1. Exotic escape
Share your Christmas with elephants on a tour of northern Thailand, where a visit to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai includes feeding and bathing sessions. Itineraries combine the park with time exploring Bangkok before escaping to the remote hills for hiking through jungle and paddy fields, cycling tours and river rafting. Instead of turkey and Christmas pudding, feast on noodle soups, spicy curries and grilled meat skewers.
2. Country retreat
Holing up in a rustic cottage in the countryside is one way to ensure a complete escape from the yuletide frenzy. What National Trust self-catering cottages — in England, Wales and Northern Ireland — lack in five-star luxury, they make up for with character, open fires and scenic locations, often in remote areas and excellent walking country. Plenty of them are also dog-friendly and any accommodation that is still available can be booked for cheaper, three-night Christmas stays, instead of a week. Pant Rhiw Cottage in Pwllheli, Gwynedd, from Dec 22, about Dh3,300 for seven nights, self-catering. National Trust Cottages (nationaltrust.org.uk).
3. Active adventure
A fortnight in Vietnam is likely to make this year’s Christmas photos stand out against those of previous years. Active itineraries, aimed at adults accompanied by children aged 10 years and over, include cycling through Hanoi, a two-day cruise on a traditional junk in Halong Bay, an overnight homestay with a hill-tribe family and cooking sessions. After visiting Ho Chi Minh City, taking a boat on the Mekong Delta backwaters and seeing the Cu Chi Tunnels, there is also time in the resort of Phan Thiet for watersports and beachside relaxation.
4. Silent nights — (and days)
It’s hard to avoid the festive hubbub entirely, but a silent retreat in tranquil surroundings at least means you won’t have to talk about it. Christmas Day is spent in complete silence at Sharpham House, a Grade I listed Georgian house, accommodating up to 32 guests, located on the banks of the river Dart in Devon. A short break here allows time for optional yoga sessions, meditation and relaxing strolls through the 550-acre estate, with formal terraced gardens and Capability Brown landscapes.
Sharpham House: Christmas Retreat Dec 22-28, about Dh2,300 for five nights, full-board. Sharpham Trust (sharphamtrust.org).
5. Unseasonal souk
Dec 25 and 26 are working days in Marrakech, Morocco, so popular tourist sights and businesses are open as usual. Go shopping for spices, leather goods and brass lanterns in the souk; soak in the atmosphere of the Djemaa el-Fna square by night; or take a stroll around the exotic cacti at the city’s Jardin Majorelle.
6. Christmas coral
Spend Christmas underwater by booking a beginner’s diving course in the resort of Aqaba on Jordan’s Red Sea coast, where the warm waters are home to a rich variety of marine life. The three-day Padi Open Water Course involves a combination of classroom sessions with pool and open-water dives.
7. Have a holiday
If the whole family wants to escape Christmas, the festivities will feel a world away in Nepal — where most of the population is Hindu. Leave the celebrations far behind by taking a low-altitude trek from Kathmandu through the Annapurna foothills of the Himalayas, with time to visit local schools and encounter villagers en route. An itinerary highlight is a trip to Chitwan National Park to spot rhinos and Bengal tigers.
8. Solo sunshine
For serious heat that will see temperatures nudging 30C, a trip to Sri Lanka is a good way to escape both the December chill and the inevitable festive frenzy. Go sightseeing in Colombo, the Anuradhapura shrines, the rock fortress town of Sigiriya and the cave temples of Dambulla. During inland excursions, take in the sloth bears and leopards of Wilpattu National Park.
The Sunday Telegraph