December is the perfect time to visit Thailand thanks to its warm, dry weather, says HotelsCombined. Ko Lanta is a little more peaceful than its lively neighbours such as Krabi and Phuket, so visitors can enjoy a slice of tranquillity on its coral-fringed beaches. Plus, there’s a beautiful National Park boasting stunning caves and waterfalls.
It’s unlikely that visitors to the city of Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, will be visited by Santa this December. Instead, visitors can immerse themselves in Japanese history, visit Shinto shrines, Imperial palaces and enjoy the formal tradition ‘kaiseki dining’ – a delicious multi-course Japanese feast.
Nepal is famous as the world's only Hindu Kingdom. Swap Christmas for cultural education by strolling through medieval cities such as Kathmandu and discovering centuries-old stupas and monasteries. Nepal is perfect for thrill seekers. Mountaineers and trekkers will be in paradise in the surrounds of the beautiful Himalayas. Visitors can also get stuck into white-knuckle activities including white water rafting, bungee jumping and paragliding.
Construction on Persepolis, the ‘City of the Persians’, began in 518 BCE under the rule of King Darius the Great, and the monumental staircases and imposing gateways of this grand empire leave visitors awe-struck even today. British Airways and Air France recently reinstated their flight routes to Iran, meaning the country’s ancient wonders are once again more accessible.
With a majority Muslim population, Algeria is by and large Christmas-free. Make Algiers, the capital, the first port-of-call for monuments culture and architecture. Be sure to visit the nearby ruins Djemila, Tipasa, and Timgad, also known as ‘the Pompeii of Africa’. Then head to Tamanrasset for epic deserts and rock climbing: quite a novel way to spend yuletide.
Dotted with Hindu temples, terraced rice paddies and holy shrines, there’ll be few signs of commercial Christmas in Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali. Santa’s reindeer really cannot compete in the cuteness stakes with the cheeky primates at Monkey Forest. Head to one of the historic temples to watch a typical Balinese dance show, featuring beautiful costumes and traditional music, and savour the freshest of Thai food.
Although western influences such as Christmas are spreading, Turkey remains somewhat of a refuge for those who find the UK locked in festive overload. The New Year's Eve party in Istanbul is an opportunity to party with the locals in this ancient and alluring city. Cruise the beautiful Bosphorus, enjoy an abundance of local restaurants and authentic street food, and soak up the historic treasures of the Old City. The Hagia Sophia is a must-see.
For a snowy December without all the festive flurry, head to St Petersburg where Christmas is celebrated on 7 January. Spend 25 December taking in its world-famous attractions, including The Hermitage, Winter Palace and St Isaac's Cathedral. Swap an evening slumped in front of Christmas TV specials for a night at the Mariinsky Theatre enjoying opera or ballet.
Whilst those at home walk off too much turkey, try walking The Great Wall of China, or part of it. In Beijing, don’t miss the historic neighbourhood of the ‘Forbidden City’ (pictured). The city also boasts world-class museums, galleries galore and sublime temples. Granted, a Christmas tree or two can be spotted, but the delicious Chinese cuisine on offer in this foodie paradise should make up for that.
For a truly festive-free zone, head to the northernmost area of communist Laos to explore the breath taking scenery. Luang Prabang is an UNESCO World Heritage Site where visitors will find luxury retreats, golden-tipped temples and misty mountains. Don’t miss the spectacular Luang Si waterfalls nestled in the jungle, which dazzle tourists with their striking turquoise waters.