We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year and December is very much about celebrating the festive season with loved ones – and it’s also a time for quiet reflection. However, not all of us are looking for activities to celebrate Christmas. Some of us would like to (understandably) get away from it all and immerse ourselves in the very opposite of what Christmas traditionally means.
Read on for some inspiration on how to spend your time this December…
A Weekend Away
The Icelandic city of Reykjavik is about as festive a city you can get. December here is truly magical. With Reykjavik’s location being high up in the Northern Hemisphere, it sees only five hours of sunlight a day in December. Average temperatures are around -2°C to 4°C, so don’t forget to pack some woollens!
Reykjavik boasts a vast array of fabulous Christmas markets, street food and mulled wine, but it’s the wonders of the natural world that make it a truly enchanting place…
If you’re in Iceland in December, you just have to see the Northern Lights. Take advantage of the 19 hours of darkness and hire a car to travel to a place which has a clear dark sky that’ll give you the optimum chance to see the sky in all its dazzling glory. Alternatively, go on an exciting Superjeep tour with a small group in a big monster-sized truck. Just don’t have a big meal before this trip…
Or, for a truly unforgettable experience, why not consider a boat tour to see the lights? Enjoy the cosiness and romance and keep warm in the thick overalls provided by the tour operator.
After all of that excitement and exposure to the elements, you’ll want to relax and warm up your bones – and what better way than to have a luxurious dip in the geothermal spa sea water of the famous Blue Lagoon?
Located a little further out from Reykjavik, these extraordinarily blue waters not only offer the ultimate relaxation, but you’ll also give your skin a healthy boost from the numerous positive properties owing to geothermal seawater. What’s not to love?!
Fancy a short-haul break that’ll warm and relax your body and mind? Dodge the hoards of crowds that traditionally visit Seville during the summer and go in the heart of winter instead. With temperatures of around 20c, you can comfortably wander through the orange tree-lined streets, people-watch outside quaint coffee shops and tapas bars, enjoy a glorious ride in a horse-drawn carriage and watch all the fabulous flamenco shows you want. There’s no doubt that this picturesque city has everything you’d expect from Spain.
However, you’ll also experience a fusion of wonderful architectural influences from Romans, Christians and Muslims. And even though Seville is Spain’s fourth largest city, there’s an undeniable small-town feel, which means that the city’s attractions are easily accessible by foot.
Meander through the citrus-scented streets and head to the magnificently grand Seville Cathedral and witness the striking results of its careful construction which lasted more than a century, from 1401 to 1506. Its optimum height is 42 metres and houses 80 side chapels and with the total area covering 11,520m2, you’d better put on some comfy walking shoes…
Another great attraction in Seville, and perhaps its most famous, is the Real Alcázar – one of the oldest palaces still in use in the world. The eclectic architecture and décor of different rulers from the late 11th century to the present day can be seen throughout this stunningly beautiful palace. The Spanish royal family still use the upper floors when they’re visiting Seville, and excitingly, the palace has also been a location for Game of Thrones.
As you’ll be travelling to Seville out of peak season, not only will you benefit from seeing its attractions in relative peace, but you can also expect lower air fares and accommodation prices. Who said oranges were not the only fruit?!
Fen Skating, East Anglia
Now you’ll need some cold weather for this one… Fen skating is a traditional form of ice skating in The Fens of East Anglia (covering mainly Cambridgeshire, but also some of Lincolnshire and Norfolk, too). The fens have easily flooded meadows, which form ideal skating terrains as its big flat areas transform into natural ice rinks.
Some of the best skating areas around Cambridgeshire include the flooded meadow ‘Bury Fen’, between the villages of Earith and Bluntisham in Huntingdon , the flooded field north of Whittlesey known as ‘Whittlesey wash’ in Peterborough and the washes between the two rivers, known as ‘Welney wash’ in Wisbech.
The locations are remote, so don’t forget to bring lots of food and warm drinks – and skates, of course!
