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A Guide To Travelling Asia At Christmas

HOME > JOURNALAsia At Christmas

Looking for something different this Christmas?

While Asia may not be the first destination you initially think of for Christmas festivities – with its ancient customs, breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable experiences, Asia guarantees a one-of-a-kind adventure.

With such a variety and range of destinations in Asia, finding the most suitable option can be overwhelming. We have created a guide to make that choice just a little bit easier. We’ve listed some of the most exciting places to go at this time of year, specifically put together by both our destination experts and our insightful local guides.

1. Sri Lanka at Christmas

South Coast Beaches

December is one of the best times to visit Sri Lanka – sticking to the South will mean guaranteed warm weather. The South Coast beaches offer an exceptional choice if you want a sunny Sri Lankan Christmas. Festivities begin on the 1st of December when firecrackers light up the sky at dawn – and then the celebrations begin! Spend your time out in the shining sun, surfing, hiking, whale-watching, scuba-diving or even turtle spotting. Indulge in the special ‘hoppers’ Sri Lankan pancakes for your Christmas meal and switch turkey for freshly cooked smoky lobster.


Yala National Park

Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature by spending Christmas at Yala National Park. Head out on a safari adventure on Christmas day where you’ll have the opportunity to spot elephants, crocodiles or even leopards (it has the highest concentration of leopards in the world – over 200!). Then relax on a serene beachfront safari lodge, seamlessly blending luxury with Yala’s natural surroundings. Take a dip in the pool with an ice-cold cocktail in hand before settling down to a delicious candle-lit Christmas dinner prepared by the talented on-site chefs. Can you think of a more perfect Christmas day?

The Wild Coast Tented Lodge is a great option if you are looking for a place to stay in Yala.

Colombo

After Christmas, If you find yourself in the capital on New Year’s Eve, Colombo comes alive with vibrant celebrations. Festivities like street parties, live music and fireworks line the streets. It is a memorable way to bring in the New Year. If you stay in Colombo, the Unduvap Full Moon Poya, otherwise known as the Duruthu Poya, is later in January. This is a celebration of the Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka and occurs on the first full moon in January. Colourful processions, illuminated temples and religious ceremonies will emanate from special Buddhist temples. It is an incredible and unique experience.

Discover Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a lush tropical destination and the perfect adventure for those wishing to spot some wildlife, immerse themselves in a new culture, relax on palm-fringed beaches and admire the magnificent scenery.

2. Japan at Christmas

Tokyo

Tokyo is already one of the most exciting cities in the world. At Christmas time, it is buzzing with the lights and colours of festive celebrations. You could spend Christmas Eve experiencing Tokyo’s energetic nightlife – just head out on an adventure to centuries-old drinking districts with a charismatic guide. For a more secluded experience, sample exquisite sushi and watch authentic Japanese performances in a recently renovated private underground theatre. Or, for more family-friendly festivities, experience the magic of Disney Christmas at Tokyo’s Disneyland. Amble down festive tree-lined streets, skate at one of the ice rinks or browse the Roppongi Christmas Market. December is also the best time to visit the nearby Jigokudani monkey park, where you can spot monkeys bathing in hot springs surrounded by a blanket of white snow.

Kyoto

Christmas Eve is considered a very romantic day in Japan, almost like Valentine’s Day. Soak up the romantic atmosphere by sampling some delicious local cuisine in one of the exquisite restaurants. After your meal, stroll down the softly glowing lantern-lit streets of Gion. For a more luxurious Christmas Eve, treat yourself to a private Michelin star dinner with a geisha, where you can witness a performance but also have a fascinating conversation about their lifestyle. Instead of fine dining, perhaps indulge in the unusual Japanese tradition of KFC fried chicken buckets on Christmas Day! Make sure to head to the stunning Arashiyama bamboo forest, where special light displays show during the festive period. If you would prefer to rest your legs, experience the beauty of the bamboo from the comfort of a Jinrikisha – a Japanese rickshaw.

Mount Fuji

December is the best time to visit Mount Fuji. You are sure to get incredible views of the snow-covered mountain and you will be undisturbed by the usual crowds. You won’t be able to climb it though, instead, relax in one of the many hot springs and enjoy the view from afar. Perhaps sample a slice of the light fluffy Japanese Christmas cake while you enjoy the scene.

Expert Insights

Be sure to plan your Christmas Holiday in Japan to culminate before the 27th of December as various Japanese festivities mean that many shops/venues are closed from that date.

Discover Japan

Japan is a place of extreme contrasts. It is often associated with bright lights, bullet trains and state of the art technology. Yet many of its deep-rooted traditions and centuries-old temples remain largely undiscovered.

3. Thailand at Christmas

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai will be warm but not sweltering in December, meaning it is great time to explore the exciting Thai city. If you happen to be there between the 23rd and the 31st of December, be sure to head to the Ping Fai festival to join the Christmas celebrations. Browse the stalls and roast marshmallows at this lively atmospheric gathering. On New Year’s Eve, grab a drink at a rooftop bar and watch as the sky lights up with traditional hot air lanterns – lit by the locals at Buddhist temples in the countdown to New Year.

Bangkok

As the capital of Thailand, the city truly comes alive at Christmas. Experience endless cultural shows and performances. Perhaps watch the classical Thai dance ‘Khon’ at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre for an authentic Christmas Eve. Or treat your tastebuds to a dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River for a special Christmas meal while watching Bangkok’s most famous sights drift past amongst the shining lights of the city. Or perhaps you are planning to spend New Year in Bangkok, in which case, you will find impressive firework displays over the river.

Phuket

Relish the glorious sunshine while lounging on the white sandy beaches of Thailand’s biggest island, Phuket. Phuket’s popularity means that there will be endless Christmas celebrations here. With fireworks, beach parties, Christmas trees and endless divine restaurants and bars – you are sure to never get bored.

