THE ULTIMATE HOLIDAY TRAVEL GUIDE: 10 Destinations to Help You Beat the Winter Blues (PART 2)

Five more fabulous holiday getaways for all you winter wanderers! These are guaranteed to have your feet itching and your finger hovering over the “Book now” button. Let’s dive in!

(You can find Part 1 here!)


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ultimate Holiday Destination: Brazil

Seductive urban jungle

If you’re wanting a little less Santa and a lot more sexy this holiday season, look no further than the sizzling seaside city of Rio de Janeiro. The Cidade Maravilhosa isn’t called “marvelous” for nothing—with miles of stunning beaches snaking along the coast, a sprawling urban center teeming with life, and lush green mountains ringing the city, the views here are out of this world.

Rio is one of those places with an energy and vitality all its own, a unique heartbeat that pulls in locals and visitors alike. If cities have souls, then Rio’s would definitely be samba—the fast-paced, infectious, and completely danceable beat heard day and night downtown. Partiers looking for a true taste of Rio nightlife should skip the thumping nightclubs of Copacabana and Ipanema and hit up the samba bars in Lapa instead. Down a caipirinha or two and bump shoulders with the locals as you twist and shake the night away.

For travelers fleeing the cold and snow back home, Rio is the perfect winter destination. It’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, from the see-and-be-seen glamour of Ipanema to secluded slices-of-paradise like Joatinga. Pack your cutest swimsuit and prepare to soak up some major sunshine.

If the winter blues are hitting hard this year, Rio de Janeiro is just the tropical antidote you need!

Do this

  • What’s a tropical vacay without beach time? Grab your swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen and soak up the sun at one of Rio’s gorgeous golden beaches.

  • Take to the skies! If there is one city on earth worth viewing from the seat of a helicopter, it’s Rio. Book a scenic flight and get your camera ready for some mind-blowing vistas. (If helicopters don’t fit your style or budget, you can also catch a cable car to the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain for an equally dazzling view).

  • If you find yourself in need of some Christmas spirit after all, head to Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas to see Rio’s enormous floating Christmas tree (the largest of its kind in the world). With 3.1 million microbulbs blazing, the Lagoa tree is sure to supercharge your holiday cheer.

Eat this

Churrasco

Delicious Brazilian barbecue. Meat—typically beef—is grilled to perfection on a long skewer at a churrascaria (steakhouse) then carved onto your plate. Chimichurri, a simple herbal sauce, is often served alongside the grilled meat for the perfect balance of bright and smoky flavors.

Culture 101

Friendly, laid-back Brazil is the perfect place to unwind. Time seems to flow differently there—which means visitors are going to need to adjust their view on punctuality. Showing up on time (or, god forbid, early) to any kind of event is a surefire way to embarrass both yourself and your host. In Brazil, if a party is going to start at noon, that translates to “arrive at four;” if your friend tells you they’re on their way to meet you, they actually mean “I’ll be there in an hour or two.” Keep that in mind, adjust your mental clock, and embrace that easygoing attitude!

France

Ultimate Holiday Destination: France

Let them eat (Christmas) cake

If you had it in your head that France was exclusively a summer destination, think again. Could anything be more magical than Christmas in the City of Lights? Truffle hunting in Provence? A cozy ski chalet in the French Alps? Mulled wine and roasted chestnuts at the historic Christmas Market in Strasbourg? We think not. Wintertime in France is like stepping into the cover of a Christmas card, sugar plum fairies and all.

The best part of a winter vacation in France is that each area offers a totally unique holiday experience—you can decide exactly what kind of trip you’d like to have and choose accordingly. Paris is never a bad choice, with spectacular seasonal window displays that’ll have you drooling over the confections inside (relevant sidenote: the French phrase for “window shopping” is lèche-vitrine—literally, “window licking”) and reams upon reams of glittering Christmas lights. For skiers and alpine enthusiasts, one of France’s gorgeous mountain villages or world-class ski resorts would be the better choice—Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, a beautiful Victorian-style village and one of the oldest ski resorts in the country, is ideal for seasoned skiers while picture-perfect Méribel offers beginners softer slopes and a lively après-ski scene. Travelers looking to avoid the cold this winter can head to the French Riviera, a place exactly as romantic as it sounds. The Côte d'Azur, as it’s known locally, stretches along France’s Mediterranean coast from Saint-Tropez to Monaco and enjoys balmy temperatures year-round.

