Where should you go for the holidays?
Even though a popular song says there's no place like home for the holidays, a vacation isn't exactly a bad way to spend your time off, either.
With the holidays fast approaching, now is the time to nail down those travel plans, starting with where you'll go. If you're not sure of a destination yet, this list includes something for everyone, from tropical paradises to snow-capped mountains.
1. Saint Lucia
If you'd take a sunny day at the beach over bundling up by a fireplace, then the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia is just what you need. December marks the beginning of the island's dry season, and temperatures are milder than usual at this time of year.
For ocean lovers, the holidays are a great time to go whale watching in Saint Lucia, and snorkeling is another popular activity. The island is also home to the Pitons, a pair of awe-inspiring volcanic plugs that make for a fantastic photo op or hike.
Although Iceland gets far more tourists during the summer, you could argue that it's even better to visit later in the year. Many of the country's most spectacular sights look even better during winter, such as Kirkjufell, one of the most unique-looking mountains in the world. And of course, winter will give you the opportunity to see the famous Northern Lights.
Iceland is chillier in the winter, but it's not a brutal cold, as the average temperature is still in the mid-30s. You can always take a dip in Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa, to warm back up.
3. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The Jackson Hole valley in Wyoming has no shortage of ski resorts, so if you're a skier or a snowboarder, you'll feel right at home. But you don't need to worry if not everyone in your group wants to hit the slopes. There's also snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and even dog sled tours here.
A trip to Jackson Hole will also put you in close proximity to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the National Elk refuge, making this destination paradise for wildlife lovers.
Fun fact: Several popular movies have filmed in Jackson Hole, including Django Unchained and Rocky IV.
4. Seville, Spain
Seville is considered one of Spain's must-see cities, and if you go in the winter, there won't be nearly as many tourists. The weather will be a little cooler, but you may find temperatures in the 50s to 60s more pleasant than the sweltering heat of the summer, when it can be over 100.
The architecture is a highlight of Seville, with the Cathedral, the Real Alcazar, and the Giralda being just a few of the impressive sights to visit. Don't forget to make time for some barhopping, too. One of the best parts of a visit to Spain is going from bar to bar so you can sample a variety of drinks and tapas.
5. Lake Bled, Slovenia
Your first impression of Lake Bled will probably be that it's like the setting for a European fairytale. There's a deep-blue lake, forests thick with green trees, mountains in the distance, and even a medieval castle -- the oldest in the country.
It's the perfect place to bundle up and go for a hike in the woods, provided you rent a pair of snowshoes first. Ice skating is another popular activity, and if the lake freezes over, you may even be able to skate on it. By the way, Bled has its own signature cream cake, so you'll want to save room for dessert.
6. Rajasthan, India
As the royal state of India, Rajasthan is full of elegant palaces, and you don't need to settle for just a short visit. Many of these palaces have been converted into hotels, so with cash or travel rewards, you can book a stay in one of the buildings that once housed India's royalty.
Winter is considered one of the best times to visit Rajasthan because you'll avoid the uncomfortably high temperatures of the summer. It's ideal weather for a camel safari in the desert, and you should also make sure to visit the markets in Jaipur to pick up some souvenirs.
7. Sun Valley, Idaho
This destination in Idaho holds the distinction of being the first ski resort in the United States, so that should give you a hint as to the main attraction. Skiing isn't the only thing to do, though, as Sun Valley also has ice skating, sleigh rides for the holiday season, and even an opera house where you can catch a show.
A trip to Sun Valley can be both convenient and easy on the budget. You can find reasonably priced flights there from many major cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver. Since you'll only be in the air for a few hours, you won't need to spend a huge chunk of your vacation traveling.
8. Salento, Colombia
For relaxation, you can't beat Salento, a small town in Colombia's famous coffee region. As you'd expect, there are plenty of charming cafes here. If you're a true coffee fanatic, you can also book a tour at a local farm to see how they grow and roast their coffee beans.
No trip to Salento is complete without hiking the Cocora Valley, where you can see hummingbirds and the world's tallest wax palms. Another highlight is the peaceful Santa Rita waterfall, which you can reach on horseback with a guide.
Planning your holiday travels
Whether you want sun or snow, there are many winter travel destinations that can make for an incredible holiday experience. And remember that you don't need to spend thousands on a trip. You can keep costs down by picking a budget-friendly destination, setting up a savings account for your travel fund, and maybe earning some points on your credit cards. With a bit of preparation, you'll be ready for an affordable getaway.
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