The 10 least Christmassy places on the world

Posted On December 21, 2009

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Bah Humbug! you say? For all you Ebenezers out there, here are the 10 least Christmassy places on the planet Earth.

If the idea of Christmas fills you with dread, there are a number of countries around the world where December 25th is not even a public holiday.  You can hop on a plane, and in a matter of hours, the horrors of present buying, TV specials and the Queen’s speech, can all be left behind. 

In the true spirit of the festive season, we bring you the top ten anti-Christmas getaways. Read on >

Japan > Although you might see giant robotic Santas in Tokyo, Christmas is not traditionally celebrated in Japan. Instead, you can visit cities like Kyoto and Nara to sample traditional culture, head to Tokyo for cutting edge electronics or go to Hokkaido to sample some of the best powder snow in the world.  And all this whilst enjoying the friendly and gracious hospitality of your Japanese hosts.

Saudi Arabia > During the last few years, the last great Kingdom in the world has begun to allow visitors, albeit with fairly strict provisos.  Those furnished with a visa can marvel at Madain Saleh (Saudi Arabia’s Petra), or visit The Empty Quarter (the largest sea of sand in the world) and home to the Arabian oryx.  The country also boasts some of the most pristine reefs in the world and is a scuba diver’s paradise.

Algeria > Algeria is a country with a rich history as well as natural beauty.  The busy city of Algiers will be many people’s first ports of call, and a visit to the nearby ruins at Djemila, Tipasa and Timgad should be on the to-do list.  Other worthwhile destinations include the holy town of Beni-Isguen and the town of Ouargla known as “the golden key to the desert” with its unique architecture.

Iran > Whilst the political situation in Iran makes it a more challenging place to visit, it remains a fascinating country with warm and friendly people.  Visit the ancient ruin of Persepolis, or the cultured and sophisticated city of Shiraz, before heading to Esfahan, regarded as one of the finest Islamic cities in the world.  Afterwards relax in the Alborz mountains and enjoy some skiing or walk the trails round the legendary Castles of the Assassins.

Thailand > From November to February is Thailand’s “cool” period when the humidity drops, and it makes it the perfect winter sun destination, and it also has the added bonus of being Christmas free.  Choose your accommodation from world class resorts to more basic dwellings, whilst sampling traditional Thai food which is surely one of the favourites of anyone with an interest in international cuisine.

Nepal > Whilst snowy mountains might sound a bit too Christmassy for the true avoider of the season, the Himalayas are not just any mountains.  Nepal has become a Mecca for mountaineers, trekkers and enthusiasts of the outdoors with world-class white-water rafting and kayaking as well as mountain biking in some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet.

Turkey > Turkey represents an alluring destination for a winter getaway from the seasonal revelries of the West.  The town of Istanbul, combines  traditional architecture with a growing reputation as one of the hippest towns around.  Apart from anything else, the thought of Christmas in Turkey offers a bewildering array of poultry based jokes which will keep you busy till New Year.

Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea > Not only does North Korea not celebrate Christmas, but they are so unfestive, that their borders are closed to all tourists from November 2009 to mid January 2010.  As such, you cannot even go there, and enjoy the Day of the Promulgation of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK on 27th December.  Worth a mention though as one of the least festive places in the world, 365 days a year.

China > It is a tough task to summarise the attractions of the most populous country on earth in just four lines so a list seems appropriate: bicycles, rice, Great Wall, Terracotta Army, more bicycles, Beijing, pandas, Ming Dynasty, Mao Tse Tung, Communist things (the author accepts this is not a very good profile).

And finally… > With a large bank balance and a really serious case of anti-Christmasness, why not purchase your own private island and escape from everyone.  A nice little number in the Carribean can be had for $25,000,000 whilst if you’re on a tighter budget, Musha Cay in the Bahamas is yours for just $37,500 per day.

New Year destinations

Posted On December 16, 2009

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New York (USA) > Times Square is the place to be in the Big Apple if you really want to experience the festive throng and the famed “ball drop”. Be prepared to make new friends from around the world and enjoy the charged atmosphere as the countdown begins. New York at New Year can be chilly, so wrap up warm and don comfortable clothing. 

New York (USA) > Times Square

Tenerife (Spain) > The fact the Tenerife is still a warm 18 degrees in mid-winter is probably why it attracts so many Brits for New Year. The church square in Los Cristianos hosts thousands of revellers waiting to pop their bottles of Cava, and like everywhere else, you’ll be able to join the locals “oohing” and “aahing” over the spectacular firework display. 

