Father Christmas experience, but you may even see the spectacular northern lights. Just make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes, since the mercury can plummet to 30 degrees below zero!

Featured Hotel: Arctic Light Hotel
 ⭐⭐⭐⭐Valtakatu 18, Rovaniemi, Finland, Finland
Arctic Light Hotel
Arctic Light Hotel
Arctic Light Hotel
Arctic Light Hotel

2 ) Leipzig, Germany

Germany is one of the birthplaces of the Christmas market, a tradition that has taken Central Europe and beyond by storm over recent decades. However, while many of the more famous Christmas markets are inundated with tourists, Leipzig remains relatively off the beaten track to foreigners. In fact, Leipzig’s Christmas market has been going for over 550 years! It starts on November 24, and it features both a medieval-style market and a more modern venue. Mulled wine flows in vast amounts, but there’s fun for all the family thanks to the Fairy Tale Forest and the Santa Claus stage on the Market Square.

Featured Hotel: Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Salzgaesschen 6, Leipzig, Leipzig, Saxony 04109 , Germany
Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof
Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof
Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof
Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof

3 ) Strasbourg, France

Starting on November 27, Strasbourg’s Christmas market was first established in 1570, and it has continued the tradition ever since. The main event takes place near the truly spectacular 466-foot-high Notre-Dame de Strasbourg cathedral, a Gothic church that was the world’s tallest building during the Middle Ages. Several other markets are held throughout the city center, and you’ll find countless small wooden stalls selling local crafts, food and mulled wine. Other festivities include live music, sound and light shows, and street parades. If you’re still not convinced, Strasbourg’s Christmas market was voted Europe’s best in 2014 by Europe Best Vacation.

Featured Hotel: Sofitel Strasbourg Grande Ile
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Place Saint Pierre le Jeume, Strasbourg, Alsace/Lorraine 67000, France
Sofitel Strasbourg Grande Ile
Sofitel Strasbourg Grande Ile
Sofitel Strasbourg Grande Ile
Sofitel Strasbourg Grande Ile

4) St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia’s ‘Window to the West’ is also one of the country’s grandest cities, exemplified by such wonders as the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Winter Palace. Celebrating Christmas in St. Petersburg presents a very different experience from most other destinations in Europe. For a start, in Russia, the main festive figurehead is Father Frost and Christmas Day is held on January 7! A proverbial winter wonderland, visitors can expect a white Christmas and many winter activities such as outdoor ice-skating at the festive markets. For some cozier indoor entertainment, the Mikhailovsky Theatre also presents an outstanding Christmas program.

Featured Hotel: Belmond Grand Hotel Europe
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/7 Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa, Saint Petersburg, Northwest 191186, Russia
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe

5) Canary Islands, Spain

While guaranteed snow, mulled wine and festive markets usually pique people’s interest when it comes to Christmas, others would rather get away from the cold. The Canary Islands are one of the few European destinations that offer consistently mild weather even during the depths of winter. In fact, there’s nowhere else in Europe where you can spend Christmas Day reclining on a beach in preparation for a big dinner. All of the islands celebrate Christmas in their own way, and being a relatively religious country, traditions are still an important part of the routine. Hotels and resorts in the region also offer plenty of family-orientated Christmas activities.`

Whether you’re looking for Christmas festivities at their finest or a warm-weather getaway during the holiday season, you’re sure to find something in Europe, particularly with the extensive network of cheap flights to take advantage of. Those seeking to spend Christmas further afield will also find plenty of popular options, such as New York, Melbourne or even Sri Lanka.

Featured Hotel: Vincci Selección La Plantación del Sur
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Calle del Roque Nublo, 1, Costa Adeje, Tenerife 38670, Spain
Vincci Selección La Plantación del Sur
Vincci Selección La Plantación del Sur

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By K. Ong

A picturesque tropical beach as a winter getaway makes for a smart vacation idea. Imagine frolicking in one of the world’s most spectacular warm-climate beaches as you wait away the passing of the cold months.

