This is the first of a series of travel blog posts I'll be hosting in partnership with a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, one of the Internet's greatest travel sites. Let us take you away! As a company out of the UK, please excuse the British spelling, but if you hear the English accent in your mind's voice, it's all the better! Tired of tinsel and turkey? Fancy a Rudolph-free zone? Join Holiday Lettings in some alternative holiday destinations, from Istanbul to The Bahamas.
Why dream of a white Christmas when you can bask on a beach with sand as white as alpine snow? In the Maldives the sapphire skies meld beautifully with the azure ocean waves and the palm trees sway gently on the shore. Just sit back with a coconut cocktail and watch a mesmerising sunset turn both sky and sea a gorgeous golden hue.
If you can drag yourself off the beach, dive into the warm water to see the neon-coloured fish and coral reefs. Feel the breeze in your hair as you try your hand at surfing or sailing. Then fall hook, line and sinker for night fishing (and the taste of your own barbecued fish).
You’ll forget all about Rudolph when you see the 1,200 deer roaming freely through Nara Park near Kyoto. They’re astonishingly tame, and some actually bow to visitors when they want food. You can find a supply of treats for them (no mince pies though) at kiosks around the park.
It’s a quick journey from here into Kyoto where you can visit the city’s 2,000 Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines. Admire the famed ‘Golden Pavilion’ Kinkaku-ji or walk through the towering Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and marvel at the peculiar light. Drift into the Gion geisha district for a glimpse into times past.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
You thought Christmas was celebrated on 25 December? Not in Russia. Christmas hasn’t been cancelled - the Russian Orthodox calendar doesn’t observe the festival until 7 January. You have two weeks, then, to walk through a winter wonderland before the celebrations start.
Your first stop should be the glittering Winter Palace, where you can imagine the balls and feasts held in its lavish chambers. Saunter over the city’s elegant bridges and sparkling frozen canals. Glide over Yelagin Island’s frozen lake illuminated by twinkling fairy lights and warm up with a hot bowl of borscht.
Oh, the irony of escaping the turkey in Turkey. Here you can tuck into mezze feasts, authentic doner kebabs and pistachio ice cream instead. You could wash it down with delicious boza, a traditional wintery malt drink served cold with cinnamon.
Marvel at one of the world’s architectural wonders, the Hagia Sophia and picture its journey from church to mosque to museum. Absorb the city’s stunning skyline, dotted with the graceful minarets and domes of the Old City’s imperial mosques. Relax in the steam of a hammam (Turkish bath) or get lost in the colourful and chaotic Grand Bazaar.
The Junkanoo festival’s riotous energy and colour out-glitter Christmas in The Bahamas. A wild nighttime ‘rush’ (parade) starts in the early hours of Boxing Day, celebrating the three days off that were formerly granted to slaves at this time of year. Hear the blast of conch shells and take in the glittering beads on the performers’ elaborate costumes as they whirl down the street.
You can then twirl on down to the Junkanoo Expo Museum in downtown Nassau to practice your drumming and model extravagant costumes and masks. Soak up the sun on one of the island’s dazzlingly white beaches or head to nearby Arawak Cay. Here you can admire the colourful buildings, listen to the reggae and Junkanoo tunes, and hit the daiquiri bars and quaint seafood shacks.
So there you have it. No need to spend Christmas cooped up with cabin fever and your mother-in-law eating fruitcake. Take a holiday for your holiday and give yourself the gift of someplace magical.
Copyright (c) 2015 Russell Eric Dobda