Paris (France) > Regarded as one of the most colourful and exciting places to celebrate New Year, Parisians toast the nouvelle année with flutes of Champagne and papillottes, small chocolates which pop like firecrackers when opened. Head to the Champs-Elysees from where you’ll be able to soak up the seasonal atmosphere and get a good view of the Eiffel Tower which explodes with light when the clock strikes twelve. 

Amsterdam (Netherlands) > A year round city of pleasure, it’s little wonder that the Dutch capital draws thousands of Brits for New Year. Known as Oudjaarsavond, meaning Old Year’s Eve, throngs of people will head to the famous streets such as Dam Square and Rembrandtplein to welcome in 2010. The Dutch have a hands on approach to fireworks and you’ll find it all ‘going off’ in the streets, ear plugs and safety goggles are advised. 

London (England) > New Year revellers in the English capital enjoy a choice of bars, clubs and fireworks along the river Thames, at Alexandra Palace or one of the many other displays. Fans of 007 can get shaken (but not stirred) at the Bond Ball at Kensington Close Hotel, clubbers can dance till moon down at the Ministry of Sound party at The O2, and for family fun, head to one of several London ice rinks set up especially for the festive period. 

London (England) > New Year celebrations

Alicante (Spain) > Another Spanish city long popular with Brits, locals tend to start off the Nochevieja celebrations with a huge family dinner at home, after which the younger members hit the town for the night. Plaza del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Square) in El Barrio is the place to gather for the big midnight countdown, then check into one of numerous discothèques and party till Spanish sunrise. 

Malaga (Spain) > A long time favourite of Brits during the summer, Malaga continues to draw UK visitors in winter too. Though it couldn’t exactly be described as balmy on the 31st of December, an average temperature of around 16C means that New Year in Malaga is considerably warmer than in the UK. Grab your bottles of cerveza and take to the town centre to join the New Year festivities. 

Edinburgh (Scotland, UK) > The Scottish capital’s Hogmanay party is one of the biggest New Year street parties in the UK. With live music performances across four different stages from major acts including Madness, The Enemy and Calvin Harris, and midnight firework displays from the city’s high places, Hogmanay in Edinburgh claims to offer the “World’s Biggest Auld Lang Syne”. 

Geneva (Switzerland) > Its popularity as a ski hub is the reason this Swiss city ranks so high in the charts. With over 100 resorts less than a 2 hour drive away, thousands will be seeing in the New Year on the slopes of the Swiss and French Alps. There’s also plenty of celebrations in the city itself; highlights include the organ concert at St Pierre Cathedral, live music on the Promenade Saint-Antoine, plus a line-up of top DJs. Treasure hunts and circus acts will keep the children amused. 

Dublin (Ireland) > Fuelled by fireworks, live music, street entertainment and copious amounts of Guinness, New Year in Dublin is full of craic. In Temple Bar, Dublin’s famed pub district, revellers will pour onto the streets to celebrate 2010 to the sound of firecrackers and cheers. If you’re not suffering too much, drag yourself out of bed to see the New Year’s Day Parade which hosts some fantastic marching bands from both Ireland and around the world. 

Dublin (Ireland) > Irish Beer

Top New Year destinations for 2009

Posted On December 16, 2009

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World’s most popular New Year cities for 2009 > Skyscanner revealed the most popular destinations that Brits are heading to for New Year.

The data, based on user flight searches on the Skyscanner site, threw up an intriguing mix of locations in sunny, city and even snowy destinations that Brits are travelling to for their New Year celebrations.

In the number one position, New York topped the bill as the most searched for destination, and was the only city outside of Europe to feature in the top ten.  The big apple has long been one of the most famous places to see in the New Year, and the weakening US dollar may help explain its popularity.

In second place was Tenerife, a long time favourite for Brits seeking escape from the UK’s winter gloom. Paris and Amsterdam ranked 3rd and 4th, London came in 5th, suggesting many British revellers will be ringing in the New Year on home turf or that they are using London as a connecting hub for onward travel.

Alicante and Malaga, also favourites of British holidaymakers appeared in 6th and 7th, making Spain the most popular country for Brits to celebrate New Year in overall. Edinburgh ranked 8th, suggesting that Hogmanay in the Scottish capital is still a big New Year destination for many in the UK.

Ranking 9th was Geneva, the massively popular ski hub, suggesting that a large proportion of Brits will be seeing in the New Year at one of the dozens of French or Swiss ski resorts that lie within 2 hours of the city. And at number 10 was Irish capital Dublin, which is well known for its New Year’s craic drawing thousands of Brits each year.

