With celebrations, traditions, and festive decorations, we look forward to the December holiday season every year.
If you are keen to make your winter holiday an extra special, memorable white Christmas for you and your family, we’ve put together our favourite Christmas and winter travel destinations.
Typically northern hemisphere December holidays are a great chance to enjoy “off-season from cycling” activities, yet they also include a healthy dose of outdoor aerobic activities to keep your system fired up year-round.
Whether you’re seeking an exciting, action-packed trip, or a cosy holiday destination curled up by a fireplace, our Christmas and winter travel ideas have something for everyone.
Christmas and Winter Travel Destinations
1. Isola Elba [Elba Island] Tuscany, Italy
Whenever someone asks where a favourite winter holiday location is — especially for anyone who prefers to skip the snow and cold — our immediate answer is Isola Elba.
Located just off the Tuscan coast in Italy, travelling to Elba Island in the winter means you can enjoy the outdoors, while still enjoying a mild climate. Elba is a short forty-five-minute ferry ride from the Italian-Tuscan mainland.
If you want your December holiday travel agenda to include biking, Ebla Island has a wide range of routes of varying difficulty to explore both on and or off-road [Gravel and MTB, including a world-class mtb park]
- Highlights: World-class wine, exquisite Elba cuisine, historic architecture, and festive Christmas celebrations.
- Best things to do in the winter season: Learn about Elba Island’s rich, fascinating history by visiting the historic fortresses, museums, churches, and mines.
- Our recommendation: Bring an open mind and a sense of adventure. If you’ve ever wanted to try sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, snorkelling, or surfing, Elba Island is the perfect opportunity! Bring your adventurous taste buds, too, as there are so many mouthwatering traditional dishes to try!
2. Champery, Switzerland
Want to sit around by a fireplace, read a book, drink a glass of wine and enjoy the Swiss Life?
You can definitely do those things in Champery, yet we also encourage you to explore a little further afield too, to get the true potential of Switzerland and this beautiful destination.
For this reason, we highly recommend Champery if you’re looking for both an adventure-filled, active holiday, and to fill your wellness cup with an open fire.
Located in the “Portes du Soleil” region above Lake Geneva, Champery is considered one the largest continuous skiing areas on the planet, Champery is a dream holiday for anyone who loves winter sports, adventure, adrenaline and taking time out to wander and explore a historic Swiss village
- Highlights: One of Switzerland’s oldest tourist destinations, world-class skiing and snowboarding, and countless opportunities to make once-in-a-lifetime memories.
- Best things to do in the winter season: Go snow-shoeing on one of the many trails, skiing, or do some curling, or ice skating with the children at the village’s charming indoor sports centre.
- Our recommendation: Go all out and plan an adventure-filled holiday by scheduling ice climbing or paragliding (try both!). Or, head out to the family-friendly mountain areas to ski or snowboard with our friends at ZE Snow School, our children love going to European summer and winter camps where they learn outdoor activities along with other children of similar ages. See ZE Snow School here.
For the Elite winter sports inclined, the ski region above Champery also boasts the ski slope at Pas de Chavanette (often known as “the Swiss Wall”) — one of the steepest slopes in the world!
3. Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Austria is an enchanted winter holiday destination. Vienna is overflowing with European charm, and we love visiting during the holidays to see the festive lights, charming local shops, and snow-covered surroundings.
- Highlights: Rich local culture, mulled wine, traditional treats, and festive shops to browse
- Best things to do in the winter season: Don’t miss a stroll by the Danube River, which is particularly beautiful in the winter season. At night, skate under the stars at the picturesque ice skating rink.
- Our recommendation: There are numerous lodging options yet we find ourselves preferring the Boutique Hotel Das Tyrol. Its chic-modern interior and convenient location put you within walking distance of practically all the city sights.
4. The Plitvice Lakes in Croatia
The Plitvice Lakes in Croatia is a breathtaking area to visit in the warmer months. Yet we had been missing out on how magical it can be in the winter!
With chilly temps and plenty of snow, the Plitvice Lakes National Park offers a true winter experience. When you visit during the holiday season, expect breathtaking waterfalls that are covered in ice, towering cliffs, and endless stretches of pristine wilderness. Visitors often compare it to being in a fairytale.
- Highlights: Croatia’s oldest national park, stunning scenery, and crystal clear waters
- Best things to do in the winter season: Bundle up and go hiking amongst the majestic, picturesque waterfalls and cliffs
- Our recommendation: The park is only partially open in the winter and access is limited. However, this means affordable tickets and less crowding. Dress warm, bring good quality hiking/snow boots, and be prepared for some snowy hikes – the effort is worth it! We also recommend the modest Etno Garden Plitvice Lakes, as it’s conveniently located right in the centre of the park.
5. The Sesto Dolomites, Italy
If you’re keen to experience a real-life winter wonderland in northern Italy, we recommend putting The Dolomites high on your travel list!
The Dolomites are a true paradise for adventure seekers and nature lovers. Spike your adrenaline and immerse yourself in the breathtaking surroundings as you ski during the day. Then, cosy up in one of the rustic mountain chalets by night and kick up your feet by the fireplace.
- Highlights: Excellent skiing and snowboarding, hearty Italian cuisine, charming mountain villages, rich culture, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and ice skating.
- Best things to do in the winter season: Enjoy every winter sport you can imagine, including snowshoeing, hiking, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and tobogganing
- Our recommendation: If you want to make this the trip of a lifetime, we suggest. checking out the Bad Moos Dolomites Spa Resort where you’ll find an indoor ozone pool, luxury accommodations, and a 35°C outdoor jacuzzi with views of the Dolomite mountain range towering in the distance.
