Many of us dream of heading to sunnier climes for the festive period. However, there are some spectacular locations where the idea of a white Christmas is a reality beyond your imagination. The concept of Christmas on the beach can seem appealing but, what if there were locations where you could truly live in the moment and take in the wonders of the world? If you have always dreamt of a Christmas escape away from the usual haunts, one of the five wilderness retreats below could be for you.
For a Nordic Christmas not only enveloped by the glow of fairy lights, but the northern lights too, head to the snowy alpine forests of Finland. Although the capital of Helsinki can provide a warm and welcoming Christmas, the depths of the forests offer complete tranquillity.
Temperatures in December drop well below freezing in the rural areas of Finland but the stretches of untouched snow awaken the Christmas spirit in even the most stubborn Scrooges. Many head straight to Finland’s north, Lapland, for obvious seasonal reasons. However, for peace and quiet, wilderness escapes such as Oulanka, Ruka, and Lake Inari cannot be rivalled. Imagine the beautiful pale winter sun shining amongst the trees as you indulge in reindeer sleigh rides, snowmobile treks, or ice fishing.
Visitors to rural Finland can opt for traditional wood cabins warmed by a blazing fire to spend their Christmas. However, Kakslauttanen is an artic resort like no other. After a day of husky sledding or skiing admire the crystal-clear night sky from your own toasty glass igloo. Guests can literally sleep under the aurora borealis.
Alaska: Bear Country and Incredible Landscapes
Epic. Jaw-dropping. Inspiring. There is no word powerful enough to describe magnificent Alaska. If you want a Christmas free of chaos but rich with wildlife and endless national parks, this is the ideal destination for you.
Whether taking to the land or sea, wildlife lovers will be spoilt in Alaska. The Final Frontier is on the bucket list for most adventurers and with views of the ocean only disturbed by the likes of endangered whales, bald eagles, or polar bears gracing the shoreline, it is not hard to understand why.
Katmai and Denali National Parks are home to moose, caribou and bison. However, when hiking through the wilderness, you may not only be met with timid herbivores. Alaska is bear country. Home to 98% of the entire USA’s brown bear population, and with the smaller black bear also in residence, it is best for visitors to go on guided hikes throughout the regions.
If you and your loved ones want to escape the commercial Christmas circuit in the future, the beautiful Alaskan landscapes are second to none.
Until you spot it on a map, many forget that Svalbard exists. Located in the Arctic Ocean, Svalbard is a Norwegian Archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole. Temperatures in the Svalbard Islands peak at around 6°C in the summer which is also the season that brings the midnight sun; twenty-four hour days of sunlight.
During Christmas in Svalbard, days plummet into darkness, aside from some occasional twilight hours around lunchtime. Although this may seem depressing to those of us not as a latitude-ally challenged, we do not get hours filled with super moons, stars, and the northern lights.
There is no denying that the islands that make up the Norwegian archipelago are remote and desolate; home to more polar bears than penguins. But, for a unique Christmas under the aurora borealis, viewing moonlit glaciers and hiking trails like those of polar explorers, there could not be a more peculiarly perfect location.
From one of the most northern points on the globe, to the southernmost continent, Antarctica. Whilst Antarctica is uninhabited, with only a few scientists dotted at research stations, this does not mean it is off the grid for tourists. The best way to explore the continent and indulge in a white Christmas is via the sea. There are several different companies that provide off-ship exploration cruises.
Polar Cruises offer an 11 day Christmas extravaganza, setting sail from Punta Arenas in Chile and taking in the Falkland Islands as they make their way to Antarctica. Before reaching the tundra, voyagers spend a day exploring King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands which lie 120 kilometres away from Antarctica. Like many snow-covered areas, just a few scientists call the island home, along with an array of rare seals and penguins.
The first port of call is the Antarctica Peninsula where the run up to Christmas, including Christmas Eve, is spent exploring the mountainous region and spotting various types of whale (including orcas). Pods of killer whales have been spotted off the peninsula; a Christmas gift like no-other. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are spent discovering the Gerlache coastline and Paradise Harbour, before returning to Chile.
The adventurous souls who opt for this once in a lifetime Christmas opportunity should remain aware that Antarctic exploration is not for the fainthearted and itineraries may change last minute due to weather conditions.
Just below the Arctic Circle is the island nation of Iceland. The country is widely known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ as its active volcano contrasts against the deep snow that lays throughout winter. Christmas in the wonderful cities of Reykjavik, Kopavogur, and Hadnarfijordur are undoubtedly special but it is Iceland’s diverse geography and fauna that could captivate at Christmas.
The landscapes of Iceland are rich in disparities; boiling mud pools and geysers stand alongside glaciers, and frozen waterfalls trickle past volcanoes. For those wanting to explore the uninhabited landscapes and natural wonders the South Shore is the perfect place to start. The beaches of south Iceland are black sand covered and Reynisfjara is said to be the most beautiful and orcas can be regularly seen from the shore. However, there are a number of tours to take festive visitors out to the ocean, scale gigantic glaciers, or experience the northern lights.