The festive season can be a wonderful time to reconnect with loved ones. Or it can be a time fraught with family feuds at the dinner table, pitiful presents under the tree and tasteless turkeys in the oven. But what if you could bid a festive farewell to pushy parents, squabbling siblings and inhospitable in-laws?
Here, we bring you a selection of alternative getaways to destinations that will lead you far from the madding crowd, or maybe even make your familial bond that bit stronger…
Where better to celebrate the season to be jolly than the island that bears its name? Okay, so it’s a far cry from Lapland, but if you hate snow, the 28°C heat will warm your heart. Christmas Island measures a mere 52 square miles, so it shouldn’t take too long to navigate the various attractions, including some great watersports. As you’d expect from a national park, there is plenty of wildlife to spot here, and around Yuletide you can witness the incredible sight of red crabs coming ashore to lay their eggs on “Spawning Morning”. The cosy Mango Tree Lodge is the ideal base for your festive jaunt and is down the road from the golf course, so don’t forget your clubs when you pack the presents.
From Dhs3,200 (seven nights, two sharing). Christmas Island, Australia, www.mangotreelodge.cx (+61 8 9164 7189).
History fans of a certain age will remember the Falklands as the scene of a two-month war in 1982. Others may not have even heard of it, but that just adds to the allure of this archipelago for a festive break with a difference. On first sight, the landscape might appear a little hostile, but look deeper and you’ll discover a scenic charm heightened by the fantastic array of native wildlife. Although primarily known for its sizeable penguin colony, the Falklands is home to a number of rare breeds that will keep birdwatchers twitching fervently. We suggest joining a two-week tour with a company such as Focus Nature, which will show you the best the archipelago has to offer with trips to Saunders, Bleaker and Sea Lion Islands. You might even get a white Christmas, if the winds don’t blow the snow away!
From Dhs13,500 (flights extra). Falkland Islands, www.focusnature.co.uk (+44 207 060 4727).
Camping holidays might fill you with dread at being holed up in a tent for a fortnight, but this trip organised by Wild About Africa is all about the great outdoors. It’s essentially a pair of week-long safaris split into two, as you’ll discover the beauty of Namibia both north and south. Among the many highlights are an overnight stay at the breathtaking Fish River Canyon, some wildlife-spotting in Etosha National Park and the chance to marvel at ancient rock engravings at Twyfelfontein. All you have to do is know how to pitch and pack up your tent.
From Dhs6,500 (flights extra). Namibia, www.wildaboutafrica.com (+44 208 758 4717).
Choose 21 of your best buddies or extended family members and head to Oban in the West Highlands for a relaxing retreat. The Drury, perched above the town itself, is a vast property with period touches and views out towards the Isle of Mull. With 11 bedrooms, a shed converted into a games room and a dining room big enough to accommodate the entire gang, and the biggest turkey money can buy, this place is perfect for self-catering celebrations. You won’t miss any of the festive football, either, thanks to there being Sky Sports installed in the house. And if you’re feeling brave, you can always hop in the hot tub after Christmas dinner.
Dhs23,000 per group of 21, Dhs1,045 per person (for five nights, flights extra). Oban, Scotland, www.house-parties.com (+44 124 228 5755).
If all you really want is to get away from it all – including the festivities taking place in Abu Dhabi – perhaps it’s best you head to a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all. Uzbekistan affords visitors plenty of cultural and natural offerings to feast their eyes upon. Responsible Travel will tailor-make a 14-day trip just for you, kicking off in the capital, Tashkent, before taking in the Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand and desert castles dating back 4,300 years. Hikers are in for a treat as you’ll ramble through the Nurata Mountains with your guide, who will teach you about the local flora and fauna. And there’s a treat for culture vultures, too, as you will visit Nukus, home to a fine collection of Soviet avant-garde artwork.
From Dhs8,100 per person (flights extra). Uzbekistan, www.responsibletravel.com (+44 1273 823 700).