Ask a traveler what their ideal holiday destination is and the answers will differ considerably, with some opting for a tropical drink under a palapa on the beach, while others can't imagine anything other than a "White Christmas."
Are you stumped on where to go for this Christmas holiday? Even destinations you've visited other times of the year can be completely transformed during the holidays. Here's a look at eight destinations that, while awesome year round, are even better during Christmastime.
While Brazil's Christmas celebration may be overshadowed by the more popular Carnival and New Year's Eve bashes, don't count Brazil out for Christmas. The beaches are still a popular draw and the warm temperatures don't keep all the cool holiday decorations away. Brazil even has a city named after Christmas - literally. The northeastern city of Natal was born to celebrate Christmas, with its name meaning Christmas in Portuguese.
Charleston, South Carolina
If you're looking for something on the East Coast, skip the obvious choices like New York or Florida, and consider Charleston. Think pecans roasting on an open fire instead of chestnuts, bourbon spiked eggnog, and a subdued, yet classy, celebration. Look for Dickens-themed festivities, sleigh rides, special dinners and just an overall comforting spirit of the holidays.
There's no denying that Hong Kong is great 365 days a year, although admittedly the heat and pesky typhoon season can make summer travel a bit unbearable some years. If you haven't visited Hong Kong during the Christmas holidays, you are missing out. Hong Kong is one city that definitely comes alive during the holidays. Look for themed displays, giant shopping mall transformations, and most popular, the Victoria Harbor skyline. During the Christmas season, the iconic skyscrapers that line Kowloon and Hong Kong Island are not only lit up at night, they are quite festive. Look for seasonal light decorations that bring a whole new experience to the nightly Symphony of Lights show.
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Skip the traditional tropical destinations and head to New Zealand. Since North America winters coincide with New Zealand summers, enjoy a warm weather holiday filled with plenty of adventure. Hike through the rainforests, or book a wildlife tour, as New Zealand is the summer home for several types of whales, dolphins and seals, or relax as the locals do with a simple backyard barbecue.
Home to the North Pole and the legendary home of Santa Claus himself, why not head to Lapland for the complete Christmas experience. This unforgettable destination will allow you to relive all your childhood dreams, make gingerbread cookies, go on a reindeer sled safari, or spend the night in an igloo hotel.
Europe is known for its Christmas markets and Nuremberg definitely has one of the best. Look for around 200 vendors who pull out all the stops when it comes to booth displays as they vie for the most beautiful stall design award.
Unlike some smaller markets in Europe, Nuremberg vendors are the real deal, selling only handmade toys and goods. It's no surprise that the Nuremberg Christmas Market, or Nrnberger Christkindlesmarkt, can pull in over two million visitors a year.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Head south of the border to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a festive Latin Christmas celebration. Leading up to Christmas Eve, it's not uncommon to find Mary and Joseph in the streets as the locals make the annual pilgrimage re-enacting the journey to Bethlehem. The celebration is serious, yet festive, and takes place in a city recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stroll the cobblestone streets, full of churches and unique architecture, while sipping on a ponche, a mulled fruit drink commonly served during the holidays.
If you have dreamt of seeing the Northern Lights, you have a great chance during Christmas in Tromsø, Norway. With only a couple hours of day light, which is really just twilight blue, Christmas is a prime time to catch a glimpse of this phenomenon. And the bonus is, you can say you've visited the Arctic Circle, and partake in some cool mountainous activities, like dog sledding.
What places have you visited during the Christmas season?