Here are ten of the world’s great tropical beaches to consider as your holiday vacation destination.

Bamboo Island Beach, Thailand

(a.k.a Phi Phi Island/Ko Pee Pee)

Located in Southern Thailand and protected by cliffs of limestone that tame the waves, the fantastic Bamboo Island is a remote tropical paradise of white sand and shimmering turquoise-colored waters. It is near the bustling Maya Bay, where The Beach was filmed.

Eleuthera, Bahamas

Eleuthera is a narrow island in the Bahamas. It sports rolling beaches of pink sand and fabulously huge outcroppings of coral reefs. The beaches of Eleuthera are unspoiled as the island is not heavily inhabited by people.

Featured Hotel & Resort: The Cove Eleuthera, Eleuthera, Bahamas

The Cove Eleuthera
The Cove Eleuthera

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Ipanema Beach, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro’s popular Ipanema Beach offers a lively, beach-party atmosphere where tourists and Brazilians gather as they sunbathe, drink beer, surf, and enjoy the warm weather. The western part of Ipanema Beach is framed by Dois Irmãos, a graceful-looking pair of mountains.

Featured Hotel & Resort: Belmond Copacabana Palace, Ipanema Beach, Brazil

Belmond Copacabana Palace
Belmond Copacabana Palace

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Jobson’s Cove, Bermuda

Jobson’s Cove is an enchanting spot in Bermuda. It features a natural formation of limestone. The limestone outcropping creates a shallow pool of around forty feet in diameter in the Bermuda waters. The pinkish sandy beach of Jobson’s Cove treats you to experience clear waters, reefs, and a view of the towering cliffs made of limestone that borders the pool.

Featured Hotel & Resort: The Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda

The Fairmont Southampton
The Fairmont Southampton

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Kadmat Island Beach, India

The immaculate beaches of Kadmat Island rest on a coral reef. The clear shallow waters washing off from the Indian Ocean make diving, snorkeling, and swimming much more enjoyable. Dolphins and other marine animals are also abundant in the beaches along Kadmat Island.

Matria Beach, French Polynesia

This dazzling white-sandy beach in Bora Bora is a heaven of tropical sun and gleaming blue-green waters. There are also bungalows by the beach where you can relax and marvel at the stunning French Polynesian views.

Featured Hotel & Resort: The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, French Polynesia

The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort

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Navio Beach, Puerto Rico

Located in Vieques, Navio Beach’s charm includes rough waves that are perfect for surfing, natural rock formations ideal for rock climbing, pristine and empty coastlines, and the rural island-municipality’s old-world vibe.

Perhentian Island, Malaysia

The tropical beaches along the pair of Malaysian islands called the Perhentians feature a postcard-perfect scenario complete with palm trees, white sand, warm climate, and crystal blue sea waters. Marine life—the likes of jellyfish, sea turtles, reef fish, and corals—is abundant, so you get the most out of any snorkeling and diving adventures.

Tulum Beaches, Mexico

Located southeast of Cancun, Tulum is a well-known archaeological site, as well as the location of beach resorts that deliver awe-inspiring views of the Caribbean. After spending time visiting Pre-Columbian ruins and cenotes, unwind under the sun and walk along the gorgeous coastline of Tulum.

Yasawa Island Beach, Fiji

You can’t go wrong with this warm-weather paradise popular for its unmarred beaches and clear blue-green waters. The volcanic Yasawa island group also features breathtaking mountainous terrain. In 1980, The Blue Lagoon was filmed in some parts of the Yasawa.

Club 1 Hotels Featured Hotel & Resort: Viwa Island Resort, Viwa Island, Fiji

Viwa Island Resort

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The small town of Kaikoura, on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is a place not to be missed. Its stunning location, with turquoise seas and snow-capped mountains, makes it an attractive destination in its own right, but Kaikoura can also lay claim to being one of the world’s best sites for viewing marine life. Sperm whales, dusky dolphins, the rare Hectors dolphin and fur seals are among the many mammals to be seen, while bird life includes the wandering albatross, petrels and fulmars.

