12 last-minute Christmas trips to Asia
In the northern hemisphere, the winter months have arrived. When the days darken, the rain returns and the blues kick in, a holiday can be the perfect resolution. Where should you travel for a last-minute Christmas escape? The tours and suggested itineraries below cover all trip types, whether you’re a keen walker or history buff, shopping addict or relaxed traveller...
1. For the traveller who likes a bit of everything
What? Cultural experiences, trekking and island hopping
Which tour? Thailand’s Highlands and Islands
This three-part journey combines the best of Thailand's highlights: chaotic city-life in Bangkok, exploring traditional cultures in the highlands, and relaxing on the country's world-famous islands. Landing in the capital city your trip starts with an intro to Thai culture, visiting floating markets and exploring the intricacies of the Grand Palace. Travelling up to the north of the country, you'll use Chiang Mai as a base to explore the wider region, meeting monks, elephants and villagers along the way. The final part of this Thailand holiday takes you south to Phuket and the surrounding islands, where you can experience more cultural tours or simply chill out on the beach. Our local experts can amend or change the itinerary to suit your Christmas wishes: spend the big day lounging on a beach, taking an elephant safari or living it up in Bangkok. The choice is yours!
2. For the culture vulture
What? From cave temples to historical towns: take in Malaysia's most stunning sites
Which tour? Hidden UNESCO Sites of Malaysia
The perfect trip for all-rounders, you'll explore colonial towns, remote temples, museums, markets and more on this tour of Malaysia's stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Begin your journey on the historic streets of Melaka, once a hugely significant port overseeing trade between East and West. With a complicated past featuring Malay Sultans, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and the Japanese, each having ruled over the Straits of Malacca, you'll find a melting pot of cultural combinations here. Tour the country's wild capital city, Kuala Lumpur, and head to the more remote Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple for an insight into Chinese Buddhist cultural traditions.
3. For adventurous families
What? Explore Angkor, taste Cambodian cuisine and meet a traditional circus troop
Which tour? Cambodian Family Adventure
Not satisfied with a traditional Christmas at home? This trip to Cambodia is a real adventure for you and your children, and offers an alternative way to spend the winter holidays. This five-day tour, based in Siem Reap, offers an experience in Cambodian history, culture and cuisine unlike any other. Take on temple tours exploring ancient ruins by bicycle, before experiencing traditional Khmer barbeques and delicious Cambodian dishes. An immersive cooking class and tour of a silk farm will have your children returning home with new skills and experiences too. The grand finale of this holiday, though, is a spectacular balloon ride to see Angkor Wat from the skies and a trip to a traditional Cambodian circus. We've got fun for all of the family covered.
Elephant driver at the Amber Fort, Jaipur. Photo: Shutterstock
4. For the traveller who likes to take to the road
What? Tour the Golden Triangle
Which tour? India: From Delhi to the Desert
India's Golden Triangle is world-famous: here's how to do it in style. From crumbling fortresses, to grand palaces and ancient temples, this is India at its best. Begin by exploring the capital city, New Delhi, and the architectural wonders it is home to. Then head south to Agra and the magnificent Taj Mahal. Next up, travel to Jaipur, uncovering the Amber Fort, whose rugged exterior is home to pretty, elegant rooms inside. Time your trip right and you could spend Christmas Day in your very own palace, with plenty of overnight stops in restored fortresses and luxurious hotels featured along the way.
5. For the luxury traveller
What? Endless shopping, fabulous nightlife, colourful neighbourhoods and mouth-watering cuisine
Which tour? Indulgent Singapore
Cosmopolitan Singapore knows how to do luxury, home to some of the world’s top hotels and spas, fine dining with explosive flavours, pristine cleanliness and shopping worth splurging on, it’s the perfect city for a luxurious stopover or a relaxed break. Visit Orchard Road’s shops, cruise along the river, stroll through the beautiful Gardens By the Bay, visit museums and the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or just take a step back and relax along Sentosa’s sandy shores. Whatever you're looking for, you'll find it in Singapore.
