Some people find joy in the holiday season, including the shopping, party-planning, gift-giving and family gatherings. Others dread this time of year, choosing instead a more pampered vacation away from the traditional holiday hype and stress. Here are five luxury vacation options for those wanting a change of scenery this time of year.
1. Ski the Alps – Megève, France
Located in the Alps in southeastern France, Megève is a well-known destination for the rich and famous. This ski resort area features 45 local farms and 89 restaurants, including three Michelin-starred spots.
The town is decorated for the holidays and the lighting of the Christmas tree is a big event that marks the start of the ski season.
Part of an association of 12 European resorts that includes St. Moritz, Chamonix Mont-Blanc and Kitzbühel, Megève offers 400 kilometres of downhill skiing as well as cross-country trails. Test yourself against the clock on the Schuss au Mont d’Arbois red slope and watch a video of your run online. Freestyle enthusiasts can safely show off their jumping skills in a dedicated area.
The hotels aren’t large in this small medieval village of 3,000 residents, with its narrow, cobblestone streets and surrounding farmland. Instead, wealthy visitors tend to book chalets with luxury amenities such as personal chefs, concierge service and spa treatments.
2. Tropical Paradise – Four Seasons Bora Bora
If your ideal white Christmas means white sand, not snow, escape to Bora Bora, a small South Pacific island in French Polynesia. The island itself is an inactive, sunken volcano ringed by a string of tiny coral islands. The average daytime high hovers around 30 degrees Celsius year-round, and the vegetation is tropical and lush.
A favourite of Jennifer Aniston, who once honeymooned there with then-husband Justin Theroux and friends Courteney Cox and Jimmy Kimmel, the beachfront villas at the Four Seasons feature a private swimming pool, lagoon, white sand beaches and views of Mount Otemanu. Enjoy a long list of activities including jet-ski and catamaran tours, cultural excursions and a private barbecue on the beach.
The hotel has 108 overwater bungalow suites, plus seven two- and three-bedroom beachfront villa estates. The villas have large indoor and outdoor living areas, plunge pools and a private beach.
Guests can enjoy gala dinners and fireworks over the lagoon on New Year’s Eve, and Santa makes his arrival for Christmas on the water, according to Brad Packer, the hotel’s public relations director.
Price: Starting at about C$24,000 per night for a secluded three-bedroom beachfront villa; meals included.
3. Canadian Luxury – Fogo Island Inn, Nfld.
Understanding that their guests have varying levels of interest in holiday festivities, this unique hotel on an island off the coast of Newfoundland offers a unique business model and a “come as you are” package for the holidays, with guests welcome to celebrate in their finest or relax in their pyjamas.
“We have a variety of activities suited for both guests who wish to participate in Christmas and those who wish to avoid it,” says Nicolle Iovanov, the public-relations and media specialist at Fogo Island Inn.
There will be optional festive activities for Christmas, and those who stay until New Year’s Eve will be among the first in Canada to ring in 2020, accompanied by Canadian singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman.
The Inn’s rates include fine-dining options for each meal. Executive chef Jonathan Gushue uses local ingredients in the menu that changes daily. Explore the surrounding towns, and you might also enjoy a jiggs dinner of salt meat and pease pudding.
A fire in a wood stove will make your room cozy when the snow flies, but typically the weather in the area is mild and calm during the holidays.
Perched on the edge of the Atlantic, the Inn prides itself on its community-enterprise financial model. Employees don’t receive tips, but instead work on an incentive-based bonus plan.
“Our clientele consists of affluent socially-conscious travellers who have discerning tastes when it comes to art and culture,” Ms. Iovanov says. “Fogo Island Inn is a social enterprise with profits being reinvested into the communities of Fogo Island to promote economic growth.”
Price: Starting from $1,975 per night.
4. Downward dog – Samahita Retreat
If the grind of daily life has you exhausted during the darkest days of the year, a peaceful yoga retreat in Thailand might be the rejuvenating trip you need.
Guests at Samahita can participate in yoga, YogaCoreCycle and fitness classes, and enjoy a variety of massage and wellness treatments. Located on a quiet beach and surrounded by coconut trees, the retreat sits on a side of the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand that’s protected by a natural reef.
Designed for relaxation, the resort uses eco-friendly cross-ventilation, natural lighting and rainwater harvesting. Accommodations for single, double and family groups are available, with the beach, pool and yoga space easily accessible. The inclusive meals are all homemade by 10 Thai chefs using local ingredients and healthy oils and fats.
Week-long retreats in late December hosted by founder Paul Dallaghan offer yoga, meditation, cycle workouts and core work.
A two-week holiday-season program includes a Christmas Eve gourmet feast, concerts, and tea ceremonies in the first week, while a New Year’s Eve ceremony highlights the second.
Price: US$1,512 per person for a private room.
5. Cruise to European Christmas markets – Viking Cruise from Paris to the Swiss Alps
If you prefer a “more is more” approach to celebrating the holidays, this 12-day European river cruise will give you a taste of Christmas markets in Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland.
Paris has many excellent Christmas markets to visit during your two-day stay. The Marché de Noel Paris Notre-Dame, with its high-end crafts, gourmet food and visits from Père Noël, is still running this year, despite the fire that ravaged the city’s iconic cathedral in April.
The Christmas market in Reims, France, has 145 stalls featuring arts, crafts and food in the city’s Notre-Dame Cathedral square. Sip a glass of Champagne on the big wheel overlooking the city.
Enjoy a stop at the medieval town of Cochem, Germany, with its millennium-old Reichsburg Castle perched on a hill and half-timbered houses. Pick up gifts at the market’s wooden stalls and enjoy a warm mug of Glühwein, a traditional spiced wine.
Strasbourg’s Christmas market, one of the oldest in Europe, takes place in the heart of the Grande Île, a UNESCO world heritage site. You’ll find 300 wooden chalets set up in the city centre, illuminated streets, a skating rink and a majestic Christmas tree.
End your cruise in Zürich, Switzerland, with many Wienachtsdorf, or Christmas villages, to visit. Try a traditional Swiss fondue at one of the largest of the city’s markets, the Sechseläutenplatz, in front of the Zurich Opera House.
Price: Starting at about US$4,099 per person.