6 of the best… Asian Christmas destinations

FROM the beaches of Malaysia and India to the cool climes of Tasmania, we’ve chosen six top Asian destinations for your Christmas holiday

Christmas is a great time to visit Asia for a number of reasons. First, if it’s cold at Christmas where you live, rest assured you’ll enjoy the balmy, temperate climes of Asia – which are cooler in December and freer of the heat and humidity of other months. You may also enjoy escaping the over commercialisation of the holiday in these locations and and have a vacation that might even be cheaper than staying at home – once you’ve paid the airfare that is!

Snorkeling, diving, massages, boat tours, bike riding, cultural pursuits and adrenalin charged cable car rides are just some of the pursuits to enjoy on this archipelago of islands in the far northwest of Malaysia. At Christmas time it’s fabulous on Langkawi when the effects of monsoon and rain are of little influence here. And in December, biannually, it also hosts the amazing International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition show (this year from December 6-10).

Langkawi has something for travellers of every budget. If you’re into lazy resort days then the exclusive resorts of beautiful Tanjung Rhu and Datai Bay are probably for you. Those on a budget can stick to the beaches of Pantai Cenang or Tengah where there are a variety of tours, transport, food and accommodation options.

Tanjung Rhu beach, north Langkawi. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

Given the southerly location of Tasmania the summer is actually quite crisp compared to other parts of Australia. Temperatures can range anything from 15-25 degrees, depending on where you are and the weather of course, but in short, it’s a reprieve from summer on the mainland. There’s a lot to see and do in Tasmania, most of which means getting out and enjoying nature and landscapes. Most visitors start in Hobart and explore from there. The Freycinet Peninsula, Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, Frankton River and any one of the smaller islands are just some of the more popular and spectacular attractions.

For a beach holiday in India where you can find beef and beer (if that be your thing) look no further than Goa in the far south. In winter the temperatures hover around a balmy 28 degrees, perfect for long lazy days on the beach, a visit to Old Panjim or to the famed Anjuna markets in northern Goa.

While Anjuna might be more attune to alternative lifestyles and all night parties, there are plenty of quieter, family beaches such as Palolem or Benaulim to the south or beaches in the far north. One of the fantastic things about Goa is eating right on the beach in small seaside restaurants featuring catch fresh from the sea and local fruit and vegetables. You absolutely must hire a scooter while in Goa to cruise around from beach to beach.

Goan fisherwomen, Benaulim Beach. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

HOI AN, VIETNAM For the chance to fill your Christmas stocking Hoi An is possibly one of the best destinations in Asia. Some come with an empty suitcase and leave it with it full! There are lots of options for purchases here from home made crafts such as shoes, bags, and tailor made clothes. Hoi An is also renowned as a cooking destination and fun hours can be whiled away in classes offered around town where you can learn the local cuisine. One of the best ways to work out which one to do is find somewhere you enjoyed eating and then book in with them.

There are plenty of other excursions to enjoy around the area also. You could take a tour to the ancient ruins of My Son about an hour or so from Hoi An. There’s also a beach not too far away. You can rent bicycles and tour some of the small islands or simply wander the markets and enjoy the lazy days on the waterfront.

Hoi An cooking class. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

It has been a tough year for New Zealand and Kiwi tourism still needs you so go over and give the locals a Christmas present with your visit! This part of the south island has become New Zealand’s new tourism centre with Christchurch still in recovery mode. Dunedin is a historic centre with plenty to keep the active traveller engaged from quaint old buildings to old gasworks and museums. Half an hour from the city is the veritable wildlife sanctuary of the Otago Peninsula where you share the beaches and seas with seals and penguins and albatross grace the skies.

From Dunedin another fantastic excursion is a journey on the historic Taieri Gorge Railway that winds out from the city through dramatic country to Middlemarch from where you can extend your visit with a day or multi-day bike along the Central Otago Rail Trail (it ends near Cromwell not far from Queenstown).

Otago Peninsula. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com