6. For the off-the-beaten-track family
What? An action-packed trip suitable for all ages
Which tour? Vietnam Family Adventure
Holidays to Vietnam present the perfect package for adventurous families: stunning scenery, ancient cities, temples and pagodas, history, culture, beaches and mouthwatering cuisine. Take in its many waterways and enticing cities, explore Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, and its fascinating museums and architecture. Let off a little steam at Dai Nam Van Hien theme park with its zoo, waterpark, temples and safari, or just sit back and relax as your cruise around the waters of Halong Bay on a traditional Vietnamese junk.
7. For the traditional traveller
Where? China and Tibet
What? Two country's unmissable sites
Which tour? China and Tibet: An Unforgettable Adventure
From the dizzying altitudes of Lhasa to the impressive Terracotta Warriors at Xi’an, this trip to majestic China and the fabled ‘Roof of the World’ offers one of the greatest travel adventures of our time. Experience authentic Tibetan culture, marvel over incredible landscapes, explore ancient tombs, temples and palaces, sip tea in a Chengdu teahouse, see giant pandas, and pack in all of Beijing’s spectacular attractions. This is a trip showcasing China and Tibet's highlights and more.
A glorious, white-sand beach in the Maldives. Photo: Shutterstock
8. For the beach bum traveller
Where? The Maldives and Sri Lanka
What? Cultural treasures, natural beauty and world-famous beaches
Which tour? Luxury Sri Lanka and the Maldives
The ultimate combination trip for those looking to experience a new culture and relax on glorious beaches. Begin your adventure in Sri Lanka, taking in the country's cultural highlights, from Sigiriya rock fortress to Dambulla’s Royal Rock Temple and the archaeological ruins of Polonnaruwa. Observe elephants in their natural habitat at Minneriya National Park, visit tea and spice plantations, and carry on into Kandy to see the famous Temple of the Tooth, the most revered Buddhist pilgrimage site in the country. Spending a few days in Galle on the coast, potter around the popular, colonial town. Next up, time to relax; head to North Malé Atoll where you'll stay in a luxury four-star resort that's a surfer's paradise with white sandy beaches, fabulous food and glorious accommodation. What more could you want from your ultimate Christmas escape?
9. For the historical traveller
What? An interesting insight into an often overlooked country
Which tour? Historical Laos
Looking for a unique, off-the-beaten-track trip? Laos is it. This trip takes in the country's highlights while exploring its history along the way. Tour centuries-old temples, ancient Buddhist sites, colonial cities, and fascinating museums. Further east, visit the mysterious Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang Province, one of the country’s top attractions, before ending your journey in lovely Luang Prabang.
10. For the traveller looking for new experiences
What? Local traditions, beautiful pagodas, crumbling temples and more
Which tour? The Best of Myanmar
Spend your winter months, away from the gloomy weather by experiencing the best of Myanmar. Begin your holiday in captivating Yangon, with its old colonial buildings, wonderful tea-shops and enticing markets. Don’t miss the Shwedagon pagoda, the most revered in all of Myanmar and simply stunning. Fly on to the ancient capital Bagan and visit a cave temple filled with exquisite murals. Enjoy amazing sunsets while cruising down the Ayeyarwaddy River and witness everyday local life. Finally, head out onto magnificent Inle Lake in a private motorboat, passing stilt houses, floating gardens and local fishermen. One thing's for sure, after taking this trip, you'll want to return to Myanmar again and again.
11. For the outdoor enthusiast
What? A thrilling trip from beginning to end
Which tour? Annapurna Adventure
For some, gorging on Christmas Dinners and sipping on mulled wine for two weeks is not the ideal way to spend the holidays. Active travellers should seek out adventures in Nepal on their winter escape. This tour takes you on a journey through the Annapurnas by mountain bike, on foot and with a day of white-water rafting thrown in for good measure. There's also plenty of time added into the itinerary for discovering Kathmandu, the country's colourful, fascinating and frenetic capital city.
12. For the soul-searching traveller
What? A tour of Bhutan's epic scenic and cultural beauty
Which tour? Bhutan’s Mountains and Monasteries
What a way to see Bhutan, the famous Dragon Kingdom. Marvel over glorious mountain scenery, lush green hills and timeless cultural sites. Visit Drukgyel Dzong – the still glorious fortress with a tiny village at its foot and scale the hills surrounding Thimpu to the Tiger’s Nest sacred monastery, perched on a cliff edge and soaring 900m above the Paro Valley. Bhutan is a magical destination you simply don't want to miss.
This article was originally published on 14th November, 2016
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