6. Tromsø, Norway
Two words: Northern Lights
If you want a chance to see one of the most awe-inspiring phenomenons in the world consider a holiday trip to Tromsø, Norway. A winter visit to Tromsø offers one of the highest chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
Located above the Arctic Circle, visitors can hope for a glimpse of the Northern Lights at night, while enjoying a variety of activities during the day.
- Highlights: Untouched wilderness areas, a chance to see the Aurora Borealis, reindeer sleigh rides, the Polar Museum
- Best things to do in the winter season: Enjoy a true Arctic adventure by booking a guided husky sledding journey through the pristine wilderness or book a Northern Lights tour
- Our recommendation: It can get a bit busy over Christmas time, so if you want to beat the crowds, we recommend visiting earlier on (think November or early December or after the Christmas season)
7. Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
If you want a southern hemisphere Christmas travel destination before travelling to our Tour Down Under Tour with us, there’s endless beauty to explore at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania.
Known for its dramatic peaks and expansive stretches of wilderness, Cradle Mountain is a nature lovers’ dream destination, with approximately 50 days of snow per year, which are experienced every month, it’s not unusual to experience a “white Christmas” at Cradle Mountain.
You can either ride or travel in vehicles to Cradle Mountain, located in the Central Highlands region of Tasmania, the ride up to Cradle Mountain is beautiful.
- Highlights: Some of the best scenery in the world, with glacier-carved lakes, soaring peaks, breathtaking hikes, and abundant local fauna and flora to appreciate. We liken the Cradle Mountain area to a free-range zoo, there are so many wild, native animals to be seen.
- Best things to do in December: Spend the day hiking and exploring, then book a massage for the ultimate mix of adventure and relaxation. In the evening take a guided night tour, it’s a fun-filled way to experience the the Cradle Mountain National Park area after dark.
- Our recommendation: When we visit Cradle Mountain, we enjoy staying at the Cradle Mountain Lodge or Cradle Mountain Hotel. Conveniently located right next to all the park’s attractions, the lodgings are stunning and offer suites, fine dining, and spa experiences so you can unwind and recharge after a long day of exploring nature, many attractions are within walking distance from the accommodations.
8. Lyon, France
Lyon is an iconic city in France, featuring a seamless blend of historic and modern architecture. With intriguing scenery and fairly mild year-round temperatures, Lyon makes an exceptional winter travel destination.
- Highlights: Vibrant Christmas markets, The Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, and skiing at Les Sept Laux or St Francois Longchamp
- Best things to do in the winter season: Visit the Notre-Dame de Fourvière, explore the picturesque cobbled streets of Vieux Lyon, and visit a ‘bouchon’, a Lyonnais restaurant where you can sample delicious traditional cuisines such as the famous Saint-Marcellin cheese, onion soup, Lyonnaise salad, and so much more!
- Our recommendation: Christmas in Lyon is particularly vibrant, with festivals, craft vendors, and delicious local foods, so if you can make it there for the Christmas season, we recommend experiencing the magic for yourself!
9. Leuven, Belgium
A winter holiday in Leuven may have you seeing more rain than snow, but it still makes a fabulous Christmas destination.
With soaring towers, Christmas markets, festivals, unique architecture, and lively nightlife, we recommend visiting the city of Leuven over the holidays.
- Highlights: Festive vibes, beautiful churches, galleries, lively bars, mansions, classic architecture, and some energetic nightlife.
- Best things to do this December season: Along with walking the streets to soak in the stunning architecture and festive vibes, don’t miss the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM)
- Our recommendation: Repeat after us – Eat Belgian waffles, drink Belgian beer, and eat Belgian chocolate
10. Seville, Spain
If snow and ice aren’t your thing and you prefer ample sunshine instead, we recommend a trip to Seville, Spain.
It may be the last winter travel destination on our list, but it is still a favourite!
With a Mediterranean climate, this popular destination offers plentiful sunshine while still letting you enjoy festive celebrations. Plus, a winter trip to Seville means skipping the sweltering heat, and crowds that can be present during summer.
And the food! If enjoying delectable dishes and experiencing new foods are your holiday priorities, forget all the other recommendations and head to Seville!
- Highlights: Unforgettable architecture, picturesque streets lined with orange trees, horse-drawn carriages, tapas bars, flamenco dancers, and the ability to walk almost anywhere in the city (Seville is considered of one Europe’s most walkable cities)
- Best things to do in the winter season: Visit Seville’s famous cathedral and stroll the streets to admire the vast architectural influences. Don’t miss the Gothic Halls of Carlos V, the Courtyard of the Maidens, the Baths of Lady María de Padilla, and the royal palace (the Real Alcázar)
- Our recommendation: If you can, we recommend planning your trip over Christmas and New Year’s. The city goes all out with festive events, including street musicians, parades, concerts, dazzling lights, and plenty of shops to browse.
We also recommend taking part in a guided tapas and flamenco tour. Yes, this is a thing and it’s as good as it sounds. This tour takes you through the city, immersing you in its rich flamenco history and offering tastings at the best tapas bars.
Want More Holiday Travel Ideas or Inspiration?
If you’ve joined us for one of our bike tours or follow our blog, you know we’re passionate about travelling to new places and biking all over the world.
Ready for your own adventure?
Our dedicated, passionate team at Ride International Tours has been planning and hosting exceptional cycling vacations since 2007. We’d love for you to join us, or let us plan all the details for your next cycling vacation!
Late each Christmas holiday period, in mid-January each year, you’ll find us hosting our Tour Down Under Tours during the Australian summer, we’d love you to join us for an authentic Down Under experience.
Whether you have a quick question or are ready to dive into the planning process for a cycling, & or non-cycling vacation, get in touch with us and we’ll be glad to help bring things together.