5 Unique Places You must Travel Now
With the holiday season underway and Christmas and the New Year just around the corner, December is the perfect time to dust off your passport and celebrate in style. Whether you’d like to be sipping mulled wine at Europe’s legendary Christmas markets, seeing in the New Year on the beaches of Rio or escaping the snow in the tropics, here are some ideas for where to go in December.
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Opt to spend the holiday season in the Holy Land and reconnect with the spirit of Christmas minus consumerism, visiting revered sights like the UNESCO-listed Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. December in Israel kicks off with Hanukkah, which this year runs from November 27th - December 5th, but if you’re in the country on Christmas Eve, don’t miss the carol singing and public broadcast of Midnight Mass in Bethlehem’s Manger’s Square and the Christmas Parade and market in Nazareth.
2. Kerala, India
Swap frosty mornings for an Indian summer in Kerala, where locals will be enjoying the end of monsoon season by hitting the beaches in droves. The real highlight of Kerala is the chance to get away from it all so take a boat cruise around Kochi harbor,explore the Kerala backwaters on a traditional houseboat or watch the sunset over the idyllic Kovalam beach. The region’s large Christian population means you won’t have to miss out on Christmas celebrations either.
3. Chile’s Atacama Desert
If you’re looking for a unique destination to spend the holiday season, you can’t get more different than Chile’s Atacama desert, the driest place on Earth. Settle into a cozy guesthouse in the atmospheric desert village of San Pedro de Atacama, then head into the Los Flamencos National Reserve to explore some of the world’s most dramatically varied scenery. Whether hiking, cycling or horseback riding through volcanic fields, marveling at the Salar de Atacama, Chile’s largest salt flat, or star-gazing from the sand dunes, overlooking the eerily beautiful Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), the fantastical landscapes provide an unforgettable backdrop.
With hurricane season over, now is a good time to dodge the January crowds and make the most of sun-soaked Belize. While you’ll likely have to pay high season prices traveling this month, it’s the perfect weather for taking in the country’s varied sights, from delving into Mayan history on a tour of ancient Xunantunich and the vast Caracol archaeological site, to lounging on a beach along the Caribbean coast. Belize is also renowned for its adventure activities, so head to the island of Ambergris Caye where you can enjoy snorkeling, zip lining and tubing, or go scuba diving at the incredible Great Blue Hole.
Nearby Guatemala is also heading into peak tourist season, so hop over the border and discover sights like the grand Mayan city of Tikal, cruise along the Rio Dulce or scale the peak of an active volcano. December also brings a number of celebrations in the run-up to Christmas day, including the Burning of the Devil on December 7th, when Guatemalans burn waste paper and unneeded household items en masse, in preparation for the holy weeks ahead, and the unique St Thomas’ Day festival held in the highland city of Chichicastenango on the 21st.