A Week Away Or Longer
A list to compile the best places to see and things to do in December would seem a little remiss if it didn’t include New York in December – and with good reason.
Whereas many European winter destinations may offer a slice of serenity, Christmas in New York throws that all up in the air and dishes up oodles of hustle and bustle, interspersed with magic and cheer.
Get into the Christmas spirit and take in the magnificently captivating Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Plaza which is adorned with 45,000 LED bulbs and sparkling Swarovski crystals.
No trip to The Big Apple is complete in December without watching the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, where more than 140 talented dancers perform in this popular Christmas show. Effervescent costumes, an exclusive set design and a whole bunch of Christmas songs to delight you. With up to three performances each day, you’re likely to find a time to suit your packed schedule.
Take a stroll along 5th Avenue and Herald Square and prepared to be amazed at the fantastic and legendary window displays. Check out Macy’s iconic window displays and visit its eighth floor to be immersed into a veritable Christmas celebration of gigantic proportions – something you usually only see in the films.
Extend your stay to the very end of the month and spend New Year’s Eve in New York. Life doesn’t get much better than this!
Of course, a Christmas trip to New York won’t come cheap. But, if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to remember, that’s exactly what you’ll get for your money.
Wellness and Yoga Retreat, Fuerteventura
After a full-on year, your body and mind might just be screaming out for relaxation and rejuvenation. And what better way to heal than by tending to your needs in a beautifully sunny island such as Fuerteventura?
You can be a complete novice to yoga or be a practitioner and you’ll still benefit hugely from this wellness and yoga experience. You’ll benefit from daily beach yoga and meditation sessions and enjoy organic and plant-based meals with a group of like-minded people. This week of self-love and nourishment can produce a real body, mind, and spirit reset.
Book an eight-night stay over Christmas for around £1000 per person.
There are also a number of other retreats to choose from – it all depends on your focus and what you want to achieve from your retreat.
Whichever retreat you choose, you’ll be guaranteed to start the new year with a revitalised body and mind.
Scottish Highlands, Scotland
This will be a holiday where you can choose to be as active or sedentary as you like.
Nestled in a dreamy location on the shores of Loch Torridon, The Torridon hotel is a luxury haven offering spectacular scenic views across the stunning Scottish Highlands; boasting uniquely designed rooms, castle turrets, period features and housing a superb restaurant which serves a traditional Scottish menu, accompanied by an extensive wine and whiskey list.
With 58 acres of private parkland looking out over the sea loch, and numerous walking and cycling routes available nearby, you could easily spend a week just discovering the area at your leisure, however, the hotel also offers an array of outdoor activities such as archery, clay-pigeon shooting, sea-kayaking, mountain walks, gorge scrambling, mountain bike hire, canoeing and guided cycling.
If you plan to stay over the Christmas period, the hotel arranges a full itinerary from a Christmas Eve buffet, to a luxury Christmas lunch on the big day followed by traditional Christmas games and then an annual treasure hunt on Boxing Day. The only downside to this break would be having to come home!
Prices for a three or five day Christmas package range from £1300 – £3400 for two people, depending on the room you choose.
So there you have your inspiration to make December a month to remember. Traditionally a busy and rather hectic month, why not go against the grain, have a well-deserved break and treat your body and mind, gearing up for the brand-spanking new year ahead.
About the Author
My name is Natalie Blackburn and I’m a busy 36 year-old mum of two under five. I am from, and still live, in the vibrant city of Manchester. Since entering into my thirties and becoming a parent, I developed an interest in good financial planning, and coupled with my passion for writing, I have lovingly created the blog that you read on Sophisticated Savers.
Other interests of mine include reading (autobiographies are a particular favourite) and running (but only if I am pushed to, so I wouldn’t really call it an interest, but just wanted to sound as though I was quite fit!) and yoga (that is a real interest!). Wine and chocolate are also my real interests, and the occasional travel when I have the time.