While you may miss the odd Yuletide gathering or mad present rush ritual, December is a month plump as a Christmas goose with travel opportunities.
For one, this is when winter sun fiends make a break for the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean. A considerable lack of sun makes spa trips an appealing prospect in Europe, or persuades further-flung safari jaunts, with South Africa at its wine-and-wildlife best. Skiers embracing the chill make a bee-line for the Alps as the powder drops and a fairy-light festive Savoie spirit sets in, and those more amused by presents than pistes have Europe’s labyrinthine Christmas markets of mulled wine and sugar plums to explore.
From Maldivian hotels hovering over glassy lagoons to glass-fronted spa retreats exhaling steam into fresh, high-altitude Dolomiti air, for travel, this really is the most wonderful time of the year. Below are a few options for winter getaways, with links to our own properties.
Cities and Christmas Markets
Restaurant windows beckoning in the cold, bars alive with festive spirit and museums filled to the brim with exhibitions for winter guests, there is something truly magical about a city break in December. And perhaps nowhere more than Edinburgh with its sandy-hued neoclassical facades and cobbled streets, and its theatre, exhibitions, comedy and restaurants. The city’s artistic spirit quenches its thirst in whisky bars and old tawny pubs, stumbling past carol singers and elaborately decorated Christmas trees, while Edinburgh’s small-but-mighty culinary scene (book into Fhior and Forage and Chatter) is flexed as the dark nights draw in and hearty fare takes centre stage. Gothic beauty, Dunstane Houses is the perfect expression of Edinburgh’s new groove – where tweeds, merlot-hues and wood panelling honour that storied Scottish charm and heritage, though fine-tuning it for the 21st-century palate.
Perfect for powder and postcard-worthy festive scenes – December skiing is a treat for couples, families, groups of friends and essentially all smart enough to book a few months ahead. Roaring fires warm frosty ski-toes, heated board games precede messy fondue suppers and siblings squabble over chocolat chaud pit stops and black run tallies. Those not au fait with skiing or snowboarding can lean into the Alpine spa scene, as well as a slew of superlative farm-to-fork restaurants and nature walks through pine forests and glaciers. Our skiing antennae is well-tuned, with swanky Savoie newcomer, M Lodge & Spa and fresh to the ski-scene, Le Cygne our brand new chalet (in a ski-in ski-out perch between Meribel and Courchevel) are ones to know about for this season.
Those keen to flee the British winter’s short days and dark evenings typically hot foot it to the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean, both sublime and sun-soaked at this time of year. With its turquoise water, sunsets that pass through every shade of berry and that fabled laid-back charm, the Caribbean’s winter sun allure is hard to resist. While its islands are dotted with novel-worthy boutiques and classic hotels, Secret Bay in Dominica wins purely on escapism. Wrapped in dense rainforest and clinging to a clifftop promontory, a handful of artfully designed eco-villas gaze out towards the Caribbean sea and serve up a hair-raising dose of seclusion.
Maldives-bound suitcases seem to elicit the most envy amongst Brits whipped by horizontal rain and tested with dark, frosty mornings. A mere 20-minute speedboat ride from Male Airport (a relief after a long haul flight), Gili Lankanfushi rises to (and surpasses) all Maldivian expectations – the stilted, clipped-Crusoe style suites that hover above a glassy aquamarine lagoon, the just-caught grilled fish under a ceiling of stars and the palm-flanked beaches of flawless white sand.
As darker nights draw in, end-of-year cortisol levels surge and the UK sniffles and shivers, spas become a more-than-appealing prospect. Who doesn’t love cocooning themselves in a steam room of eucalyptus oils following a nourishing treatment, or gossiping with old friends in a gurgling jacuzzi (also soul-soothing stuff). One of our favourite formulas is a spa stay combined with skiing, or simply an extraordinary destination – such as Blue Lagoon in Iceland, a minimalist hotel carved into volcanic rock and woven into an other-worldly scene of moss and mist, with geothermal pools and Northern Light sightings, or Lefay Resort & SPA whose thrilling, Bond-like setting in the dense Dolomiti forests is matched with cool contemporary interiors and floor-to-ceiling windows for those peach-hued sunsets.
South African Safari
South Africa is a stellar choice for a December safari holiday. Temperatures are balmy but not overbearing, cathedral-like skies are as clear and crisp as the Chardonnay from the winelands, and lush parks teem with wildlife. This is prime time to check into the Eastern Cape’s luxury private game reserves for Big Five spotting, sumptuously dressed tented suites with Savannah views and gin and tonics on verandas, with a cacophony of crickets and star-studded African sky. Shamwari Private Game Reserve, a scatter of luxury lodges across a vast, malaria-free reserve pulls guests into the surrounding wilderness with floor-to-ceiling windows in contemporary lodges, while white-pillared and manicured Kwandwe Private Game Reserve embodies the classically sophisticated safari lodge, as well as being a sanctuary for endangered species, such as the white and black rhino.
Start planning your December getaway by speaking to our team of friendly experts at [email protected] or call +44 (0) 1306 264005. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @fishandpipstravel for your dose of travel inspiration. Alternatively, you can…