Christmas Abroad: 5 Worldly Destinations for Holiday Travel

NerdWalletOctober 7, 2019

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Christmas is a great time to get together, but sometimes it's best when you can also get away together. With the holiday season a little over two months away, now is the time to consider where you’d like to travel if you haven’t already.

Whether you’re looking for a winter wonderland or sunnier skies, here are a few countries that should be on your list this December.


Perhaps one of the most obvious choices, Germany turns into a sparkling bliss come December. Always replicated but never quite duplicated, German Christmas markets offer a warm, glowing haven to contrast the frosty winter nights.

Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter where in Germany you go; during December, you’ll never be far from a Christmas market of some kind. However, there are a few that have been especially celebrated, such as Striezelmarkt in Dresden, the Christkindlmarkt in Munich, and Frankfurt’s dedicated Christmas market near old town.

If you’re up for a relaxing Roman bath before heading out to the market, we suggest visiting the Friedrichsbad spa in Baden-Baden, then picking up some bratkartoffeln und gluhwein at the Christmas market there. Regardless of where you choose to visit, Christmas in Germany is certain to dazzle.


Not to be another Iceland post, but honestly, December 2019 might not be a bad time to visit. Icelanders have been keeping a close eye on tourism numbers since long before Wow Airlines tanked, but with the death (and subsequent possible resurrection) of our favorite magenta airplanes, Iceland isn’t quite as prohibitively expensive as it has been in the recent past.

Why December, you ask? By visiting polar latitudes during winter, you’ll get to experience the bizarre feeling of only having daylight between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. With all that darkness, there’s a good chance you might catch some northern lights — as long as the weather’s right.

Generally, the northern parts of Iceland can be a bit colder and calmer during the winter months, so head up to Akureyri and visit Christmas House, soak in a heated infinity pool in Hofsos, and watch the northern lights dance above the Arctic Ocean in the colorful town of Siglufjorour.


In a similar travel vein, Finland stretches even farther north and tops treeless Iceland when it comes to vast stretches of remote pine forest. Fly into Helsinki to enjoy the snow and Christmas festivities, but don’t stop there.

You may have met Santa Claus when he visited your local shopping mall in the Midwest, but we have it on good authority that the big man himself lives just over the Arctic Circle in the Finnish town of Rovaniemi. The choice is yours: You can either send a letter to the North Pole, or you can go pay a visit to Santa’s post office yourself. Stay in a cabin in Santa’s village, zip around the Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park, and meet snowmen, huskies, elves ... and, of course Santa Claus himself.


So far, we’ve given you a few chillier options for your Christmas travels — but if your number one goal is to escape dreadfully cold weather, you might as well go big and head straight to Singapore. Where the East meets the West, Singapore is full of glittering lights and beautiful colors, spicy food and immaculate design.

The tiny island nation is an incredible melting pot of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures with a dash of the Western world scattered around as well. Even though Singapore is located in southeast Asia, it’s a smooth transition for Western travelers who haven’t visited East Asia before, and would make a great Christmas destination.

Par for the course in Singapore, Christmas activities there are festive and sensational. Head down to Orchard Road for impressive Christmas decorations, Christmas present shopping, and street food with an extra hint of Christmas flare. While you certainly won’t freeze to death, if you start to miss the snow, you’ll be able to frolic in tons of the fake stuff. You can support the Make a Wish Foundation by participating in the Santa Run for Wishes in early December, and even stay for the new year to watch the fireworks over Marina Bay.


If you want to escape the cold but participate in traditional Christmas festivities by the beach, consider Brazil. Brazil is an enormous country with urban centers influenced by southern European culture, so the country’s traditions may look pretty familiar.

Head to Rio de Janeiro and go to the Saara open air mall for some Christmas shopping; if you’re lucky, the iconic floating Christmas tree will make another return. Make sure to take a quick nap on Christmas Eve afternoon, because the traditional turkey dinner starts late and goes past midnight. But it doesn’t matter if you’re sleepy on Christmas Day; just head down to the coast and relax on the beach.

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