Whatever kind of traveler you are, you’ll find the perfect winter holiday waiting for you in France.

Do this

  • Go window-licking… er, shopping—particularly if you find yourself in Paris! Its labyrinthine network of hidden passages are an architectural dream and an enchanting way to spend an afternoon in the city. For fantastically beautiful storefronts (and fantastically pricey shops) check out Galerie Vivienne.

  • Hunt for some truffles! The Périgord region of France is famous for its black truffles—delicious, perfumed, and worth their weight in gold. Tag along on a truffle hunt for a truly unique French experience.

  • Fill up on delicious desserts. French pâtisseries are legendary and they pull out all the stops come Christmastime. For a seasonal treat, try bûche de Noël—a soft, chocolaty sponge roll decorated to resemble a Yule log. Bûche de Noël is traditionally eaten during Réveillon, the long and extravagant meal held on Christmas Eve in France.

Eat this

Pot-au-feu

Chef Raymond Blanc called this beef stew “the quintessence of French family cuisine” and “the most celebrated dish in France.” Slow-cooking cuts of meat, oxtail and marrowbone, root veggies like carrots, turnips, and onions, and spices all come together to form a dish that is simple, savoury, and oh-so-satisfying.

Culture 101

Like many European countries, France gets a little sleepy on Sundays. Many shops and restaurants close for the day,  with dark storefronts and empty streets giving cities a bit of a ghost-town vibe. This custom has its roots in religion and dates back to the days when France was almost completely Catholic. Luckily for tourists, most museums and cultural sites remain open on Sunday, making it the perfect day to go get your culture fix. 

Curaçao

Ultimate Holiday Destination: Curacao

The Caribbean’s best-kept secret

Can’t decide between Europe and the Caribbean for your winter vacation? Then Curaçao’s the place for you! Its capital, Willemstad, is a charmingly eclectic blend of colonial Dutch and Spanish architecture, candy-colored buildings trimmed in white popping against the cloudless skies and turquoise ocean. Picture Amsterdam plunked down in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, add a little Spanish flair, and you’ll have some idea of what Willemstad looks like.

This Dutch Caribbean island has managed to retain its hidden gem status for decades despite its good looks and tropical appeal. This is good news for travelers looking to venture off the beaten path and experience something new this winter. Curaçao’s got all the hallmarks of an island paradise—stunning hidden beaches, crystal-clear waters, colorful coral reefs, and all the sunshine you can handle. But it’s the island’s complex and fascinating heritage that makes it a truly unique destination worth exploring. Though Curaçao is most closely associated with the Dutch (it’s officially part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, and African cultures have blended over the centuries to form a one-of-a-kind melting pot there.

Whether you’re snorkeling and suntanning, exploring Curaçao’s natural wonders, or soaking up Willemstad’s hip island vibes, a visit to this Caribbean gem is the perfect winter getaway!

Do this

  • Check out Willemstad’s colorful Floating Market. Though the stalls themselves stay firmly on dry land, the produce and fish are brought in daily via small wooden boats (hence “floating”). The Floating Market is a great spot to people watch and pick up something fresh and tasty to eat.

  • Brush up on Curaçao’s civil rights history. Slavery played a fundamental and tragic role in the growth of the island’s economy—learn about this somber part of Curaçao’s cultural heritage at the Kura Hulanda Museum, a cluster of historic buildings set around a former slave yard.

  • Visit Klein Curaçao, a tiny uninhabited islet just 12 miles east of Curaçao itself. Channel your inner castaway while you explore its white sand beaches, massive old shipwreck, and abandoned lighthouse. If you’re lucky, you might spot some sea turtles!

