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Top 5 places to spend the holidays

Spice up the holidays with a trip to one of these exotic destinations hand-picked by the editors of ISLANDS magazine!
Porto Vecchio Harbor
Porto Vecchio, Corsica, FranceBob Krist / Corbis File / Bob Krist / Corbis File
/ Source: Islands Magazine

Why here: The name just works: Christmas on Christmas Island (there’s also a Christmas Islands in the Kiribati nation). And if you don’t like to make a big deal about the holidays, you won’t have to: The majority of residents on Christmas are Chinese or Malay.

Activities: Visit with Santa, who arrives by firetruck down the main street. Then suit yourself up and dive into the Indian Ocean to see whale sharks.

Contact: Christmas Island Tourism Association,

Why here: It’s a sort of Dickensian or, more properly, an Agatha Christi-an holiday (the mystery novelist wrote here). Off the south Devon coast of England, the island, with its Art Deco hotel, is linked to the mainland by a tidal beach. Cross by sea tractor and leap back to the Roaring ’20s and the ’30s.

Activities: Sing carols by candlelight in the 14th-century Pilchard Inn. Watch black-and-white movies in the cinema club over cocktails and mince pies. Then Charleston the night away at a Boxing Day (Dec. 26) dinner dance.

Contact: Burgh Island, Rates start at $355 per night per room, including breakfast and dinner. A supplement is added during holidays.

Why here: Corsicans worship the quintessential holiday symbol: the chestnut. Drink chestnut beer, eat chestnut polenta and walk through a chestnut-tree forest.

Activities: Attend a Christmas mass in the church where Napoleon was baptized. Toast the season (whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice or Kwanzaa) with champagne and a Yule log near the shore of the Mediterranean.

Contact: Kalliste Tours, 831-438-0907, The Corsica Christmas tour is $5,980 per person, Dec. 20-26, all inclusive except for airfare and based on availability.

Why here:
Icebergs, penguins … the whole idea of a white Christmas doesn’t get better than this.

Activities: Cruise on the six-deck Peregrine Mariner to Seymour Island, where scientists have found fossils of giant penguins. Take a Christmas Day dip in the Antarctic Ocean, where cold waters mix with the thermally heated waters of Deception Island’s bay. Explore the Weddell Sea, and on Paulet Island marvel at the penguin colony.

Contact: Expedition Trips, 877-412-8527, The cruise, Christmas in the Weddell Sea, starts at $5,990 per person for the 12-day trip, departing Ushuaia, Argentina, on Dec. 22.

Why here:
Experienced musher Jim Ryder leads dog-sled tours of these islands in Lake Superior.

Activities: Snuggle up with your significant other and look for bald eagles as your dog sled winds through the stately pines on Madeline Island. Cross the ice of frozen Lake Superior and mush around several of the other 21 Apostle Islands. Then settle in for the night on Madeline at the Island Inn with a mug of steaming apple cider as you muse over the day’s adventures.

Contact: The tour is $512 for two, and includes two nights’ accommodations, one day on the trail and lunch, 800-899-1916,

Each issue of ISLANDS Magazine explores the most beautiful island destinations in the world, from tropical island outposts to the sophisticated gems of the Mediterranean. Our top-rate photographers and writers discover the quiet beaches, boutique hotels, and unique cultural experiences that make island travel unique.