10 International Christmas Destinations for 2016

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Travelling to a destination is the perfect way to enhance the magic of Christmas, whether your prefer a warmer location or one that resembles a real life snow globe.

  1. Honolulu, Hawaii

A Christmas doesn’t have to be white for it to be dreamy. Speaking of Bing Crosby, he had another hit Christmas song: Mele Kalikimaka, a Hawaiian Christmas greeting.   Instead of building snowmen with snow, you can build them with sand on the beach! Hawaii has many Christmas traditions including the Honolulu City Lights, a month-long Christmas display. Hotel rooms at the Aqua Aloha Surf Waikiki in Honolulu run for as low $144 a night. While there, you can eat like a president. American President Obama and his family have spent at least the last eight Christmases in Hawaii. One of his favorite restaurants is Alan Wong’s in Honolulu. Obama has eaten there annually for the past eight years. Twice cooked soy braised short ribs topped with gingered shrimps is his favorite dish.

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Photo credit: Kyle Nishioka

  1. Malta

If nativity scenes are your thing, you’ve come to the right place.  Residents in Malta open shutters display their homemade nativity scenes to the public around Christmas time. If that’s not enough to quench your nativity thirst, then check out the Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem. It’s a life-size nativity experience spread over 20,0000 square meters of previously abandoned fields.

Downtown Valletta makes for another great Christmas hot spot, as it is full of carolers by the Baroque St. John’s Co-Cathedral during Advent.

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Photo credit: Jennifer Morrow

  1. Nuremberg, Germany

Get into the holiday spirit by shopping at the Nuremberg Christmas Market The market sells traditional handmade toys and holiday goods exclusively. The market features nearly 200 vendors, that sell from stalls festooned with red and white cloth.  Feast on spicy gingerbread, sausages and mulled wine while the kids play on the old fashioned carousel and steam train.

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Photo credit: Tristan in Ottawa

  1. Quebec City

With all its cobblestone streets, this old City can feel like a Charles Dickens novel around Christmas time.  Enjoy plum pudding tastings at Maison Alphonse-Desjardins. If you prefer your Christmases to be really white, why not sleep in an ice castle? Hotel de Glace, located only 4 km from Québec City, is a hotel made of snow and ice.  You can take a hike or snowshoe nearby at Sentier des Caps de Charlevoix. If you need more speed, you can jet through the snow with snowmobiles at Nord Expe.

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Photo credit: Pierre-Arnaud KOPP

  1. Salzburg, Austria

Where better to spend Christmas than in the snow-capped country that gave birth to “Silent Night”? Salzburg is also the birthplace of the Sound of Music. And, it is home to many Christmas markets. Hotel rooms at the Vier Jahreszeiten Salzburg run for only around 100 a night.  The Salzburg Krampus Run is not an event to miss. All throughout the month, residents dress in beastly krampus costumes and run through village streets. Salzburg usually has at least one run right around or on the Winter Solstice.

Inside the Festung Hohensalzburg
Inside the Festung Hohensalzburg

Photo credit: SteFou!

  1. Valkenburg, The Netherlands

Valkenburg is a small town, and a big center for Dutch Christmas festivities. It’s home to several Christmas markets.  Ride the nostalgic Christmas Express, a nostalgic-looking Christmas train into town from Simpelveld. Check out some reasonable prices on vacations to the wintery destination. The airport in Maastricht is just 18 km away from Valkenburg.

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Photo credit: Richard Barrett-Small

  1. Vilnius, Lithuania

The center of the city is characterized by medieval looking, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and classical style structures alike. It’s a melting pot of global heritage. Check out the Vilnius Christmas Market full of mulled wine and locally made crafts. Its ice-skating rink can make for a romantic Christmas date or a location for family fun.

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Photo credit: Eugenijus Radlinskas

  1. Queenstown, New Zealand

The warm weather in Queenstown allots for non-traditional Christmas fun: river surfing, jetboating and paragliding on Lake Wakatipu. The best thing: most activities are open on Christmas Day unlike in North America. Many restaurants here feature special Christmas menus and serve traditional Christmas roast dinners.

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Photo credit: Bernard Spragg, NZ

  1. Tokyo, Japan

Japan is all about Christmas and all its lights. The shopping malls compete for who has the best Christmas display. So prepare to be dazzled. Check out the Starlight Garden, a big lawn behind a mall in Midtown to see thousands of lights sparkle. It becomes a giant screen where thousands of LED lights , audio and moving objects morph for a five to ten-minute illumination spectacle. Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea both have popular Christmas festivals.  “Christmas Fantasy” at Disneyland and “Christmas Wishes” at Disney Sea feature magical lights and fireworks. Other popular theme parks in Tokyo that hold illumination festivals in December are Seibuen, Toshimaen and Tokyo Dome City.

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Photo credit: Dick Thomas Johnson

  1. Santa Claus Village, Lapland, Finland

Located in the Arctic Circle, this village alleges to be the home of Santa himself. Eat at the Reindeer Cafe Restaurant  and chill with Santa before taking on the many activities available. such as husky sled rides, snowmobiling, reindeer sleigh rides and safaris. The Winter World features a slide, ice bar and restaurant, Igloo hotel and carousel.

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Photo credit: YUKI

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About the Author: Matthew Greenspan

Matthew is a travel expert, writer, editor and digital marketer. He lives for seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves. He is based out of Toronto but travels the globe in search of the best travel stories and biggest waves.

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