Eat this

Keshi Yena

A traditional Curaçaoan dish consisting of spiced meat, golden raisins, and olives stuffed into a ball of Gouda cheese and baked to ooey-gooey perfection. Much like the island itself, Keshi Yena is an innovative blend of Dutch and Caribbean flavors.

Culture 101

Thanks to Curaçao’s multicultural heritage, many locals speak four (yes, four) languages with relative ease—Dutch, the official language; Papiamentu, the local patois; Spanish, thanks to Venezuela’s proximity and soap operas; and English, in order to deal with the rest of the world. But if there’s one word that fully embodies the spirit of Curaçao and its people, it’s dushi. This Papiamentu phrase is insanely versatile—virtually anything good can be dushi. Delicious food, close friends (and total strangers!), good weather, a nice gift… all of these and more fall under the lovely linguistic umbrella of dushi. Throw this word around liberally while you’re in Curaçao and watch the smiles appear on locals’ faces. 

Trinidad and Tobago

Ultimate Holiday Destination: Trinidad and Tobago

Two islands are better than one

The sister islands of Trinidad and Tobago are a nation of beautiful contrasts. Far from identical twins, these Caribbean siblings each have their own distinct appeal.

For beach bums, dive enthusiasts, sun goddesses, and water sports fans, Tobago is heaven on earth. Miles of sugary beaches ring its coastline, dotted with grass huts and treetop diners, and backed by lush island greenery. Dramatic cliffs break up the swaths of white sand and hidden waterfalls can be heard tumbling just out of sight. Kite surfers and paddle boarders flock in droves to skim the surface of Tobago’s pristine waters, while scuba divers float through the colorful tangle of reefs below. Less glitzy and more peaceful than some of the bigger Caribbean hotspots, Tobago feels like a true escape.

Trinidad, by contrast, is Tobago’s bigger, wilder sister. Rich in natural resources and a bustling port of commerce, Trinidad has all the buzz and flash you’d expect from a thriving Caribbean nation. Travelers looking to experience T&T’s rich, multifaceted culture will love wandering around the capital of Port of Spain, where lively steel drums and melodic calypso can be heard all hours of the day. Close to Christmastime, the island’s musical backdrop changes to the lively lilt of parang—a seasonal style of folk music (with heavy Venezuelan influences) traditionally played by bands moving house-to-house like carolers. Modern parang music has taken this tradition and transformed it into a series of staged performances called parang fiestas, culminating in a national parang competition at the end of the holiday season.

With so much to see and do, a winter holiday in Trinidad and Tobago is like unwrapping one present to find two incredible gifts inside. Bid the cold goodbye this winter and embrace that irresistible island charm.

Do this

  • Go bird-watching. Even travelers who don’t know a pigeon from a parrot will be floored by the staggering variety of birds that visit Trinidad and Tobago throughout the year. The mangrove forests of Trinidad are a particularly great place to spot the jewel-toned scarlet ibis and the blue-capped motmot, and shimmering “showers” of hummingbirds flit around the sister isles like a living rainbow.

  • Check out “Movie Night Under the Lights” at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Port of Spain. Snuggle up with someone special and watch a free Christmas classic on the giant HD screen while you snack on complimentary popcorn and soft drinks. The Botanic Gardens is a lovely place to visit any time of year, but the twinkling Christmas lights add a special sparkle.

  • Get in the holiday spirit at the home of Trinidadian parang—the village of Lopinot. Located in northern Trinidad, Lopinot is collection of gorgeous restored estates that plays host to La Fiesta De Parang Lopinot every December. Indulge in a day-long celebration of Caribbean Spanish tradition, delicious food, and fantastic music.

