It’s your final call to swerve the festive season with these eleventh-hour escapes
Between your Aunty Pam mainlining wine in the kitchen and a Christmas dinner meltdown over Brexit/Trump/the political flashpoint of the hour, December 25 isn’t always the day of peaceful goodwill it’s cracked up to be.
Meanwhile, New Year’s Eve – with its infamous skill for anti-climax and monster hangovers – isn’t a guaranteed riot, either.
We’re no scrooge here at Flash Pack: we love a Mariah Carey sing-along as much as the next wannabe king of karaoke. But for those looking for something a little different this yuletide – some headspace, perhaps, or a means of dodging the drama – we still have a few spaces left on some of our worldwide adventures.
This is your cue (should you want it) to trade in the same-old for a thrilling, transformative trip in the company of a small group of like-minded solo travellers. Tempted? From stirring Patagonian hikes to hazy beach days in Kerala, check out our pick of last-minute places running over Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Who needs Christmas lights when you have the incredible night sky of the Jordanian desert? This lovely escape will see you spend Christmas Eve star-gazing at Feynan Ecolodge (above) before a bucket-list wander around the Rose Red City of Petra on Christmas night itself – with the ancient arches of this Nabatean kingdom lit up by the glow of thousands of candles. There’s also canyoning, Red Sea bathing and a sunrise camel ride in the mix, for an experience that will stay with you long after your return home.
Leave the festive madness far behind and break free to the gilded wonders of Rajasthan. Our North India trip is specially curated to get under the skin of this glorious corner of the world, from a stay in a palatial hilltop fort to the Taj Mahal at sunrise and the chance to see wild tigers on mesmerising dusk safari. December 25 promises magic of its own, as you wake up in the beautiful “Pink City” of Jaipur – with a dawn hot air balloon ride over the city as an optional (and oh-so magical) extra.
Headspace abounds in India’s green and serene coastal state: it’s the perfect place to get away from it all. On Christmas Day, you’ll trade stockings for a wake-up call in the remote Munnar hills in the Western Ghats. Soak in the incredible views from your camping spot high above the cloud forest, before hopping over to a bespoke spa retreat (aka your new home) on the banks of the Keralan backwaters. This adventure also comes with yoga, sunset sailing and a three-day finale on blissful Marari Beach.
If you’re looking for the wow factor on Christmas Eve, Yala National Park in southeast Sri Lanka has it in droves. Nod off to the mesmerising sound of wildlife all around, before spending Christmas itself with a bucket-list game drive to see elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles and more – as well as the highest density of leopards in the world. If you manage to spot one of these elusive and magnificent creatures, it will be a yuletide dream come true. Also on this trip, expect great street food, temple cycling and hiking in the Tea Hills.
Over Christmas and New Year's Eve
Instead of panic shopping, spend the run-up to Christmas deep in the heart of Sarawak rainforest – with a stay at a unique jungle longhouse, and the chance to see heavily endangered orangutans in their natural habitat. Christmas Day arrives with a spot of cave exploration in Gunung Mulu National Park; about as far as you can get from chestnuts roasting on an open fire. New Year’s Eve will be spent in a beachfront hotel overlooking the South China Sea.
Thailand and Laos
Forget Christmas carols: December 25 on this trip will find you tackling the white-water rapids of Mae Taeng, with a hands-on adventure in the jungle hills of north Thailand. Meanwhile, you can celebrate New Year’s Eve with a waterfall swim in Laos, near the charming UNESCO town of Luang Prabang where you’ll stay. The days inbetween will involve a slow boat sail down the Mekong through Laos, the so-called Land of a Million Elephants, and a chance to fully unplug from modern life.
India and Nepal
Boxing Day on this evocative getaway coincides with a sunrise foray to the Taj Mahal, not to mention a Christmas Day sighting of the Chand Baori stepwell (an iconic and ancient sight that has appeared in multiple Hollywood blockbusters, including The Dark Knight Rises). Spend Christmas week crossing over the border into Nepal, for a rousing Himalayan hiking and kayaking to a remote riverside camp. New Year’s Eve arrives in the colourful capital of Kathmandu: a great place to see in 2020.
Over New Year's Eve
This trip also runs over Christmas, but those who prefer can time their arrival into Havana for New Year’s Eve. The Caribbean capital is a good bet for a party at any time of year, but it ups the ante for New Year celebrations – in true hip-swinging style. Head to the Old Town for the best celebrations, from live Cuban music to salsa clubs overlooking the harbour and fireworks across the bay at midnight. Balmy temperatures around the 26°C mark promise a spectacular start to 2020.
Vietnam and Cambodia
You can break loose from the chaos of New Year altogether here, in the hazy hills of Pù Luông Nature Reserve. No glow sticks are needed for a day-long hike through the shimmering rice fields and waterfalls of this off-radar region of north Vietnam, and you can see 2020 in minus the hype in a beautifully located village lodge. That’s just the start of the adventure, with Halong Bay sailing, cooking classes and a sunrise homage to the ancient Khmer kingdom of Angkor Wat in Cambodia to follow.
Spend New Year’s Eve sand-boarding amid the strange geological formations of the Valle de la Muerte in this thrill-a-minute escape to Chile – a country so full of spectacular and contrasting landscapes, your jaw is likely to be permanently on the floor. You may choose not to go to bed on New Year’s Eve since a super-early start beckons with a visit to the legendary Tatio Geysers, lit up by the first sunrise of 2020. White-water rafting, glacier sailing and hiking in Torres del Paine National Park all beckon too, in an adventure that will stretch your limits and reframe how you see the world.