Discover Thailand

Thailand is an excellent choice for a family holiday with luxury accommodation scattered along the diverse landscape of jungles, forests, rivers, beaches and bustling cities.

4. Vietnam at Christmas

Hanoi

In Hanoi, you will be able to explore a fascinating city without the constant stream of tourists. Spend Christmas ambling down the twisting narrow streets where you might come across either the longest mosaic in the world, one of the many lakes embedded within the city or even the world-famous train street. If you are after culture, visit the Temple of Literature – the city’s oldest monument, as well as Ho Chi Minh’s stunning marble mausoleum. Hanoi promises a fascinating Christmas experience. 

Hoi An

Hoi An would have typically warmer temperatures than northern Vietnam in December, with pleasant days and balmy evenings. The city is an old trading port, and being able to see the ancient town lit up at night for Christmas is very special. A constant stream of lantern-filled boats gently flows down the Thu Bon River which emanates a festive atmosphere.  Christmas Eve is particularly celebrated here, so be sure to head out into town to experience the local festivities. Celebrations are also common at the nearby beaches, so head to the sands of nearby Ah Bang Beach and you will be sure to discover delicious beachfront bars and restaurants for a cheery meal. 

Phú Quôc

Even more South than Hoi An you will find Phú Quôc, Vietnam’s biggest Island. For guaranteed warmth for those sun lovers, this is the place to be at Christmas. The endless white sandy beaches and clear turquoise water will ensure a truly relaxing break. Taste fresh seafood, sample a delicious cocktail at a rooftop bar on Christmas Eve and just let go. If you want to enjoy the festive atmosphere, head into town for Christmas Eve mass at one of the beautiful churches.

Discover Vietnam

With a coastline stretching over 2,000 miles from north to south, visitors to Vietnam are spoiled for choice with outstanding beaches. Combined with scenic trekking routes in the north, fascinating historical sites in the south, and exceptional street food along the way, the variety of experiences on offer makes Vietnam the ideal holiday for families and couples.

5. Cambodia at Christmas

Siem Reap

December is the perfect time to visit Siem Reap as the days are sure to be sunny and dry. Its popularity is down to the fact that it is home to the beautiful temples of Angkor while also housing endless excellent hotels. Perhaps rise early and enjoy a quieter experience with a glowing sunrise framing the stunning temples of Angkor Wat. Then you could spend the day on a quad bike adventure tour exploring the breathtaking countryside. End the day with the exciting Phare circus in the evening, followed by one of the fantastic culinary tours available for a Christmas dinner. Perhaps head to Raffles for a delicious cocktail amongst the spectacular festive decorations on display there, the hotel is strewn with glittering lights and brightly coloured wreaths. If you are in Siem Reap over Christmas and want a taste of home, sip mulled wine and relish their 4 course meal for lunch or dinner, where Turkey is always on the menu.

Sihanoukville & the neighbouring private islands

After a busy stay in Siem Reap, or perhaps you are just in need of a break, head to Sihanoukville – one of Cambodia’s most popular coastal cities. From here, you can get a direct boat transfer to the nearby Six Senses Krabey Island or Song Saa Private Island. Spend Christmas at the sustainable 5* luxury resorts, where you will be treated to absolutely incredible service. Either at the rustic wooden villas of Song Saa or the more modern waterfront houses of the Six Senses, you are sure to be impressed. Instead of a cold Christmas, immerse yourself in these havens of relaxation, where the festive period could entail delicious healthy food, state-of-the-art spa services and watersports.

Expert Insights

Although visiting Siem Reap over Christmas itself can be a great experience, to avoid the crowds, perhaps choose to come in the days leading up to Christmas – from the 1st of December to the 20th of December, where you will avoid the peak season pricing but still enjoy the Christmas feel.

Discover Cambodia

Home to the ancient kingdom and temple complex of Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s rich cultural offering sits in a breathtaking natural landscape: a blend of rice paddies, sugar palm plantations and remote jungles. The ultimate combination of white sand beaches and captivating culture makes Cambodia the ideal destination for a family holiday.

6. Laos at Christmas

Luang Prabang

Spend Christmas in Laos to truly get away from the crowds. The country that sits between Thailand and Vietnam is relatively unexplored, so it is a great place to visit as part of a trip to Asia. Luang Prabang is a must if you decide to visit Laos at Christmas time. The gorgeous city was the ancient royal capital and is surrounded by stunning mountains. On Christmas day, at sunrise, you could rise at dawn to witness the Alms Giving Ceremony. Hundreds of monks process silently through the street while locals offer food as offerings. It is truly a timeless scene and a fascinating way to immerse yourself in Buddhist culture. After this early wake-up, treat yourself to a delicious bowl of ‘Khao Noew’ or ‘sticky rice’, a Laos speciality, as your Christmas breakfast. Then perhaps head to the Laos Elephant Village, a haven for rescued elephants. Finish your evening with a delicious meal in the beautifully lit city and you will have had a Christmas like never before. If you are in Laos in January and you happen to be there during the Hmong New Year (a sect of Buddhism that celebrates New Year on the first new moon in January), then head to Ban Vang Ngern for the busy festival. Try your hand at local traditions like grounding corn or pounding rice whilst being surrounded by many locals dressed in bright traditional outfits. It is very much an important day for the Hmong people, so being able to experience it with them is very special.

Discover Laos

Once you set foot in Laos, you’ll immediately feel at one with nature. Let the country’s charmingly unspoilt landscape entice you to its dense jungles, mountains, caves and rivers. The opposite to a beach destination, endless adventure awaits you from rock climbing up limestone mountains in Vang Vieng to flying through the jungle like a monkey on a zipline at Nam Ka National Park.

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