Here’s the Top 20 New Year Destinations from UK Airports >

1.  New York (USA)
2.  Tenerife (Spain)
3.  Paris (France)
4.  Amsterdam (Netherlands)
5.  London (UK)
6.  Alicante (Spain)
7.  Malaga (Spain)
8.  Edinburgh (UK)
9.  Geneva (Switzerland)
10. Dublin (Ireland)
11. Berlin (Germany)
12. Barcelona (Spain)
13. Bangkok (Thailand)
14. Prague (Czech Republic)
15. Lanzarote (Spain)
16. Belfast (UK)
17. Faro (Portugal)
18. Rome (Italy)
19. Madrid (Spain)
20. Glasgow (UK)

Ranking based on flight searches on Skyscanner from UK airports for travel over the New Year Period 09/10.

Related Links >

World’s most Christmassy destinations

Posted On December 16, 2009

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Looking for the ultimate places to get festive? We scaned the globe to bring you the top 15 most Christmassy and festively themed places on the planet [in alphabetical order].

Bethlehem (West Bank, Israel) > Yes, this is a real place. Bethlehem is commonly accepted as the birth city of Jesus, probably the most famous person in history and the whole reason that we celebrate Christmas Day at all. 

Brussels (Belgium) > Forever linked with a famous Christmas side dish that causes mixed feelings at the table, the small green vegetable really is named after the Belgian capital where it’s said to have been a popular crop for more than 400 years. 

Carol City (Florida, USA) > Guaranteed for a balmy Christmas, temperatures here rarely dip below 20C. And it seems that many of the city’s inhabitants do indeed sing for their supper. According to Wikipedia, Carol City’s most notable residents are all rappers, though Trapp Mendoza and JT Money are rarely heard waxing lyrical about baby Jesus and Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. 

Christmas Island (Australia) > There are actually several islands in various oceans named Christmas, but probably the best known is the Australian territory located in the Indian Ocean. Over half the island is national park, but according to the CIA World Fact Book, it will soon become a site for launching space missions. Is Santa going intergalactic? 

Dasher, (Georgia, USA) > Not to be outdone by his better known team mate, during his lucrative career as an elite member of Santa’s sledge team,  Dasher bought his own town too. Situated in Lowndes County, Dasher boasts a population of just 834. However, that’s 834 more people than live on Rudolf’s Island, as Dasher often reminds him. 

Holly (Michigan, USA) > This quiet village apparently featured in the 1993 Clint Eastwood movie “In the Line of Fire”. It was also home to Dr Church Jr, the man who developed the Mount Rose snow sampler, a tool used to measure snow depth and water content. 

Krakow (Poland) > This city goes off with a bang in December with a cracking Christmas market held in the main square. Quaff mulled wine and browse stalls selling Baltic amber jewellery and woollen slippers from the Polish highlands. 

Mińce (Poland) > It is not thought that mince pies originated in this small village in North Eastern Poland or that it has anything to do whatsoever with the famous festive pastry. Indeed, mince pies were invented in Britain and originally contained shredded meat (hence the name) in addition to the mix of raisins, sultanas and spices. 

Rudolf Island (Russia) > The northern most island of the Franz Josef Archipelago, this small, barren island that sits within the arctic circle is almost completely glaciated. Despite the name, Rudolf and his reindeer buddies don’t hang out here these days, it’s just too chilly. You’ll need to join a polar expedition to get to this one. 

Santa Cruz (California, USA) > Meaning “Holy Cross”, Santa Cruz is a quintessential American beach town. The place where Hawaiian royalty first introduced surfing to the mainland, the city is still known for its alternative lifestyle and liberal political persuasion. 

Sledge (Mississippi, USA) > It’s the blues rather than the wooden contraptions that hurtle down snow covered slopes that Sledge is really famous for. Despite having a population of less than 600 people, it produced the famous country singer Charley Pride, and is considered by some to be the birthplace of the blues. 

Star (Scotland, UK) > This small, quiet village, with a population of 500, is located one hour from Edinburgh. It shares its name with one of that most festive of symbols, the star, which led the three wise men to Bethlehem, and is now a popular Christmas decoration. 

Stocking (Austria) > A municipality in Styria, southern Austria, stockings are also vital receptacles in which Mr Claus deposits his gifts. Traditionally, children hang their stocking by the fireplace allowing Santa easy access. A mince pie and a glass of brandy are normally left in return. 