Eat this

Doubles

Also known as channa batura, this is Trinidad’s most famous street food. Two pieces of bara (fried flatbread) are filled with channa (curried chickpeas) and seasoned with shado beni (a popular West Indian herb native to the island). Served with tamarind sauce and coconut or mango chutneys, this cheap handheld dish is insanely tasty. Doubles are usually eaten for breakfast, but you can find vendors selling them all day long.

Culture 101

Although Trinidad and Tobago have plenty of chill island vibes, religious faith holds strong and locals tend to be a bit conservative outside of the wild celebrations at Carnival. Keep the bikinis at the beach and try not to get too rowdy when partying in public. Manners and courtesy will go a long way with the locals here and guarantee you a warm welcome in return.

Grenada

Ultimate Holiday Destination: Grenada

Small island, big time beauty

The tiny island of Grenada, spanning just 132 square miles, is sometimes lost in the shadow of its bigger, showier Caribbean sisters. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in sheer beauty—Grenada is a certifiable stunner. Its cream-colored beaches are buttery soft, the sweet smells of nutmeg and citrus fruit waft on the warm breeze, and its waters are achingly blue. Picture a perfect tropical island, multiply that by ten, and you’ll have a rough idea of how gorgeous Grenada is. Best of all, Grenada is still relatively off-the-radar compared to the rest of the Caribbean isles, which means you won’t be fighting your way through tourist crowds when the busy winter season rolls around.

The balmy ocean breeze, eternal sunshine, and slow island life beckon vacationers to the Caribbean every winter, and Grenada is a beach-lover’s dream with over 40 different stretches of sand to choose from. But this little island is more than just sunbathing and sipping on cocktails. Grenada is also known as the Spice Island—one of the world’s largest exporters of spices and home to some of the best markets around. The Spice Market in St. George’s is open every day and well worth a visit. Drop by on a Saturday morning when it’s at its busiest to see (and smell) the heaping mounds of colorful spices and get lost in the cheerful hustle and bustle.

Christmas in Grenada brings fantastical costumed parades, bands of roving parang musicians, and seasonal specialties like rum-soaked black cake and salt ham. Wandering the streets during the holiday season is pure delight as performers and revelers of all kinds fill the air with music and laughter. Grab a ginger beer, relax in the glow of the palm tree Christmas lights, and prepare to ring in the new year with pure island bliss.

Do this

  • Christmastime is parang time! Hop over to Grenada’s sister isle Carriacou to attend its annual Parang Festival. Unlike the Spanish lyrics of Trinidadian parang songs, Grenadian parang is sung entirely in English, making it more accessible to curious listeners from abroad.

  • Strap on your snorkel and pay a visit to the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park just off the coast near St. George’s. This incredible underwater installation is made up of concrete figures designed by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. The sculptures act as artificial reefs, relieving the pressure on dwindling natural reefs and encouraging marine ecosystems to take hold and flourish.

  • Sip some local liquor. Grenadians love a good rum and Grenada is home to several unique distilleries—like River Antoine, the oldest functioning water-propelled distillery in the entire Caribbean. Take a tour of the estate and watch its ancient waterwheel crush organic cane just like it did in the 1800s. Watch out, though—the finished product is definitely not for lightweights.

Eat this

Oil down

Don’t let the name put you off—Grenada’s national dish is a one-pot wonder packed full of Caribbean flavor. Featuring breadfruit, callaloo, salted meat, dumplings, and green bananas, this hearty meal is given a kick with turmeric and peppers and then stewed in sweet coconut milk. There’s nothing fussy or glamorous about this dish, but that’s kind of the point. It’s Grenadian comfort food at its best.

Culture 101

Grenadians are big on polite chitchat. When boarding a boat or a bus, it’s not unusual to greet the other passengers with an audible “good morning” or “good evening” and a friendly smile. If you need to ask a question or make a transaction, the same rules apply—greet first, then get down to business. Life moves slower on the island, and taking the time to smile and show your manners is an important social norm.

All fired-up and ready for that Christmas vacay? We can help you put together the perfect trip! Get in touch and let us organize your biggest adventure yet—our holiday gift to you :)