Source: Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses

ACTIVITIES

Whale watching is probably the highlight for many visitors to Kaikoura. Northerly and southerly currents meet off the coast, and this, combined with an offshore continental shelf which drops suddenly into an 800 metre deep canyon, forces nutrients up to the surface, attracting whales and other marine life. Local companies offer whale watching by boat, helicopter and aeroplane, and all trips can be booked at the friendly and helpful Visitors Centre. A half hour flight is similar in price to a three and a half hour boat trip, and both offer a high chance of spotting sperm whales. Guides on the boat trips use their experience to predict exactly when the whales are about to dive, allowing photographers to be ready in time to catch the typical shot of the whale’s tail disappearing amid flying water droplets.

A whale watching trip often includes sightings of other marine life, with dusky dolphins frequently jumping and diving alongside the boat, but true dolphin fans may wish to take the opportunity to swim alongside them. Both whale watching and dolphin swimming should be booked a few days ahead to avoid disappointment, and as they are dependent on good weather conditions, it is advisable to be prepared to stay on in Kaikoura and wait for better weather. 

Although most visitors come to Kaikoura for the marine life, the area offers other attractions, particularly its beautiful scenery. The town is situated on a tiny peninsula, providing spectacular views to both north and south. Short circular walks can be made from the town along the cliffs and back along the beach past the fur seal colony, although tide times should be checked first. For more seasoned walkers there is a three-day loop walk, with opportunities for luggage to be transported each day.

Other Kaikoura highlights include the Seafest, an annual food and wine celebration in early October, the Maori Leap Cave, a limestone cave with stalagmites, and the Kaikoura Wine Company, which offers guided tours.

HOW TO GET THERE

Kaikoura is around 180 km north of Christchurch, the main city on South Island, and is easily reached by road and rail. The TranzCoastal train passes through Kaikoura on its way from Christchurch to Picton, from where ferries leave for the North Island. It is a beautiful train journey, with mountain ranges on one side and the coast on the other, and 175 bridges and 22 tunnels en route. The road also hugs the coast for much of the journey from Christchurch, and plenty of view stops are recommended for drivers.

ABOUT KAIKOURA

Kaikoura itself has a population of less than 4000, but became one of New Zealand’s premier tourist attractions after the first whale watching trips were made in the late 1980s. There is much evidence of early Maori settlement, and the area is thought to have been a base for hunting the giant moa bird, now extinct. Captain Cook sailed past Kaikoura in 1770 but did not stop, and the first European settlers were whalers, who came in 1842. Whaling, along with agriculture, was the town’s main industry until tourism took over. 

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

There is a plentiful supply of accommodation in Kaikoura, ranging from backpacker hostels and bed and breakfasts to holiday parks, motels and boutique hotels. However, despite the abundance, it is advisable to book ahead in the summer months. There is also no shortage of places to eat, with various budgets catered for and seafood a specialty. Crayfish is the feature meal in many establishments, and even the town’s name means ‘crayfish food’ (‘kai’ means ‘food’ and ‘koura’ means ‘crayfish’).

There cannot be many more enjoyable ways to spend a day than watching whales and dolphins swim and dive, then going for a walk along the stunning coastline and finishing up with a fresh seafood meal under a starlit sky. Kaikoura is truly a place well worth visiting.

CLUB 1 HOTELS PREFERRED ACCOMMODATIONS

Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses

State Highway 1 at Station Road RD 1

Kaikoura 7371 . New Zealand 

Hapuku Lodge was built to give all guests a great night’s sleep in one the most beautiful places in the world. Located 12kms north of the world-renowned eco-marine town of Kaikoura, on New Zealand’s South Island, Hapuku Lodge shares the land with a deer stud and olive grove, nestled between the Kaikoura Seaward Mountain Range and famed Mangamaunu Bay.

