Every Christmas Day it’s worth venturing to Bondi Beach just to watch visitors from the Northern Hemisphere who simply can’t believe that Christmas can be one of the hottest days of the year.
On the other hand (and on the other side of the world) I know a group of Australians who meet for a Christmas barbecue in Toronto, Canada – the challenge is to drink your beer before it freezes solid in the can.
The date may be the same but the season is very different. So, if you’re tired of walking past fake snow and sweating Santas in an Australian summer consider planning your ultimate winter experience for next year – or this year if you can pack really quickly.
Here are our suggestions.
The novelty and romance of staying in a hotel carved completely out of ice more than makes up for the logical challenges. You now have quite a few to choose from.
Hôtel de Glace, Canada
Quebec City looks a bit like a fairytale castle anyway but only a few minutes away the Hôtel de Glace is an elaborate construction of 44 rooms built to a different theme each year – this year it’s “rivers”. The hotel is open from January to March and room rates begin at $C279. Consider a Premium Deluxe suite that has its own fireplace and spa bath. You can just visit for a tour, too.
Spend Christmas in the Ice Hotel in Quebec this weekend (Image: Facebook / Hôtel de Glace)
Open year round, ICEHOTEL builds its seasonal hotel rooms in winter. You sleep on a block of ice but have a mattress and a comfy sleeping bag between you and the cold. The hotel has now been operating for 25 years and, at 200km north of the Arctic Circle in Jukkasjärvi, is one of the best places to observe the Northern Lights.
Snooze atop a block of ice in the freezing Swedish winter (Facebook / ICEHOTEL)
Other options are:
• The one-bedroom Ice Cave within the Hoshino Resorts Tomamu ski resort on Hokkaido that’s open from January to February.
• Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, near Alta Norway, is large and well located for reindeer sleigh rides and viewing the Northern Lights.
• Igloo Village in Slovenia lets you build your own igloo or occupy one that’s already made and connected to the others by tunnels. There are two igloos for groups of up to eight and two for couples.
• Snowhotel in SnowVillage, Lainio, Finland is large and re-themed each year and its decorated corridors alone are worth exploring.
• Hotel of Ice, Balea Lac, Romania is up in the Fagaras Mountains and is only accessible by cable car. It’s built with ice from a glacial lake and this year opens on December 20.
Christmas Markets are the best way to get into the festive mood. Perhaps the best-known ones are in Germany but there are Christmas Markets are scattered across Europe, from Venice to Tallinn. One of the most atmospheric is Vienna’s Christkindlemarkt in front of the city hall, but it’s just one of many around the city. There are Christmas markets in the UK, too, and in the US and Canada.
An increasingly popular option for Australians is to take a European winter river cruise that takes in the festive spirit and numerous Christmas markets along several waterways.
It may be the influence of movies and other popular culture, but there are some scenes you only need to visit to feel part of a rom-com. Take a stroll down London’s Regent St when the Christmas lights are on, or go skating in New York’s Rockefeller Square. Indeed, just strolling along 5th Avenue with steam coming up from the street grates is enough to make me feel like Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park, about to play opposite Jane Fonda.
Walk under the stunning light displays along London's Regent St (Image: Facebook / Vanessa Okell)
If you’re heading to Whistler-Blackcomb for some Christmas skiing you should head to Stanley Park for the Bright Nights at Stanley Park when more than three million lights illuminate the park throughout December.
Those who wish to take Christmas really seriously should find their way to the Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle outside Rovaniemi, Finland. You need to be there with children who will meet Santa and reindeers and Santa’s helpers while crossing back and forth over the Arctic Circle.
On the other hand, if you want a Santa-free white Christmas consider a voyage to Antarctica. It’s not called the White Continent for nothing, even though it’s more realistically seen as shades of beguiling blue. You are guaranteed snow and ice as well as penguins and, around Christmas time, their newborn chicks.
Where’s your favourite spot to celebrate Christmas?