Tinsel Town (Los Angeles, USA) > Hollywood’s nom de plume, the Tinsel part refers to the glittering, flashy, but superficial nature of Hollywood and the film industry. Tinsel, the popular Christmas decoration, was invented in Germany in 1610 and was originally made of shredded silver. 

Turkey > Though rather known for its warm seas, many might be surprised to hear the country also receives heavy snowfalls, boasts mountains over 4000m high and has ski resorts where you can guarantee yourself a white Christmas. The large bird traditionally eaten at Christmas actually originates from South America. 

Christmas shopping in Europe

There are many shopping possibilities around Europe to get travellers in the Christmas Spirit.

Many European cities are attracting guests with the lowest hotel rates of the year allowing travellers to get in some cheap last minute shopping before Christmas. In Milan, 110 euro, travellers save 14 percent in comparison to the previous month, in Venice, 115 euro, twelve percent. Prices have also decreased in Nice, 85 euro, eight percent less and Barcelona, 96 euro, nine percent less.

To prolong the festive season into 2010, travellers can visit the Three King’s celebration on the 6th January in Barcelona.

In comparison to the previous month, hotel prices have risen in European cities that offer Christmas markets throughout December. In the German city of Nuremberg travellers pay 108 euro for a standard double room over the Christmas period, twelve percent more than in November. The same can be seen in other German cities, such as Dresden, 86 euro, an increase of ten percent and Stuttgart, 108 euro, an increase of six percent.

The same trend can also be seen in popular cities in Austria and Switzerland. A standard double room in Vienna is 109 euro in December, five percent more than the previous month, while in Zurich prices have increased due to the Christmas market by three percent to 183 euro.

Although Christmas markets in Europe are mostly associated with Germany and Austria, many others can also be found in England, Estonia, Finland, France and other countries around Europe. However, my favorite one is in Berlin, Germany and that is not due to hot mulled wine only!

Take a look at the following links >

Festive celebrations take toll in Greece

With the Christmas break over, travelers and revelers are starting to measure the cost on their pockets and waistlines.

Figures made public yesterday show that some 250,000 Greeks spent Christmas abroad this year, with cities such as Prague, Berlin and Vienna ranking among the top destinations.

A number of holidaymakers pointed out that despite the traveling expenses, trips abroad cost them roughly the same as staying home, given the rising cost of living in Athens. A holidaymaker, who visited Prague over Christmas, said that food and drink in the Czech Republic was cheaper than in Athens. “Our trip cost 1,800 euros, including air fares and accommodation at a very good hotel. Had we stayed in Athens, we would have frittered away the money elsewhere,” she said.

Cheaper options included trips to Bulgaria where a four-night stopover at a five-star hotel in central Sofia would have cost about 400 euros. Other travelers said that they managed to pay for the trip with the help of their Christmas bonus and avoided resorting to consumer loans.

However, bank data showed that the number of applications for consumer loans during the festive period came to over 2,000 applications per day.

About 820,000 people visited the Varvakeio food market in central Athens during December in order to furnish the holiday dinner table. Experts warned those who overindulged not to resort to crash diets.

Dietitian Giorgos Panotopoulos said that diets need to be realistic and must be adhered to over a long period of time in order to be effective. “There should be no stress or guilt involved. Only programming and an essential change in dietary habits over the long term. And above all, an increase in exercise,” he said.

Overconsumption of alcohol is also common during the festive season. Experts recommend that men stick to 21 glasses of alcohol per week, while women limit themselves to 15 glasses on a weekly basis. These guidelines, however, depend on a number of factors, such as individuals’ tolerance for alcoholic beverages.

Christmas abroad is tempting

The number of Greeks choosing to spend Christmas or New Year’s abroad has risen by up to 40 percent compared to last year, travel agents said, amid concerns about a downturn in business for domestic resorts.

One of the key factors driving the increase is that foreign package deals are competitively priced in comparison to what is on offer in Greece.

“Europe has become cheaper than Greece,” travel agent Vangelis Bivolaris said. “Our peak season is short, so hoteliers try and make as much money as they can during the winter holidays.” Bivolaris said that it is impossible to find a room at one of Greece’s ski centers for less than euro 120 a night during Christmas.

These hotels are currently around 90 percent full but hoteliers from surrounding areas are worried about the lack of bookings for the post-holiday period.

“We have customers for the holidays but we have nothing after that,” said guesthouse owner Emilia Georgakopoulou. “The weather has not helped.”

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