A contemporary country lodge, Hapuku Lodge has four luxurious lodge rooms (including two suites), five luxury Tree Houses, built in the canopy of a native Manuka grove, one spacious stand-alone apartment, and multiple meeting and event venues. All rooms at Hapuku Lodge feature custom designed, handcrafted furniture, tailor-made beds and mattresses, Japanese soaking tubs (in the four lodge rooms), heated towel rails and floors, raindrop showers, and individual balconies.

The Tree Houses and apartment also have large spa baths and fireplaces. Breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains and surf-washed coastline are seen from all rooms. The food at Hapuku Lodge is fresh, uncomplicated and flavorful, sourced whenever possible from their garden and other local organic farms and nearby waters. 

From the romance of the Eiffel Tower to the magnificence of the Louvre and its priceless works of art to the enchantment of the street life, Paris is a delight for the senses. With something to offer every visitor, the city of Paris is the perfect choice for a first-time visitor to Europe, but with so much to see and do, you will want to return again and again.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Any time is a great time to visit this world-class city, but springtime in Paris is particularly delightful. Summers in Paris can be hot and humid, but visitors can always cool off in the air-conditioned comfort of a museum or seek respite in one of the city’s many parks.

The winter season is also a wonderful choice for visiting Paris. The crowds are sparser, the hot, humid weather is long gone, and there are fewer lines at the historical and artistic sites.

PARIS TRANSPORTATION

Everyone loves Paris, and you will notice its popularity when you see the traffic. Luckily, Paris has set up an extensive network of public transportation, including the modern metro and many clean and tidy buses. You will also find plenty of tourist buses, and these are great for getting the lay of the land when you first arrive.

PARIS WEATHER

Paris is known for its wonderful climate, but temperatures vary quite a bit. July and August are the hottest months in Paris, with average high temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit).

On the other end of the scale, December is typically the coldest month of the year. During the cold winter months, temperatures routinely dip close to 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), and even the highs generally reach only 7-10 degrees Celsius.

LANGUAGE
French

ELECTRIC
220V

CURRENCY
Euro

Are you considering going on a cruise but not sure if it’s right for you? Here are some reasons why a cruise might be ideal for your next vacation.

1. ENJOY YOUR TRIP WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT THE LOGISTICS

If you like to travel, but the thought of getting from Point A to Point B stresses you out, a cruise might be the perfect type of vacation for you. On a cruise ship, you can sit back and enjoy the view as you travel between ports without worrying about getting lost or making tight transportation connections. Plus, you’ll avoid the potential hassle of managing multiple rental car and hotel reservations.

2. AVOID AIR TRAVEL

As modern air travel has all the glamor of a long-distance bus trip, some people feel nostalgic for the golden era of trans-Atlantic Ocean liner travel. Although the overwhelming majority of passenger trips across the Atlantic are by air, the good news is that there are still cruise ships that sail between the United States and the Caribbean and various European ports. Of course, a cruise across the Atlantic will take much longer than a flight — up to two weeks each way — and it will probably be more expensive. However, many trans-Atlantic cruise ships visit several different ports, so you’ll get to see much more than you would on a flight. There are also cruise ships that travel between the west coast of North America and Hawaii.

3. EXPLORE PLACES THAT AIR TRAVELERS CAN’T VISIT

Although the world seems smaller than ever with long-distance air travel becoming more accessible to more people, there are still many places you can’t get to by flying. You can only visit these remote sites by ship, and while getting there might be expensive, you’ll be well off the beaten path. Remote cruise ship destinations include Antarctica, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, and South Atlantic islands such as Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha. Scholars and naturalists often accompany cruises to these places, so you’ll be able to get expert insights into these remote areas.

4. SEE MANY DIFFERENT DESTINATIONS WHILE SLEEPING IN THE SAME BED EACH NIGHT

Do you want to visit several cities without having to haul your luggage between different hotels of unknown quality? A cruise might be the right choice for you. Plus, think of all the time you’ll save and stress you’ll avoid from not having to pack your suitcase each time you leave port. Instead, you can spend more time relaxing and less time wondering if you remembered to pack your toothbrush.

