Spend a thrilling holiday season in these six destinations
Once again, December festivities are merely a few weeks away which means the prevailing atmosphere will be that of a winter wonderland theme. Snowmen will be built, fruitcakes will be baked, and Christmas trees will be adorned by glittering ornaments. But if you want this holiday season to stand out from the previous ones, you’re in luck because we’ve scoured the world for some pretty wild and interesting activities you can participate in.
Remember, just because it’s the Christmas holidays, doesn’t mean you have to do what everyone else does. So just this once (unless of course you’re inclined to something different again next year), put off decorating the tree and leave the snow on the ground. Pack your gear and get your passport ready for a unique holiday this December in some of the most beautiful countries in the world.
What: Instead of skating through solid ice, ride the waves and go surfing in a tropical paradise.
Where: Cloud Nine; Siargao, Philippines
Why now? Storms usually form over the Pacific Ocean from the months of September to December which means the waves that reach this area can be pretty high.
The good thing about being in a tropical country is that even in the middle of December, the water doesn’t turn to ice. If you’re in the mood for a big splash this holiday season, we recommend going to Siargao in the Philippines and breaking out your surfboard at Cloud Nine. This year will be an especially good timing because the Cloud Nine Night Surfing floodlight tower is set to be launched this October, giving surfers a chance to go out into the water even at night.
Cloud Nine is one of the most famous surfing spots in Asia, offering a good alternative to popular places such as Hawaii and Florida. More adventurous surfers will be pleased to know that during December, tubes can be as high as five meters. If you find that lugging your surfboard on a plane is too much of an inconvenience, you can leave it at home and simply rent one when you get to your destination.
What: Instead of picking a pine tree for your home, get ready to strap yourself at the flying fox zip line during a canopy tour and see more trees than you care to count.
Where: Santa Elena, Costa Rica.
Why now? Enter the dense rainforest and zip past the trees during one of the driest months of year.
Costa Rica is one of the countries you can visit where the scenery is still clean and mainly green. This place therefore, is one of the best destinations for those interested in exploring the rainforest and seeing nature’s beauty first hand. Signing up for a canopy tour doesn’t exactly get your adrenaline pumping at first, but dare to get on the zip line and you might discover that whizzing past trees while your feet dangle in the air to be an invigorating ride. The zip line involves strapping oneself into a harness that is attached to a pulley system which enables a person to enter the foliage pretty much like Tarzan.
Over the years, this has become a popular activity for locals and tourists because not only is it as thrilling as a roller coaster ride, it also offers a view of the rainforest that you can’t get while hiking. Throughout the country, there are about 80 zip lines that you can choose from, so you don’t have to worry about having trouble finding them, although a lot of them are in Santa Elena.
What: Instead of sitting at home drinking eggnog, get off the couch and treat your body to a refreshing exercise by going on a hike.
Where: Torres del Paine, Chile
Why now? Unlike most countries this time of the year, summer in Chile comes occurs in December which means it’s the most ideal time to go hiking.
Let’s face it, we can’t help indulging in some tasty Christmas foods and drinks that are chock full of calories during the holiday season. If you want to win the battle of the bulge this year and at the same time have a wild and memorable holiday, we suggest getting on a plane to Torres del Paine in Chile and go hiking there.
Torres del Paine otherwise called as the Towers of Paine are massive pillars made of granite that can be found at the Parque Nacional, the best national park in the country today which measures 181 square kilometers. Some of the towers can be as high as 2,600 meters. This place is so beautiful that UNESCO has designated it as a Biosphere Reserve. Over 105 species of birds roam free in the park, where you can also find more than 200 kinds of plants; aside from that, about 25 various species of mammals also call this park home. For travelers who are interested in hiking through the park, there are camping grounds and trail networks here.
If you do decide to have a go at the Torres del Paine, you will first be posed with the choice of two routes. If you do circuit the pillars, the trip will take about eight days; whereas if you take the W trek which is more popular among hikers, the travel time will be shed to just five days. The W trek is s named because of the many bends that you make along the way. You can take a break by stopping at any of the eight refugios inside the park; you can also rent camping equipment here if you don’t feel like schlepping your gear all the way from home.
What: Instead of going for a sled ride, crank up the thrill meter and go tumbling down a hillside inside a Zorb.
Where: Rotorua, New Zealand
Why now? Going to Rotorua in December means you’re one step ahead of the holiday crowds that are about to descend in a couple weeks’ time.
Zorbing is one of those activities that aim to unleash and delight the little child in you. Its appeal lies in its simplicity, really. A Zorb is simply a giant plastic ball big enough to have space inside for a grown person. Your role is to wriggle into that space so that when the ball is pushed down the hillside, you’ll be having the time of your life at 50 kilometers per hour. Because the ball is inflated, you don’t have to worry about the bumps along the way; and the centrifugal force generated by the rolling motion of the Zorb pins your body inside and keeps you from tumbling and rolling.
Needless to say, this activity can be quite disorienting, but we still think it’s a fun alternative to the usual snow activities we do in December. And since you’ve already spent time and money traveling to New Zealand, we think you might as well try the Zydro, which is sort of the Zorb’s evil twin. Basically, water is poured inside the Zorb to add more spice to the ride. Whether you choose cold or warm water, you’ll still be treated to a drenching and dizzying experience.
What: Instead squeezing past shoppers at the mall, enjoy the company of marine animals as you swim with orcas.
Where: Tysfjord, Norway
Why now? These beautiful mammals travel to different places throughout the year, you can spot them at Tysfjord only from the months of October through January.
December is the middle of the migrating season for herring, a dietary staple of the orca. This means that during this time of the year, orcas by the hundreds make their way to Tysfjord in Norway in order to have some good eating. The orcas, also known as killer whales and famous for their black and white coloration, linger in this spot about 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle as they chase around schools of herring. Travelers can rent a trawler that goes out to the water offering an unobstructed view of these giant creatures. But if you want to get up close to these whales, you can put on your snorkel and swim amongst them. Also a fan of the Tysfjord herring are sea eagles, which can be found picking scraps from the sandbar and being chased by the orcas. Visitors here are reminded of a fact that they often forget; which is that humans share this planet with other creatures even in remote parts of the world such as this place. If you’re lucky, you might even see the Northern Lights from here.
What: Instead of shoveling snow from your driveway, rally with other motorists at the Plymouth-Banjul rally.
Where: England to France to Morocco to Mauritania to Senegal and finally to Gambia!
Why now? Cars depart Plymouth during December.
If the icy roads and poor visibility put a damp on your usual carefree driving trips, signing up for the Plymouth-Banjul rally is just the thing you need. This rally is held every year and is more concerned with letting people just have a jolly good time instead of competing with each other. As in other rallies, there are of course, rules; one is that the price of your vehicle cannot go above 100 Pounds, and another is that drivers cannot spend more than 15 Pounds to prepare their car.
The aim of the rally is to drive from Plymouth, United Kingdom through six countries all the way to Banjul, Gambia. At the end of the rally, each car is auctioned off to benefit a local charity. The journey usually takes about three weeks or more depending on how fast you go. If you want to go sightseeing along the way, feel free to do so.