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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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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.

Although Mexico is best known for its all-inclusive resorts, colonial hill towns and European-inspired capital city, the best places to visit in Mexico are actually the country’s laid-back beach towns.  These towns are dotted along the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines and offer travelers unique ecotourism, cultural travel and budget travel experiences.  Clean, safe and welcoming, each of these Mexican beach towns has its own allure. 

SAYULITA

Twenty-five miles north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s breathtaking Pacific Coast, Sayulita is one of the most picturesque beach towns in all of Mexico.  In 2015 it was awarded the <em>Pueblo Magico</em> (Magical Town) designation by Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism, celebrating its charming central square and ecological biodiversity.  Sayulita’s narrow cobblestone streets are packed with surf shops, artisan boutiques and comfortable apartment rentals.  For the ultimate Sayulita experience, walk from the city center through the jungle to the town’s historic graveyard, then continue on the trail to one of the region’s smallest and most beautiful beaches.

SAN PANCHO

Keep heading past Sayulita for five miles and you’ll stumble across San Pancho, a traditional fishing village that has slowly been opening its doors to increasing numbers of foreign visitors.  San Pancho is home to an upscale polo club (the season runs from November to May) and hosts an annual music festival each February.  Visitors will also enjoy browsing through San Pancho’s independent gift and souvenir shops before stopping for lunch or dinner at one of the town’s organic restaurants.

 

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ZIPOLITE

Further south, on the coast of Oaxaca State, Zipolite still retains some of the charms that made it a hippie hotspot in the 1970s.  Perfect for travelers who want to get off the grid, Zipolite doesn’t have a bank or proper police station, and many of the beachfront hotels still use cold water showers.  Visitors who can make do with a little bit less will be rewarded with a friendly community atmosphere, home-cooked Mexican cuisine and a two-kilometer stretch of clean, clothing-optional beach. Beachgoers should pay attention to the warning flags posted along Zipolite’s beach. The town’s name comes from the local word for “beach of the dead”, accurately describing the strong current and undertow in several spots along the shore.

 

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MAZUNTE

Less than three miles up the road from Zipolite is Mazunte, another <em>Pueblo Magico</em> with its own unique charms.  Mazunte is much more developed than Zipolite and offers its visitors a more contemporary travel experience.  The highlight of any visit to this Oaxacan town is a visit to the National Turtle Center, where guests can learn about turtles, volunteer for local conservation efforts and assist with the moonlight release of baby sea turtles.  If you fall in love with Mazunte, it’s possible to spend a few months in the town while obtaining yoga teacher certification or studying Spanish.

TULUM

Travelers looking for white sand beaches and turquoise waters will want to cross over to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, which juts out into the Caribbean Sea.  The region’s most laid-back beach town, Tulum, rose in the shadows of historic waterfront Mayan ruins dating back to the thirteenth century.  The town of Tulum is also an easy home base for visitors who want to explore the nearby <em>cenotes</em>.  These underground rivers and caves are filled with fresh water, making for an unusual swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving experience.  Of course, nobody will judge you if you skip out on both and spend your entire holiday relaxing in a hammock on the beach. 

With most major currencies holding strong against the Mexican peso, there has never been a better time to book a trip to one of these laid-back beach towns.  Toss your towel, flip-flops and sunscreen in your suitcase and head south to the sunshine!