5. PAY FOR EVERYTHING IN ONE PACKAGE

When you book an all-inclusive cruise, you’re purchasing a package that includes many different things, such as your cabin, meals, drinks, gratuities, and, in some cases, even shore excursions and round-trip airfare from your hometown to the ship’s port of departure. Some luxury cruise liners even offer on-call butlers and room service. An all-inclusive cruise is a good option for those who want to enjoy their vacation without racking up a lot of extra charges along the way.

6. ENJOY A VARIETY OF ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS IN ONE PLACE

Cruise ships provide a broad range of entertainment, and the variety of choices, especially on larger ships, can be astounding. You can swim laps in the pool, sample specialty foods and drinks at restaurants and bars, play games, work out at an onboard gym, go to a live music performance or educational lecture, and much more, all without leaving the ship. You’ll find it hard to get bored on a cruise.

7. MAKE NEW FRIENDS – OR KEEP TO YOURSELF

Independent travelers sometimes have a hard time meeting people, while those on a guided tour might yearn for more independence and solitude. On a cruise, you can have it both ways. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to socialize on the ship and organized shore excursions, but you can also keep to yourself on board and explore each destination on your own.

There are several advantages to taking a cruise, from hassle-free travel to making new friends to exploring places that you can’t get to by plane. Plus, with many different types of journeys and ships to choose from, you can find a cruise that fits your personality and interests.

VIEW ABOARD THE NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINES’ NEW FLAGSHIP: THE NORWEGIAN ESCAPE


By K. Ong

Spend your holiday vacation in the scenic island nation of Maldives, the smallest country in Asia. The Maldives Islands makes up for its small land area and population by hosting some of the most stunning atolls and five-star beach resorts in the world. 

In addition, the following five great Maldivian tourist attractions should be enough reasons for you to make the country your vacation destination this year.

Maldives National Museum

NATIONAL MUSEUM

Located in Male, the capital of Maldives, the National Museum should be one of your first stops. The museum is part of the gorgeous Sultan’s Park, another Maldivian tourist attraction. A varied collection of artifacts and memorabilia are housed in the museum, including the prized eleventh-century coral stone Lord Buddha. When you tour the National Museum, learn about the country’s rich history from its Buddhist-era heritage to its Islamic influences.

HUKURU MISKIIY OR OLD FRIDAY MOSQUE

After visiting the National Museum, take a quick trip to Hukuru Miskiiy, which is also located in Male. Hukuru Miskiiy, which dates back to the 1600s, is one of the oldest of its kind in Maldives. The historic architectural beauty has carved walls made of coral stone. Ancient tombs built in the memory of Maldivian notables surround Hukuru Miskiiy.

CONRAD MALDIVES RANGALI ISLAND RESORT AND SPA

Situated in the Alif Dhaal atoll, this spectacular luxury resort features Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, a one-of-a-kind underwater restaurant where you can dine in style and feast on spicy local cuisine. You can choose to stay in one of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island’s dreamy water villas or modern villas surrounded by tropical greenery. Complete your holiday vacation with a soothing spa treatment at the Spa Retreat.

MIRIHI ISLAND RESORT

At South Ari Atoll, this paradise of a tropical island resort basks in the middle of turquoise blue waters. From Male, take a thirty-minute ride on a seaplane to reach the picturesque Mirihi Island Resort. Take a walk along the white sandy beaches bordered by pine trees and catch a glimpse of stunning house-reefs.

NIYAMA RESORT

This Maldivian tourist spot and luxury beach resort is famous for serving as home to Subsix, the first underwater nightclub in the world. At Subsix, dance the night away and have the most memorable clubbing experience of your life. Niyama resort is relatively small, but it makes up for its compactness by offering breathtaking island views, glorious beaches, and sumptuous food. Go to Sub-Lime, and pamper yourself with a private spa relaxation treat. For foodies, try either Epicure or Tribal.