For many of us, Christmas is a time of traditions; continuing age-old family ones or starting fresh, there can be no doubt the festive season appeals to our sense of convention. However, it may be time to think about mixing things up a bit. Which is why an escorted Christmas break abroad could be exactly what you need.

Arranging holidays over Christmas isn’t half the hassle it used to be; in fact, it’s part and parcel of an escorted tour where everything’s all arranged for you. These days, the most difficult part is choosing where to go. All over the world, there are places perfect for making Christmas memories and embracing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. So, where do you start? Check out our top 5 picks for fantastic festive experiences that will set your sleigh bells a-ringing during your Christmas and New Year holidays.

1. How about a horse-drawn carriage ride?

Making your Christmas truly magical could be as straightforward as going on a glorious horse-drawn carriage ride. Savouring the spectacular scenery around you is easier than ever with someone else taking the reins (literally), whether your guided tour is by a beautiful lake or somewhere deep in the Swiss Alps. Let the sounds of hoofs and bells lift your Christmas spirit as you enjoy the crisp winter air and take in everything your chosen destination has to offer. If you’re lucky, you may even get to know the horses showing you around; we’re sure they’ll have a special place in your Christmas memories. What’s more, we’ve included the option for you to enjoy a sleigh ride on Christmas Day! Now, what could be more special than that?

2. Look for sights on the UNESCO list

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a culture vulture, your escorted Christmas break abroad could be an excellent opportunity to cross off a few monuments on your ‘to-visit’ list – maybe even a UNESCO World Heritage Site or two. Of course, where you choose to go will affect the attractions on offer, but if you happen to be sailing through the French Winelands, it may be worth making a stop in the cultural hub of Bordeaux; or, if your travels take you to the Italian Riviera, you simply must look around the UNESCO-listed palaces of Genoa’s historic port city. Heritage tours can be phenomenal when done right.

3. Enjoy enchanting Christmas castles

There’s something extra special about castles at Christmas; they just look so warm and inviting. No guided holiday over Christmas would be complete without a visit to one or more captivating castles; you may even find yourself staying in one. Be sure to choose destinations that allow you to explore these fascinating buildings and discover all the treasures they hold. Many castles are usually surrounded by luscious landscapes and stunning scenery that's only going to look even more spectacular over the festive season. So, whether you plan on basing yourself near, or in fact in, a castle’s grounds during the Christmas celebrations, one thing’s for certain: everything you do and see will only enhance your excitement.

4. Live the island life

If you’ve never been to Malta (or even if you have!), the festive period is the perfect time to visit this Mediterranean island. Enjoy a Maltese Christmas by the sea. The island’s rocky coastline offers breath-taking views, whilst it’s distance to the ocean makes it an enticing place for snorkellers and divers (though if you’re happier on land, you won’t miss out).

Sitting just above Malta is the beautiful island of Sicily. Everyone should spend at least one Christmas in Sicily. After all, it’s had (and still has) a muse-like quality for many renowned poets and artists – both native and non-native to the island. The Land of the Cyclops (as it’s come to be known – so-called after Homer’s Odyssey) is steeped in ancient history. From crumbling architecture to medieval street corners, Sicily has a charm and romance that’s difficult to beat. What better way to spend a Christmas morning than by looking out onto the Port of Palermo before tucking into a Mediterranean feast?  

5. Next-level New Year plans

With Christmas Day itself over for another year, the main thing you should be thinking about now is how to have a perfect New Year. Fortunately, we can help; after taking an escorted holiday over Christmas, why not go all out with a guided international break over New Year, too? You’re probably still packed from your previous trip anyway, so you may as well make the most of what’s left of the festive season.

Many of our escorted New Year breaks involve sightseeing experiences and opportunities to get involved with activities that simply don’t happen at any other time of the year. Whether you’re ready to party or in the mood for something more relaxing, make sure your plans for New Year are as vibrant as the fireworks lighting up the skies all over the world.

Incidentally, if leaving the country over Christmas isn’t something you’re too keen on, there’re many festive breaks available in the UK, too. Whatever your plans over the holiday season, be sure to book an escorted tour and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year by fully embracing a whole Christmas list of festive experiences.