Songs insist Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but a certain subset of the population begs to disagree.
For them, the holiday isn’t a jolly celebration of friends, family, mistletoe, gifts, TV specials, and tinsel. Instead it’s a harbinger of awkward company parties and mindless consumerism, of peppermint everything and overbearing good cheer, of sleepless – rather than silent – nights.
Perhaps you count yourself amongst their numbers. You refuse to worship at the alter of mince pies and mulled wine, and the only note you want to leave Santa says “F*** off.” Barring the unlikely event that the Grinch successfully steals Christmas, you’re left to your own devices to evade the jingle bells and sugar plums.
Wondering where to escape Christmas this year? We nominate these seven destinations.
The easiest way to avoid a holiday you hate is to spend it in a place that doesn’t celebrate. Morocco is primarily a Muslim country, so you’re unlikely to run into many stockings or elves during a visit to Marrakech. Spend your December 25 listening to the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, instead of carols and marveling at brightly coloured lanterns in the markets instead of blinking string lights on trees. For the ultimate getaway, trek through the nearby Atlas Mountains.
St. Petersburg, Russia
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas without the ‘Christmas’ part, set your sights on St. Petersburg. According to the Russian Orthodox calendar, Christmas falls on January 7, leaving Scrooges like yourself free to enjoy December 25 without a single bah humbug escaping your lips. The New Year is a much more beloved and boisterous occasion in Russia (and falls on the expected days of December 31 and January 1) so you may want to stick around for the festivities.
Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
Located deep in the jungle in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, Ciudad Perdida (‘Lost City’) was forgotten for centuries. It wasn’t until 1972 that it was rediscovered by a group of tomb robbers and today, after decades of guerrilla and paramilitary activity in the area, a handful of tour companies offer guided hikes to the city’s ancient ruins. The 46.6 km trek can be completed in 4-6 days, during which you’ll be safely sheltered from Christmas cheer.
Christmas has made its way to Tokyo, but outside of the capital, most of Japan doesn’t celebrate. Kyoto is the vibrant heart of the country’s traditional culture, with more than 2,000 monuments to Japan’s dominant faiths, Buddhism and Shinto. Kyoto’s shrines and temples (17 of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites) are a perfect place to find peace amidst the holiday chaos. If you get lucky, you might even bump into a geisha or two.
While its splashy neighbour Dubai has opted for a famously sensational lifestyle, quiet Oman takes a more subtle approach. The country offers beautiful beaches, vast sand dunes and lonely deserts, craggy coastlines dotted with forts, and a wealth of Arabian culture that strikes a balance between ancient and modern. Muscat is a fascinating capital with much to recommend it, but a more remote escape is the spectacular Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel in the Al Hajar mountain range, two hours outside of Muscat.
Etosha National Park, Namibia
Who needs reindeer when you have elephants? Etosha National Park spans 22,270 sq km (8,600 sq mi) in northwestern Namibia. The land is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds, and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species. A safari here, unlike many other parks in Africa, makes animal-spotting easy: just park your car next to a watering hole and wait. The critters come to you. Sightings could include lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, jackals, giraffes, zebras, impala, and springbok.
Christmas can’t catch you at a Z Meditation retreat in Dharamsala, India. Students stay for a minimum of ten days and remain silent for the entirety of their visit. During that time, your course of spiritual enrichment includes extensive meditation and daily yoga sessions, plus meals and board in comfortable, though basic, accommodations. The deep immersion of the retreat is enhanced by its sublime location, deep in the heart of the Himalayas, a stone’s throw from Mcleod Ganj, the official residence of the Dalai Lama.