If you dream of escaping the sweltering heat in Singapore – and exchanging it for a holiday complete with sledge rides, snowmen and inviting log fires – then these are the places to be this festive season.
The ski town of Yuzawa is over an hour’s ride from Tokyo by bullet train, making it one of the most convenient ski resorts to get to from the country’s capital. Nestled in the Japanese Alps and blessed with fresh air and majestic mountains, Yuzawa is a skiing and snowboarding paradise in winter. There is plenty of entertainment here, from cool dance clubs and bars to traditional Japanese snow festivals. During the Christmas season, the town celebrates with an event called “snow and shining lights”, where the town’s 14 resorts light candles on snow-covered fields and put on magical firework displays.
Deep in the Arctic Circle is Lapland, the largest and northernmost part of Finland – and the purported home of Santa Claus. Rugged snow-blanketed woodlands, reindeers, sledges pulled by huskies and breathtaking landscapes make this area a truly stunning winter destination. Not to be missed are the aurora borealis or Northern Lights: a natural phenomenon that fills the night sky with an otherworldly dance of colour and light. If you really want to get into the Christmas spirit, head to Santa Claus Village in the town of Rovaniemi – supposedly the hometown of Santa. Kids can come here to see Santa at work with his elves.
Close to the Russian border in the far northeast of China is Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province and one of China’s most popular winter wonderlands. This is where the world-famous Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival takes place. While the festival officially begins on the fifth of January every year, many of the snow and ice sculptures get built a lot earlier. They can be seen throughout the city, but the grandest ones are usually found in the Sun Island and Ice and Snow World exhibition spaces. The Ice and Snow World features full-sized buildings made from clear ice blocks that are two- to three-feet thick. At night, these sculptures are illuminated from within, so the park glows like an icy fairyland.
One of the oldest cities in the US, Boston is steeped in historical charm. The city was founded in 1630, when Puritan settlers arrived from England. Unofficially known as the “capital of New England”, Boston’s cobbled stone streets – especially when covered with snow – can transport you to a scene from a Charles Dickens novel. Whether you’re strolling along a gas-lit street on Beacon Hill, or enjoying a cup of hot chocolate in a café in the South End, you’re sure to feel the joy of the season in Boston.
The snow-flushed alps of Switzerland make the perfect backdrop for winter celebrations, one of the biggest being the Christmas Market. The largest and most popular is the Basel Christmas Market in the Old Town of Basel, which will last from 22 November to 23 December this year. Held on the historic town squares of Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, the Basel Christmas Market has about 150 stalls and wooden huts selling everything from handmade Christmas ornaments to freshly baked goods. Basel is also home to the longest illuminated street in all of Europe during Christmas. Live concerts, tree-lined sidewalks and a raucous atmosphere cover this Swiss city in a golden glow.