Tuesday, 20 October 2015
Stargaze in Morocco, witness the Northern Lights in Norway or try yoga in India: Revealing the top alternative festive breaks
Wanted: ten people who would like to get away from a traditional Christmas and spend the festive period stargazing in the Moroccan desert instead.
A biblical touch is provided by riding camels into the deserts like the Three Kings, but you will see far bigger stars than the shepherds ever did, as on top of the Kasbah hotel is a huge telescope with experts standing by to guide you around the night sky.
Having recently lost my elderly mother, I feel Christmas in this country would be too poignant to bear, so I have decided to decline kind invitations to join other families and go it alone.
Light up: In St. Petersburg, Russia, the city is decorated before Christmas - which is celebrated in January
The ten-day desert stargazing trip, organised by Hidden Morocco (hidden moroccotours.com), seems perfect but it requires a minimum of ten people to get it off the ground. So in case not enough people come forward, I have been looking at other holidays that would suit somebody on their own.
In complete contrast to Morocco, I like the idea of going to St Petersburg with One Traveller (onetraveller.co.uk), a travel company that specialises in what they call the ‘mature single traveller’ – those over 50, but mostly a bit older.
Christmas in Russia, like other Orthodox countries, isn’t celebrated until January so, alas, you’ll miss out on their celebrations – but you can listen to a choir singing traditional Russian Christmas carols in your hotel together with a Christmas dinner, including caviar if you are not feeling too Scrooge-like.
Another benefit is that the museums and art galleries are far less busy than usual because there are fewer cruises around Christmas. The trip from December 22 to 27 costs £1,590pp.
Other single operators also offer Christmas holidays in exotic locations. Friendship Travel (friendshiptravel.com), for example, has four nights in Marrakech for only £395, or how about turkey on the beach in Lanzarote for £1,325?
Nearer home Saga (travel.saga.co.uk) has a number of festive breaks in the UK, including a ‘boogie woogie Christmas’ with four jazz performances in Llanelli. The four-night trip on a full-board basis costs £689.
A heritage hotel in Rajasthan, India, that has a pool and facilities for riding, yoga and cycling
But just because you are on your own doesn’t mean you have to go on a singles holiday – you can just as well go on a small group tour.
Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com) is a great website to trawl as it brings together small operators in one place.
Letting my fingers do the walking, I found Christmas in Kenya with goat on the menu instead of turkey, at what sounds like a fairly raucous three-day celebration. It is part of a longer safari holiday in Kenya and Tanzania, which costs from £2,799.
For a more traditional offering, there’s four nights in Finland looking at the Northern Lights, for between £1,375 and £1,625pp.
For the more energetic, Wild Frontiers (wildfrontiers.com) offers a 14-day group tour taking in the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and the Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia, with a two-day trek between villages. The trip costs £,2,950, excluding flights.
The same company also has an alternative Christmas in Bijaipur in Rajasthan, based at a heritage hotel that has a pool and facilities for riding, yoga and cycling. It costs £2,125pp, plus £850 for flights if booked now. There’s no turkey on the menu but there is barbecued goat again.
Alternatively, while others are stuffing themselves silly, you could go to a health retreat. Health and Fitness Travel (healthandfitnesstravel.com) has a range of holidays that sound far from spartan, including ‘seasonal stress relief’ in Thailand at Absolute Sanctuary for just over £2,000, or a Deep Sleep Digital detox in Italy for £2,870. Presumably iPads are banned and you’ll sleep through the entire festive season.
If you do want to get away, book early because flights in late December book up early.