17 December 2019
On the twelve days of Christmas
my TC sent to me:
12 shoppers shopping
11 candles flickering
10 luxury suites
9 beautiful waterfalls
8 groups of dancers
7 beasts migrating
6 lakeside villages
5 stunning isles
4 pink blossoms
3 swinging apes
2 Buddhist temples
and a trip to the northern lights
Whether you know it as the Aurora, the polar lights or the northern lights, this natural display in the earth’s atmosphere is a wonder than everyone should experience at least once in their life. The result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar winds, the awe-inspiring iridescent display can only be seen from the earth’s upper latitudes when light pollution is low, and there are few places on the planet more remote and northerly than Tromso in Norway, meaning that a trip here in January, when daylight hours are minimal, will give you ample opportunity to spot the natural phenomenon.
Magha Puja is celebrated each February in Thailand to commemorate the day when Buddha declared the core principles of Buddhism. While the actual date varies by year, in 2020 the special day falls on 8th February. The day is marked by nation-wide offerings and preaching, before nightfall when people gather at temples with flowers and candles to be reminded of Buddha’s teachings. Bangkok is the perfect place to position yourself for the celebrations as the city is home to a plethora of intricately designed temples where gatherings will take place, and just to the north is the famous Dhammakaya Temple (pictured).
The magnificent forested island of Borneo is home to miles of dense tropical rainforest where some of the highest biodiversity on the planet can be found. Amongst the majestic creatures found here is the old man of the forest, the Orangutan. Borneo is one of only two places to see Orangutans in the wild (the other being Sumatra), and March is the ideal time to go see them as the wet season has just come to a close but you’ll avoid the elevated temperatures of summer months.
The bloom of cherry blossoms in Japan is a spectacular display of mother nature’s beauty that occurs in spring each year. While the time of bloom fluctuates each year depending on temperature, it does tend to fall in April, when the country becomes blanketed in a gorgeous pink canopy of sakura blossom. If you’re heading to the capital to catch this display, you’ll be best to head to the city’s parks such as Shinjuku Green, Sumida Park, and Chidorigafuchi Park where the blossoming trees can be admired from the peaceful waterways.
As close to paradise on earth as it’s possible to be, the Seychelles sit floating in the vast crystalline waters of the Indian Ocean and present an atmosphere of peace and relaxation to all who visit her shores. The untouched natural beauty of the islands shines through and is complemented expertly by the stunning selection of luxury accommodation which adorns the hillsides and blends seamlessly with the tropical surroundings to give you a wondrous spot to gaze out to sea and enjoy the warm sunshine.
The start of European summer time offers gorgeous weather across Italy. For an unforgettable Italian trip, start your visit in the northern city of Bologna. Home to more than 50 museums, the historic city is a cultural hub filled with beautiful medieval architecture and a thriving dining scene to delight even the most refined palates. Following Bologna, head north for the sophisticated charm of Lake Garda. Lined to the south by morainic hills, Lake Garda sits surrounded by lush vegetation and offers cyclists ample opportunity to get out on two wheels as they peddle through immaculate countryside and along the lakes edge. The warmly coloured buildings that surround the lake create a postcard-perfect scene for you to admire as you sip on your coffee at a traditional lakeside café.
Every year more than two million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles move through the Serengeti and Masai Mara in search of better feeding grounds. In July, the wildebeest occupy the northern plains of the Serengeti in north Tanzania, where they cross the Mara River. The spectacular scenes have featured on countless nature documentaries over the years and are considered by many to be the best time to witness one of nature’s greatest wonders.
For 2020’s holiday, step outside of South Africa and look further afield to the party atmosphere of Barbados. Every year, through July and August, Barbadians and visitors gather to honour the end of sugar cane season in a tradition that dates back some 200 years. The festivities have escalated over the decades and now include lively parties, Bajan dining and arts & crafts markets. The culmination of the celebrations comes on 3rd August in 2020 with Grand Kadooment Day, which marks the end of Crop Over. Each year, revellers take to the streets, dressed in colourful sequined costumes decorated with vibrant feathers and jewels, and dance behind music trucks blasting out rhythmic carnival tunes. Keep an eye out for celebs at the event as superstar singer Rhianna is a regular at the party on her home island.
Dodge the summer crowds in 2020 and plan your trip to Croatia for September when you’ll also be able to take advantage of slightly milder temperatures to allow you to explore more freely. Croatia’s gorgeous National Parks are just waiting to be explored from the picturesque waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park, to the mountainous scenery of Paklenica National Park which is a dream destination for climbers and hikers.
When you’ve had your fill of the great outdoors, the cities beckon. Explore the medieval city walls of Dubrovnik and its old town which you may recognise as King’s landing in Game of Thrones, and wander the colourful streets of Zagreb and admire it’s cathedral.
Dubai is an oasis of lavish luxury in the Arabian desert. Towering glass-sided skyscrapers make up the city skyline and twinkle in the glistening sun to the backdrop of seemingly endless desert dunes. A trip to Dubai is a chance to sample the finer things in life from fine dining in Michelin star restaurants to staying in the most luxurious suites, exquisitely appointed to create a palatial feel.
Dubai isn’t all about the luxury life, it’s also packed with thrills and excitement so if you’re traveling as a family, pay a visit to one of the city’s enthralling theme parks and water parks to add some adrenaline to your stay.
In 2020 the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, will fall on 14 November. This is one of the most important festivals on the Hindu calendar, Diwali symbolises the spiritual victory of light over dark and good over evil. Across India the festival will be recognised with nationwide fireworks displays, prayer services, the giving of sweets, and a whole host of festive events.
It is common to see rangolis adorning the floors outside people’s houses. These vibrant intricate patterns are made using coloured sand, petals and rice.
The lead up to Christmas is something of a magical time in the big apple. The Rockefeller ice rink is filled with skaters, Central park is blanketed with a layer of crisp snow, the streets are illuminated with the glow of Christmas lights and Broadway is abuzz with festive stage productions. As one of the top shopping destinations in the world, New York is a superb place to pick up Christmas gifts for the special people in your life, whether that be a designer handbag from Madison Avenue or a wintery snow globe from SoHo.
New York still has plenty to offer for December visitors even post-Christmas with some of the most iconic New Year’s Eve celebrations found anywhere in the world. Watch the famous Ball Drop in Times Square and party the night away in one of hundreds of bars across the city.
To book your 2020 holiday contact your local Travel Counsellor and take advantage of exclusive benefits such as full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and even after your trip.