Short breaks in December
My husband and I would like to go on a short break in December, where would you suggest and what can we do while we are away?
There are numerous options for short-haul travel in December, in addition to the more well-known European cities of Rome, Venice and Madrid. It is great to visit at this time of the year when the crowds are less and the temperature more conducive to sight-seeing. There are also many interesting historical centres to visit serviced with direct regional flights through the winter months.
One to put on your list is Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, a history book of architecture and a beautiful medieval town, complete with the world’s oldest castle. Prague is a well-connected city with an excellent Metro or you can hop on the local trams. Take the cable car to the top of Petrin Hill and you will see the ‘City of a Hundred Spires’ for yourself, a beautiful panoramic view. See Prague by night with a boat trip on the Vitava, or visit the bars in the Old Town Square. Wenceslas Square is lined with jazz clubs and classic Czech pubs.
From late November to early January Prague is also home to several Christmas markets. Absorb the festive atmosphere in the Old Town Square and St. Wenceslas Square, with decorated wooden huts selling traditional crafts, toys and gifts. Smaller markets are also dotted around the city on Republic Square and Havel’s Market, and by St Georges Basilica at Prague Castle.
Sample some of the traditional barbecued klobasa sausages, or cakes and pastries like the Trdelnik, a hot sugar coated pastry. You can also try the traditional Czech beers, Pilsner, Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar or a cup of hot mulled wine or svarak.
In the Old Town square you can also see a nativity scene with stable and live animals as well as Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the three kings, and the impressive Christmas Tree from Ceska Lip a in the North. The Astronomical Clock in the Old Square chimes on the hour with a procession of the twelve apostles. A festive atmosphere not to be missed!
If you have children, or grandchildren to entertain you can also consider a trip to Lapland to visit Father Christmas, or just enjoy the peace quiet and tranquility of the wilderness and wide open spaces of Finnish Lapland.
As well as the Santa experience there are Snowmobile adventures, Husky Safaris and Reindeer Farms to visit and an abundance of wild life like moose, Arctic foxes, snowy owls, hares and willow grouse to see, all set against a scenic snowy backdrop. The temperatures at the time of the year can be very cold so it is not advisable to take infants under the age of two years. Many tour operators will also provide outer garments whether you are going for the day or a longer duration, but you will also need layers of warm clothing as the temperatures can drop to 40 degrees in the winter months.
While you are in Lapland you can also take the opportunity to search for the Northern Lights. This beautiful natural phenomena, lighting the night sky with a glow of green, yellow and pink, can be seen due to the remote northern locations and lack of light pollution. Unfortunately there are never any guarantees but you can see the Aurora Borealis for over 200 nights of the year in some areas, and the clear star-filled skies are spectacular in themselves.
Once you have decided how long you want to stay, either for a day-trip, 3 to 4 days or a whole week your Travel Agent will be able to advise on the best activities for your party, and pre-book to avoid disappointment. Many Tour operators include the most popular activities in their holiday package price.
Accommodation is varied from picturesque log cabins to duplex family rooms in hotels. You can also choose an overnight stay in a luxury glass igloo or a visit to the Ice or Snow Hotel.
If you want to learn more about the Sami, the people indigenous to Lapland, then there are visits available to local museums and shops selling the local handicrafts. The Sami have successfully survived for generations with their hunting skill, the art of ice-fishing and their rich traditional folklore. Traditional Sami costumes are bright and colourful and for ceremonial occasions, everyone, including huskies and reindeer, are dressed in multi-coloured outfits and harness. Many of these ancient Sami traditions, with reindeer farming at the heart, remain a way of life today.
My clients decided to book a 3 night trip to Prague in December to see the Christmas Markets, flying from Manchester and staying at the Victoria Hotel, Bed and Breakfast in a standard double room at a total cost of £576.
Tracy, Paula, and Jackie can be contacted to offer advice at Tracy Mason Travel, on 01785 712332